Nova Scotia

Superstore 'GREAT BUY' deals under scrutiny for single-item prices

Atlantic Superstore is being urged to change its policy around its "Great Buy" items, a promotion where customers get a discount for buying bulk but pay more for purchasing just one item.

'I don't want to pay more for the privilege of buying one'

This 'GREAT BUY' means customers who buy only one package of Glad medium zipper bags will pay $1.49 more than those who purchase two or more. (Lorraine Martin)

Atlantic Superstore is being urged to change its policy around its "GREAT BUY" items, a promotion where customers get a discount for buying bulk but pay more for purchasing just one item.

Superstore's "GREAT BUY" labels have come under scrutiny this week after it was revealed the old price underneath the sticker is sometimes lower than the deal being advertised.

But some customers are also complaining about "GREAT BUY" prices where the deal is only available if the item is purchased in bulk. It's a practice that Caet Moir, a single woman who lives alone and doesn't need bulk items, says deters her from shopping at Superstore.

"If it was buy two for $4, and I got one for $2, I'd be happy because I'm still getting the deal," she said. "I don't want to pay more for the privilege of buying one."

Not all can afford to buy more than one

Ian MacDonald with CARP, an advocacy group for older Canadians, says Statistics Canada figures show 600,000 seniors live below the poverty line. It means many don't have the extra money needed to buy multiple items.

"To say I was shocked, no. To say I was surprised, no," he said. "To say I'm disappointed, yes, because I've always believed that businesses like individuals should treat each other like we'd like to be treated."

A Mount Saint Vincent University researcher in food security says studies show Halifax has the highest level of food insecurity (where people don't have enough money to buy food) among Canadian cities.

Patty Williams, a Tier II Canada Research Chair in food security and policy, said it's really difficult for people on low and fixed incomes to buy more than a single item at one time.

Buying more of a single item to get a deal sounds great in theory, she said, but it's unrealistic for some people to access those savings.

"Often times, income is a problem, but also transportation is a huge issue that we've heard about over and over again in terms of a barrier because aren't able to buy in bulk and then get it home," she said.

She people don't always have the freezer space to accommodate perishables and may not have the time or skills to process items like fruit.

Superstore is not the only business that offers discounts for multiple purchases, but not all charge more for a single item.

The store's parent company, Loblaw Companies Ltd., blamed the confusion on old labels, but pledged to review practices in stores.

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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