Is it Price Gouging at supermarkets?

Whilst (like most people I assume) I find coles’ recent comment about the huge drop in lamb prices just being a “coincidence” ridiculous. It is absolutely to do with the current investigations happening. Today my carer and I busted them doing the wrong thing AGAIN. In 2023 we busted them incorrectly pricing lamb discounts on at least five occasions, where they were on special at one price but weighed at a completely different price. We of course grab a couple of trays as the first is free and the second weighed at the right price. Today we went in looking for pork roasts on special and “Hey presto” they’re at it again. We both got a 2.4kg-ish boneless leg roast for free. Yes we’re well known because the lady said “oh, it’s you, do you have proof because I’ll get the price checked?”. Of course we had taken a photo of the special tag because if we didn’t, I guarantee the person who checked it would say we were mistaken. With this constantly happening I’m left wondering if the staff are inept who work in the meat department or if more depressingly, that it’s outright price gouging. It perplexes me why the staff look down on us, like we’re the one doing something wrong. Even if we have received, say $100 of free meat in 2023, that is hardly going to put a dent in Coles profits.


It will store personnel forgetting to remove or in the process of removing labels on the shelves. With weekly specials or changes in pricing, staff having to manually remove labels on the shelves and place any new ones quickly (needs to be done from 23.59:59 to 00:00:01 in the case of 24 hour stores). In reality, it can take hours to relabel shelves within a store with price changes and new weekly specials.

If one shops early on the day that the change comes in, it is possible to in some circumstances to ‘game’ their shelf labelling by buying with an old shelf label before a new one has been inserted. The electronic pricing seen at the supermarket is pushed out overnight, but shelf labelling can lag behind.

With electronic shelf pricing which is likely to be rolled out in every store in the future, the opportunity to exploit any discrepancy in pricing/timing will disappear as these will be updated quickly (within a wink of the eye when the prices change) and at the same time as checkout pricing.


In addition to the issues @phb mentioned my local Woolies has contributed a number of packages of meat over the past year. It was not gouging and not a day when prices changed, it was basic failure in that prices for managers specials and some published catalogue items did not find their way into the scanner price database.

One product we routinely buy was free three weeks running. As small shareholders we engaged the store manager on the second go, who was surprisingly disinterested because fingers could be pointed elsewhere. Since then the culture has improved and pricing/signage/scanner databases have been tidied up.

A summary is I agree it is most likely a local staff issue rather than planned malfeasance.


Respectively I disagree. As I only shop on Tuesdays, the special prices (from the most recent catalogue) does not run out until the times you’ve stated on the Tuesday night, when the new catalogue starts on the Wednesday. Whilst I agree it’s somewhat staff error, or possibly just being lazy and not checking tags vs weight charges, either way I don’t mind because I get it free. The attitude of the staff whilst somewhat annoying, I’ll take in my stride because I don’t think it’s serious enough to make a proper complaint.
Apologies Phil T I meant to put that under phb’s comment.


Yes, ‘catalogue’ weekly specials go from Wednesday to Tuesday, but other price changes and specials can occur at any day of the week. Manager specials for example can start any day of the week. Likewise the Coles ‘Down Down’ price campaigns. Product price reductions or increases can also occur at any day of the week as well. Clearance special prices likewise.

Staff have to be aware of changes any day of the week. Which would be administratively challenging and why there is talk about moving to eLabels.

The other issue particularly with meat is since it has $/kg and total price on the label, the $/kg can change from day to day. This is particularly from Tuesday to Wednesday as a result of catalogue specials.

Own Woollies sticks a new special sticker over the label, but often there are the occasional product they missed. The value is corrected the checkout if not reduced because of a special. Sometimes the special has ended but special labels and prices on the label also still exist. Our Woolworths processes these still as a special even if the shelf price has increased. It seems as though meat product pricing for unsold items change automatically in their system.

As the advantage in both cases is to the consumer, the scanned price policy doesn’t apply as a higher than shelf price isn’t scanned. I did once try to see what they would do when I said the shelf unit price was higher than the label (the meat still had the previous special label). The checkout staff said with tongue-and-cheek, that they were happy to scan it at a higher price for me. Lightheartedly, I declined.

There is opportunity to take advantage of when there has been a price change, particularly when new lower price is shown on the shelves and meat price hasn’t been adjusted downwards on scanning. Then the price scan policies may apply where the first product is free and other subsequent purchases of the same product in the trolley is at the reduced price.


10 posts were merged into an existing topic: Price Gouging and the effects of Corporate Behaviour and Government policy and law

Choice Community members might be interested in seeing the Four Corners episode of Coles/Woolworths ‘duopoly’ on ABC TV tonight


As per the post in another topic about Supermarket pricing by @PhilT some more parts of the story that will go to air tonight on 19 Feb 2024


Quite an expose by four corners.

A couple of supermarket CEOs dodging and weaving questions. One walking out and looking like a prat, and another claiming with a straight face to have never heard of the term Colesworth.

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I have just looked at the latest Coles catalogue which features 1kg packs of Uncle Toby’s Oats. Only last year it was offered to me at half price of $2.50. Now I can save $1.30 by purchasing it at $5.20. In less than a year the price has risen by $1,50. Has there been an oat shortage? I wonder just what their excuse is.

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Welcome Alipal, you ask an interesting question.

There are many things that determine the price of breakfast cereal. Without knowing the industry and supply chains unpacking that will be very difficult. Your title hints that this is an example of price gouging, it may be, maybe not, analysing one product will not tell you much.

You could spend quite a bit of time on that but it will not alter the price of breakfast.

You could also buy generic rolled oats for 1/2 to 1/3 of the price of Uncle Tobys. Similar large price disparities exist for many other staples, noname pasta and long grain rice for example are of the same order cheaper than name brands.

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