ZDF documentary about Lidl explains the sales tricks – and raises allegations

Life has become expensive. Everyone who goes shopping in these times feels how expensive groceries are – i.e.: everyone. ZDF cleverly placed its documentary “Lidl: The Insiders” there. The broadcaster promises to disclose “sales tricks at the discounter giant”. The ZDF documentary starts with the viewer watching how make-up artists trim the key witnesses beyond recognition. The fear of legal consequences is great, obviously.

Germany’s most successful discounter

In fact, Lidl is the “giant”. Germany’s most successful discounter employs 91,000 people in 3,200 branches in Germany alone. The 11,550 branches in 32 countries around the world generate more than 100 billion in sales annually. That is, let’s put it neutrally, a success story. The success is due to the fact that many Germans obviously like to shop at Lidl. Nobody is forced to do this. The accusatory tone that the public-law documentation opts for is astounding in all sorts of places.

The seducers haven’t been that secret for a long time

Let’s start at the beginning. The shopping carts? Extra big. Specially built in such a way that the goods slide in the direction of the push handle – and thus as far as possible out of sight. Smaller shopping baskets for quick shopping? There was probably some time. Then they were called back to the headquarters, the viewer learns. When asked by customers, the answer was that too many had been stolen. The amount of purchase should only be felt when it is too late: at the checkout, when you reach into your wallet. However, such strategic planning in the supermarket is known. This has already been revealed in the marketing classic “The Secret Seducers”. The book is from 1957.

The very special price trick at Lidl

The list of Lidl tricks is probably not wrong. But also known from other supermarkets in a similar way. As a specialty of Lidl, the ZDF shows the attachment of the price tags. The prices are above the goods on the shelf – different, so they say, than the competitors in the market. Accordingly, low prices are used as a lure in order to reveal at most what is actually being asked for at second glance. That sounds like sophistication. And yet it is likely that at least regular customers will not reach for the shelves permanently deceived.

“The Phantom” – not so bad

The accusatory tone of the documentary never ceases to amaze. That bananas are bought green, shipped and artificially ripened with pinpoint accuracy just in time for sale? That will probably be the case with many dealers. Lidl, which started out as a “southern fruit trade”, is not an isolated case. In 1930, the Heilbronn merchant Josef Schwarz joined the company as a personally liable partner. Son Dieter opened the first discount store in 1973. ZDF calls this Dieter Schwarz “a phantom”. With a fortune of 64 billion euros, Germany’s allegedly richest man in Germany does not chat in interviews. There are no photos of him. No employee knows him. He visits branches without being recognized. And, as one of the insiders reports, he sometimes sends praise. “The Phantom” doesn’t look so bad there. More like a wealthy person who sensibly doesn’t want to be too visible in public. Germany has already had to complain about kidnappings in the families of other rich people.

A “fragrance twin” is also fragrant

The ZDF documentation finds it difficult to support the accusatory tone with real allegations. That Lidl copies branded products or buys them from brand manufacturers and sells them cheaper under a similar name? Customers can benefit from this. That a perfume that originally costs 90 euros is sold here for five euros with slightly less staying power on the skin? For the buyer, such a “fragrance twin” is . That organic products are increasingly being offered, but that should cost as little as possible? That’s probably what the customers are interested in. If Lidl deliberately mixes the strict “Bioland” seal with the softer “Bio-Organic” seal, then that gives the buyer a good feeling for less money.

“To fool people a bit…”

“Absolute organic washing,” scolds one of the anonymous key witnesses under her latex mask. And the former employee adds: “I had the feeling that I was kidding people a bit.” The situation is similar with the “posture” printed on it. Level 1 corresponds to the legal minimum standards. Level 2? The ZDF documentation shows this very nicely using the example of chickens. Then there are only 23 animals per square meter, three fewer. In return, they get a “Hackstein” as a bonus. That level 3 or 4 for animal welfare would be the better choice? Every buyer should be able to see that for themselves, even without a TV documentary. But there are some things the customer prefers not to know exactly. Especially in times when everything is becoming more expensive and too expensive anyway. Fault? As so often, we are consumers.