I'm sick of commercial gimmicks, and I don't know what to do about it.

I don’t like this trend.

When I bought a couch, the sales guy spent way more time worrying about the leather protection plan than the actual couch.

Best Buy and Circuit City apparently make more profit selling warranties than electronics.

A friend of mine works at a rental car place and she claims the training they gave her focused more on pushing insurance and their ridiculous gas scheme than the car renting part of the job. This is a big chunk of compensation for the desk clerks too, I’m told. I don’t understand the insurance pitch. You either have insurance or you don’t, but they try to scare you into thinking your coverage isn’t good enough.

Another friend tells me in salons these days, the stylists make a lot of money pushing products. This is troublesome, because it’s possible for someone to become a successful beautician by giving mediocre hair cuts but being a hell of a gel salesman.

Banks get an increasing share of their profits with silly schemes like overdraft “protection” that generate fee income.

Cell phone companies are way more interested in ring tones and American Idol clips than phone service.

I tried to buy a used car off a fly-by-night lot with cash and was told they weren’t interested, they make more money screwing poor people with bad credit on the financing than they do selling cars.

Don’t even get me started on store credit cards.
Yes, you can easily tell them to piss off with their extras, but the damage is done. Interests are already misaligned. I’d be tempted to hope that the market would sort this out, but have to admit that corporate bean counters and consultants are way smarter than the average Joe consumer. I want suppliers to focus on the original product. If it costs a little more, so be it. I’d start a website or something if I knew how.

For a small fee, I’d be happy to negotiate purchases for you so you’d NEVER HAVE TO FACE THESE ANNOYANCES AGAIN!

Seriously, though, if you don’t mind I’d like to hear a bit more about this one:

Just to be clear, you told them you’d pay the asking price in cash and they refused to sell it to you?

I don’t think the interests are misaligned at all. At least, the corporate interest is very nicely aligned with the interests of their customers. It’s just that customer interest is not a pretty thing.

Customers want low price. That’s it. You have a box on your shelves with a number next to it, customers want that number as low as possible. Customers don’t give a crap about service, or handholding, or friendly low pressure salespeople, they want a low number. So, retailers have learned to put the lowest number possible next to the box, pay their people the minimum, staff as sparsely as possible to prevent theft, and desperately try and make profit by selling crappy extras.

You can have good service, a knowledgable non-commission sales force, no high pressure gimmickry, the works, but the guy next door selling the same stuff for $5 less will be putting your ass out of business.

Well, there was no price on the car. I knew what it should be worth based on blue book value. I figured that would be a starting point in the negotiations. Their price was about 60% higher, when I laughed at that, the salesman explained that this wasn’t really a place where people pay cash, they give financing to people with bad credit, and can charge a ludicrous price. This example isn’t so bad, it is their car, and they can charge whatever they want. But, they aren’t really in the car business; they are in the financing business.

Well, I see what you mean about the customers having spoken, and I suppose you’re right. I guess I could perhaps be happy that my products are subsidized by the folks who fall for the add ons. When I say misalignment of interests, you have a sales force that has been selected (either naturally or purposely) to be good at hawking gimmicks, not experts on TVs or whatever they are selling.

This could apply to entire organizations. Products won’t be selected on their quality or stand alone, appeal, they will be selected on their ability to be packaged with gimmicks. Imagine if Panasonic made a TV that was so damn good the manufacturer backed it for 20 years. This would probably be a good TV to purchase. However, I can imagine Best Buy not carrying it, instead opting for a crappy line so the salesman can say, “You know, these plasmas break down all the time, how about a protection plan.” I have no idea if we’re there yet, but I don’t like the trend.

And I don’t relish a business model built on taking advantage of stupid people. I would much prefer a model based on a good product.

What was the old quote? No one ever went broke underestimating people’s standards?

Businesses not in the vein of wal-mart have stayed in business precisely because they disagree with you.

Customer service is dead because of this sort of business school bullshit. I’m in Home Depot, and I want to buy something that weighs more than I do. I don’t care about the number, I care about getting this thing into my vehicle. More than once I’ve thought I could waltz out of the store with a great plank of wood without being noticed.

I’m in Wal-mart. It’s a bloody huge store. I’m looking for the fabric section. Not a soul in sight. Fuck it, I’m going to a fabric store. I’m at chili’s, applebee’s, outback steakhouse on a friday night. I want some food. Told to wait 90 minutes.

You’re banking on people’s patience. Time is money. Maybe folks who are poor don’t realize that, so they take the time to learn where the hell the plungers are, rush through the store knocking people over and waste their effort to save 10%. It’s not worth it. And don’t tell me it’s more than 10%.

You know how the dollar store makes money? Selling shit worth less than a dollar.

Sorry for the hijack. People would stop selling snake oil (e.g. gift cards) if people would stop buying it by the ton.

This isn’t exactly new, nor all that surprising. Back in 1991 I was stuck for several months in Norfolk, waiting for my ship to come in. As an NCO at the TPD barracks, I tried to protect one of the lower ranked guys there from a “E1 and up financing available!” motors shop.

I went in to the dealership, with this poor sheep, and wanted to know two things: What was the interest rate being charged, and what was the base price (or even the final price) that was being charged for the motorcycle the kid I was with wanted to buy. After an hour’s run around, where the sales force refused to talk to the kid anymore while I was there to listen we were finally told enough that I concluded the interest rate was at least 50%. This run-around included claims like, “We can’t tell you the interest rate, that’s priveleged information.”

The sickening thing for me was that even with someone explaining to the poor schlub who brought me there in words of one syllable, he still was so in love with the idea of riding the motorcycle out of there that he was still seriously considering dealing with these people.

After this experience the growing concerns about ‘paycheck loans’ and other crazy consumer ‘service’ rip-offs just are confirmation of things I’ve already known - not news.

So which do you think there are more of. . . stupid people wanting cheap products or informed intelligent people willing to pay for a good product? I think you know where I’m going here.

Successful products generally sell to the masses to make a good profit. There are a few niche products which sell to the intelligent people. But those companies aren’t the mega-companies making the mega-profits.

Dunno about where you live, but around here that’s a standard wait time at many restaurants on Friday nights, just because there are such big crowds of other people who want to go out to eat too and the places are full, not for any lack of service on their part.

The full quote seems to be:

“No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

H. L. Mencken

Blast. Another cherished illusion lost. I really, really had thought it was a P.T. Barnum quote.


A few years ago I tried to buy a computer for the office from a well known computer chain. I was at the register and the guy mentioned an extended warranty. I said no thanks. He mentioned it again. I told him that I was insulted that he would not accept my word the first time and that if he continued to waste my time I was outa there. Apparently, he was required to take another stab at it. He told me how great the extended warranty was, so I walked out.

I went across the highway and got the same product. I recounted what had just happened to me across the road. They never mentioned a warranty.

This isn’t unique to big corps.

True story.

I was sitting in my SUV at a Home Depot parking lot yesterday when a van comes flying into the space beside my so fast I was started. There was a youngish driver and passenger and they motioned to me to roll down my window. I did and here came the “shipping error” surround sound system scam. I told them know and the I told them I already had a surround sound system. They countered that I may want better speakers for my existing system. This went on for another minute until I rolled up my window.

I wasn’t mad at them. I know the scam and they seemed enthusiastic and entrepreneurial enough. I am mad that there are enough people out there to make such a scam worthwhile.

My 100% foolproof technique for dealing with all salespeople all the time is not to do it. I say no to everything firmly and will repeat it until it is clear. In the rare case that something sounds legitimately attractive, I will go home, research it and come back. I don’t know why that is so hard and I really wish everyone would do that. The safest thing to do is to assume that all of them are trying to trick you and play you for a fool. The good ones can do that and make you feel good about it at the same time.

Just say no to salespeople.

Unless things have changed a great deal, that’s not true of every rental company.
It’s been quite a few years but I worked for Hertz Corp. They sent us to school and we were trained not to even use the word insurance when explaining the rental agreement with the customer. We explained what the term “collision protection” was and what was covered. We were in no way told or encouraged to push the insurance. As far as the gas, we recommended bringing the car back with the same amount of gas because it would cost less for the customer.

I can’t speak for any other company, but that was my experience.

I did buy a Best Buy computer replacement warranty once. 'Course, I had an eMachine then and they replaced three times - once on eMachine’s dime and twice on theirs. I think I won, except for the fact I lost my data three times. :smiley:

The answer is to buy without falling for commercial gimmicks or ‘extended warranties’ and to laugh at those who fall for them.

That sounds like a Pyrrhic victory to me. Losing your data three times doesn’t sound like winning to me. I guess it’s better than losing your data three times AND paying for a new machine each of those three times, but not undertaking that whole process seems like a better deal to me.

This is exactly my technique too. I have a rule that I never give out money when someone asks for it. Doesn’t matter if they are a store salesman that is trying to sell me an upgrade, an add-on, someone at my door, or someone on the phone. Doesn’t matter if they are trying to sell a product, service, or ask for a donation. If it is something I think I want to buy or donate to, I’ll give it some thought alone and on my own time. If it is something that they are trying to sell hard, then I know it is a scam. And if they are trying that hard to sell you an extended warranty today, they’ll be happy to sell it to you tomorrow or next week.

Reminds me of the one time I bought a computer at a store. The saleskid tried to sell me the extended warranty then the manager tried. I’m a polite person so I’ll give a firm ‘no’, but I won’t be rude. This, of course, works against me and I have to say ‘no’ a lot. Finally I mustered an innocent voice and asked the manager if there was something he knew about the computer that would make it likely I would need a warranty. He backpedalled and let the warranty pitch drop.

I guess YMMV, but I do tend to get extended warranties on the expensive stuff I get from Best Buy and that. Refrigerators, mp3 players, that kind of thing – but only if their warranty is A) longer than or B) better than the manufacturer’s warranty. I’ve found it comes in useful when, for example, the nice shiny Creative Jukebox I buy gets random battery and hard drive errors (read: five different players. I finally caved and got a damn iPod).

Don’t blame the salesdrone. They get threatened with firing if they don’t sell enough of those plans.

The thing is, folks who post here really do underestimate how fucking stupid people can be.

In a single day at my store, I have to deal with at least one or two people who want to return their iPod or other generic MP3 player, as they don’t actuially OWN computers, and are now all pissed that they can’t listen to music. I have been there when they are sold, and I have made it clear that “You will need to download the latest version of ITunes to your computer, or this will not work at all” &tc, &tc… And then there are the folks who want to burn movies. "No, this $29 player will not let you copy movies. Yes, we sell blank DVDs, but they won’t work. Why won’t you fucking listen to me, you badly tattooed waste of skin? GRRARRGH!
Customers DO want their hands held, their noses cleaned, their asses wiped. Many of them prefer to pack up and return their new home theatre system, than read the instructions and push the “input” button on their fucking TV remote.

Today, I had a customer return the movie “Haunted Mansion”, because of the “witchcraft.”

Shut up and shop, dammit. Learn to read. There’s nothing wrong with that printer, just install the freakin’ ink tank. Asshats like that devour the souls of those who work retail, until there is no customer service left, and folks shop empty sloppy asiles, as the burnt- out employees make jokes about the customer’s empty sloppy sex lives.

Damn, I need to go back on vacation.