This column will to do nothing to combat my cultural stereotype, but I am about to vent my anger over seven pence. The story starts with my unashamed love of one of the Middle East’s finest and most well-known delicacies – hummus. I love hummus and, as I have discovered recently, it is a fantastic way to improve the taste of raw vegetables. As it happens, I am not alone in my appreciation of hummus. In fact, it is so popular in St Andrews that the leading supermarkets stock multiple varieties of hummus, including a low-fat version and one made with caramelised onion.
Now hummus is not considered a particularly expensive delicacy. At the time of print, Tesco are selling 300g pots of regular hummus for £1. As with many Tesco products, however, the supermarket also offers an alternative from their ‘Everyday Value’ range. Tesco’s ‘Everyday Value’ hummus is also offered in a 300g tub, albeit with less fancy packaging.
In my experience, products in this ‘Everyday Value’ range fall into two categories: some products I wouldn’t give to my two dogs, and those thatare indistinguishable from Tesco’s standard range. All of these products usually have one thing in common though, in that they represent a less expensive version of a similar product in the Tesco range. The words ‘Everyday Value’, as with their counterparts from rival supermarkets, have come to represent the recent age of austerity, with families all across the country being forced to cut back on their weekly food expenditure. They are also well suited to a significant portion of the British student population, who have to carefully manage a budget based entirely on student loans and part time jobs. The range has become a powerful brand that resonates with millions of consumers, which is why I was shocked to see it being abused.
As I was attempting to cut back my spending post Freshers’ Week, during my weekly shop in Tesco I automatically opted for Tesco Everyday Value hummus. I checked the date, but never thought to compare the price. When I looked at my receipt, I discovered that I’d actually spent more on the hummus than I normally spend. There were no special offers on, no discounts or anything of the sort that I had missed out on. It was only 7p, but even so I thought it strange. Apparently I was not the only person to have made this mistake.
After Jeremy Hipps noticed this discrepancy, he spoke to a member of Tesco’s staff who admitted that they were confused about why this product was more expensive despite being from their ‘Everyday Value’ range. Pricing does vary from store to store and region to region, so I can’t be certain that the same is true in every region. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m making mountains out of very small hummus hills. But maybe the seven pence isn’t the issue, but the fundamental abuse of a brand by a supermarket that has the trust of millions of people. The horse-gate scandal illustrated the level of absolute blind trust we, as consumers, place in large supermarket chains.
Tesco’s ‘Every Little Helps’ should be more than an enticing slogan. It should, ideally, represent a culture of providing a better value shopping experience for their customers. I’m sure this was nothing more than a centrally managed pricing mistake, but Tesco should realise that it is one that leaves some of its customers feeling slightly cheated.