I seem to be ranting a lot lately. Perhaps it’s that time of the month, or something.
The concept of the BOGOF – ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ – seems to me to be, at its heart, cynical and dishonest.
Those who devised the BOGOF deal know full well that most people are easily hooked by something that’s ‘free’ – even when it so blatantly isn’t. Free, that is.
An honest description of a ‘BOGOF’ deal would be ‘this is our normal price for this quantity of this product’ – which, of course, is how most things are sold. But the BOGOF adds a twist, a suggestion that you’re getting something more cheaply than you otherwise would – a nonsense, when the standard package is simply twice the quantity. So many products are now on perpetual BOGOF that what it really means is that the product’s normal price is half what it says on the tin.
Consider: if I want a product that’s on BOGOF but I only want, need, or can make sensible use of a single pack – I am at liberty to buy that single pack on its own. There’s nothing illegal about the way BOGOF works – although perhaps it should be, since if I do buy that single pack I am effectively paying twice as much as I should be for it. The truth is that BOGOF is not a ‘bargain’ – it’s a CON.
In reality, I will take the second ‘free’ pack – I’d be mad not to – and that may mean that I’ll eat more of it than I otherwise would, or throw away the excess when it spoils (so much for ‘free’!). Non-perishable BOGOFs I could store for later… hmmm… are there any non-perishable BOGOF deals?
If it’s truly ‘Buy One Get One Free’ then I should be able to take my ‘free’ pack (it’s mine, is it not?) at another time – but in the real world of course, that’s not going to happen.
The honest way to sell BOGOF ‘deals’ would be to package the ‘two lots’ as the single lot it actually is. This would save on packaging costs, which would mean that a real saving, not a fictitious one, could be passed on to the customer. This would also benefit the environment: those who sell us stuff really should be looking at ways to cut down on packaging. I suspect that the reason why this doesn’t happen is because the sellers simply wouldn’t be able to move the volumes they do if they didn’t package it as a ‘one for free’ ‘offer’ – at least, not without reducing the price substantially. Which, of course, they don’t want to do. Why would they? They don’t have to: we keep falling for the scam over and over, like mindless lemmings streaming off a cliff.
Please don’t insult my intelligence by trying to claim that the ‘discount’ is simply a matter of economies of scale: the available quantity of any product has always been a factor in that product’s price. If a supplier has too many of something, the price should fall – unless, of course, one has a monopoly. Arguably the supermarkets are moving inexorably in that direction – ‘free market’? Perhaps not.
I was in the supermarket just the other day looking for nectarines. I couldn’t find them… thankfully the supermarkets still have human assistants (but for how much longer?). So I walked up to a friendly assistant and asked where the nectarines were hiding. As almost always happens, I felt stupid because the big sign was right there under my nose. It was a little bit hard to see because of the stack of empty crates piled up by it.
The friendly assistant took pity on my dim-wittedness and checked through the crates. Then he said, "Oh, it looks like we’ve sold out. That’ll be because they’re on half price this week."
Um. I must be even more dimwitted than I thought I was, I’m clearly missing something. Why does something sell out so quickly if it’s on a ‘half-price’ offer, yet BOGOF (read: ‘half-price’) deals sit there week after week?
Reason: BOGOF is a marketing ploy: a cynical device to persuade consumers to buy more than they would normally.
BOGOF is demeaning – it treats us as simple consumers, not respected customers. To these massive commercial businesses, we aren’t really people, you and I: we’re just product sinks and profit sources; easily manipulated to buy what we’re sold as we push our trolleys around on habitual autopilot.
But then as we continue to vote, with our feet, for the supermarkets instead of the high street and corner shop, perhaps we’re simply reaping the future that we have ourselves sown.