Please take your change

Unlike most of my recent trips to the supermarket, Dunnes Stores last weekend actually had more people queuing at the staffed tills, rather than the self-service ones. So, I opted to use one of the automated ones. I normally use headphones to help blot out the droning meanderthals as well as the robotic voice recordings at the actual tills. This time however, I had the music off and noticed something that I had not observed before.

As part of my payment, I was using a voucher. Quick bit of background: in this particular supermarket, if you spend €25, you get a voucher to €5 off your next shopping trip*. Terms and conditions apply etc etc. So obviously it makes sense to spend exactly €25, so you are getting a 20% discount. Spending anything more than that reduces your discount. Now, please don’t read this as me promoting their offer. It’s obvious that their prices are artificially inflated by 20%, which is why they can afford to offer 20% off and still turn a profit. If anything the ‘true’ price of everything on their shelves, behind the smoke and mirrors, is one fifth lower. They obviously make a lot more when people don’t avail of the voucher system. They, like the banks, also know that most people lack numeracy so don’t add up the price of their shopping as they go in order to maximise the discount they receive.

So it’s in the supermarket’s interest if people don’t make the most of their vouchers. And this is what I noticed at the till. I had the voucher scanned (by a staff member, so the tills are in fact somewhat manned) and then paid my balance in cash. After this, the robotic till voice prompted ‘Please take your change’, as well as irritatingly intoning me to also takes my ‘items’ of shopping. I muttered to myself ‘shut up, I’m taking the fucking things’ as I packed my backpack (no plastic bags used of course) and eventually experienced the blessed relief of silencing the machine. And that’s when it clicked with me. The machines are programmed to remind us to take our change, and our shopping, but not to take our receipt; the receipt which contains the barcode granting discount on the next visit. I had put my receipt in my bag immediately, but I’ve frequently noticed many people leaving them behind.

Is this another subtle tactic by big businesses? Drawing our attention to the notes, coins, and physical purchases, to deflect our attention away from the vouchers? In that way, more vouchers get left unused, and profits continue to rise. It’s clever, I’ll give them that.


*or spend €50 and get €10

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