Leading article: Time for a critical look at so-called bargains


Supermarkets' special offers which, on closer inspection, are not the snip that they purport to be may not be breaking the letter of the law; but they are certainly against the spirit of it. The good news, however, is that the problem can be solved without recourse to yet more legislation. All that is needed is for consumers to get wise to their tricks.

True, some of the practices exposed by Which? are harder to spot than others. Only the most assiduous shopper is likely to notice, say, that the price of a particular item has shot up and made the latest multibuy seem like a bargain.

But the principle is nonetheless clear. The big supermarkets employ psychologists to help them exploit the innate tendencies of the human mind. It is time for consumers to confound them, tempering our instinctive enthusiasm for a good deal with the reflection that, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.