Unit Pricing Measurements Aren’t Always Consistent

Unit Pricing Measurements Aren’t Always Consistent

Unit pricing became law for most large supermarkets in December last year. But that still doesn’t mean that comparisons can always be made directly.

Blogger Simon Rumble recently noticed that his local Woolworths was selling paprika with unit pricing per 10 grams in the spices section, but per 100 grams in the ethnic foods department, an approach he describes as “slimy”.

As a general principle, the ACCC unit pricing guidelines recommend using 100 grams as the comparison measure for goods sold by weight. Spices, however, are one of the categories which have a separate standard unit defined, and this is indeed 10 grams.

I’m not necessarily convinced this is a deliberate strategy to confuse people — given that 100 grams is the default, it probably applies across a large swathe of the ethnic foods section. But that doesn’t mean that Woolworths hasn’t broken the rules.

It’s true that converting a price per 10 grams into a price per 100 grams does not involve particularly taxing mental arithmetic. On the other hand, it’s also true that some people still might not register the difference, and that it goes against the aim of unit pricing to make comparison shopping easier.

Spotted any other contradictory unit pricing approaches? Tell us in the comments.

Woolworths gaming unit pricing


  • To be fair to the Woolworths unit pricers, they keep the unit consistent in the specific area. But the difference in price between the “ethnic” section and elsewhere is significant. Check out the difference in price for chickpeas next time you’re in a supermarket. The “wog” brand vs the “local” brand.

  • Slow news week when one of the stories is on the debated unit pricing cost of 1/2 of a cent.

    Personally i like the unit pricing on Saffron, $1200 per 100g how is that ever not helpful!

    • Beautifully sarcastic. I salute you sir 😛

      I will however suggest that this doesn’t really appear to be an attempt to be “slimy”. More likely is that Woolworths have priced everything in the spice aisle using the spice per unit guide, and then repeated the process throughout the rest of the store without stopping to think that there would be a cross over.

      Or maybe they are being slimy.. who knows?

      I think the fact that people can no longer do the math necessary to do these calculations for themselves is a far sadder commentary then a clerical oversight.

  • I dealt with the roll out for a lot of the independent supermarkets. We used automated tools to classify the products based on what department/category the product was in. This one would of just slipped through the net.
    Also there were a few variations handed out by the ACCC during the roll out phase for the products that just didn’t fit the usual 100 or 1000 unit sizes.

  • The ‘unit of measurement’ is constantly being changed/updated for items across the store. I know this from working at Woolworths where there is a daily procedure dedicated to checking and printing revised tickets with the updated ‘unit of measurement’. I assume these changes are either internal to Woolworths or dictated from government bodies.

  • One that always annoys me is the washing detergent. Who cares what the price per 100 gms is wahing powder is 90% filler and the filler content varies enormously. Some brands tell you that their box contains X scoops – but the scoops are not standardized.

    Some items like this need more defined standards such as N x 5kg wash.

    But in general I think they’ve made a good start.

  • I quite frequency come across items which have an obviously wrong per unit price (typically on special items, and multi-item packs), do these come under the code of practice for computerized checkout systems, or is the unit price just ‘for your information’ that isn’t strictly enforced?

    • The unit pricing goes by the measurement noted on the packet. The multi-packs such as 30pk coke have a measurement in ml (30x375ml cans), so the unit pricing is listed in L (when all common sense, and what people buy it based on, says it should be in each [can], not L).

  • They do this on the colesonline website frequently. Example from this morning are:

    Prune Juice $0.83 100ml
    Orange Juice $1.01 Litre

    Which makes prune juice look cheaper, but its actually $8.30 a litre!

    another example:

    Crumbed Fish $2.49 100g
    Crumbed Fish $3.35 Kilo

    The way the online shopping site works too, if you sort by unit price the 100ml/100g price will be top of the page, above the cheaper per litre/kilo options! Very tricky!

  • I’m trying to recall exactly how they achieved it, but I remember noticing that Woolworths brand products were not only more expensive than some brand name products, but were disguising that fact in the way that products were packaged/priced.

    (check out the frozen carrots next time you’re shopping)

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