Even if we don’t admit it, at some point just about everyone with a television will watch one of the 1/2-hour product infomercials. You can’t help it. They suck you in. The thing I hate is how they subtly suck your wallet.
Pay on S&H
One of the crappiest things they do is not only give you a great price for one product, but will send you a second for free… you just pay for the shipping and handling. Of course, they never tell you that the shipping and handling is…well… A LOT. Not until you are so far into the checkout process that it’s all but impossible to back your way out and just purchase the one item. But…you don’t want to purchase just one because (you guessed it) the S&H is so high. It’s not cost effective. Trapped.
The single worst thing they do is not tell you what an item costs upfront. You get the pitch: “4 payments of $79.95…but if you order now, we’ll take off one of those payments so you ONLY have THREE payments of $79.95″. At no point do they tell you what the total purchase price is, and I think that starts to border on the unethical (beyond the actual usefulness of the product).
It’s all based on the strategy in much of business that when people know the true price of something they won’t buy, but you you can give them a seductive price (even though it will have to be paid several times) they’ll go for it. Whether on infomercials, in car ads, a shopping channel, service contracts, and even home mortgages…that’s how they suck you into paying for more than you can afford.
I’d love it if Congress would pass a law requiring all ads prominently show what the final total cost of a product is. That gizmo that only cost 3 payments (down from 4) of $79.95 is going to cost you $239.95. Doesn’t seem quite the bargain now, does it? Most things aren’t.
(I’ve already pointed out several times how that 6% mortgage actually ends up being more like a 52% mortgage when all the money paid is added up.)
Where’s the End?
I think most insidious are the new methods of letting you try a product for one low payment (you can return it if you don’t like it), but then say that if you keep it there will be additional payments. That’s it. Not even a clue as to how many additional payments. That’s just evil.
It sort of follows some of the media series TV offers of TV shows long past. If you want them, sign up, we’ll send you two every month for just $19.95 each (i.e. each shipment costs you $39.90 + S&H) and we’ll keep sending them…not telling you how many there might eventually be…could be eight, could be hundreds. Even though you can opt-out—though they will hound you for years—it’s likely that you’ll be on the hook for a while. Can you really afford that?
There is the concept that a fool and eir[[daggerto]] money will soon be parted (thought by some as a conservative-commerce-only philosophy, though I see it just as often with liberal-leaning-charity groups), the weed that has not only been allowed to take root but to choke out much of the garden is the idea that a fool and eir money were lucky to get together in the first place. The first is commentary, the second is a challenge.
It’s time that a few more controls be put in place. As I said, advertisers should be required to obviously show the total cost. Yes, some will cry that I’m anti-commerce. I’m not. I’m anti-scam. I’m anti-fraud. I’m anti-taking-advantage-just-because-you-can. I don’t pretend that this will stop people from living beyond their means, but it gives them a tool to help them if they have the self-control to use it.
I think it’s time that the government stop encouraging businesses to think of the American people as rubes and fools that are nothing more than easy marks for these snake-oil-styled salesmen. If you have a good product for a price that people are willing to pay for it…you’ll still sell your product just like before. You aren’t going to go out of business. You can even offer installments. Just let the people clearly know how much they are going to have to bleed before you try to suck them dry.