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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Sainsbury's Overcharged by 76%.

On Friday 3rd January 2014 we (my wife, Natalie, and myself) were overcharged by seventy-six percent on two items purchased in Sainsbury's Lincoln supermarket.

During our weekly shop at the store we were enticed to purchase a 750 ml container of 'Cif Bathroom' at the special offer price of £1.50, a reduction from the usual cost of £2.65.

There were only two spray bottles left on the shelf so we took both. It is a product we regularly use as it does its job well (Unilever please note).

Before we leave the car-park, I always check the receipt for our shopping to make sure we have received the multi-purchase discounts; 'Any two for £5.00; Buy one get one free; Mix and Match 3 for £10.00; you know the types I mean. Sometimes my wife gets annoyed with me for taking too long to check whilst sitting in the car: you don't get the opportunity or time at the check-out to verify the amount you've been charged is correct.

It didn't take me long to realise that we had been charged the normal price for the two bathroom sprays – to be honest they were the third and fourth items on the list – not the specially reduced price. We had been overcharged by £1.15 per item, £2.30 in total.

It was too great an error to ignore. If it had been £0.23 then possibly I wouldn't have bothered getting out of the car, back into the inclement weather, to return to the store.

We explained our dilemma to the nice, very nice, lady manning – can you say that or is it non-politically correct or sexually discriminative; should it be serving at – the customer services counter. On her return from the exploratory walk around the supermarket to verify our claim we were reimbursed in cash with the amount of the overcharge. I offered to have it refunded to the card account that I had used to pay for our shopping, but was informed it was just as easy to be given cash. This must be a new form of the 'Cash Back' service.

What is the point I am trying to make, as I received a refund – you may be asking.

Well, the scenario is this. After we took the last two 'Cif Bathroom' sprays from the shelve there were two empty display boxes left. Assuming there were originally twelve items in each pack that means that the customers who purchased the twenty-two items before us in Lincoln would probably have been overcharged. I assume this because if the error had been reported, before we brought it to the company's attention, then the incorrect price on the Sainsbury's central stock-computer-system would have surely been altered. Continuing with my thesis; the error probably occurred at every one of Sainsbury's supermarket check-outs throughout the UK when a purchase of this price-reduced-product was made; the customers thinking they were benefiting from a considerable cost saving.

Assuming Lincoln was not the only location where this deal was available; I find it difficult to believe that we were the only Sainsbury's shoppers in the UK who purchased 'Cif Bathroom' during this time, and were overcharged, to notice and report this problem. If we were shame on the rest of you, wherever you are. If the company had been made aware of the overcharging, before we reached the check-out, why was the normal price still being used?

In addition; what quantity of the item was sold at the non-special offer rate? What extra profit will Sainsbury's have made?

Was this an isolated error, do you think, or have you dear reader experienced a similar problem?

© Elliot Sampford 2013


  1. Hi Elliot, I came across your blog today when trying to find out what Sainsbury's policy was on overcharging. I did my first online grocery shop and checked the receipt against the order placed and noticed that I got overcharged for two different items. Whilst the total didn't amount to much, I think the trust issue is the main problem since the errors are rarely in the customers favour.

    How difficult can it be for prices to be updated and checked?

    1. I completely agree with you, it's an issue of trust - plus, their entire pricing policy is constructed to manipulate you into buying certain products, so they really should follow through and charge you the price quoted.

      But how difficult? Immensely. A typical Sainsbury's superstore stocks 30-40,000 products, and each week around 1 in 4 gets its priced changed. Some items are located in several different places around the store. The actual checkout price is controlled by a central computer system maintained at head office, but the shelf tickets are printed off instore and changed by hand. Of course, better systems exist - Carrefour in France was using electronic shelf tickets which are automatically updated to match the checkout price 15 years ago - but they are expensive.


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