The Ripoff Alert is a new series appearing once each week on Fridays. It alerts you to the latest scams and ripoffs trying to get between you and your money, and gives you information you need to stay safe. This is #21 in the series.
Would you like a protection plan for your new laptop? Only $149!
Anyone who’s bought electronics from a retailer in the last decade knows the drill. Before you make your purchase and walk out the door, you have to withstand hard sells for extended warranties and protection plans. Upgrades and accessories. Even magazine subscriptions!
But a story I saw at Consumer Reports takes this idea to a new level. A few stores are engaging in a practice called “walking the customer”, where they refuse to sell you an item unless you also buy the extras. In this case the Consumer Reports shopper was trying to buy the new iPhone 5 at a Sprint store, but was required to buy accessories for a minimum of $84 as part of the deal.
In another example, several Staples customers have reported in recent years that to buy a laptop they had to purchase an extended warranty. If they refused, the sales associate would tell them the laptop wasn’t in stock! I’m not sure if Staples still has this program, but in the past they required sales associates to sell an average of $200 in extras for all computers they sold. The program was known as Market Basket, and if associates failed to meet the standard they received coaching and could even be fired. With requirements like this forced on the nation’s retail workers, it’s no wonder we as customers so often get the hard sell.
Retailers are getting desperate. Online sellers are eating into their margins. Instead of reinventing themselves by providing improved customer service or some other differentiating factor they’re turning to ripoff tactics like this.
If you’re ever told you must buy extra items to make a purchase, tell them to have a nice day. You vote with your dollars. Why reward a retailer that’s trying to stiff you?