It’s a competitive world out there in the consumer market, and not just in the shopping malls. Over the past decade, and in the last 12 months or so in particular, the action has moved into cyberspace. That’s where we tend to do most of our shopping these days, and it’s where we search for the best deals.
It’s also where B2C businesses focus their marketing efforts. There’s nothing new about marketers being a little creative in the way they present special offers, or in them failing to draw attention to the small print. But sometimes, there’s a fine line between sharp marketing and internet scamming. Here are some common online offers that are not all they seem.
You might assume that it’s the smaller independent businesses you have to watch out for. Surely the big companies with their NASDAQ listings and their corporate ethics policies are above such tawdry behavior as misleading householders to earn an extra dollar? Don’t you believe it.
British newspaper The Sun ran an exposé in 2019 about supermarket special offers and how they are not so special after all. A market research firm studied 450 promotions, and found many examples where the only thing that was special about the offers was that they resulted in more money being spent. Examples included “two for” deals where the total price was more than the cost of two individual items bought singly. For example, one breakfast cereal was being marketed as “two for £4.00” as a special offer. However, the usual cost per item was £1.49, meaning that outside the promotion, two would cost £2.98.
Scams like these are not exclusive to UK supermarkets, and it is worth noting that one of the worst offenders was Asda, which is the UK chain that is owned by Walmart.
Free money at the casino
If you were asked to name the typical casino player, you’d probably describe some suave James Bond or Danny Ocean type – male, middle aged, confident, wealthy… All wrong. Take a look in any Las Vegas casino on an average day, and you’ll see that the majority of players are women – and ones who remember Sean Connery when he was in his pomp!
These days, online casinos are all the rage, and likewise, there are plenty of women gamers. It’s a massively crowded and competitive market, and the different sites try to outdo each other by offering bigger and better promotions and giveaways. Now being fought over like this is no bad thing, but be careful – some of those free deals are not as amazing as they look.
Be particularly careful with no deposit bonuses. These are where the casino says it will place some funds in your account when you join, so you don’t even have to bet with your own money. Surely you can’t go wrong? No deposit bonus offers that you can see on the internet can easily fool you into thinking casinos are giving free cash. What is not clearly stated are wagering requirements, which can go up to x70. This means any winnings have to be “reinvested” in the games at least that number of times before you can actually cash anything out. The problem is that nine times out of ten, you’ll initially be encouraged by a few wins, then you’ll lose it all and add some money of your own to try and chase the loss.
If you run a small business of your own, you’ll probably already be aware of Google My Business. It’s a great tool for ensuring your business shows up on local searches, so if you’re not already listed, be sure to do so.
There has been a recent spate of individuals being targeted online and even through phone calls by people claiming to be from Google and offering a seemingly great offer for a premium listing on Google My Business. The only problem? There is no such thing. Google cannot and does not charge for this type of service, and they don’t just call people up from out of the blue unless you’ve contacted them first and requested a call back. In other words, any contact of this type is a 14-carat scam.
Bundles of joy?
Our digital lives have led to more subscription needs than we had 20 years ago. Internet, cellphone, cable, on-demand movies, the list goes on. Getting a whole stack of them bundled together sounds like a great idea. It means fewer separate payments to keep track of, a single point of contact and a lower monthly fee.
The problem you tend to find, however, is that the service quality can be inconsistent across the different services offerings. For example, consumers who have purchased bundles from one well-known telephone provider decided to switch their cellphone contracts and cable TV to the same supplier. It was a great deal, except for the fact that the cable TV was faulty more often than it worked properly.
Long term contracts
Another favorite of the phone and internet providers is to make sure that when you join, you are bound to them like a bride to her husband in Dickensian times. When signing up for any deal, there are two important time periods to check. The first is how long the great price you’ve negotiated remains in place and the second is how long you are committed to remaining a customer. If there’s a big difference between the first number and the second, it’s a sure sign that you need to walk slowly away.