I have found that too many American businesses are guilty of deceitful and unethical practices. Why can’t they just be honest and up front about everything? Why do they feel the need to hide behind stuff like fine print? One of my biggest pet peeves is about the fact that many of them are willing to (and even try to find ways to) accept payment for products and services they know you don’t really want or need.
For example, I just discovered recently that my newspaper subscription was being shorted due to special magazines that the newspaper company includes in my paper every couple of weeks. I had thought up until that point that these magazines, which I always throw into the recycle bin without reading, were included with my subscription at no extra charge. But, in actuality, they were charging extra in a very sneaky way by shortening my subscription to deduct the cost of the magazine. Why couldn’t they just tell me they were going to charge me for a magazine I never asked for? Why couldn’t they add the price onto to my subscription so it would at least be obvious to me?
That reminds me of the way certain product manufacturers will deceitfully make their portions or sizes smaller instead of raising their prices. Of course, that’s a de facto price increase that they hope you won’t notice. But I always notice - and I'm never happy about it.
And speaking of businesses that gladly sell you more than you want or need, cellphone carriers are some of guiltiest. They lure you into subscribing to expensive monthly plans that come with a lot more data than most people ever use. One of their enticements is the nice phones you can get with those subscriptions that are not available with their more sensible and less costly prepaid plans.
And, of course, we are all familiar with other types of subscriptions that renew automatically when their terms end, unless you proactively cancel them. Obviously, companies that sell these kinds of subscriptions are hoping you will forget to cancel, regardless of whether you actually want to keep it going.
Then we have those so-called “sales” that are not actually sales at all. Furniture stores are among the biggest practitioners of this ploy. They will claim, for example, that a certain piece of furniture has been discounted by 70% off its normal price of $2000, when in reality it has never sold for anywhere near that amount.
Not to be outdone, car dealers have also earned their negative reputation. Very few of them are honest about the price you are ultimately going to pay for your new or used vehicle. Before I bought my new car last year, it had been advertised for $26,000. By the time I drove it off the lot, I had paid nearly $34,000 for it! The difference in the cost came in the form of add-ons and additional fees that were never discussed up front. Had I known that, I would have never have visited that dealer, a fact, of course, that he was very well aware of. Thus the deception.
While I’m on the subject of being hit with extra charges, I want to rant about the experience I had the other day when I ordered flowers online for my girlfriend’s birthday. It wasn’t until after I had gotten to the checkout page and entered my credit card information that I discovered that I had to pay a $15 “processing and handling” fee. Nowhere on the company’s website had they mentioned anything about that before. Stuff like that just irks me to no end.
And why do companies feel the need to use psychological tricks to sell their products and services? For one thing, they try to make you think you are paying less than what you actually are by using a lot of nines at the end of the price. For example, instead of charging $200 for a given product, they will charge $199.99 to make you think you are paying less than $200 for it. And most gas stations even use the ‘99’ in small numbers (representing 99/100 of a penny) at end of their price quotation to make you think you are getting their gasoline for one cent less per gallon than what you really are.
Finally, there are the weasel words than many companies use in their advertising campaigns. These are meaningless words that they want their customers to think are quite meaningful. For example, they will say that no competitor’s product works better than theirs does. Think about it for a minute. That would be true if all of their products were equally effective, so it’s basically a meaningless statement. But they want you to interpret it as meaning their product is the best, even though they can’t, in most cases, legally make that claim.