When it comes to prices, shop around

Saturday November 17 2012



The three-and-a-quarter-hour, London-Newcastle train journey is one I make fairly regularly and the last four times I did so, I paid £92.05 (KSh12,523), £110.80 (KSh15,070), £92.05 and £129.35 (KSh17,593) for a return ticket, with discounts for my senior railcard, which I buy for £25 (KSh3,400) per year.

The differing prices were due to the times of day I travelled, whether the return was open or fixed, and how far ahead I booked.

The farther ahead you book, the better price you get, but because I rarely know about these journeys much ahead of time, I usually find myself paying at the high end of a highly complicated fares structure.

Last week, however, I booked a journey for a day in December and paid only £49.50 (Ksh6,732), proving what all astute housewives know only too well: It pays to shop around, check for bargains, sign up for loyalty cards and clip vouchers from the papers!

In the current economic quagmire, Britain has become something of a discount shopping society and posh folk are part of a growing body of converts to chains such as Primark, Poundland, TKMaxx, Aldi, Lidl and Heron Food Stores where recognised brands are cheaper or sold on a “toofer” basis – two for the price of one — or some variation of it.

What is known as “discount retail” is the fastest growing area of the whole market, and the runaway success of such retailers has helped remove the stigma that once marked this kind of shopping.

“It has become classless,” said Poundland chief executive Jim McCarthy. “People are proud to save money these days, they abhor waste of any kind.”

Like most males, I suppose, I find shopping a bore and usually grab the first item I see that roughly meets my needs. Last week, however, I did a bit of my own comparison-shopping.

Avocadoes, for instance. The nearest store sells them at 99 pence (KSh134) apiece, but another supermarket offers two “perfectly ripe” specimens at 64 pence (KSh87) each, so they are the ones I have been getting – even if the ripeness is sometimes a bit OTT.

Passing a market stall, however, I thought I would check there. It’s the sort of place which normally would not carry exotic fruits, just your usual carrots, potatoes, cabbages and so on, but there they were – avocadoes at two for a pound or 50 pence (KSh68) each!

I like cream on my porridge, so I checked the price of identical tubs in two stores – 77 pence (KSh104) in one and 55 pence (KSh74) in another.

A package of nine toilet rolls in the Co-op cost £3 (KSh408) or 33 pence (KSh44) per roll, while up the road a pack of four cost 49 pence (KSh66) each.

My Friends of the Theatre card (£20 – KSh2,716, per annum) bought me three opera tickets for £127.20 (KSh17,276) instead of the face value £152.64 (KSh2,731), thanks to a hefty discount.

The lesson I learned? Don’t be proud, check the price wherever you buy. Even in those top-line stores selling to the better-heeled, the “Offers” shelves are always the busiest.

* * *

As many as a million people in the UK suffer from severe headaches caused by taking too many painkillers, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Exactly how painkillers affect the brain is not known but most affected people start with everyday headaches of the tension type.

They take pain-relief medication and reach a tipping point at 10 to 15 days when the drugs themselves begin to cause the pain. They become trapped in a vicious cycle of headaches/painkillers/more headaches.

New guidelines advise that sufferers should immediately stop taking medicines. This will lead to about a month of agony as patients suffer headaches without pain relief. Eventually, however, symptoms improve.

The guidelines also include a recommendation for acupuncture.

Dr Fayyaz Ahmed welcomed the guidelines and said: “Headache is the most prevalent condition and one in seven of the UK population has migraine”.

A blogger responding to the report said it was well known that withdrawal from caffeine, as in tea and coffee drinking, caused headaches.

And so, he said, did eye strain and dehydration.

“People need to listen to the pain and change the activity that is causing it – stop reading, have a glass of water, go outside for fresh air.

Killing the pain with medication only enables people to continue doing whatever activity is causing it.”

* * *

Some silly (and not so silly) one-liners:

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity, I can’t put it down.

How do you stop a fish from smelling? Cut off its nose.

I know a guy who is addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.

What do you call a fish without an eye? A fsh.

If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.