Takealot’s strange deal prices explained


While recently-launched price tracking websites help consumers see whether a deal is good, Takealot has explained that they are not an accurate way of detecting pricing anomalies on its platform.

MyBroadband readers have often complained that the discounts advertised by online retailers were exaggerated.

South African shoppers have also alleged that listing prices increase in the weeks leading up to shopping events like Black Friday.

Without a proper way to log historical prices, it is difficult to determine whether there are grounds for these accusations.

What makes the issue even more complex on Takealot’s platform is that it also acts as a marketplace for third-party sellers.

Cape Town-based data engineer Ashton Hudson recently launched Servaltracker.com to help users see how the current price of an item compares to how much it sold for in the past.

To look up the historical pricing information of a product on Takealot, you can copy the URL of its listing into the website’s search bar.

This presents users with a graph showing the historic “listing” and selling prices. Takealot has previously explained that the list price is the suggested retail price provided by the product supplier.

We used Serval to see if there were any strange patterns in list pricing adjustments on products.

We found many instances where it appeared as though abrupt changes to the list price on products had resulted in a massive exaggeration of the discount.

For example, a Hisense 58-inch UHD Smart TV model with HDR and Bluetooth had a listed price of R10,999 until 24 November 2021.

The price then increased to R14,999 for a day, while the selling price had remained the same.

The overall effect was that the implied discount had increased from 9% to 33%. The same brief jump in list price then occurred on 2 December 2021.

The graph below shows the strange changes in list pricing on the Hisense 58-inch TV.

We found similar price changes on a Samsung 43-inch UHD TV, with its list pricing changing from R8,999 to R9,999 for one day, before dropping down again.

Based on a selling price of R7,398, the implied discount jumped from 18% to 26% in the first adjustment.

One daily deal on a Reddragon 4-in-1 Gaming bundle also captured our attention.

On 9 November 2021, the list price of this product was bumped from R803 to R999, while the deal price remained the same. That increased the implied discount from 19% to 35%.

An extremely odd occurrence was a Hisense 65-inch Premium UHD Smart ULED TV listing where the suggested retail price increased, while the selling price dropped at the same time.

On 27 September 2021, the TV’s list price jumped from R22,999 to R29,999, while the selling price was reduced from R17,798 to R16,999.

That resulted in the discount surging from around 23% to 43%.

Other products showed erratic price changes.

For example, the list price of the Galaxy Buds 2 has varied between R2,499 and R4,259.

These caused the implied discount to fluctuate wildly over the span of three months.

Takealot explains

MyBroadband asked Takealot for an explanation on why list prices would change in this way.

Takealot explained that a single product page with the same URL might have multiple sellers or combinations of sellers, which was the case for most of the products we analysed.

These sellers compete for the “buy box”, which is shown at the top with the option to “Add to Cart” or “Add to List”.

“The availability (in-stock or on lead time) and/or best-priced source ‘wins’ the ‘buy box’,” Takealot said.

The image below illustrates where shoppers would find the buy box on the product page and where Takealot will show the other sellers competing for it.

Takealot product listing page with Buy Box and Other Sellers box highlighted

Price tracking sites like Servaltracker.com scrape their pricing information from the buy box.

“The list price is only logged from the offer and corresponding List Price that wins the buy box,” Takealot explained.

While Takealot retail was the winning seller with the best offer at the time of our visit to the website, that was not necessarily the case when the price spikes had occurred.

Takealot said it monitored list prices and if they were deemed to be above a certain percentage of their historical highest average selling price, the Takealot Compliance team investigated and addressed such instances.

“We take full responsibility for ensuring our pricing is fair and transparent, and would never intentionally mislead our customers with regards to any aspect of their online shopping experience,” Takealot stated.

Now read: One Black Friday shopper blew R450,000 in a single transaction


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