Retail Store Scams

The customer is always fair game.

The old motto in merchandising used to be; "The customer is always right." Not any more!

Misleading ads and contracts, credit greed, fine print, deceptive promotions are just some of the unsavory selling methods that are used to increase corporate profits. There are trends in areas of the retailing of goods and services which appear to play the consumer as an enemy whose money is to be captured. Varied sly and innovative tricks abound.

An example is an increasing trend by some retailers to trap the buyer in the store, at the checkout. There are sales items cleverly placed in mixed displays. The reduced items are there but so are several other similar products that are regular priced and very prominently displayed. Almost caught again, I was at a large chain department store checkout and discovered the unexpected actual cost of a pair of socks. I refused to accept this and returned to the display to put it back. At another checkout I heard a man saying: "But the sign says . . .". I have checked on this and the scam is regularly used in this large department store and also by other retailers.

Some of us may not pay attention to the cost at the till if we have bought other items, or are perhaps we are embarrassed to make an issue of it.

Raising the price of an item immediately before putting it on sale is another scam for which some major companies have been fined in recent years. Whether or not this is a hindrance to them in trying this again, or some other ruse, is dubious. There is not a lot of publicity, the public seems unconcerned and they are later dragged back with more 'clever' marketing.

Another technique that I find irritating and unacceptable are brightly colored price tags that look exactly like the sale price tags but are not sale priced. Tricky! This is gaining in popularity because it works! When I sent a complaint letter to a drugstore chain head office I received a reply from the president no less. (Use the word 'unethical' in your letter to get attention). He stated how hard they work to show integrity and fairness and to save money (same tag style) etc. "I can assure you our intent has never been to mislead . . ." And other fluff.

Yet another new scam is appearing and may well become popular. A flyer or shelf item is sales discounted but at the checkout it is rung up at full price. I assume that we are not supposed to notice, but when questioned the response is that the computer must not yet be updated for that. However I have experienced this at one department store three times. After the last occasion I left for the adjacent supermarket where the same thing occurred.

Advertising flyers will often have regular priced items cleverly mingled with specials so if read too quickly purchases are made because they seemed to be on sale. Another newbie trick experienced just a few days ago: An eight page flyer displaying a Week Long Sale on the front page had a small ad on one page with several items on sale Friday and Saturday, and another at the end with a Monday and Tuesday date. This was the same large department chain store that seemed to lag with the computer updates so frequently.

This and other forms of the hostile treatment of 'dear valued' consumers will trend onwards in this deceitful manner until adequate checks are in place and penalties and publicity are stronger. This will only begin when consumers voice their displeasure in large numbers, and when there is an easy way to do so.

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This Creative Commons article is free to copy with the following hyperlinked byline.
Grampa Ken - Author of 32 Keys About Life - and blogger for change at Social-Fix.