Meet the new price: same as the old price

Someone somewhere is clearly suggesting to commercial organizations, including but by no means limited to Waitrose, that what they need to boost sales is to advertise fake special offers. The idea is that you put an oversized price sticker on the price-label slot along the shelf, to suggest that the price of that particular item is worth a second look: by essentially abusing the standard language of cut-price goods, drawing people in with the visual promise of a price reduction, then in the small print making it clear that there’s no such thing.

They come in several flavours. There’s the ones that say effectively “this was the price of this thing yesterday, and guess what? we haven’t increased it overnight in the shitty way we usually do!” These bleed into the labels which say “didn’t you fucking know that this product was hand-woven by fair-trade alpacas on Keira Knightley’s Celebrity Alpaca Farm? Well, now you do, buy it at the price it’s always costed, you idiot.” Alongside both of these are the fake offers saying “this is the same price as you’d get in our competitor’s stores! It’s a bit like price-fixing only not strictly illegal!” and a recent addition to the pantheon has been “we’ve not got round to updating our prices to take into account the VAT increase, as it takes a lot of time to do so and we’re also probably a bit stoned and don’t give a shit, so we’re pretending it’s because we don’t hate you, although we do, you cocktouchers.”

I only mention this because I’m not convinced that they’re having the effect that the stores hope they might. I realized today why I haven’t been buying the rather tasty Dorset Cereals recently (apart from the fact that they were still using palm oil last time I checked) is that each range available in Waitrose has a fake special offer beside it, just telling you the standard price and how lovely it is. Every time I pass by the shelves, often on my way to actually buying it, I experience that brief cycle of excitement and disappointment, decide I don’t want to be treated that way, and continue past, dismayed that another customer–company relationship is being amateurishly fucked with.

… Are we done with capitalism yet? Because I’ve taken a long, hard look and I’m not convinced it’s ever been working as it ought to have.

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This entry was posted in body, diary, experience, food, language, person, semantics, society. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Meet the new price: same as the old price

  1. looby says:

    Hello JP
    Did you see this? http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/datablog/2010/feb/12/tesco-asda-prise-rises-christmas

    Fabulous, unarguable, hard facts in a database.

    I wonder why no-one ever points out that there must be a law of diminishing returns with this sort of rhetoric. I know for certain things (like that “cut price” claret I get from the Co-op, that it’s become a question of avoiding buying it on the rare occasions when it’s at its full price: i.e., the reduced nature of the price has been lost on at least this customer.

  2. sbalb says:

    My word. That’s… remarkable. Semi-permanent sales – where the thing is almost invariably offered at a reduced price of some sort – are meant to attract the attention of Trading Standards, but you can imagine how toothless they are. Waitrose get around that anyway, by selling a different yoghurt in a buy-some-get-some-free offer every few weeks.

    (Looby, I’ve lost my login to your blog. Can you send me new details.)

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