Business is business; it's not kind, forgiving, or even fair sometimes. That being said, there are some businesspeople out there who are so shrewd, so sharply focused on making that extra buck, they're willing to put their very integrity on the line to make it happen - even if it means bending a few laws. The good people of Reddit were recently asked what shady business tactics they've seen used, and the answers they gave may shock and disturb you. Whether you're in business yourself and have seen it all, or you're a regular customer who's curious about where your money is going, you need to be aware of these dirty tricks in order to avoid them. Scroll down to see them all, and let us know which ones you've seen go down under the table in the comments.
I worked in the collections department of Discover Card for a while. One thing they did (maybe still do), to lure customers to them is offer 0% APR for the first year. People would jump on this and transfer all their debt onto their new Discover Card, and then the company would "conveniently" not send the first month's bill. In the fine print of the agreement, it states that if you miss even one payment in that first year, your APR will jump to 29.95%. Half of my calls were to these new customers who would then proceed to throw a fit, because they didn't ever get the bill, and I had to explain to them that it was their job to know when the bill was due, and sending one was just a courtesy extended by the company. I hated hated hated that job. It ate away at my soul.
TL;DR: Planned obsolescence and all the different types, with examples.
Planned obsolescence. Basically, products are designed by manufacturers to "wear out" after a certain period of time or amount of use. This is done to force consumers to re-purchase products or purchase new versions of products.
There are a few types of planned obsolescence. First is contrived durability, which means a product is designed to deteriorate quickly. A great example is how disposable razor blades wear out so quickly.
The second type is prevention of repairs, which means a product is designed in such a way that it is either made to be a single-use item (like disposable cameras), or in a way that uses proprietary hardware to prevent repairs and even damage the products if repairs are attempted. Apple is guilty of this with the majority of their product line-up, even seeking legislation to make it illegal to provide the difficult repairs.
The third is perceived obsolescence, which means a manufacturer frequently releases new "versions" of a product to make consumers feel as if the old product is far inferior. This is incredibly common, and in the grand scheme of things, fairly harmless. This type of planned obsolescence doesn't force a consumer to purchase a new product, but rather coerces them to, as do many other marketing campaigns. Common examples include new cars, phones, televisions, apparel, etc. for which new versions are released frequently.
Fourth is systemic obsolescence, which is when a manufacturer deliberately attempts to make a product obsolete by altering the system to make regular use difficult. Many people, including myself, accuse Apple of this when they release a new iPhone. Many people find that their old iPhone begins to run slowly after the latest iOS update following the release of the new iPhone model.
Last is programmed obsolescence, which is when a product contains a mechanical or electrical system that limits the amount of uses the product has. One notable example is printer cartiriges which use software to limit the amount of pages they will print, regardless of the actual ink level. Hewlett Packard was sued on allegations that their ink cartridges would "expire" on a certain date.
Altogether, these practices create an abundance of waste and unethically force consumers to buy more "stuff". This is a great way to make money hand-over-fist, and it is far more common than most people may think. People often complain that "things just don't last as long as they used to," which, excluding survivorship bias, is true because they are built not to.
If you're buying a used car - or any car for that matter, the check engine light should temporarily come on when you start the vehicle. If it doesn't, the dash has been tampered with to mask a potential issue
"Every month" and "every 4 weeks" sound similar, but are different. Paying every month gets you 12 payments, every 4 weeks gets you 13
Not sure if this fits, but if you are offered a raise for taking on new responsibilities, get it in writing. Just learned that the hard way.
I waited tables in a restaurant and one time I decided to pour a cup of soup into an empty bowl (a bowl of soup costs a good bit more than a cup of soup at the restaurant). The cup filled up the bowl to the top.
I was a waitress at a family-owned restaurant that paid me $0.10 more than the minimum wage. They were able to require me to turn over all tips that I never saw again because they paid me over minimum wage. I think this is technically legal, but sleazy nonetheless. I made really great tips and it was hard turning the money over. It's also pretty deceptive to the customer, who thinks their money is going to the wait staff, not the restaurant.
Mattress stores that have the "find it anywhere else for cheaper, you get your money back!" deal contract with the manufacturer to make the exact same model of bed, but with a model name specific to that store, so nobody can ever cash in on that deal.
When I was in the process of moving into my current home I transferred the title of my old home and land to my sister because she was buying it and moving in when I left. Within the next few weeks she started getting all the "welcome to the neighborhood" coupons and flyers. She didn't even change her address, so I assume companies track title changes with the register of deeds. The sketchiest was a pest control company claiming to have an existing account on the property and recommending she continue to use their services. They detailed dates and changes; referenced termites. It was all lies. All the dates shown were while I owned the property and I never even heard of this company before she received that letter.
I know a guy who does pest control who specializes in raccoon removal. He takes the raccoons from one house in one neighborhood, then takes and releases it in another neighborhood then waits for the people there to reach out to him to remove the raccoon from their home.
When I was working in sales this is what they taught me to psychologically trick people into buying whatever shit we were selling. Strap in, this could be long.
First up, everything I learnt in sales worked through what they called 'impulse' selling, which means playing on people's tendencies to make a decision based on their current state of emotion. Salesmen will build your level of 'impulse', and then 'close' you. The 'close' is the point at which they seal the deal, and you give them your money in exchange for whatever they have convinced you that you need.
There are five basic ways that salesmen will 'impulse' you. The acronym they taught us was G.I.F.T.S.
The first was 'Greed'. People are naturally greedy. By which I mean they want more for their money. They want a good deal. If people think they can make or save money, they are more inclined to buy. An example of this is basic 'half price' or 'buy X, get Y free' sales.
I stands for 'Indifference'. People can smell desperation. If they sense that you have a motive for wanting them to do something (like buy) they will be more wary, and want to know your reasons. Therefore, a salesman will try to make it seem as though they do not care whether or not you buy (even if they are on commission). After all, they are only offering you this amazing deal for your own benefit.. They have nothing to gain..
Third was 'Fear of Loss'. Causing people to worry that they will miss out if they don't buy. This can be exploited by making people think that this is their one and only opportunity to purchase at a 'reduced rate', or used in conjunction with 'Greed', for example 'buy in the next 60 minutes and get X free!'.
T, 'The Jones' Theory'. If your community is getting on-board with an idea, there is no reason that you shouldn't too. It's safe. 'It's all the rage'. 'Everybody's doing it'. 'Don't miss out'. This also ties in with 'Fear of Loss'.
The last one is 'Sense of Urgency'. Can be used in similar ways as 'Fear of Loss', i.e. 'buy in the next 60 minutes or else X', or as subtly as a salesman saying that they have other appointments and won't be able to come back and offer you this deal for a too-long period of time. A sense of urgency causes people to buy more impulsively, especially when coupled with a fear of loss.
Once salesmen have 'impulsed' you enough, they will try to 'close' you. I was also taught a number techniques to 'close'.
The first was the 'assumptive close'. This is basically assuming that the person will buy and filling out the paperwork. A common example of this is a salesman simply asking for your your name, and the proceeding with the sale. They will fill out an entire form and then just ask you to sign at the end.
This is often assisted by the 'trial close', where a salesman will slowly push you over the line, while at the same time testing you to see if you are 'impulsed' enough to buy. They will do this by asking you closed questions, aimed at steering you down a conversational track which leads to a sale. Charity workers do this a lot when they ask 'Do you like dolphins?' (yes), 'Do you think dolphin's habitats should be protected?' (yes), 'How much do you spend on beer / tea / coffee a week?' ($5-$50), 'Do think you could put $X towards saving the dolphins?' (umm, well, I guess you got me there..)
Another powerful close is the 'alternative close', where salesmen will offer you one of two choices, both of which result in a sale. 'So would you like the regular option or the slique-deluxe?'. Often presented assumptively (see 'assumptive close').
The last was the 'silent close'. Harder to use, but effective with indecisive buyers or people that pull back when pressured. Basically presenting the overwhelming positives with the easily countered negatives, and then shifting control of the conversation to the buyer, and forcing them to say 'yes' or 'no'. Obviously, the salesman has presented the information in such a way that you would be stupid to say 'no'. After building tension and excitement for the product, they let you come to the decision themselves.
Almost every person who sells goods or services has been taught something along these lines, and the most successful salesmen have this information at the forefront of their minds when they are selling to you. Never forget it. These people just want your money, they honestly do not generally care what you get out of it.
I bought a swimming pool several years ago. The slime-ball sales guy was using all the tactics. Last few days of sale, need to put money down today. Yada, yada. This was a major purchase and it irked me the way he was trying to pressure the sale.
I ended up going to another branch of the same pool store and buying the pool. It came out to a few hundred dollars difference.
I had an occasion to stop in the first store as the install was happening. Needed some sort of part or chemical. The original sales guy recognises me and ask about the pending sale. I said "I bought it off the other store because you said the sale was ending. I figured maybe they where running the sale longer" His eyes about blew out of his head. The girl at the register was giggling the whole time. As he stormed off she said" Now that was funny" I just smiled back and walked out the door.
When finding a home for your elderly parents, set up an appointment but come in a few minutes early and say (don't ask) if you can walk around for a quick look. The receptionist likely wont refuse you, and the sales person won't be ready for you. These places like to show you only the stuff they want you to see when being led around by a sales person. Chat with a resident or a staff member, they'll be the most honest with you.
Many companies claim to be environmentally friendly by putting made up certifications on their products. Like a frog in a circle that says "rainforest friendly." There are very few legitimate environmental certifications. It's called "green washing."
If you're buying a used car and it's parked over a puddle - they don't want you to look underneath.
The "You won a TV / $5,000 / bass boat!" scams at car dealerships.
Generally, you get a flyer in the mail that says "scratch off x to see if you won!"
You always "win" the biggest prize but when you read the fine print, you actually only win the right to spin some wheel or put your name in a box for a drawing.
The employees' friends and family always actually get the boat / TV / cash. Your "win" is just a tactic to get you into the dealership.
A fun thing to do is waste the manager's time.
Go to the dealership, "prize" flyer in hand. Find an nice car. One with all of the options. Ask for every dealer add on they offer and tell them you don't want to waste time negotiating, you have cash. Talk to the manager, and keep going back to him/her. Insist on a test drive with the manager. Convince them you want to buy the car, and get to the paperwork phase.
Then, just before you sign, inform them that they haven't sold you a car. They've sold you on the idea of buying a car. Get the manager's card and tell them you'll be dropping their card in a hat with other dealership manager's cards. A card will be selected at random and that dealership manager will be notified by mail in 4 to 6 weeks. Let them know that the actual car you buy may not be the one used in your "promotion."
The higher priced items like prime rib and seafood is typically at the end of the buffet line and cheaper more filling options like bread and mashed potatoes are at the front. They hope you fill up your plate space/stomach space by the time you get to the high ticket items.
Take pics of any existing damage to a rental as soon as you move in and email it to the landlord/leasing office. I did this after a landlord told us he took the last tenant's entire security deposit for damage (to be fair, it sounded like the tenant really messed shit up). I took that as a flag, and sent him a very detailed email of every hint of damage I could find. 12 months later, after we moved out he emailed me to say he was going to deduct $100 from our security for damage. I reminded him of the email I sent him, and never heard from the f*cker again.
Some stores increase the price of a product and then put it "on sale" by a percentage of the fake higher price.
Made "from" or "with" 100% something
Just because something is made with 100% of something doesn't mean that the thing itself is 100% that thing.
Worked in a family owned pharmacy for a few years. Find yourself a family owned pharmacy if you a) don't want to go through your insurance b) don't have insurance or c) you'd like to support the working class and not walmart or CVS. People would call us and ask for a cash price for their medication. We would be hundreds of dollars cheaper than walmart on almost every prescription. I remember quoting someone a 90 day medication at $20 and they said walmart was going to charge $250. The reason I said the things about not going through insurance is because insurance companies tell the pharmacy how much to charge you and tell the pharmacy how much the medications cost. Shit, add insurance companies to this list. Family owned pharmacies are losing so much money because of the way insurance companies work.
Making you pay more for printing your own damn tickets at home.
StubHub, ticketmaster etc.
The "closing down" sale in the shop that never closes down. It's just in closing down sale mode continuously.
I'm amazed shops are allowed to get away with this.
In France it's hard to fire or lay off people, so when big companies need to clean house a bit, they move the office to a new location quite distant from the current one. In the process they reduce the office size from 50,000 seats to 30,000 because they've estimated that amount of people will resign rather than endure a 4 hours commute... But officially "totally you still have your job if you want, we are not laying you off, but I need you in the office everyday... Or you could resign if you don't like the new location..."
"We have many more clients interested in this limited offer."
It's not dirty as it's legal but there is a reason that stores ask you to donate some amount to a charity or fund. They can use your donation to help them get a tax write off.
Add to that labelling things like "0% cholesterol!" or "Free from saturated fats!" on foods that would never normally contain or be expected to contain those things. Bonus points if it's something really unhealthy like boiled sweets.
Offering insurance on anything that does not have the potential to be financially debilitating. "Want to insure your DVD rental?" Fuck off.
When my grandmother was in the hospital, her landscaper and handyman both contacted me to tell me she hadn't paid them and they'd been trying to to reach her and on and on. I'd already paid both bills from her account and when I questioned them, they remembered real quick.
Real estate gurus who sell their courses online in downloadable digital format and say that we must buy now since they "only have a few courses remaining and when they're gone, they're gone!". How the f*ck do they run out of digital, downloadable courses? Do their computers run out of binary 1's and 0's after so many downloads? Sounds stupid but people fall for this ploy regularly.
Some companies on Amazon will offer to refund your purchase of their item on paypal if you give them a good review. That way it still looks like a varified purchase through Amazon.
Stop pre-ordering unfinished games that stay in beta indefinitely
When my friends and I rented our first house in college, the landlord told us that he had three different groups of people walking through the house the next couple of days, essentially getting us to sign the lease as quickly as we could. We were excited, so we didn't think much about it.
Fast forward to two years later. A group of college guys were walking through the rental with the landlord. I pulled one aside and chatted with him a bit about the downsides of the property that I felt I couldn't say in front of the landlord. It came up in conversation that there were 'three other groups walking through in the next couple of days'. There weren't (the landlord was obligated to tell us about people walking through).
The bastard tried to take advantage of them the same way that he did with us two years prior.
My grandfather used to keep doves in his balcony and then sell them on Sunday market. Later the same doves would fly back to him.
Receipts with "disappearing ink". You know, the ones that scribe with heat, and then completely fade away in a couple of months.
Any receipt of significant value gets scanned as soon as i bring it home. (This includes warranties and other long-term documentation. )
I worked in the Oil and Gas industry for a brand marketing internship in college. This company owned a franchised brand and an in-house brand. They would target "New Americans" which were mostly pakistanis or people who smoke limited english and sell them on the idea of owning their own business. Franchising for the company was much cheaper than investing in building their in-house brand. A benefit in the in house brand however was since they had more control over the costs via vertical integration they were able to undercut competitors on gasoline prices.
So the brand marketers would target new Americans and have them invest their own money in opening up a gas station. If the gas station did well this would be a "market test" for the viability of the in house brand. The in house brand would then find a spot typically across the street from the franchise and build their own station. If the franchise didn't do what the in-house brand wanted they would begin undercutting the station on gasoline prices until they were run out of business due to not being able to shoulder the burden of cost like the in-house brand could.
Once the station was gone, prices would rise again and the in-house brand would benefit from not splitting traffic like before.
I figured this out about half way through my internship and essentially just checked out, I was paid well but it was the worst I've ever felt as an employee.
Saturation competition. A way for bigger, richer Corps to kill smaller local businesses.
Open so many Starbucks (or whatever store) in the area that noone can make money, since there's just way too few customers to go around.
Soak up the loses for a few years with your deep pockets until all the local stores have gone out of business.
Shut down excess stores once you're the only player in town.
A car dealership (this list exists for them) is advertising an old truck for $2,500. I go there to check it out and hear a looooong story about...
How perfect it is, how much the previous owner hated to trade it in after so many years of faithful service, how he's loved it and taken such great care of it, how well it has always run for the owner and the dealership (they've only had to change the oil filter on it and it still runs perfectly!) and how it's just taking up space in their parking lot and they need to get rid of it.
Great! We take it for a test drive, no problems. Great! We'll have it!
So we sit down to make the purchase...It's over $5,000, doubled in price! On top of the $2,500 car, there's...
$850 in tax, tag and title fees
(Actual state tax + state fees are around $300)
$650 in maintenance and repairs
"I thought it didn't need any work...you only had to change the oil filter?"
"Yeah....well, uh.......we have to wash it, too!"
$600 shipping/delivery charge
"This was a trade in! It literally landed on your doorstep! "
$500 dealership fee
"It's just been sitting in the parking lot. Since this is separate from the maintenance fee, I assume this is just paying you and the sales people directly, but you're only making this transaction harder for me."
At the end, I paid $2,500 because they know the rest of the charges are more lies than the truck can haul.
Giving someone a promotion just to get them back on a probationary period so they can be fired without cause or repercussion.
Happened to my wife recently. They were able to twist some information to make her look bad enough to can, and with no risk of legal recourse because she was on probation with her new position. Wife said they did the exact same thing to someone within the past year; guy won employee or the year, was promoted and promptly fired.
Pet stores will lie to convince you that their pets come from responsible breeders. They never do, a responsible breeder will always want to screen potential buyers themselves. They would NEVER trust a petstore to find a suitable home for their puppies.
Also their prices are usually more expensive than a purebred dog from a reputable breeder who does health tests to insure the genetic health and physical health of the dog (even if its invisible to a naked eye). A vet check is NOT a health check, theyre more advanced, including xrays of parents, having the parents seen by board certified opthamologists etc.
In Nova Scotia Canada severance pay is paid on the average of your last 30 days of pay. This means that some companies will actually reduce your hours to minimum your last month with them if they are going to lay you off. Happened to me wife. She worked for this company for 5 years, worked 35+ hours per week, suddenly she wasn't getting shifts. BOOM, layoff notice. Happened to other folks too.
If you're in the UK, working for an agency or temp work for a company, you will accrue holiday pay. However, the company or agency is not obliged to tell you that.
After a certain period, if you haven't claimed it, the agency gets to keep it so often they'll 'forget' to tell you about it.
They are obliged to payout if you've requested it in writing, though.
Watch the ever changing price of pre-packaged food goods at most grocery stores. One day the price 'may' seem to go down, but if you checked the weight, it has also gone down. Snack foods do this constantly.
When I worked at H&M we used to do some sneaky stuff with setting up the mannequins/displays. Whenever we had a supply of shirts that were really ugly, and weren't selling well. We'd put the ugly item on the mannequin, and it would sell out very quickly.
This isn't necessarily the dirtiest trick, but it worked pretty well for pushing really ugly clothes.
Literally anything a corporation does that they can be fined for is taken into account as a business expense. If it's cheaper to pay an illegal dumping fine than it is to change the way they process waste nothing will be done to stop the illegal dumping.
My good friends job at a Medical insurance company was to evaluate existing accounts and do risk assessments and cost analysis. Take over the cost sucking accounts and find a way to eliminate them.
He cut a costly account off and argued for a month with the primary holder because he found some weird rule in their terms the family Violated. My friend got a bigger monthly bonus and he got a call two months later from the dad thanking him because his 10 year old son died.
In restaurants, the daily special or the 'chef's choice' option for things like cheese plates and desserts means 'the stuff that will expire tonight.'
In the US food laws are stringent, and most of those things won't hurt you, but you will not get the best the restaurant has to offer.
some telemarketers will ask if you can hear or understand them. if you say yes, they'll call back and say that you ordered their product with a recording of you saying yes.
A company having a business model that relies on charging fees for breaking its own rules without justification for them.
Looking at you CreditOne.
*Has a late payment fee but refuses to add any kind of auto-payment. In 2017.
*Takes 5 days to clear a normal payment. Pay 4 days before your bill is due? That's a late payment fee. Want your payment to clear earlier to avoid that fee? Pay an express payment fee! Its the same fee amount? Lordy! What a coincidence!
An older fellow I know had a bodega and he'd put a can of cream corn on the counter by the register. This was some time ago so the van had a price tag of $.17. He sold that can of cream corn to everyone who bought anything there. If they realized they were paying to much he'd just say he thought that was their can of corn. Most people didn't notice though and he sold that same can of cream corn maybe twenty times a day.