Mathematicians at the University of Leicester have proved conclusively that whenever supermarkets use a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ offer they should place an even number of items on the relevant shelf. The study, using what the mathematicians called ‘some pretty advanced string and brown paper theory’ has finally resolved the long-standing conundrum that baffled supermarkets as to why they always had one item left at the end of the day.
‘We were always a bit confused about the reasons for this and thought it might be down to customer indifference,’ said Sainsbury’s new CEO Mike Coupe. ‘Now, thanks to the findings of Professor Keith Turner and his team, we can screw our suppliers even further, decimate the few remaining High Streets and inflate our bonuses even further … um, sorry, wrong document … improve our customer service even further.’
Consumer watchdog ‘Which?’ also welcomed the findings, saying that it was something many of its members knew intuitively but it was good to have it confirmed by scientists. Tesco added that it was also very interested in the result, saying that in the daily battle for a bigger share of the customer market ‘Every Little Helps’. Waitrose, however, tutted slightly and said ‘Really!’, while Netto threatened reporters with a broken bottle before falling over asleep in a car park.
A senior official at the Ministry of the Environment congratulated the Leicester team on their findings, claiming that it could help reduce food waste in Britain by anything up to 50,000 tonnes per day. Ed Miliband disputed the figure and said that when Labour returns to power after the next election, new legislation will make it illegal to stack shelves with an odd number of items.
The applications of this work are exciting the maths world. Already, a pair of Russian mathematicians is applying the findings to solve the age-old problem of the odd sock left in the drawer. The team from Leicester will be turning their minds to the solution of another supermarket related problem. Said Professor Turner: ‘We’ll be using the mathematics of the infinitesimally small to calculate, to the nearest nano-penny, the true value of a single Nectar point.’