Naughty goings-on in Tesco’s new Seaton store

Just before Christmas, I was in Tesco Axminster buying beer, the way you do. There was a pack of twelve Budweiser, and above it was a pack of 20. The bottle sizes were identical. Next to the 20-pack was a note announcing ‘Best Seller’, so my immediate assumption was, “That’ll be better value, then”. But it wasn’t. In fact, the price for 2 x 12 was less than the price of 20.

Silly old Tesco, I thought, placing two twelve packs in my trolley. At the checkout, a middle-ranking manager person was watching a newish young till-girl’s performance. So I said to the managerial bod, you’ve got your pricing wrong on the Budweiser, and she said oh, how’s that then? When I told her how, she looked distinctly shifty. She would, she promised, talk to the store manager about it.

I wasn’t satisfied, but then Christmas intervened – and so it was yesterday before I was in another Tesco store, this time in Seaton. I decided to do a little check on a few items where the small size and big size juxtaposition was prominent.

Tesco are clearly making quite a few mistakes like the beer one. And spookily, the false impression given is always in their favour.

Look to your left and you’ll see large and small Ariel Actilift gel packs. I’ve ringed and arrowed the large size… to which are (again) the weasel words ‘Best Seller’.

Legally, this allows Tesco to get away with the scam, because they don’t say ‘best price’, merely that it sells better than any other pack size. It’s a bestseller because (a) the shopper’s assumption is always that bigger packs are better value; and (b) they’ve put a sign next to it showing that it is an, um, bestseller.

The top pack’s ticket, you will see, says £8.17. The bottom pack’s says £4.99. Ergo, 2 x £4.99 = £9.98. Much more than the cost of one big one, right? So I’ll buy the big one.


Buying two small packs was, per litre, 21p cheaper. (But that’s in the half-point flyshit text below the price).

Sue me if you like Tesco, but this is deliberately misleading: it’s designed to increase the margin gained by the store – and up the volume bought as well. Heads they win, tails we lose.

This little trick was apparent on several items around the store, in most sectors. It needs to be stopped, but equally we need to stop and think whether the increasing power of Tesco in almost every sector of retail really is a good thing.

I blogged about this second store before it was built. It is situated on a flood-plain (against building regs) near to nesting areas for rare marine avian species. Part of the land Tesco acquired had an old restriction on it against selling alcohol. Tesco sells alcohol. After the deal went through, a senior councillor resigned. When I contacted her, she refused to comment about why. Sources close to the lady, however, told me she suspected dirty work.

The roads leading to the site are both small two-track B roads. The village at one end is full of listed houses, but now has delivery lorries chundering up and down all day. To maximise use of the site, Tesco knocked down the only fitness and leisure centre in the town. So losing fat has been replaced by selling fat…..and being dishonest about what it costs.

Tesco know their acquisition was deeply unpopular with the locals, but the locals were ignored. The company’s spin machine is now working overtime, selling bags monogrammed with the town name, putting up a local notice-board in the main entrance, and all the rest of the vomit-inducing bollocks that comes with Big Companies these days.

Two things we need here – aside from somebody at whatever the DTI is called this week telling Tesco to desist from its eccentric pricing policy – are (1) A public enquiry into why this Tesco was built, but the earlier Sainsbury suggestion wasn’t. And (2) a Minister of Culture prepared to give some serious thought to community destruction by these vandals.

Sadly, the Minister for Culture is…..Jeremy Hunt-Rhyming-Slange. Oh well, that’s that then.