Tricky “Deals”

by Mr. Cheap

I’ve been finding that it’s increasingly difficult to even understand, let alone benefit from, the “deals” that are being offered by stores.  It’s apparently a Canadian thing (according to a friend in the US), but we regularly get coupons for fast food.  It’ll be something like a free fry and drink, if you buy a meal deal, plus another sandwich, when the moon is gibbous and Stephen Harper has recently worn a red tie.  I’ve just started scanning them and sending them to Thicken My Wallet and Money Grubbing Lawyer and they explain to me what my legal exposure is if I try to make a purchase using these coupons.

There’s out-and-out scams, which I definitely wouldn’t consider a special offer stuffed full of conditions and exclusions to be, but to me stores issuing these are playing games with their customers.  Half the time I see people trying to use coupons or take advantage of a deal, I see an employee pushing back explaining to them why it doesn’t work the way they were led to believe.  At Pizza Pizza there is a current deal where they say “ANY Slice and a Pop for $2.99!”  A man was ready to pay for his, and the clerk asked for over $5.  The man hesitantly asked why he wasn’t getting the $3 deal, and got sneered at by the clerk.  In tiny print, it says that ANY slice refers to pepperoni or cheese.  So “ANY” in all caps, refers to 2 of the dozen options available.  Right…  The thing that really got me is the customer then apologized and paid the higher price.  Why do we let stores treat us this way?  I think this is what almost all customers do, apologise (“Sorry I let you trick me”) then pay full price.  I think we’re embarrassed to be discussing the deal that the store OFFERED!  What’s up with that?  Do people have so much cash they can just throw it around like a bored aristocrat instead of suffering the indignity of clarifying a transaction being offered to us?  And isn’t walking away from someone who just tried to deceive us the right reaction, not doing business with them!

My parents recently went to a sale at Zeller’s (think a smaller, dirtier version of Wal-Mart) and they couldn’t understand why customers were mobbing everything except the Pop (aka Soda, aka “Coke”).  They asked a woman working there, and she said most things had already gone on sale, but the pop sale starts the next day.  They were going to head to a grocery store immediately afterwards, but after checking the flier they had they saw that some of the sales didn’t start until the next day, while others didn’t start until the following Monday.

Bell and Rogers are famous for this bullshit.

I can’t understand how businesses could be unaware of the long term effects of this strategy.  Customers will get increasingly suspicious, and eventually just start ignoring deals, assuming “there’s got to be a catch”.  I’ve already got to that point.  Offering a deal to get a customer into your store, then revealing that you tricked them really doesn’t seem like a good way to build a business to me, but it seems to be so widespread that most people must accept it.

What’s the worst example of misleading advertising you’ve run into?  How do you react when you discover a deal you thought you were going to get was misrepresented to you?  Is there any solution to this?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Traciatim

” . . . and eventually just start ignoring deals, assuming ‘theres got to be a catch’ .”

That’s about where I am. I figure if there is a * anywhere on a page, the whole ad is a lie.

2 Four Pillars

Great post – I love your Zeller’s description. 🙂

Preet had a post on a sort-of similar situation with a friend who bought a car – although that scenario looks like a mistake, some of the comments talk about how auto dealers will agree to a “deal” and then basically renege later by saying there “was a mistake” and the price is actually higher. They assume that since you are now invested in the car you will go for it.

http://www.wheredoesallmymoneygo.com/a-dealership-that-doesnt-want-to-sell-cars-that-badly/

“Boxing Day” sales (or Black Friday sales for the Americans) is another one – I’ve read where stores will put all the good stuff into storage and just mark down the junk they can’t sell anyway.

3 Thicken My Wallet

“the large print giveth and the small print taketh…”

Thanks for the link. I often ask about whether someone will honor a coupon before I order or pay for anything. At least I don’t waste my time, ordering to find out I am being played.

I think cell phone companies are the worse at this. There’s so much fine print in their “offer” and that’s only an offer for the 36 minutes after you activite your phone.

4 nobleea

something similar. we have a coupon book – the popular student’s union ticket pack. the schools sell them out here as a fundraiser. there were some coupons for quiznos. i went to one quiznos (the address was on the back of the coupon) and just before i ordered, i noticed a sign taped up that said these coupons were a fraud and they would not be honoured. i left immediately.

i’m pretty confident student’s union ticket pack is not running a fraud scheme, so it’s more likely that the cheap quizno’s owner decided not to honour them anymore. fine, i’m sure there’s fine print that allows them to back out. but calling someone else a fraud??

5 Four Pillars

Nobleea – I heard about a similar situation in the US with Quiznos – apparently the head office came up with the promotion but participation was voluntary with the franchisees.

You basically had to hunt around for an outlet that would honour the coupon.

6 Steve in Montreal

Zeller’s is notorious for baiting you into the store with advertised deals. It’s only when you get there and try to find the item, you’ll be told it didn’t come in. You’re right about the description of this chain. It’s hard to believe it’s also under the Hudson Bay banner.

7 Silicon Prairie

Fly anywhere for 99c!!!!!*

* This is the cost of your internet connection for the time it will take you to figure out what’s really going on. Good luck suckers!

8 Shevy

I haven’t shopped at Shoppers Drug Mart for years because they used to have their weekly flyer in the paper, you’d make a trip for their special price on diapers or Coke or paper towels or whatever and it would *always* be “out of stock”. You’d get a raincheck but it would take 3 or 4 trips to actually get the item. How hard is it to actually order sufficient stocks of the items you’re planning to put in your flier?

And Future Shop used to be (in)famous for the bait and switch ad. You’d come in for the $499 TV and they’d say they were all out but just look at this great one for $799. It has 6 zillion more features than that cheap one we were selling for $499. And no matter what you bought there was the hard sell for the extended warranty (where they were making a fortune).

9 WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com

Thanks for the link. The ones that get me are the introductory offers (like $19.99/month for the first 6 months and then $159.99/month thereafter or whatever).

Or the department stores who have big sales every other weekend. Pity the people who buy between sales at grossly inflated prices.

10 Zella

Why is it so hard to read the fine print on coupons? I always do that before I even leave the house, and if I’m buying a set from a student group, per se, I read them before I purchase the coupon book.

Franchisees do not always have to honor corporate-agreed upon discounts. Also, there have been some groups that do offer fraudulent “discounts” which school groups get suckered into selling. I’ve seen this happen several times near me, actually.

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