You can't ban everyday low prices

Every society does, at times, lose its mind. Here we’ve a lovely example of ours doing so right now. There are plans afoot to ban two for one, or Bogof, deals on biscuits.

There’s the obvious point that aren’t we in a lovely place? There are no serious problems to worry about and the very expensive resources of government can be directed at such trivia. Usefully we might ponder, in fact, whether we need quite so much government if this is the sort of nonsense they’re going to spend our cash upon.

But rather more importantly this just isn’t going to work:

Curbs on junk food adverts and two-for-one deals for biscuits and cakes are being drawn up in Downing Street as Theresa May prepares for a U-turn on obesity, The Times has learnt.

Nope, simply won’t work at all:

Public Health England told brands from Tesco to McDonald’s yesterday to cut calories in sandwiches and ready meals by 20 per cent as it declared that “Britain needs to go on a diet”. It reiterated the view that reducing children’s exposure to junk food advertising and ending promotional deals on unhealthy products are the two most important measures to fight child obesity.

For what is a promotional deal?

No, seriously, what is one? We might think that we can identify such but we can’t.

So, to move slightly away from biscuits and cakes and to something we’ve noted just recently about sweeties and chocco bars. Starting up any new adventure leads to, always, a certain concentration upon the outgoing expenses of a household. Thus there’s been a little examination of the shelves of Lidl and Aldi in recent times rather than just splashing the cash anywhere. At which point, something noted.

Mars produces Mars bars, Snickers, Bounty, Milky Way and so on. Think it’s Lidl which has own brand copies of each available individually and also in multipacks. The Lidly stuff is significantly cheaper, well less than half the price, of the branded items.

OK, great, that’s capitalist competition for you, Huzzah!

But this does mean that we’re about to make illegal Mars making the price of their choccos the same as the rough equivalents from Lidl on a temporary basis through discounting. But we’re not going to ban Lidl from continuing to make their versions available at less than half the price of those of Mars.

This is lunacy. It’s also entirely ineffective.

At which point what we really should be doing. Cutting government back to a size where it doesn’t have the resources to try something so damn stupid. Say, a 50% cut in all tax rates immediately should do it.

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  1. Many politicians will be willing to co-sponsor a 50% tax rate cut. The United States just enacted one on the corporate side. This alone does not “cut government back,” nor even eliminate the hive of nags at Public Health England. For that, someone has to eliminate it, despite “voting against Health.”

  2. There isn’t going to be an effect on obesity, which in any case is a personal NOT a national problem. And a personal problem which has well known personal solutions. Maybe I’m channelling Snowdopn here, but this whole measure is the punish everybody fat normal and skinny alike to indulge a prejudice held by a few. Let’s make PHE declare a measure of success and a timescale, then check up on the results if this farrago is to proceed.

  3. hmm. yes banning (for the reasons the campaign give) isn’t the answer. What’s disheartening is that the case against bogoff’s is not being articulated correctly. They jump from bogoffs make stuff cheap straight to therefore people eat too much therefore boggoffs must be outlawed. Saying stuff is too cheap isn’t a persuasive argument when it comes to food. However I have sympathy with the view that someone juggling a tight budget can be bamboozled with price obfuscating tactics and that’s what bogoffs are. The retailers job is to disguise the price signal. If the anti bogoff campaign said people unwittingly buy too much food because the price signal has been distorted as I have said I have a lot of sympathy for that.

  4. On the few occasions when I still patronise Tesco I carry stuff out and oft times drop it on the floor if the armful is too big because I won’t bow to their “Cass Fucking Sunstein” shite about bags-for-life (which would not be a long time for any cunt involved in such capers were I running the show).

    If the FFC thinks I will be pressured by her antics in the matter of biscuit/cake buying the ill-smelling sow is deluding her nannying old, wrinkled and fat arse.

  5. Hallowed: ‘However I have sympathy with the view that someone juggling a tight budget can be bamboozled with price obfuscating tactics and that’s what bogoffs are’

    Yeah, but it’s not really your problem, is it? Or PHE’s.

  6. Hallowed Be

    “However I have sympathy with the view that someone juggling a tight budget can be bamboozled with price obfuscating tactics and that’s what bogoffs are.”

    Don’t panic. The special offer for cotton wool and teddy bears is next week.

  7. Rhoda Klapp : “Yeah, but it’s not really your problem, is it? Or PHE.” well I agree that PHE should not be concerning themselves with it. My angle would be more the consumer legislation, on weights and measures, that kind of thing that the clever retail bods have to play their games within.

  8. “However I have sympathy with the view that someone juggling a tight budget can be bamboozled with price obfuscating tactics and that’s what bogoffs are.”

    It’s not about price obfuscation, it’s about ‘shelf rent’.

    Running a shop has a bunch of fixed costs, that have to be divided up among the goods. To simplify, say it costs £100 per day to run a shop (rent, rates, electricity, cleaning, etc.) and you have 500 feet of shelf space. Then you need to make 20p per day per foot of shelf space to pay your fixed costs, added on to the wholesale price of the goods themselves. If goods stay on the shelf for a day before being sold, you have to add 20p to the price. If they stay there for a week, you have to add £1.40.

    So the faster stuff sells, the cheaper you can sell it for. However, there’s only so much of it people want, and if someone only buys one once a week, on average, you’re going to have to stick on that £1.40, and there are a bunch of people out there for who will be put off by the price hike. So what you do is to hold a sale, for a short period, so that all those people will come in and buy it at once. If you can sell 10 a week instead of 1 a week, then you can drop that shelf rent to 14p.

    The BOGOF deal is just another way of emphasising the point – you want people to buy the goods *faster*, concentrated into a short period. For items routinely bought one at a time, you don’t want to give the offer to people who aren’t buying faster. You only give it to those who buy an extra one, because of the sale.

    The price signal is being used to create a surge, but the price accurately reflects the effect of the surge on costs. The faster goods are sold, the cheaper they are. The saving also pays for the inconvenience of having to wait for a sale, and having to store the goods yourself at home.

  9. “Shelf rent”

    With the Lidl and Aldi offering being far fewer brands / options and relying instead on speed and volume of throughput.

    But as well as getting shot of sluggish sellers, BOGOF works well for looming expiry dates (yes, the buyer has to look at the expiry date and say “I can use it all now, or freeze it”), loss leaders, and lots more. It’s not simply about price obfuscation. It’s about getting people into your store (because price) and out of the competition’s store. Lucky consumer is all I can say?

    And are we really saying that because a small number of “challenged” shoppers are incapable of dividing a number by 2, to work out the equivalent single unit price, that “we all need protecting”? ie, that it’s OK to price something at £1 (instead of £2), but definitely not OK to offer it for £2 with a BOGOF?

    Because if that’s the case, wouldn’t a better solution be to suggest that those – that perhaps otherwise shouldn’t really be out and about without their carer – simply carry a calculator around with them?