Supermarkets in Hong Kong are constantly trying to trick their customers with bogus discounts. It's not exactly news, but yesterday's Consumer Council report provides confirmation of something that most people in Hong Kong must have noticed.
I think we're all used to those ridiculous yellow labels in ParknShop that advertise so-called "discounts" that bear no relation to reality, but what is striking is how brazen they are about this - one example given in the report is that both Wellcome and ParknShop increased the price of San Miguel from HK$5.90 to HK$6.50 and then immediately had a special offer at HK$12.30 for 2 (yes, that's right, a 4% increase ). Then when the promotion ended, the price changed to HK$6.10.
They do this all the time, presumably hoping that customers will forget how much they paid last week, and of course in the UK it would be illegal (retailers have to be able to prove that the item was previously sold at the higher price, and not just for one day).
Even more bizzarely, supermarkets apparently charge more on Fridays (Chain store 'bargains' in fact dearer - subscription required):
Some 207 items in ParknShop - or 71.9 per cent - were most expensive on Fridays, while 158 items in Wellcome - or 54.9 per cent - cost the most on the day. The finding was based on the average price of the same item on the 21 Fridays in the survey period.
Most items were cheapest on Thursdays - 52.4 per cent of them in ParknShop and 47.6 per cent in Wellcome.
The real problem here is lack of competition. Carrefour struggled to find sites, and key suppliers refused to do business with them because their prices were too low. Without any competition laws, the power of the big two supermarket chains is preserved and oligopoly lives to fight another day. That seems to have been enough to scare off Wal-Mart and Tesco.
The general rule in Hong Kong is that your local shopping centre(s) will only have a ParknShop or a Wellcome (or both, though given the way they 'compete' with each by charging the same prices, that hardly makes any difference). Yes, there are a few CRC supermarkets (mainly clustered in a few areas), but they seem to be uninspiring copies of Wellcome.
If you're lucky you may also have some local shops or a wet market, or there's City Super, who don't even bother pretending their prices are low. But no competition for Wellcome and ParknShop in the mass market, unfortunately.