Blog: Katy AskewTesco price comparison promo backfires

Katy Askew | 28 March 2011

In a move that has drawn massive amounts of the wrong kind of publicity for Tesco, the UK retail giant has been forced to introduce a GBP20 (US$32) cap on its offer to "double the difference" if a product can be found cheaper at rival Asda.

The promotion, launched last month, was Tesco's answer to Asda's claim that it was 10% cheaper than rivals.

We are all familiar with the price-comparison bickering that goes on between supermarkets. So, the majority of consumers took these claims with a pinch of salt. There were those, however, who saw an opportunity to cash in on this back-and-forth bluster.

A little research at both stores allowed some savvy shoppers to identify which products were cheaper at Asda. They were then able to fill their baskets with these, log on to Tesco's price checking website and double the - sometimes quite substantial - price difference with vouchers to spend in store.

And it didn't end there. Word spread. Chat rooms and forums were filled with discussion threads giving advice on how to "get your shopping for free" at Tesco by first shopping at Asda. Consumers were also able to use some price comparison websites to see where they could get the best deal - and if the answer was Asda they could then get a better deal with Tesco vouchers.

For its part, Tesco played down the scale of the incident, insisting that only "a very small" number of people have saught to "make some money out of our guarantee".

"Fewer than one in 5,000 customers have been awarded vouchers over GBP20. We commend their ingenuity, but this isn't why we set up the guarantee. So we've introduced a GBP20 limit," a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a (rather smug) Asda spokesperson suggested that the fiasco shows Tesco "fails to live up to its promise" to be the cheapest supermarket.

"That they have had to introduce a cap on their price comparison guarantee suggests that they really aren't all they claim to be," the spokesperson said.



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