Why does WHSmith insist on pimping obesity at the checkout?


From the blog

Why does WHSmith insist on pimping obesity at the checkout?

Posted 4 August 2010 18:36 by martin

All I want is a bleedin' newspaper.

I don't want a breeze block of milk chocolate.


Do you also resent the pressure selling of discounted mega-calories at the WHSmith till?

Further along the concourse at London's Euston station is perhaps a slightly more responsible approach to selling.  OK, I was told the calorie count refers to the 'small' size, so maybe not total transparency, but a step in the right direction.


A while ago Dave Cameron had a go at WHSmith's techniques, and he was firmly told by their CEO that it was their customers who determined their range, not Dave.

I guess that's right.  But it's all a bit dispiriting when you work away at creating a tool that helps people lead a healthier lifestyle, when a high-street retailer continues to peddle obesity with such alacrity.

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  1. martin says:

    August 5th, 2010 at 8:47 am (#)

    Yes, I do resent the up-selling.

    Even when at the till, and I clearly say “Just this please”, I still get the “would you also like…” question. To which I'm sorely tempted to launch into a tirade along the lines of “No, of course I don't want that – I'm one person, why would I want half a pound of chocolate?! And if I wanted half a pound of chocolate, why on earth would I want Milkybar? I'm a grown man. What's more, since I explicitly told you that I only wanted the items I had brought to the till, why did you think you knew better?!”

    But of course it's not the fault of the poor sods behind the tills – it's company policy and they're doing what they have to. So in the end I tend to just mumble “No”, and make sure it's even longer before I next visit WHSmith.

  2. David Howell says:

    August 5th, 2010 at 9:40 pm (#)

    The weird thing is, I've always noticed before that single chocolate bars at WHSmith are dramatically more expensive than elsewhere – i.e. how they should be priced in the first place (70p+ for a bar, even in a medium-sized coastal town. I know I would have been far healthier if chocolate bars had always been that sort of price and wish the Government had the courage to tax them to that level).

    In my experience the upsold bars are often marketed as being on some deep discount – this is the first time I've seen them given a single label with a single far-too-low price. Note-to-self; never buy there again. Fortunately the closest to a reason I ever get to using them these days is at railway stations, and ever since I very nearly came away with Nestlé water because the Buxton brand (owned by Nestlé) was all they had and was on offer to boot, I've always sought alternatives. To date, successfully, but if M&S Simply Food stores are always as crowded as the ones I've seen, the temptation to use Smiths will be enormous…

  3. Clare says:

    October 28th, 2010 at 4:07 pm (#)

    I completely agree – it's very irritating – especially now that they've done away with their newspaper honesty/quick pay boxes so you can't even bypass the conversation at the till by dropping your newspaper money in and running for the train.

    I think WH Smith is on the way to becoming the next Woolworths – it seems to have completely lost its way (have you ever tried to find a particular title of a book or DVD in one of their High Street stores?). Perhaps they have decided to become a chocolate and sweets retailer to try to make as much money as they can before the receivers are called in.

    It would be nice to be able to buy a small amount of chocolate for a reasonable price – is that too much to ask? Maybe the answer is to buy the £1 breeze block bar and do that 'leave the excess packaging at the check out' thing but with the chocolate instead? Maybe if enough of us did it, WH Smith might get the message?

  4. Andy says:

    November 2nd, 2010 at 1:32 pm (#)

    I love how this article mocks WHSmith's approach to marketing their wares, but has an advert for 'ALL YOU CAN EAT IN MANCHESTER from £5' on the same page and picture of a beatiful but huge looking burger!!!

  5. jamie says:

    November 2nd, 2010 at 2:08 pm (#)

    Good point Andy … We take ads from a number of networks, and it can be difficult to control what comes down the pipe – we try and remove the most ugly/shouty, but don't always succeed.

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