How To Detect Consumer Deception

Advertising and commerce are areas in which mechanisms are used relatively frequently to “motivate” people to buy. Sometimes these mechanisms use confusion or lack of customer information to sell more. Therefore, they are forms of deceit to consumers.

Although the law prohibits deceptive advertising practices in most countries, the truth is that many advertisers and merchants manage not to violate the law, but also not be as transparent as they should with their users.

There are means of implementing deception on consumers with such subtlety that they go unnoticed. It is each of us who must be aware of them to avoid being manipulated  and end up inducing us to make unnecessary and onerous purchases. Some of those deceptions are as follows.

A little money, you know what money can buy; a lot of money, you know what money can’t buy ”.

-Archie Randolph Ammons-

The omission of information

In one way or another, all deception of consumers is based on the deliberate omission of information. However, in some cases this is a fundamental point in the advertising of a product. The funny thing is that this strategy is often used while providing a large amount of information.

A typical example of this form of deception is promotions in which credit card holders are invited to holiday “winners” events. At the meeting, they are given a wealth of information about the benefits of winning the award, the multiple destinations it covers, the hotels, etc.

What is not talked about is that such vacations can only be made effective in the worst times of the year to visit a certain place and with a certain number of companions so that the benefits are effective.

Transfer to the consumer of the incentive expenses

This type of deception to consumers occurs when the quantity or quality of a service is decreased without prior or direct notice to those who benefit from such a product or service. In one way or another, what ends up being sold is something different from what was usually offered.

An example of this are some credit cards that offer important facilities to access them, with incentives such as no charge for certain services or accumulation of points, etc., as long as the card is used. By doing so, gradually the benefits sometimes turn out to be pyrrhic in contrast to the obligations  they generate.

Concealment of restrictions and conditions

This is one of the most used mechanisms to mislead consumers. It consists of offering important facilities or benefits in exchange for the subscription to a service or the acquisition of a product. Later it is discovered that the benefits are limited and that the conditions are very restrictive.

Examples of this are some online or cable television services. They offer six months of free service, but to access this you must sign a contract that requires you to maintain the payment for two years or more, often with high costs. What they actually do is recover the money that they stopped receiving with the initial gratuity.

Deficiencies, imperfections or use

This is a consumer hoax, typical of sites dedicated exclusively to “bargains”. Products are offered at prices that are very attractive to consumers, but it is not reported in a timely or clear manner that they have any deficiency or have already been used.

Many times these deficiencies only become noticeable over time. It happens, for example, with rebuilt or reconditioned electronics that look like new, but are obviously not. Or with garments that have poor manufacturing and this is only noticeable when a person puts on the garment and cannot make it fit.

Costly free, a hoax to consumers

Don’t be naïve: nothing in the trade is free. This would be absurd, since the logic of any private company is to obtain benefits and not to comply with a principle of free to anyone. This is important to keep in mind.

When they give you a “free sample”, for example, it is clear that they do not ask for anything in return, at least directly. However, the cost of all these “free samples” has already been added to the product being promoted. In fact, if this type of advertising was not done, the same product could be purchased at a lower cost.

All these means of misleading consumers are often overlooked. Shopping is not like it used to be. In the past, you bought what you needed, period. Now, this has become quite an experience, involving fun and delight. For this reason, we must be careful not to be victims of manipulation.