Sunday 4 December 2016

Customers pay a high price for convenience

Fancy wrapping can cost you twice as much

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

Published 21/02/2011 | 05:00

CONSUMERS are paying dearly for convenience, with products in fancy packaging costing up to twice as much.

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A survey found that consumers are paying through the nose for revamped versions of old favourites.

Overall, the goods surveyed by the Irish Independent worked out nearly €5 cheaper if you went for the simpler packaging. The basket would have cost €17.96 for the cheaper versions of the same products, compared to €22.75 -- a difference of 27pc.

And the cheaper goods also went further, with shoppers getting twice as much of the same branded oats, mustard and firelighters for their money by opting for the simpler packaging.

Our survey found a normal tube of toothpaste is half the price of a fancier pump -- €1.39 versus €2.79 -- offering quite a saving in return for the minimal extra work involved in squeezing it out.

And 'squeezability' appears to be a key factor in driving up prices; for example, a plastic bottle of ketchup with the lid at the bottom costs 80c more than a glass bottle of the identical branded product.

And a tube of mustard costs €1.16 for 50g compared with 99c for 100g in a jar, meaning gram for gram you're paying 134pc more for convenience.

Not only does the price vary, frequently shoppers get twice as much of the product if they go for the old-style package. For example, a 500g drum of porridge oats costs 74c more than a 1kg bag of the same product.

The pricier drum of oats is marketed as "microwaveable" and comes with a measuring scoop. But the bigger, cheaper bag of oats can also be cooked in a microwave if it's convenience and speed you're after.

A tub of cream, meanwhile, costs 24pc more if you buy it in a resealable plastic container instead of one with a foil lid.

Firelighters cost nearly twice as much if you purchase the individually wrapped variety -- 20c a pop compared to 10c each if they're not wrapped.

But sometimes the premium for convenience isn't quite so great. A block of cheddar for instance worked out just 10c, or 3pc, cheaper than a pack of ready-sliced cheese.

Choice

Retailers argue they are offering a choice between convenience and the cheaper alternative. The Consumers' Association (CAI) of Ireland, however, warned shoppers are sucked in to taking the pricier options.

"This is a big way for stores to make more money. It's not in a tin, it's in a tub -- and suddenly it's twice the price," said CAI chief executive Dermott Jewell.

"Consumers are often very trusting, they're in a hurry, and they don't always realise different packaging can result in much higher prices. It's very important to check the prices," he added.

The CAI has previously carried out its own survey which showed that fancy packaging could add 51pc to the price of goods.

The more expensive options are also often placed in the most eyegrabbing positions on the shelves, forcing shoppers to hunt out the cheaper options.

Irish Independent

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