Guy Anker: When is a good deal not a good deal?

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Supermarkets and shops can be canny little so-and-sos. They are there to make money and they know how to seduce us into spending, but they sometimes stray on the wrong side of the law.

Last week we heard that Tesco sold strawberries at £1.99 but the supposed sale period lasted longer than the supposed normal price of £3.99, so it wasn’t really a promotion. And some furniture stores are being investigated over concerns they artificially inflated original prices to make sales look more attractive.

But it’s not just companies breaking rules we need to beware. Every time we enter a shop we are met with temptation – just think of those chocolates by the till. But it’s up to us to ensure we spot the tricks and only buy what we need and, crucially, what we can afford.

With sales, never assume the price is a good price. Even if the store tells the truth and a fridge, fireplace or falafel is on sale, compare it with the competition.

A quick search on a comparison site for a new Samsung TV found the same model on sale at different stores for between £270 and £400. If the £400 store had a ten per cent discount, the new £360 price would still mean you’ve overpaid.

In supermarkets, especially, be wary. Not only are they the kings of eking out every last penny, many of us visit one at least once a week.

First rule is never go in hungry or you’ll end up buying the whole store.

Also beware bonkers price tags. We’ve seen “one for 28p or two for £1.50”. Really? That may have been an error but it could lead to overcharging so always check at the till if unsure.

And think carefully about offers such as three for two which encourage you to buy more. If you want one, just buy one.

This is especially so with items that go off quickly. If you live alone and hardly eat broccoli, two broccolis for £2 isn’t such a good deal when one is £1.20. But if it’s shower gel, baked beans or anything else that lasts a while, it’s not such a bad idea.

Guy Anker is deputy head of editorial at MoneySavingExpert.