Wellcome's 'free' saucepan set may require you to spend HK$115,200
To earn enough stamps for all seven saucepans on offer, Wellcome customers must spend up to HK$115,200. Time for honesty, blogger says
They're smart and shiny, stylish, glass-lidded, they look as if they'd add a measure of practical panache to any Hong Kong kitchen … and best of all, they're free.
There's a catch, of course: what shoppers might not realise about the German-branded set of seven "free" saucepans Wellcome is offering in its latest promotion is that they will need to spend up to HK$115,200 at the store to get their hands on the set.
Collecting enough "Happy Stamps" - handed out at the rate of one for every HK$60 spent - to get the smallest of the pans will cost a customer HK$10,800 at the checkout at regular times. The biggest will cost HK$22,800.
What's more, while they are advertised in fliers handed out to shoppers as being "German Woll Stainless Steel Kitchenware Collection" and carry the Woll brand, small print on the same leaflets reveals the saucepans are actually made in China, apparently under licence.
Customer Jo Dehaney highlighted the cost of the "free" saucepans in her Sai Kung Living blog after standing in a long queue at her local branch of Wellcome with time for a spot of mental arithmetic.
"I thought 'Oh good - free pans'," she wrote later on her blog. "I started thinking about which ones I would find most useful, but the queue was long, and I was bored, and before long I started calculating how much these fine German, made-in-China cookware pieces were really going to cost me. The results were staggering."
The smallest saucepan, a 16cm 1.5-litre casserole pot, which the promotional leaflets say has a "standard price" of HK$1,280, costs 210 Happy Stamps - equivalent to grocery spending of HK$12,600 at regular times.
The biggest, a 24cm 7.9-litre stockpot, which has a standard price of HK$1,980, costs 380 Happy Stamps - for which a shopper would have to spend HK$22,800.
To get the whole set of seven saucepans - valued by the Wellcome leaflets at HK$10,360 - a customer would need to collect 1,920 Happy Stamps which, at HK$60 per stamp, would cost HK$115,200 in shopping.
Double stamps are given out for spends of HK$350 or more at weekends and extra stamps are given for "bonus buy" items, so a canny customer who times their visits and always spends over HK$350 could bring down the total cost to HK$57,600 or less.
But Dehaney argued that it was at the very least cheeky of Wellcome to describe the items as free.
"They use words like 'happy' and 'free', but it's nonsense," she said. "The stamps aren't particularly happy and the saucepans most definitely aren't free.
"I think they should just try being honest with their customers instead of coming out with gimmicks like this. People are already realising that it's better to go to small shops. The prices in supermarkets in Hong Kong are just too high."
Wellcome, owned by the Dairy Farm Group, declined to give an interview to the Sunday Morning Post about the promotion and instead issued a statement in response to questions from the newspaper through the public relations firm GolinHarris. The statement said: "We are … committed in ensuring that customers have sufficient information to make informed decisions about their purchases by providing sufficient product information via multiple channels such as newspapers and electronic media."