Shop Tesco’s Tricks: Why rip off the rich when you can fool the desperate?


Of a late afternoon (especially Friday late afternoon) there tends to be a knot of rather ill-kempt, sad individuals hanging round the chiller cabinets tucked away in an obscure corner of the larger Tesco stores. This little area contains the Reduced to Clear section. As the Tesco staff bring stuff out that’s destined for sale today or the skip tomorrow, the hordes of old ladies and grey-faced men worry and pester them, waiting to see how low the price ticket might go.

You are about to find out how low Tesco can go.

I visit Reduced to Clear (RTC) quite a lot, but often feel something of a fraud. It is part of my Northern ‘careful’ upbringing that I enjoy seeing what’s in there, and then thinking how I might create something for next to nothing that guests taste and say “My God Wardy, but you do treat us sometimes.” If the total cost of that starter for six is £2.79, I go to bed later with a certain smug glow of satisfaction. I know, I know – I am beyond the pail.

A regular cheapo in the RTC is ambient soup, because it has a limited shelf-life. The usual selling price is £2.10 for Covent Garden (whose leak & potato is without equal) but it’s not unusual to see it reduced to £1.30 or even less on the Sell By Date.

I wasn’t going to bother getting any today, because the reduction was a measly 10p to £2, despite the packs showing 27th January. But three aisles further on – far away from social sadness – was a special offer on…, my – Covent Garden soups (same brand, same flavours, but fresher) at £1.10…..nearly half-price. And a Sell By Date of 12th February.

Tesco bamboozle the poor all the time. It isn’t uncommon to see 2-for-1 offers away from the RTC area where the reduction on one pack still means it’s poorer value than the Bogof. You can find very poor quality Lamb legs branded with the store’s ‘VALUE’ sub-brand, and then compare the price per kilo with far better quality and find the prices are almost equal. If you then guesstimate the difference Tesco paid to suppliers for it, it is making far more money out of the poor folks than me. Sorry, but I find that profoundly iniquitous.

Just to reiterate for detractors if I may, I think the service, convenience and value provided by Tesco for most people is a paragon exemplar of how to reach 31% share. But I refuse to accept Tesco now retaining that position by cheating – defrauding, if we’re being frank here – the very poor who lack the natural ability to discern value in the first place.

Further – to head off all those Rod Liddle haters who would now like to show on Twitter what a patronising tw*t I must be, I suggest you go to the various Government websites showing the correlation between poverty and poor literacy/numeracy.

I am more than prepared to accept that Tesco’s problem in this area is one of incompetence rather than exploitation. So if that is the case, can they please stop doing it?

28 thoughts on “Shop Tesco’s Tricks: Why rip off the rich when you can fool the desperate?

  1. Aha- I went into my local butchers shop and bought 6 lambs hearts for 50p each and six thick slices of home made black pudding, which looked delicious- because I am an expert on black puddings, I know that it will be comparable to anything made in Yorkshire or Lancashire.

    There are some really brilliant reductions in Waitrose, and the quality will be assured, so I can be pretty happy with my purchases, cheese etc.

    Why bother with Tesco if you are so unhappy with it- Sadly I tried their 3 bird roast over the Christmas period- it was FOUL :0) never again , ever ever.


  2. … I know that it will be comparable to anything made in Yorkshire or Lancashire. …

    How dare you say that? ;-)

    Bury, in good old Lancashire, is supposed to be the home of the black pudding. I buy it regularly, although I do know that it was/is made in Scotland as well, (and maybe is, only possibly, only just, as good). ;-)

    Butchers home made, yummmmeeee, I love it!


  3. “Beyond the pail”….. a kFC bucket perhaps?

    (From The Phrase Finder: “Firstly, let’s get the spelling clear here. It’s ‘beyond the pale’, and certainly not ‘beyond the pail’ ) – Unless of course John you were referring to bucket shopping habits?

    Completely off topic – Jonathan Meades in France currently showing in iplayer is in my opinion the best TV this year with quips like ” In the 20th Century war stakes France played 4 lost 4…..” – the man deserves The Croix de Slog…..


  4. Like fine wines, black pudding has many regional variations worth trying. Charley Barley’s Stornaway black pudding well worth tracking down. And there was a wee chip shop in Biggar that used to do pudding suppers that were a culinary delight.


  5. One point of order here: it is not the poor that Tesco are trying to bamboozle here; it is those who do not think. If you are short of cash* then it is necessary to be on your guard at all times. The first thing to do is not the corners of the freezers, or the orange stickers that you have at my local Plus. You go hunting the big labels that say “two for one”.

    I will add that your example is more likely the sort of thing that results from poor staff training. The guys marking down the soup did so before the offer was displayed, and so knew nothing of it because it was not their usual department. Either that or they simply did not take any notice of it and just looked at the label: in short, ideal Tesco customers?

    BTW this evening at eight CET, there were nine staff on hand at my local supermarket (it is smaller than a Metro store in the UK, but then most here are).

    *(I am familiar with that state of affairs – feeding a family of four on GBP1 was not uncommon but we did grow a lot of our own, and for good reason – but I digress as usual)


  6. @Stephen

    just because you have your spell-checker set to English (UK).

    I believe that there are eight different ways in which Shakespeare signed his name. The message he presented then is as clear today as it was 400 years ago, spelling mistakes or no.


  7. Gems, nonsense, nothing to do with spellchecks. Beyond the pale refers to the area outside Dublin where no-one of any quality resided.


  8. “I know, I know – I am beyond the pail.”

    JW, do you not claim there is a quantum of Celtic blood coursing through your veins? If yes, then this is almost unforgiveable – you really claim to be “beyond the bucket.” At least we can give a sigh of relief that you haven’t kicked it.

    For your enlightenment:

    Beyond the pale

    Meaning – Unacceptable; outside agreed standards of decency.


    Firstly, let’s get the spelling clear here. It’s ‘beyond the pale’, and certainly not ‘beyond the pail’ – the phrase has nothing to do with buckets. The everyday use of the word ‘pale’ is as an adjective meaning whitish and light in colour (and used to that effect by Procol Harum and in countless paint adverts). This ‘pale’ is the noun meaning ‘a stake or pointed piece of wood’. That meaning is virtually obsolete now except as used in this phrase, but is still in use in the associated words ‘paling’ (as in paling fence) and ‘impale’ (as in Dracula movies).

    The paling fence is significant as the term pale became to mean the area enclosed by such a fence and later just the figurative meaning of ‘the area that is enclosed and safe’. So, to be ‘beyond the pale’ was to be outside the area accepted as ‘home’.

    Catherine the Great created the Pale of Settlement in Russia in 1791. This was the name given to the western border region of the country, in which Jews were allowed to live. The motivation behind this was to restrict trade between Jews and native Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, ‘beyond the pale’.

    Pales were enforced in various other European countries for similar political reasons, notably in Ireland (the Pale of Dublin) and France (the Pale of Calais, which was formed as early as 1360).

    The phrase itself originated later than that. The first printed reference comes from 1657 in John Harington’s lyric poem The History of Polindor and Flostella. In that work, the character Ortheris withdraws with his beloved to a country lodge for ‘quiet, calm and ease’, but later venture further:

    “Both Dove-like roved forth beyond the pale to planted Myrtle-walk”.

    Such recklessness rarely meets with a good end in 17th century verse and before long the lovers are attacked by armed men with ‘many a dire killing thrust’. The message is clear – ‘if there is a pale, decent people stay inside it’, which conveys exactly the figurative meaning of the phrase as it is used today.


  9. Sorry Gemz no spell-cheker used on this occasion – just general knowledge and a penchant for punning. To quote one of William’s “It will cost you a groaning to take off mine edge…” Hamlet

    As for The Late Mr Shakespeare (An excellent book by Robert Nye (Apr 2000)) I agree we probably don’t spell Shakespeare’s name correctly. In the handful of signatures that have survived, the Bard never spelled his own name “William Shakespeare,”


  10. It’s usually easy to see if it’s worth rooting through the reductions. Look at the first item. If it’s not half price, walk away. Often, things are sold at a higher price than the “3 for x£” price or similar. However, there are also opportunities to grab real bargains for the freezer.

    Use your loaf!


  11. I am a great fan of the “I can’t believe it’s not crawling” section at my local Morrisons (I hope I don’t look grey-faced) though you also find some good stuff in other depts. Today they had 2x250g of various kinds of English cheese at £2.
    All good, and £4 a kilo.


  12. @Jon

    don’t be so stuffy: JW pushes out these blog spots at four times the speed I can do my copywriting.

    Frankly I am surprised that there are not more spelling mistakes – yet people pick up on one; now when was the last mistake JW made? Mid December? Is that six weeks?

    Pretty good going in my book.


  13. Having been in logistics most of my working life and having “consulted” in that weird job for 10 years not only in the UK but all over Europe I can with almost certainty say that Tesco is not trying to rip the poor off as you like to portray it. It is simply a question of working by the logistic system in use. It results most of the time as if there are 2 persons handling the same product but from a different starting point. i e the centrally controlled logistic system and the local offshoot which is manipulated by the store. As most of the staff have only a small understanding of the systems used these cock ups happen. Most supermarkets have a dire shortage of logistically trained staff. However I hasten to add that there is no excuse for these anomalies. The local store manager should together with his rayon managers control the movement and thus the pricing of those goods which are RTC which usually are within his power to set. It does not take a man of great wit to take a list of all RTC goods by item and check in the rayons whether they are priced correctly.
    Trying to point these things out is a devils job as the store managers nowadays very rarily come on to the shop floor and then shy away from the clients. (too big for their boots)


  14. I agree. This is just plain incompetence I think, John. There is a lot of it about. Dilbert principle and all that along with poorly trained staff lacking education, intelligence, care or wit.

    I fear losing an eye from an elbow at most RTC sections I come across and daren’t go near.

    How much is a rayon these days?


  15. @JW
    you wrote this at half past five in the morning – were you losing sleep over a spelling mistake? In a world where momentous things are happening, surely a spelling mistake is a mere detail.


  16. @Fabian

    You are right: rayon is one of the early nylons, a peptide polymer. I think it was invented in the 30s.

    Like all things, you can still get it but its use has declined with the introduction of more useful and specific polymers. You could think of rayon’s relation to the modern nylons as of bakelite to a modern plastic. Bakelite like rayon is still used, but only where its qualities are better than other materials. They are still used commercially: bakelite in electronics, and rayon in furniture coverings.


  17. @Cake

    had you replied to Louis I would have understood your comment about rayon. I guess you don’t speak French, but in the context that Louis is using the word it means the “management chain”.


  18. Tesco’s policy is to reduce these goods 3 times over the day according to a source (who works for them).

    Its a while since I discussed it but the later in the day (last reductions are I think 7pm) the cheaper you will find it – however the later you go the less choice of reduced goods there is likely to be except of course that there are ongoing shelf clearances so some restocking does occur.

    If you can get there after about 7pm – milk is usually about 1/2 price !

    As an aside – I would like to mention my visit to my local Lidl yesterday. There were an awful lot of – I think by the language – Portuguese people in there. Now although there are a lot of E Europeans about normally – Portugese/Spanish is not something I hear much outside of holiday visits. Just wondering whether with the current situation down south – and the Streets of London (and the UK) being paved with taxpayers trinkets – the flood from the EU south is starting to have its natural effect – considering the limitations on state assistance from those countries and the timing (which is about right for home grown beneeze to have run out for many.) The collapse of ‘our’ welfare state could be imminent. Even with reform – a free handout of £26G per year for every incoming family from the southern countries is not going to be affordable for long.


  19. Saw another one yesterday (28th) in Tesco Gatwick RTC section: chickens originally offered at 2 for £7; on the RTC section buy one with today’s date for £4.25. Have seen similar before; if it is incompetence, I suspect and hope it is, then management really needs to sort it out as it’s going on far too long and smacks of complacency.


  20. It’s not their only trick. Putting stuff that isn’t on a special offer but looks like the stuff that is on the offer near the stuff that actually is is another one.


  21. I’ve just returned from my local Tesco, more out of curiosity I priced Kellogg’s Bran Flakes. I usually buy Aldi’s which if not actually made by Kellogg’s (as I once heard) are indistinguishable except for the packaging. Aldi’s price is 88p for 750g. Tesco’s price for Kellogg’s 500g was £1.04 , to the right were 750g packs (also Kellogg’s) with the word VALUE emblazoned on the packet. I quickly worked out that if 500g was £1,04 to be “true VALUE” the 750g had to be less than £1,56 – the actual price……wait for it……….


    How Tesco’s can justify calling an item that is almost double the actual cost of the smaller item (pence per gram) “VALUE” beggars belief. Put another way anyone buying two of the smaller packs would not only have saved 72p but also received 33.33% more. I have noticed on several occasions that items supposedly better value were actually dearer. As they stock the larger exorbitantly more expensive larger packs it stands to reason that some people lulled by the words VALUE etc. must actually buy them. I consider what they are doing is almost criminal, many people automatically expect larger quantities to be better value, and don’t bother comparing prices, whereas the opposite seems to be quite usual at Tesco.

    Just in case anyone thinks I made a mistake here’s a quick reminder.
    500g – price £1.04p
    750g – price £2.80p (but please don’t forget you get the word VALUE on the pack thrown in for free)

    Tesco consider that can be described as VALUE.
    I consider better words to describe it are “DAYLIGHT ********* ROBBERY!”


  22. I saw refrigerated tesco own brand pizza today for £4.50 or 2 for £5. who would conceivably buy a single own brand pizza for £4.50. I usually buy my shopping at aldi and only went into tesco to buy a couple of items not on sale at aldi. but why can’t tesco just be honest and price their pizza at £2.50, to give you the choice to only buy one, and not two because you don’t want to fork out an extra few quid to end up spending more, and coming away with two, when you only wanted one. it’s criminal.


  23. i went into tesco two days ago and bought a paella for 3.30 then two days later decided buy another suprises suprise yes the price was now 3.75 what a rip off. How many times is this happening ?


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