Savvy shoppers know that there are a few tricks of the trade to get the best deals. Shopping for meat or produce on a Sunday, for instance, when prime cuts are marked down at the grocer is one. Knowing when to buy electronics or which month is best to purchase a car is something that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. But what about dirty tricks that your trusted retailer or favorite restaurant does behind closed doors? We've pulled back the curtain to show you, the consumer, just how sneaky some establishments can get!
There's a concept called "planned obsolescence," meaning that certain things like cars or electronics are built to expire. Chances are, the smartphone you're reading this on now has a shelf life of just a few years. If you've noticed that your phone's operating system is slow, or that it freezes up and breaks more easily after a few years, you aren't alone. Companies keep fresh products on the market by making them usable for just a scant few years. If your phone works fine, you may not need to purchase a new one at $1000 a pop. If your phone is cracked or runs slowly, you're more inclined to splurge.
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If you're buying a used car and the check engine light doesn't come on when you start it, beware. Some unsavory used car dealers will disconnect the bulb to draw attention away from cars with engine problems. Most cars will have the dashboard lights flash on at ignition - if that light doesn't come on at the start, then it could indicate something hinky is going on.
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Have you ever looked at a bag of food, or a prepackaged sandwich and think "this looks great!" then opened it up to find more air in the bag or cardboard in the package? Some companies used creative packing to make some foods appear larger than they are, making you think you're getting a better deal. Everything from cookies to sandwiches, to pretzels, deceptive packaging has left many people dismayed. Tired of marketing gimmicks? Perhaps buy an apple - at least those won't fool you.
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If you shop around for great deals, like unlimited minutes on cell phone service, you might see what looks like a price break when you buy a higher tier package. What you might not realize is that your "hot deal" is the same deal that thousands of others might be getting too. Combining different features on your mobile plan, such as unlimited data or free minutes, may seem like a good deal, but in reality, the prices on this ensure that you're paying about the same as you would for what you actually use
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Have you ever noticed when you go into a restaurant, that you're greeted by a mouth-watering poster of a big ticket meal? This is strategic placement and gets you subconsciously thinking about what you'll order. When you're hungry, you're more open to the subtle suggestion which is what these brightly colored poster - with no price tags - are counting on.
This is a classic trick that big box stores - especially ones that sell electronics or appliances typically found many places - use. The salesman will describe an item, pointing out all the features and benefits to improve your opinion of it, as well as make it irresistible. The kicker is the great deal that only this store has, and it's a limited one. "You won't find it cheaper anywhere else" is a common closer and banks on the fact that many consumers won't take the time to shop around several different stores to compare prices.
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The nutritional value of bottled water over tap is negligible. In fact, there are a couple of companies that got into some trouble a couple of years back for selling bottled water at premium prices, when it actually came from taps in the company's bottling plant. Water from exotic locales, such as the Fiji Islands or cool mountain springs is sold for thousands of times what the same amount of water costs you at home - and if you buy the "enhanced" waters with vitamins and electrolytes, prepare to pay a hefty price. Remember, drinking fountains are free.
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Impulse selling counts on the buyer making an impulsive decision, reacting emotionally rather than thinking of the purchase and making a rations decision. It fosters a sense of urgency in the sales process, making the buyer feel as though time is short to close the deal and that the items itself are a hot commodity. This is emotional manipulation by the seller and is intended to overwhelm the buyer, making them snap up the deal before the thrill of making an exciting purchase wears off.
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Magazine and newspaper companies are notorious for this option. It involves giving you several choices - a print version of the magazine, and an online option, and then a "bundle' of both the print content and the online version. Here's the trick - usually the "bundle" is the same price as the print version only. It seems like you're getting the online subscription for free, but you're actually paying for to versions of the same content. Plus, web content doesn't cost the publisher very much money to produce - certainly not per person who buys the online content. Consider how'll you'll be consuming your media before you commit.
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Billing your company as "environmentally friendly" doesn't cost much, but can have a tremendous impact on the company perception, especially since "going green" is so popular now. What this may mean is that the company encourages recycling, or that they've begun using more eco-friendly chemicals or products in their production facilities. It doesn't cost much to have an "environmental scorecard" posted, and since the standards are murky, at best, this "greenwashing" is often just a green sticker and a prompt to recycle.
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You may notice that all-you-can-eat buffets are set up in a familiar pattern: salad, vegetables and starches, dinner rolls, and finally, as the end of the line, comes the main dishes- the meat. This encourages you to fill up your plates with the lower cost items, leaving room for just a small portion of the meal. Restaurants depend on people eating lots of the starches and bread, helping keep their food cost down.
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You may notice that certain stores are always going out of business - yet they don't seem actually to get there. Sometimes, they'll close the doors, but reopen with a new brand name and sign - and then quickly post the "going out of business" signs. This tricks you into thinking that there is a limited supply of the product at a deep discount, encouraging you to snap up things you might not need just because the sale was so good.
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You may often be asked to round up your total to the next whole dollar, or contribute one, three, or five dollars toward a charity sponsored by the business. While these companies don't exactly put these donations to their bottom line - they are given to the charity of choice - they do use these donations as a budgetary line item and help reduce their tax burden. Your better bet? Simply donate to the charity directly.
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Labeling food "gluten-free' or "saturated fat-free" is great if you're touring an alternative that people with certain health conditions can eat. But some companies take advantage of trends in eating plans and slap labels onto things that were already naturally gluten-free or fat-free. This food mislabeling allows them to charge a premium price and move more product without actually having to change the item itself.
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If you have a recurring charge for a subscription or service, you may be asked to pay every four weeks, versus monthly. While your service might be on a month-to-month plan, over time, shaving days off your monthly payment adds up - to the tune of one full four-week period per year!
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Tiles in your local grocer may be smaller than usual, making the cart's wheels spin over the gaps at a faster rate. This makes it sound as though you are going through the aisles at a faster clip than you actually are - and then slow down accordingly. You'll spend more time in the grocery aisles, leaving you with plenty of time to buy things at the best price point for the stores.
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Some clothiers will dress the mannequins in ugly clothes, hoping that the human-shaped figures will make them look more appealing than simply on clothes hangers or the shelves. With the right accessories, these unflattering clothes might find a new home with an unwitting buyer. If you aren't sure about how an item will look, or if an individual piece looks off, simply try the piece on yourself.
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When shopping in stores, many things are placed at eye-level for adults - while they may be popular, they might also be ones that the grocer can sell with an especially high-profit margin, You might be better off selecting from the highest or bottom shelf. Be especially cautious of brightly colored cereals and snacks - many stores place these at eye-level for children, hoping they'll beg mom for the treat.
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