It often strikes me that a good way to collect money for charity would be to stand outside Starbucks or Caffè Nero and invite people to donate the £2 or so that they were going to spend on a latte on people and causes that needed that £2 much more than you really need a coffee and a sit-down. However, I like my Caffè Nero, and I can’t get holier-than-thou over it.
So I’ve come up with a better idea: buy your courgettes loose from Sainsburys, and give the money you save to anyone you like, except Mr & Mrs Sainsbury. Confused? Look at the picture above which was taken on Thursday morning at Sainsburys in Tooting. On the left, a 500g pack of courgettes costs £1.78. On the right, a kilo of courgettes (loose) costs £1.84. So 500g of courgettes from the loose box would cost you 92p – which is 96p less than buying them in a packet. That’s nearly a whole pound you’re giving to Sainsburys which you could put towards coffee, or charity – you decide.
I had to stare at those signs for two minutes before I could work out what was going on, and then had to photograph them to be sure I hadn’t made a mistake. Two signs, four figures, two font sizes, and four means of comparison: on the left, the big number is price per pack, with the price per kilo printed in a size and position that is appropriate for cats with 20/20 vision. On the right, the big price is price per kilo, with the cat-friendly font dedicated to price per pound. So in fact, you’ve got four things to compare, and the two vital comparators (price per kilo) are not displayed at the same hierarchic level. If you don’t or can’t read the small print, you might think that the ones on the left are cheaper – after all, it’s £1.78 compared to £1.84. The price for not doing the maths is to pay £3.56 per kilo for a courgette as opposed to £1.84, or nearly double.
Update, December 5th 2012
I regularly check to see if this kind of misleading pricing is still going on. The last time I looked, packaged courgettes were about 20p cheaper than the loose ones (let’s say it’s about £1.64 for packaged, £1.84 for loose). But here’s the deal: the packaged ones are huge, fat, overgrown courgettes that are like small marrows. There are approximately 2 in bag, and they weigh 1kg. I couldn’t quite see the advantage to Sainsburys of this pricing, until I took my (loose) courgettes to the checkout: even at the more expensive price per kilo, enough courgettes for 2 people cost 76p. So the trick here is just to make you buy more, so that even if the per-kilo price is cheaper, you spend more, and probably throw half of them away. I would – they were manky looking courgettes.