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Most common retail ripoff techniques

You don’t have to convince me about all the cons of retail (in-store) shopping — just read about my recent experience with holiday shopping at the local mall.

Folks at TrampolineSales have published a very well written article that summarises most common reasons why you must exercise extra caution when shopping for big ticket items like furniture or expensive electronics.

Here are a few highlights with my comments. For details go to Top ten retail ripoffs exposed at TrampolineSales.

  • The “Bait and Switch” Fraud — advertise at lower price, have no item in stock, offer a replacement of lower quality or at a higher price. I have seen a lot of this during my Black Friday shopping. They get your ass to the store and hope for you to buy something.
  • The “Keep You Waiting /Wear You Down” Ploy — this is very popular at car dealerships. The sales person keeps going and coming back supposedly talking to the manager and negotiating the lower price for you. In reality this is an attempt to make you invest more time in the shopping process and get you committed to a purchase.
  • Extended Warranty Scare Tactics — according to this ConsumerReports article there are only two exceptions when the extended warranty is worth it: you buy a rear-projection microdisplay TV or an Apple computer. In other cases the manufacturer warranty should be sufficient.
  • The “I Made a Mistake Adding This Up” Trick — the sales person gives you an erroneously high estimation (for a furniture ensemble or a car with options). Later when you find that the price is lower you are more inclined to buy the thing. The tactic is called “softening up” the client. I have never seen this one being used.
  • The “Get `Em Saying Yes” Routine — the sales person asks a few obvious questions that highlight the product qualities and gets you to answer “yes” to all of them. After that the answer to the ultimate question “will you buy it now?” comes logically. I have seen this every time I was shopping for an expensive brand name item (for example a mattress).
  • The “This is the Last One” Ruse — pressuring a client with the fact that this is the last item in stock can have very powerful effect. This is exactly the feeling that reinforced my decision to buy our current house 4 years ago. I still don’t know (and will probably never do) if that guy sitting outside the developer’s office was really up to buying the same house we wanted.
  • The “Today Only” Tactic — chances are you have seen those limited time offers not once. The truth is that usually after one offer runs out another one starts right in. Comparison shopping is the best counter tactic against this trick
  • The “Turn Over” Maneuver — have you ever heard “Hold on, let me get the store manager to see if we can get you a better deal.” right before you were ready to leave the store? If this happens — you will likely be subject to additional pressure from another sales person. It is not even the fact that the guy will be a manager. Beware of this tactic.


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3 Responses to “Most common retail ripoff techniques”


  1. 1 Max Jan 7th, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Very interesting. Reminds me of an article about tactics used in supermarkets; some stores vary the size of flooring tiles, as the noise of the tiles helps determine how fast a customer moves through an aisle.

  2. 2 Wheeler Jan 14th, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    The whole “wear you down” ploy isn’t always true. I used to work at Best Buy on the Geeksquad and often times when one of us said that we were going to go talk to a manager to sell an item at cost we really were (trying to find) and then talking to a manager, considering we had so little power. So please don’t always think that when the retail employees say they’re trying to get you a better deal that they’re actually trying to screw you over.

  1. 1 Exposing Retail Ripoff Techniques | Bargain Blog Pingback on Jan 16th, 2007 at 7:15 am

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