Here’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy shopping for groceries. Items are priced in such a way it can be difficult to compare. Without keeping a price diary, it can be difficult to tell when a sale price is good. It’s a lot of work to shop right. Personally, I no longer sweat the small stuff. But if I were in a situation where my total expenses approached my total income, I would be looking carefully at every penny, particularly in the supermarket.
Even if you compare per-unit prices, grocery retailers have many methods of making you think you’re getting a good deal when you may not be. One of the more frustrating sales is the “ten items for $10” deal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ten items, nor does it have to be $10. You might see “three items for $5” or “five items for $2.” These sales often inspire a question, like this one from a Consumerism Commentary reader:
In my local supermarket chain, I saw a sale price for items I wanted, advertising ten items for $10. In other words, $1 per item. I bought five, expecting to be charged a buck for each item, but they rang up at more than $2 each. I’m thinking this is false or misleading advertising, which should not be allowed by law. Am I right?
In the Super Stop & Shop where I do almost all of my shopping, a block from my apartment, they have similar sales often. In my experience, if an item is advertised as ten for $10, I can buy fewer than ten and they will charge the sale price of $1 each. In fact, many times, this isn’t a sale and the items have a regular price of $1 each.
There are exceptions, but when there are, the fine print on the price tag indicates that I will be charged the regular price if I don’t purchase enough to qualify for the sale.
There are several possibilities:
- The cashier rang up the items incorrectly.
- You missed the fine print on the price tag on the shelf.
- The store does not have a consumer-friendly sale policy.
It does not qualify as false or misleading advertising if you buy fewer than the number of items listed in the sale. If anything, it is just confusing, especially if a store is inconsistent. Sales like these are very effective at getting people to buy more than they would have without the special sale messages.
Got any questions? Contact me and I’ll do my best to research and answer your question on Consumerism Commentary.
Updated September 30, 2010 and originally published September 28, 2010.