Under Pressure

I’ve come across an annoying trend recently, and wanted to share a few of my experiences. The trend is the “Buy it now or you’ll lose this discount” variety of sales tactics, and some places resort to near blackmail to trick you into buying something you may or may not need.

Here’s an example: I discovered a website, Wyvern’s Hoard, that specializes in fantasy-themed jewelry and baubles. I know some people who are into dragons and unicorns–imagine that– so I took a look. Upon signing up for their newsletter, I received a coupon good for 20% off any purchase–IF it was used within the next 12 hours. That turned me off so much that I closed my browser and haven’t gone back to the site since.

But it isn’t just website: major stores have created a trick to force you to use gift cards immediately– by assessing penalties if the cards sits unused for “too long.” Hey, they already have your money, why the hurry to get you to spend it? probably because they expect you’ll buy more than is on the card, thus driving up profits even more. Maybe it’s because keeping unused gift cards on the books for a year or more looks shady to the IRS, or becomes a hassle for accounting. Either way, it’s a scam, and makes me rethink whether I want to buy a gift card from businesses that charge you to hold your money.

Some outfits have made coupons into a scheme rather than just an advertising/promotional expense. Take movie promotion site Fandango, whose reward system and web site are difficult to use at best, particularly when the rewards expire within two weeks. I don’t know about you, but my wife and I consider ourselves lucky if we get to see a movie in an actual theater every two weeks. I believe I have yet to actually cash in any Fandango awards before they expired.

I get that businesses use these offers to drive up sales during slow periods, but it would be nice if special offers were tailored to the needs of the customer once in a while. Rewards aren’t really rewards unless they give you something you already want, without you having to buy something else to get it. I’ve always hated pressure sales tactics; it’s the surest way to lose out on any further business from me.

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