By now, just about everyone who uses email can spot the infamous Nigerian scam and its imitators, right? We also know better than to give our Social Security and bank account numbers to strangers over the telephone or in an email. And Crabby Old Lady is pretty sure you would never fall for a “miracle cure” that lands in your inbox.
If you ever have doubts about a commercial offer, the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission keeps up-to-date lists of scams, how they work and advice on avoiding them.
But today, Crabby Old Lady is more concerned with tricks than scams. It feels as though she has spent a lifetime being always on alert for someone who is trying to rip her off – even reputable retailers – and rather than ire, Crabby feels weariness and ennui.
Hardly a week passes that a catalog doesn't arrive with a blaring headline, “25 Percent Off Sale.” It fools Crabby every time.
Just when she thinks she can finally pick up an item she has been wanting at a reasonable price, she spies the teeny tiny print beneath the giant headline. It requires her magnifying glass for Crabby to see the catch: “On purchases of $200 or more.”
Crabby's item is never as much as the price limit and do you suppose those marketers really believe she will buy $150 of stuff she doesn't need to get 25 percent off? Do they think she is stupid?
This 25 percent off $200 trick is invariably from well-known, established retailers Crabby Old Lady has used all her life – in stores and online - but Crabby is less inclined to feel warm and fuzzy toward them each time this happens.
Then there are the online retailers – well known and otherwise, hundreds if not thousands of them – who make Crabby click through 12 pages to find the price of the item she is interested in. Who in their right mind believes making it hard to find a price will endear anyone to their products?
Crabby Old Lady lives on a budget. She knows how much she is willing to pay for any given item and she does not stick around through 10 or 12 pages to see if her price is a match with the store's. They have lost the sale no matter what the price by page three Crabby clicks.
Crabby cannot be the only person who shops – or not - in this way.
Although Crabby likes to think she's sophisticated in spotting tricks and scams, she got caught in one just this week. She had received an offer to try a “serum” that promises to erase facial wrinkles even in people older than 50.
Yeah, sure, like any of those things work. However, about once a year Crabby tries one with the idea of writing about it here – if she ever finds one that does what it claims. This offer required that Crabby pay only shipping costs.
The miniscule bottle arrived a few days later and as in the past, after a couple of weeks, Crabby's skin was no firmer and her wrinkles had not changed a whit. About then, an unexpected box arrived in the mail – another miniscule bottle of serum.
And sure enough, when she checked her credit card activity online – there was a charge from the serum company for $75. Oh, damn - Crabby immediately knew exactly what had happened.
In purchasing the sample, she had skimmed the 89-page terms and conditions where it undoubtedly states that she agrees to receive a new bottle of serum every two weeks at a cost of $75 each, but she missed it (or, perhaps, it's not there).
It's an old trick used by thousands of online retailers – especially cosmetics companies.
Crabby went ballistic. After a heated telephone discussion with the company, Crabby currently awaits a deduction from her credit card and if it does not appear by Monday, she will open an official dispute via her credit card company. No way will she ever pay those rip-off artists.
That happened on Wednesday. By Thursday, Crabby was again assaulted by lame marketers who believe withholding the price is a sure-fire way to make a sale.
In yesterday morning's email was an announcement of an “upgrade” for the brand of money management software Crabby uses – the new 2012 edition. $20 off, said the email without telling Crabby the price.
Like she said, Crabby feels less angered by such trickery than tired by the stupidity of marketers thinking customers are more inclined to make a purchase when the the price is hidden behind large numbers of mouse clicks.
On this one, Crabby will stick with her old edition and if the company cuts off her ability to sync with her online banking, there are alternatives.
There is no story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. There will be more next week.