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Consumer Affairs
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Pick and pray

I have never really trusted pick n pay since an episode now over 20 years ago. I was going home from Financial Mail when I went by the grocer’s Steeldale outlet and bought some bulk lamb. The tray of meat looked well presented and suggested good value for money: a sizable roast nestled next to a fan of lamb chops; with various other cuts. Unfortunately, about a week later I discovered the dark secret. Underneath all this self-promotional display was a fold of what can only be described as ‘inedible skin’. It accounted for about 20% of the weight of the package, and further investigation it looked to be the lower underpart of the rib-cage, comprising bone, thick fat and, as I said, skin.

Needless to say I have never bought bulk meat from Pick n Pay since. It has to be said that comparing prices of, say, a tin of peas or proprietary branded packets of flour, butter, or bottles of juice, for example, might be time-consuming, but the truth can usually be revealed. However, when it comes to repackaging, that’s when the sneaky marketing comes in.
Take mince pies for example, and look at the picture of another of Pick n pay’s offerings. It is not possible to check the contents before purchase. So this gives the retailer the opportunity to cheat.  The goods were returned, but there was no apology and, more importantly, no compensation. In other words there is no penalty for trying it on. Why should the consumer pay for his time, and pay for his petrol? And, into the bargain have his meal spoilt when an intended ingredient or item can’t be used?
Woolworth’s has a much better, more equitable approach and, besides, it is far more trustworthy, in my view. It might explain why its food halls have grown so incredibly well over recent years against seemingly impossible odds. And the prices are not always that much more expensive.
Meat pies are another tricky item. It is amazing how often a ‘trusted’ supplier suddenly changes the recipe overnight. Some steak and kidney pies from Pick n Pay have been quite good. Then again, I bought one last year that had no meat in it; only gristle and some translucent fluid. Basically it means when this happens you don’t have a meal that night. There seems little you can do about this sort of thing, other than demand to have a pie opened in front of you with a queue of puzzled customers peering impatiently behind you. Hardly seems worth the aggravation, does it?

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:23.4 1st April, 2010
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