I’m a supermarket expert – five sneaky tactics grocery stores are using to trick you into spending more online


It’s a supermarket’s job to make money. That’s why they use underhanded tactics to make you pay more for your online purchases.

Often the untrained eye will miss these tricks – but as a UK Coupon Kid I have years of experience spotting these shopping ploys.


Have you fallen for these online grocery hacks that could cost you more?Credit: Getty – Contributor

These can be simple things like raising the price of delivery, or slightly more shady things like placing the most expensive items at the top of searches.

As buyers, you need to know what to look for and how to get your basket of goods at the cheapest price.

Here are some tricks supermarkets can use to entice you to spend more:

Put expensive items first

When shopping online, all you need to do is add the first things that come to your cart.

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But supermarkets may be putting their most expensive items at the top – with better deals further down the page.

When searching for generic terms such as ‘bread’, ‘rice’ and ‘cheese’ on a mixture of supermarket websites, 7/10 of searches returned with no offer in the top row, or had a comparable item with a cheaper price per 100g lower the results.

You can change this by changing the results from “relevant” or “favorite” to “sort by price”.

Beware of “sponsored” articles

When you go to online shopping websites, you may find “sponsored” articles or advertisements for products.

Grocery websites sneakily associate these sponsored items with the items you are looking for, even if you are not looking for it directly.

For example, you may see sponsored cream when you search for strawberries or pasta sauce with pasta.

And yes, you guessed it, sponsored product is usually not the best value. You can often get other cheaper brands just by doing a normal search.

Pay above the odds of delivery charges

Delivery costs can be expensive, but if you are a loyal customer of the same online supermarket, you can often sign up for a delivery program.

These offer you free delivery on your orders in exchange for a subscription service of around £5-10 per month.

If you do two or more groceries online in a month, it’s worth it. Otherwise, you could pay up to £10 extra a month just to have your food dropped off.

Major supermarkets including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland and Ocado all have them.

Hide coupons and vouchers

It’s not unusual to find coupons and discounts for groceries online, but they’re not widely known.

Sometimes you might get freebies or cash back on your online purchases for entering a code at checkout.

If you’re a Sainsbury’s shopper, you can find up-to-date vouchers on its ‘gifts and competitions’ page – which is updated regularly.

At Tesco you can find a range of coupons in the monthly magazine. These usually have discount codes which can also be used for online purchases.

And for all other supermarkets, just doing a quick Google search for promo codes before you shop can save you money.

Weird Substitutions

We’ve all been victims of a dodgy substitution when the product you’ve chosen is out of stock.

At the extreme, shoppers received fish fillets instead of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food and Duck Pâté instead of Duct Tape.

But with some supermarkets, you can disable the function where supermarkets replace your products.

This avoids awkward faff and potentially extra money spent on items you don’t want when it’s too much effort to send it back or get a refund.

Look for a substitution checkbox next to each item or go to your account settings to see if you can change the substitution preferences.

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Elsewhere, we’ve looked at yellow sticker discounts that could cost you MORE.

And an expert reveals which supermarket aisles you need to go down to get the best deals.

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