Is Dan Hyde an idiot?

To violate Betteridge’s Law once again:

Have you tried comparing the prices of fruit, veg, meat and other groceries in the supermarket recently?
Crafty bosses at big stores have made it almost impossible to work out whether you’re getting a good deal. Everything’s in different pack sizes with different weights.
Throw in two-for-one deals and it’s enough to give you a headache just walking down the aisles.

To get in and out of the shop without being ripped off you really need a calculator, pen and paper — plus a free afternoon to do the sums.
Scouring stores for Christmas presents takes so long, that by late December many of us are too worn out to hunt down deals on turkeys and trimmings. Marketing industry insiders tell me it’s intentional.
Years ago it was illegal to sell tea and other staples in anything other than 8oz, 1lb, 1lb 8oz (and so on) quantities. When you went to the greengrocer and saw the price of 1 lb of tomatoes and 1 lb of grapes on little blackboards, it was easy to work out which was more expensive.
I’d wager that most Sixties shoppers could have named the price of a pound of tea, sugar or flour off the top of their heads. Now? Forget it. I’d just be guessing if asked the price per kilo of almost anything in Sainsbury’s or Tesco.
A picture sent to me by a former retail marketing executive illustrates the problem this causes. It shows three prawn deals on a Waitrose shelf: one packet at £2.99 for 150g; one at £4 for 200g; and two 200g packs at £6.
Clearly, the best is to buy two 200g packets for £6 and freeze one.

Try reading the damn labels on the shelf Dan. By law it must have the unit price on it.

96 thoughts on “Is Dan Hyde an idiot?”

  1. Scouring stores for Christmas presents takes so long, that by late December many of us are too worn out to hunt down deals on turkeys and trimmings.

    Oh, you poor lamb. Life for the middle classes is intolerable these days.

  2. When you went to the greengrocer and saw the price of 1 lb of tomatoes and 1 lb of grapes on little blackboards, it was easy to work out which was more expensive.

    A Porsche and a pound of potatoes are easy to tell which is the most expensive. Why compare them though?

    A picture sent to me by a former retail marketing executive illustrates the problem this causes. It shows three prawn deals on a Waitrose shelf: one packet at £2.99 for 150g; one at £4 for 200g; and two 200g packs at £6.

    Toughie.

    Still, let’s scrap this variety and choice and have one single size, say 250g as a close average.

    Now Dan can write articles about how much waste there is, as people who don’t want 250g of prawns nevertheless have to buy 250g and throw the rest away.

  3. Marketing industry insiders tell me it’s intentional.*

    * My mate who knows someone who knows someone who’s wife knows someone who works in the marketing department of a leisure centre complex.

  4. “Years ago it was illegal to sell tea and other staples in anything other than 8oz, 1lb, 1lb 8oz (and so on) quantities.”

    The default measurement for tea was actually “a quarter” (four ounces).

  5. It probably is intentional, but so what? Is there much evidence that people are suffering great hardship because they paid £2.99 instead of £2.49 for a packet of beetroot?

    Most people judge a supermarket by how much they pay at the exit. If I spend £80 at Tesco’s but only £60 at Morrison’s, I conclude that the former is more skilled at extracting money from me and therefore is to be avoided.

  6. Some people are total d*cks!

    Your mummy didn’t teach you how to shop? Lordy, give us a break.

    Underneath it all another one of these ‘it was better in the Soviet Union, just one option (or often not even one!)’ articles.

    If your only criteria is ‘the cheapest’ then you will spend a lot of time comparing. If you shop regularly (which obviously this d*ckhead doesn’t) you soon recognise prices, qualities and notice when they change.

    What’s wrong with these people. No basic life skills? How do they manage to go to the toilet? What do they do when a light bulb blows? Call an electrician.

    Yeah, I’m in a bad mood. But he’s still a d*ickhead.

  7. Mal Reynolds (Serenity)

    Why is he Christmas present shopping in a supermarket?
    “A pound of sugar? Oh Dan, it’s just what I wanted!”

    There’s this amazing thing called the internet where you can easily shop, compare prices and customer reviews, all without leaving your sofa!

  8. That is an utterly phenomenal level of stupidity.

    However, on the topic, I will observe that Coca-Cola’s price segmentation is somewhat extreme. Now available in the following sizes: 2l, 1.75l, 1.5l, 1.25l, 1l, 750ml, 500ml, 330ml, 250ml — and that’s before having to deal with multipacks. I’m not complaining — because the supermarket labels do of course include the price per 100ml, so there’s no problem — but I am impressed.

  9. It’s not exactly difficult to do a quick rough calculation in your head anyway. In fact they should get rid of unit prices. If people had to use their brain a bit more it might up the national intelligence by a point or two.

  10. @”A picture sent to me by a former retail marketing executive illustrates the problem this causes. It shows three prawn deals on a Waitrose shelf: one packet at £2.99 for 150g; one at £4 for 200g; and two 200g packs at £6.”
    Is that a trick question because the £6 is cheapest, surely it is not meant to be hard is it?

  11. You don’t even need to use fully accurate mental arithmetic.

    ”one packet at £2.99 for 150g; one at £4 for 200g; and two 200g packs at £6.”

    So, two packets of (A) would be about six quid and 300g, but two packets of (C ) is also six quid, but 400g. Two packets of (B) would also be 400g, but eight quid.

  12. I wonder if Dan would actually put the prawns in the freezer. The shelf life of prawns in a domestic freezer can’t be much more than a couple of days. I guess it depends on how much you like supermarket prawns.

  13. I know it was stupid but I clicked on the link and was confronted by the gibbering idiocy of the Daily Mail. All sort of ads popped up, mostly of sites I’ve recently visited. However, there was a best buy pointed out in my town….. For funeral services! I wonder if Dan could help me shop around for a coffin.

  14. jgh
    or to work it another way 2.99 is 3.00, 150g is 3/4 of 200g, so if you only want a small pack you are not overpaying for 150g. 2x200g is cheap only if you really like prawn or are holding a big party.

  15. “Clearly, the best is to buy two 200g packets for £6 and freeze one.”

    If its clear, the whole article is a waste of space. The simple point being that not everyone wants to buy the same size pack and it is up to the pourchaser to decide how much they want to buy and whether they want to buy it at the price offered.

  16. I completely agree with Dan. This a very big bugbear for me. Unit price is all very well but very often if they appear next to each other they will change the units. So one will be weight and the other will be each.
    The reason i hate it so much is not that i can’t work it out it is that i feel physically compelled to do so and that just takes up time which i resent when its fairly obvious i’m being fucked with by mr grocer. With loose versus a bag i put it a bag on the scales and if the price sticker comes out more thinking its loose i get the bag. But this doesn’t apply to most items. One thing I’ve found is that going to Aldi or Lidl alleviates this feeling. Knowing that the overall bill is generally x percent cheaper means i can offset fretting over getting the best price on an individual item.

  17. Unit price is only mandatory for items you sell loose.
    Simple metal arithmetic is all you need for the rest.

    And if you a bright enough to write an article for the Mail you are bright enough to…oh.

  18. “jgh

    16 at 11:12 am You don’t even need to use fully accurate mental arithmetic.

    ”one packet at £2.99 for 150g; one at £4 for 200g; and two 200g packs at £6.”

    So, two packets of (A) would be about six quid and 300g, but two packets of (C ) is also six quid, but 400g. Two packets of (B) would also be 400g, but eight quid.”

    Much quicker for me. I don’t like prawns.

  19. ”one packet at £2.99 for 150g; one at £4 for 200g; and two 200g packs at £6.”

    Unusually the 200g works out more expensive per 100g than the 150g one.

    150g one is 99.67p per 50g, whereas the 200g one is £1 per 50g. I expect most people won’t notice how much the MULTINATIONAL GLOBAL COMPANY is ripping them off here.

  20. “By law it must have the unit price on it”

    And don’t automatically assume that larger packs are better value. Sainsbury’s often have reductions on smaller or individual packs.

  21. ‘It’s time shoppers were given the upper hand again, with industry-wide standards for weights and measures. Then — and only then — should shops be allowed to tempt us with discounts and deals.’

    You could buy prawns by the fluid ounce.

    What’s this “again” shit?

  22. Marketing industry insiders tell me it’s intentional.

    I love that he thinks you need to talk to insiders to discover this, like it’s a secret. It’s like those stupid “exposees” of cinemas charging more for chocolate than Tesco.

    People like Dan Hyde should be made to read Joel Spolsky’s excellent Camels And Rubber Duckies piece. And then shut up.

  23. I actually complained to Asda about shelf edge pricing – specifically on Dentastix for the dog.
    They sell several different pack sizes – a pack of 3 sticks, a pack of 7 sticks, and boxes with (depending on the weather or something) 4 or 8 packs of 7 sticks.
    Some were priced per 100g, some per stick, and the larger packs were missing the shelf edge price altogether. So I picked up a box, and (because I’m stubborn that way) walked all the way to the other end of the store to get a price – which turned to be significantly more than buying the smaller packs separately.
    The answer to my complaint was half unanswered (they never addressed the issue of mixed units), and my subsequent query asking for it to be addressed was ignored.
    Must go and check next time I’m in, then call for the duty manager and ask why I shouldn’t be complaining to Trading Standards.

  24. Henry C- “are you ever allowed out on your own without your carer?”
    instead of answering that i’m going to read squander 2’s link. because you know it seems it will be a better use of time.

  25. I enjoy comparing the price per sheet of toilet paper. However, after many years of rasping my arse with cheap and scratchy paper, I now express a preference for quilted and perfumed tissue, although it is a few pence per sheet more expensive. Then comes the agonising decision of whether to shave off a small sum by buying a pack of 24, which will crowd out my dunny or just get a six pack which lasts a month or so. I don’t know how I can cope with the excitement of it all

  26. Diogenes: I researched average toilet roll consumption per person per year once. It’s about 27. It was helpful to know as I don’t drive, but had the opportunity once to do a big shop with a willing driver.
    You are well above average consumption if buying for one. No wonder life is exciting.

  27. I am seriously impressed that your dog can read the prices.

    Probably a Border Collie. Those dogs are seriously clever.

  28. Or you can go to Aldi or Lidl where the prices are the same all the time (except when they reduce them permanently, which happens quite a lot). Its like shopping in the old days, with the added advantage its like the old days prices too.

    I admit the main supermarket pricing systems are annoying, but I think I’d be a bit loath to go public and admit I’m too stupid to do the sort of basic maths that I did aged 8. I’m sure the author would be a graduate, and here he is complaining basic maths is too hard. Poor lamb. Must have been an Arts degree…………..

  29. SQ2 good link. i was aware of the micro economics. The corporate software licencing shenanigans were eerily familiar. It said that price segmenting pisses people off. So yes, didn’t really make me want to shut up, even though i acknowledge it’s a good piece. I guess it comes down to what to do with all this pissed offedness, go to someone who doesn’t do it or lump it, or support the passing of consumer laws.
    That moment when the obfuscation is obvious – (where the the unit price is in different units) so you can’t even compare that without significant brain time I am a raging statist muther fully prepared for sainsburys shareholders and execs to eat my righteous consumer statutes with criminal sanctions.

  30. Incidentally, am I the only person who regards the ‘human being vs global mega-corp supermarket’ game as rather enjoyable? I often shop in Sainsburys and by judicious purchasing end up with huge numbers of nectar points, vouchers off petrol etc etc. I’ve discovered that if you haven’t been for while they’ll give you vouchers for triple nectar points when you come back. So you go in buy one item, get your vouchers, then do the shopping you came for, but get triple points on it, which is 1.5% cash back. Human being 1 Global Mega-corp 0. When it comes to food shopping it pays to be a tart. Float between the various brands and they all seek out your business.

    OK, I’m sad, but it keeps me amused.

  31. > It said that price segmenting pisses people off.

    No, what it said was that price segmenting via the method of charging different people different prices pisses people off. That’s precisely why supermarkets prefer to segment by doing things like charging less for two 200g packs than for one 390g pack: the best price is available to anyone who wants it. It just involves a little effort, making it a personal decision whether that effort is worth it.

    One of my favourite bits of segmentation is cheap-looking packaging, like the Tesco Value range. Because it plays to the widely held belief that posh-looking photos and beautiful typefaces make the product more expensive, but that belief is actually false. I love that there’s a team of graphic designers out there who get the commission to design packaging that looks like it wasn’t designed. And then they have to update the design every few years so that it keeps up with the latest trends in cheaplookingness.

  32. Jim,

    There was a case years ago where Tesco offered such a great offer on Clubcard points on bananas that one man figured out it was effective profit and bought up all the Tesco bananas for miles around and donated them all to schools and hospitals. He ended up with enough Clubcard points to live off for a few years.

    The best deals are the cross-promotions with other companies, where the value typically gets tripled or even quadrupled. Our Tesco points pay for our Channel crossing every year, which is a big chunk of our holiday budget.

  33. Jim

    “When it comes to food shopping it pays to be a tart. Float between the various brands and they all seek out your business.”

    Actually, you’re pretty close. “Promiscuous” is what Tesco’s marketing people call the likes of you and I ..:)

  34. I’m trying to work out which university supplied this cvnts education. For one can guarantee he has one. Is this level of asinine stupidity available at the ex-polys or redbrick? Or does it require the full Oxbridge?

  35. I’m trying to work out which university supplied this cvnts education. For one can guarantee he has one. Is this level of asinine stupidity available at the ex-polys or redbrick? Or does it require the full Oxbridge?

    Journalism or Grievance Studies is my guess.

  36. Mind you, he graduated in 2009, so not much life experience. I see that he had an internship at the Mail between 2005 and 2008 and went straight to the Mail after graduating. I suspect a smattering of nepotism was in play

  37. I don’t know how I can cope with the excitement of it all

    Am I the only one who misread that as the excrement of it all?

    Seriously though 6 rolls a month is a lot. Either you need better TP so you don’t use so much or you should see your doctor about that.

    Rob,

    You beat me to the savings on the 150g pack. I’m stuck with ounces, pounds, unit count, fluid ounces, etc so I normally don’t worry about a fraction of a cent. A rough estimate is almost always enough to know which package is screwing me badly.

    The best was when comparing soda(sold in metric sizes) and one tag as the price per oz and the next is per gram. I took the time to find the manager to tell him I was getting Coke at the more expensive corner store over those tags. Sadly they hadn’t changed at last check.

  38. S2

    That’s a very interesting article. His reference to Rational struck a chord. I remember having to use that crap a decade or more ago and still remember how over-engineered, frustrating and pointless it all was.

  39. @Diogenese
    “The maths back then was seriously hard, what with pounds and ounces etc”
    Having worked on the floor of the Stock Exchange when share prices were in shillings & pence & calculators were mechanical & the weight of two house bricks, quite. One reason I find it hard to understand how journalists can make gross orders of magnitude errors. Do they have no “feel” for numbers? Make no approximations for check sums? None of this requires “fine” calculation. 10% margin of error is more than adequate.

  40. “…most Sixties shoppers could have named the price …”

    Yeah, probably – but that was before the great Heath/Wilson inflation, and prices stayed pretty much the same for ages.

    As they did 100 years ago, when we had proper money, and prices slowly drifted downwards over decades.

    Now we have an official government target to debauch the currency by 2% every year, and people worry when they “miss” that target.

  41. To All those saying variously; tough cookie dunces, put some effort in, mental arithmetic gets me up in the morning, its my hobby in life to play the price game or you’ve got to appreciate the diabolic genius of the marketer getting fat on the human psyche. I say fill your boots enjoy yourself, i’m with you apart from the tough cookie part. If something pisses me off and someone wants to outlaw that thing that pisses me off then i’m going to be mighty sympathetic to that law getting passed.
    Now if someone would actually like to propose why Dan is thick/ why such laws would be a bad idea, others might be persuaded. So far not so much.

  42. Dan is THICK. I’m so pleased that all the world’s problems have been solved to allow so-called journalists to report on yet another middle-call first world problem such as agonising over marginal price differences on differently priced items in a supermarket.

    The choice is simple: buy it or don’t. FFS, life’s too short to worry about whether 2 200g packs are better value than 1 395g pack.

  43. HB, Mr Crun has it. It’s a question of making a lifestyle choice. If you want to be obsessive about getting the best deal, take a calculator with you when you go shopping. Otherwise just buy the quantity that suits you. Obviously I would be better advised to go to a cash and carry and buy a pallet of baked bean cans but I accept the price differential and buy a 3-pack for when I fancy some beans on toast. Luckily a differential of 0.5p per gram is not worth worrying about unless you are going to buy a staggering quantity of prawns – £5 per kilo

  44. Henry Crun

    Well he may well be, i don’t know but 50% of the population is below average intelligence so i think being thick is not an adequate disqualifier for not having a real world problem. Laws aren’t just for clever peeps you know. We have unit price regs (or will they go poof at brexit?) and shops have learned an enormous variety of tricks to work round them. Don’t see any arguments here that would persuade anyone they shouldn’t be revisited.

  45. Bloke in Costa Rica

    “To get in and out of the shop without being ripped off you really need a calculator, pen and paper”

    Or a smartphone, Dan, you utter, utter mong.

  46. It is probably more rational (at least in terms of foodstuffs) to think harder about the quality/value of what you are buying rather than the price. Is that grey-looking slab of beef cheaper than that nice-looking pink slab because it is worse quality, less chemically-enhanced or what?

  47. Diogenes- i understand, and i employ a mix of the calculator and the try-not-to-give-a-shit methods, but doesn’t mean i’m happy about it. I accept the price trade off between convenience shop prices and supermarket. I accept that local fruit and veg markets now sell things by ‘the bowl’. I accept a lot but still i resent the time it takes more than the cost so if someone is going to get rid of that for me by passing the statute wand, for lifestyle reasons i’ll give them my support.

  48. People with arts degrees from York are often VERY clever. Some of us can even work out the price of prawns (or at least read the price/100g sticker).

    Anyway, I live in Hong Kong so the prices in supermarkets come in only two flavours: suspiciously cheap (nasty stuff from China grown in chemical waste) or shockingly fucking expensive (everything else). I just chuck it in the basket and think about the tax rate.

    @Andrew Duffin – I was talking to a lady today who has been travelling to Japan since the 1970s; she says the price of a cheap bowl of ramen etc has been 500 yen for all that time.

  49. HB,

    Firstly, how would you implement it? A law saying that all yoghurts must be sold in 500g pots, so that Danone doesn’t sneakily shrink them (as per the article)? But what about the 150g pots, or the kids’ 90g pots? What about things that aren’t quite yoghurt, but sit in the same aisle: Greek yoghurt, Müller fruit corner, drinkable yoghurt, chocolate mousse, etc.?

    Secondly, I’d worry about the unseen effects of any such legislation. In the above example, Danone would just water down their 500g pots to achieve the same outcome. (Or they’d bulk it out with cheap filler: palm oil, emulsifier, sawdust, etc. – yuck!)

    Then there’s the effect on new market entrants. If we had laws saying that all ice cream must be sold in 2L tubs, we’d never have those dinky little 150ml pots of Haagen-Dazs that Bridget Jones eats while crying in her pyjamas in front of the telly.

    Finally, look at what you’ve done. You’ve created a big book full of rules and an army of inspectors to enforce it. And it won’t be the big companies who fall foul of the rules: it’ll be the small producers who launch a new product unaware of these pesky laws. Overall it’s a lot of pain for very little gain.

  50. ‘Incidentally, am I the only person who regards the ‘human being vs global mega-corp supermarket’ game as rather enjoyable?’

    Not enjoyable. But I enjoy winning.

    I’ve been dancing with amazon.com over pricing of a watch. They even went grey market on it for a few days. After two weeks, I got the best price, sourced from Amazon, with mfg warranty. I smile now.

  51. Andrew M,

    Why not just use standardized units for the tag information?

    I am thinking that the 150g pot of yogurt and the 90g pot will both have the price per gram on the tag. If I were an MP I would give retailers the chance to do this voluntarily. If they do it with only the threat of a law then we haven’t expanded the bureaucracy and the dullards like Dan get a system they can understand. The children have been thought of, but not actually restricted, so job done.

    Of course if he want more government for the sake of more government this option won’t be acceptable.

  52. > 50% of the population is below average intelligence so i think being thick is not an adequate disqualifier for not having a real world problem.

    If this relied on mental arithmetic, sure. In a world in which everyone who wants one has a calculator in their pocket, not so much. For people too thick to understand how to use the calculator, I’d be staggered if there isn’t an app.

    I have a lot of sympathy for thick people, and don’t think they should be penalised in life. The world needs all sorts, and I may be very intelligent (hmm) but I know I’m lacking in various other ways. Stupid people should be helped with things that require intelligence just as weak people should be helped with heavy lifting and clumsy people should be helped with carpentry. But, in this particular case, they have been; the problem is solved. The only question remaining is whether we consider the potential savings worth the time and effort of doing the calculations — whether we’re doing those calculations on our phones or in our heads.

    > Now if someone would actually like to propose why Dan is thick/ why such laws would be a bad idea, others might be persuaded.

    Well, Dan’s thick because the example he gives of how frustratingly difficult it is to figure out prices isn’t even remotely tricky. And because he doesn’t even think to check the fucking price label, which really does include the per-unit price. Had he included a bit in his article about checking the labels but finding them inadequate in some way, I’d have a bit more time for him.

    The problem with the legislation he is proposing is that it would force every single product to be sold in a set of standard sizes decided by some bureaucrat in Whitehall, which would almost certainly lead to price increases across the board — because (a) flexibility in packaging sizes enables efficiency, and (b) central planning. As well as the increased prices at the shop, of course, we’d also have to pay via taxation for the central planners who’d decide “appropriate” packaging sizes for every single product on the market.

    Or we can just decide whether or not to spend a couple of minutes saving a few pence.

    In an era and civilisation when food is better quality, more readily available, and cheaper than ever before in history, this really does seem like an odd complaint.

  53. Correct, Andrew M. In a rush to protect the snowflakes, government has rushed in with massive non-productive regulation.

  54. Liberal Yank,

    We actually already have that. All supermarkets show both the product price and the price per 100ml or per 100g. (There’s some trivial confusion when a shop shows both £/100ml and £/1000ml on nearby items, but that’s hardly a crisis.)

    Besides, price isn’t necessarily the determining factor. As Squander Two pointed out many posts up, you can buy Coca-Cola in units of 2l, 1.75l, 1.5l, 1.25l, 1l, 750ml, 500ml, 330ml, 250ml, and 150ml if you’re on an airplane. The 2L bottles don’t fit in my fridge door, and I drink it so slowly that it loses its fizz before I reach the end of the bottle. Consequently I buy either the 1.25L bottles or a multipack of cans, even though both work out more expensive than the 2L bottle.

  55. > and 150ml if you’re on an airplane.

    Ah, I forgot about the airplane ones.

    > a multipack of cans … work out more expensive than the 2L bottle.

    Usually, but often not. Coke’s special offers can get pretty complex.

  56. “Now if someone would actually like to propose why Dan is thick/ why such laws would be a bad idea, others might be persuaded. So far not so much.”

    It’s illiberal. I bought some of Robinson’s mini squash things because they made it super concentrated. Fits in a handbag. We take them on holiday and for days out. We can be in a hotel room and the kids can have some squash. Now, lets assume Dan Hyde’s view of the world. We’d have Ministry-defined squash bottle sizes. If Robinson’s want to make super concentrated squash, they have to go to the minister, get an act of parliament changed to allow for their mini size. That’s all going to cost money on my little bottle, making me poorer. Or maybe they won’t bother as it no longer adds up. And I have to make up squash before we go out, making my life less enjoyable in a miniscule way.

    A while ago, soon after Brexit there was a story about how Pol Roger plan to start selling champagne in pints again. Basically, that got stopped when we joined the EU because of the standardisation of wine bottles, exactly this sort of Dan Hyde idea. And the chap from Berry Bros and Rudd explained that the pint is the perfect measure because it gives you 4 glasses.

    And while it all sounds trivial, that’s what getting richer looks like: someone figures out how to do something 0.1% better. Combined and compounded, thousands of those make us a lot happier.

  57. ‘Why not just use standardized units for the tag information?’

    Estimated fuel efficiency in furlongs per fortnight.

    Tell government to go away.

  58. Andrew M /SQ2 /BiW. ok now we’re getting somewhere.

    “Firstly, how would you implement it?”
    I think Tim’s response to Dan was right- no need to mandate standard sizes just look at the unit price. The maths is done for you and it should solve the problem thick or otherwise. But those regulations are too loose. They do not stipulate the unit– so that you get the price per Kg and the price per 100g. FFS i saw this last week on a leg of lamb and a half leg of lamb sitting next to each other. or price per kg versus price each which i see on bananas regularly. These are only put there for one reason and its a non-trivial one. Packet sizes you can claim consumer choice so i concede you your coke medicine bottles and pints of champagne. You can’t claim it for variations in unit by unit price comparisons for the same product.

    It’s illiberal.
    That’s arguable. Assuming we’re talking about the proper functioning of markets, this is the very thing we should be concerned about. Its a question of balance and i fully appreciate that the instinct of many (probably Dan too) is to create a rule for everything. That is indeed illiberal, but we’re talking about price comparison here and creating rules the market actors play by is very important, and whole point of them is to serve consumers. So i say its ok to say to sainsburys et. al. this is how you are going to do it mateys.

    SQ2 – I see the point about relative lower costs of food, but its still the most important market we have and in any case this is a complaint about time- which is as rare as it ever was.

  59. Gamecock,

    As long as every car uses furlongs per fortnight it’s fine with me. At least the units are consistent. If we’ve reached the level of idiocracy where fuel economy is measured using a unit of velocity we have far more pressing issues to worry about.

    What bothers me is when the 2 liter of coke has a unit price based on fluid ounces and the 12 ounce can’s unit price is in grams. I am smart enough to ignore the can’s unit price and just divide the full price by 12. I can’t say the same about most people I know.

  60. The supermarket industry is one of the most competitive, cut-throat examples of hyper-capitalism. It’s a very hard industry to make a profit in, and plenty of chains fold when they get it wrong.

    The one exception to that is Walmart. But no-one accuses Walmart of being expensive. Indeed the Left rail about how little they pay their staff in order to keep prices down.

    We can be fairly sure that overall we are not being ripped off by supermarkets. That’s how they have driven all the competition out of the market, after all.

  61. ‘I can’t say the same about most people I know.’

    It’s not government’s job to protect them. No one is going to die from not understanding the difference of Coke in ounces or grams.

    Government should be finite.

  62. @, Simon, December 7, 2016 at 1:18 pm
    “I actually complained to Asda about shelf edge pricing – specifically on Dentastix for the dog.”

    You’re wasting money on the Dentastix. Buy hide chews instead (says our vet). Typically 2″ x 6″.

    eg: Daily Dental Chews

    If a whole one is too large for your dog, use a pair of aviation snips to cut into three of four thinner strips.

  63. “Try reading the damn labels on the shelf Dan. By law it must have the unit price on it.”

    Even beyond that, is it really so hard to take a few seconds and divide price by weight? Are people so poor at basic math that they can’t even get in the right ballpark by eyeballing it? That they can’t manage the calculator that comes built into their phone?

    His little rant on prices is *exactly* the same thing you see in a commercial where some little task no one has ever had much of a problem with is demonstrated to be incredibly hard until you buy that little gizmo (ONLY $19.99!!).

    Its all ‘give me money and I’ll solve your problems for you – even if I have to make up problems for me to solve’.

  64. When I saw there were 70 comments on this thread, I thought, “Great, bit of sparring going on here, maybe Ecksy is sticking it to Bloke in Germany. Perhaps, even Lawrence of Guernsey or Ian B have reappeared”. No, just a load of sad 40 – 60 year old, probably divorced white males taking shopping far too seriously. But, my input is always shop where the aisles are wide and there are fewest people. That excludes Aldis but not Lidls.
    Beer purchase provides another dimension in that can sizes vary, as does strength, and I want to get the maximum alcohol per unit price. In Tescos, my research has concluded that amongst real ales, Speckled Hen in 4 x 500ml cans is the best value….. Sad.

  65. HB,
    I concede your point that the labels should use consistent units (i.e. always per 100g or per 1kg). This would aid market transparency. But anything more than that seems like overkill.

  66. Hallowed Be,

    “That is indeed illiberal, but we’re talking about price comparison here and creating rules the market actors play by is very important, and whole point of them is to serve consumers. So i say its ok to say to sainsburys et. al. this is how you are going to do it mateys.”

    But the rules don’t serve consumers. The rules prevent innovation and that’s bad for consumers.

    And you have the data for price comparison. OK, maybe units are different, and you have to do a division, but the data to do that is there. So you don’t need the state involved. I regularly use MySupermarket for buying gin – I don’t mind between Tanqueray, Greenalls and Bombay Sapphire. And they’ve done the conversion to £/100ml. The information market has sorted out price comparison, and that gets done at a much lower cost than asking the state to get involved.

  67. Gamecock,

    The point is for retailers to use consistent units so there is no reason for anyone to complain. Since 50% of people are below average intelligence. and I can understand why they are confused. I wouldn’t be hyper-motivated to vote against a politician that supports this type of regulation. There are too many bigger fish to fry. Therefore it is in the retailers’ best interest to just use standard units for similar products. The people that really care about price per unit will figure out the scam and those that don’t will still fall for it. The is no major benefit to continuing so why risk an added regulation?

  68. It’s also the case that bogof offers etc don’t give unit prices, you only get them for buying 1off a particular item.

    Fixing this would be nice, and fairly easy, as would standardizing the units properly (I’m fairly sure I’ve seen identical products unit priced by weight and volume depending on pack size, which is a bit cheeky).

    That said, the original author is a moron, as rather than do^^^ he apparently wants to make all packs the same size.

  69. This whole thread exemplifies what is wrong about trying to use legislation in a situation where common sense should prevail. Stupid people will always be gulled. The majority will do as they always do. No law can cater for all eventualities. And the ones that try to do so are the ones that the legal profession depends on to make their parasitic living

  70. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I think the supermarkets should make you do a mental arithmetic test at the checkout and if you get it wrong they add 25% to your bill.

  71. Diogenes,

    The other thing is that even, sometimes, non-stupid people are gulled. But, we have things like a free flow of information to watch for this. So, word gets around when say, Apple screw around with the features of Final Cut Pro, or people can discuss in various places the better alternatives to cheap Champagne.

    And government is never nimble enough to keep up with the companies gaming the rules. Look at MPG testing and how amazing the Prius looks. 94.1 MPG. It doesn’t really get close to that. it doesn’t even work as a comparison. a BMW 320d officially gets 72MPG. But in real world tests, there’s nothing to choose between the BMW and the Prius – 100 km of driving took 3.25 litres in the Prius, 3.4 litres in the BMW. And that’s because for at least part of the test, they’re running on the battery in the Prius.

    Government accreditations can give false reassurance, and this can be worse than no reassurance. At least with none, caveat emptor applies. People are wary of what is being sold to them.

  72. TomJ,

    Good catch. I was wondering if anyone would notice the missing direction component. Far too often my attempts at humor require far too much specialized knowledge. I thought it was appropriate in a conversation about differing units. Velocity was most certainly as inappropriate as fortnight.

  73. ‘so there is no reason for anyone to complain’

    “Confusion on aisle 4; call in government.”

    Your Lefty view of the purpose of government is showing.

  74. ” And that’s because for at least part of the test, they’re running on the battery in the Prius.”

    I think I read somewhere that the reason is that there is no motorway driving in the test…

  75. “That’s arguable. Assuming we’re talking about the proper functioning of markets, this is the very thing we should be concerned about. Its a question of balance and i fully appreciate that the instinct of many (probably Dan too) is to create a rule for everything. That is indeed illiberal, but we’re talking about price comparison here and creating rules the market actors play by is very important, and whole point of them is to serve consumers. So i say its ok to say to sainsburys et. al. this is how you are going to do it mateys.”

    What a load of bollocks. The proper functioning of market is that they sell you what they say they sell you. The way they do it is their problem.

    They’re here to make profits for their shareholders. If they want to hold the hands of morons who can’t count, it’s up to them to decide if its worth their while.

    Notwithstanding the irony of asking the government to interfere in private business when the problem originates with the same government being incapable of educating people to count in the 1st place.

  76. I am suggesting that retailers stop doing a stupid thing, that in my experience costs them revenue, before a lefty tries to force them to. I am not, I repeat, I AM NOT suggesting that the government should take any action. Please explain to me how that is, by any stretch of the imagination, not trying to avoid the lefty type of thinking you claim I am putting forth.

    Trust me, when I am backing government market intervention, like the damn sugar subsidies Republicans are so in love with, I will fully own it.

    Hell, even if you can prove that the stupid tags actually increase revenue instead I’ll switch my position. Until that point I see no reason why retailers should continue losing money doing something everyone who notices hates.

  77. monoi,

    “I think I read somewhere that the reason is that there is no motorway driving in the test…”

    No, they get to 70mph. The problem is the duration of the test. It’s only about 6 minutes long. And the Prius can run for about 10 minutes on battery. At 70mph, it will also be using petrol, but not as much as it will after 10 minutes.

    It’s completely false in terms of motorway driving. Or even A road driving, where they can load up a Prius’ battery.

    It’s also why hybrids just aren’t much of a solution (and are mostly about virtue signalling). They work in urban areas, somewhere where public transport is available. Plug-in electrics and fast charging stations are a better idea.

  78. S2,

    “Philistine”

    I pride myself on having a reasonable palate. I drink very good wine because I can taste the difference. But take gin and stick tonic and lime in it and they all taste the same to me.

    I can only tell the difference between stronger and weaker gins, ABV wise.

  79. Are you trying to trick is Tim?

    I think this Is that “law of headlines” thing – the exception that proves the rule.

  80. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Tanqueray is the best G+T gin, bar none. Bombay Sapphire is too aromatic. It makes a good martini and an even better pink gin. Anyway, I’ve been off the sauce for so long they’d probably all taste like Airfix glue now.

  81. I told my local liquor distributor that Tanqueray is my favorite gin.

    He said, “You like getting hit in the face with a Christmas tree?”

    I said, “Well, yes. Other gins don’t have enough juniper.”

    I suppose Hendricks makes a better martini, but I don’t drink martinis.

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