Friday, 4 November 2011

Sainsbury's Brand Match - Crikey it's Complicated

Casillero del Diabo Cabernet Sauvignon
Sainsbury's £5.79
Tesco £5.79
ASDA £5.00
But I 'saved'
£34.75 buying 24 bottles at Sainsbury's. How?

The UK's Supermarkets are all trying to claim they are the cheapest. They are fighting a price war, but most shoppers know it is a phony war. The supermarkets can't all be 'the cheapest'.

Tesco has 'Price Drop', ASDA guarantees it is 10% cheaper than it's rivals, Waitrose matches Tesco on leading branded products and Sainsbury's has launched 'Brand Match'.

Many people have noticed Tesco prices actually went up shortly before the 'Price Drop' launched, when they came back down again - but Tesco could justifiably claim a 'drop'. ASDA is adamant it is cheapest - and guarantees it with it's 10% cheaper online comparison. But ASDA makes it's customers work for any refund by laboriously entering their details on the store's website.

Now Sainsbury's believes it has come up with the most appealing promise because it says it makes all the comparisons with it's competitors prices for you instantly at the check-out with it's 'Brand Match'. If the brands you buy at Sainsbury's are more expensive than their rivals you receive a voucher. If it is cheaper they give you a print out showing how much you have saved.

To an economist the Sainsbury's offer is really price fixing. They are saying to their rivals - it doesn't matter how low you go we're going to match you. To shoppers it gives the impression of value (just like John Lewis's 'Never Knowingly Undersold' promise - which also has cunning exlusions). So it's no surprise that the Sainsbury's Brand Match promotion has loads of small print too.

But how do Sainsbury's calculate those 'savings' printed out on the slips?

At the danger of coming across like an alcoholic (Christmas is coming, hic) I bought 2 full cases of wine at Sainsbury's on Monday in their Wine Festival promotion. Buy 4 bottles save 10%, buy any 6 bottles save 25%. I like the Chillean Casillero del Diablo. It usually retails somewhere between £5 - £8. It is frequently on offer - but rarely under £5.

Sainsbury's non-discount price was £5.79. I already knew it was £5 in ASDA because I bought some last week. Tesco were selling at £5.79 too. But buy 24 bottles (2 full cases) and the Sainsbury Wine Festival promo knocks 25% off - so £4.34 is the final per bottle price.

The cashier handed me a coupon with my receipt and said 'look after this carefully, you've got a voucher for £34.75 off your next shop'.

'No' I replied, it says I have 'saved' £34.75 with your Brand Match.

Sainsbury's 'Brand Match' is so complicated even Sainsbury's staff don't understand it.

Here are a few of the small print terms and conditions.

1. You must spend at least £20.
2. It's only the big Sainsbury's (not the local ones) doing the 'Brand Match'.
3. You get a voucher off your next shop (not cash back) if a rival store is cheaper.
4. Morrison's is excluded from the comparison.
5. £10 is the maximum voucher value you can 'get back'.
6. No more that 10x credits on the same item. So purchases like mine (24 bottles) have an upper limit of credits.
7. Batteries, tobacco, ink cartridges, plastic kitchenware and some other peculiar exclusions apply.
8. Vouchers expire after 2 weeks.
9. If the systems fail they use data from previous days up to 3 days then abandon the scheme.
10. Blah, blah, blah. There are 40 different Q and A's on their website and they're not even the actual Terms and Conditions.

Still with me? Well done, I'd be surprised if many shoppers are.....

So how had I 'saved' £34.75 buying 24 bottles of wine at Sainsbury's when ASDA is actually cheaper?

To be fair to Sainsbury's you can phone their Customer Careline (free on 0800 63 62 62) and they will explain. So tonight I did. They track your receipt number in their system and retrieve all the information.

The friendly operator explains if I had bought 24 x £5 bottles of wine at ASDA it would cost £120.00. At Tesco it would cost £138.96 (although actually Tesco would give a 5% discount for buying more than 6 bottles of wine of £6.95 making the bill £132.01). The Sainsbury's price was £104.21.

So to calculate what I have 'saved' Sainsbury's takes the highest price I could have paid at a rival - Tesco £138.96 (even though they've got the tesco price after discounts wrong) and subtracts their price £104.21 to show a 'saving' of £34.75. Of course I know the real saving is the price I would have saved at it's cheapest rival - ASDA £120.00 (24 x 5) so the actual saving is £15.79.

The supermarkets make up their own rules to try and make sure their prices appear lowest. Sainsbury's really was the cheapest on this occasion - and I understood that - which is why I spent so absurdly.

So, I ask the telephone operator, if I had bought just 3 bottles at £5.79 (failing to qualify for the wine Festival multibuy) and tipped my basket over the £20 minimum spend with some other stuff (you must have one comparable brand in your basket) would Sainsbury's have given me 3x79p credit off my next shop (because ASDA at £5 is 79p cheaper per bottle)? 'Yes' she replied.

I'll never know, because I didn't put it to the test.

Please note the Sainsbury's Wine Festival promotion has now ended.

Update 3 October 2012 - The Advertising Standards Authority don't like the advertising for Sainsbury's Brand Match at all - and have banned the ads until they are corrected. Among their concerns the ASA said Sainsbury's claim you won't pay more for brands was wrong - because you would be charged more and would only get a money off coupon - so you would have to shop with Sainsbury's again (within 2 weeks) to get the money back. They also said Sainsbury's could not say 'save at Sainsbury's with Brand Match' - because all they were doing was matching their rivals prices (not bettering them). Well done to the member of the public who made that last complaint, even Tesco's legal team (who made a lengthy complaint too) seemed to miss that point.

ASA Summary: The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Sainsbury's to ensure future ads did not imply consumers would not pay more, or would save money, if that was not the case. We also told them to ensure all significant conditions of promotions were made clear in future (see full adjudication here)


Anonymous said...

If £10 is the maximum voucher you can get back, how did you manage to have the cashier hand you one for £34.75???

The Chief Executive said...

I didn't get a voucher - the cashier was mistaken. That is the trouble with this promotion. it's very difficult to understand how the 'saving' is calculated. The slip I was handed claimed to be the 'saving'.

Anonymous said...

Get this one then, I saw the 2 litre bottles of sprite priced at £1.98 a bottle in Sainsbury, a quick check on the ASDA website whilst in store and saw the ASDA roll back price of £1.00 per bottle. Great I'll get a voucher for £1.96 (2 x 98p)at the checkout. I was in a bit of a rush so I just slammed everything in my wallet at the check out knowing i'd check it later. Imagine my money off voucher. I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

its not that hard to understand.
it states, "your shopping is cheaper here today", OR "Money off your next shop".
anyway don't moan because as a colleague I know its ending soon

The Chief Executive said...

I beleive the problem with the Brand Match promotion is that it lacks any kind of transparency. If shoppers log onto Asda's website and enter their receipt details they are shown the competitor's price for each item, so they know what they paid more for and which items were cheaper. Asda relies on the assumption that only a very small proportion of shoppers will bother to do this.

So Sainsbury's has taken this idea, and using the same data base - gives shoppers the headline calculation as a print-out in store.

But as the comment above yours illustrates shoppers don't appreciate that any savings on other Sainsbury's promotions eat away at the 'lost' saving on a competitor's promotion. So if you buy Sprite knowing it is cheaper in Asda, but then buy something else in Sainsbury's which is more expensive in Asda you won't get a voucher.

Because the promotion is called 'Brand match' shoppers are led to believe that the match is on every single brand. It is not, it is an average price of all the brands in your basket compared to the price of all those same brands in a basket at Tesco and Asda.

Tesco tried this with their 'cheaper baskets' campaign, which fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, who branded it misleading.

I have no doubt one of the major supermarkets (if not all of them) have complained to the ASA about Brand Match, and I expect it may also fail the transparency test. That is possibly why the promotion is ending soon - either that or because it is too expensive, or becuase research has shown customers don't understand it, so it is not worth continuing with.

Anonymous said...

I do my shop at JS, always get a "your shop was £... Cheaper here today " coupon.

Obvious crap.

Anonymous said...

We shop at Asda and it is generally cheaper... any money we get back from them is usually down to them being cheaper but not by 10%. We too have realised that a good deal on one item can undermine the average basket value - we have considered taking two baskets round the shop - one for items we know are 10% cheaper and one for those we now are not... but that is just getting silly.

The brand match is pointless - I only generally buy stuff on offer there anyway. I didn't realise the double-standards of giving a voucher against the cheapest shop, but it doesn't suprise me.

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