Beware the Marketplace

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. –Proverbs 14:8

I was supposed to write about discounted and used items this week, but when I selected this verse another topic sprang to mind—avoiding deceit in the marketplace.

The sheer volume of products and services can be overwhelming. Variety breeds advertising and product branding, neither of which are deceitful, but any seller is going to slant his product any which way he can.

As an aspiring author, I’m aware of branding in the wide-open field of publishing. One would think there isn’t much room for deceit in publishing, nor in other industry. The author’s books speak for themselves, as all goods and services eventually succeed or fail based on the merits. Still, millions of consumers are duped every day.

I’m of an age when I don’t pay much attention to advertising. That’s why advertisers target the young. And the more variety there is, the more dissatisfied I become because what I’m looking for is never quite there. You know what I mean? Why is it that, once I like a product, they quit making it? Why is it that when I want a particular flavor, size or color, it’s always sold out? There is a reason.

Tricks of the Tradephoto 3 icecream3

Companies have all kinds of tricks to snare even discriminating shoppers like me. Some years ago I discovered a new ice cream flavor. Out of hundreds of flavors this stuff stood out—big chunks of premium chocolate in wide ribbons of velvet caramel and fudge embedded in a rich vanilla flavor like the old-fashioned kind before they began adding artificial flavors and preservatives. Not only did it taste good, it had a couple of grams less fat than regular ice cream and sold for less than premium brands. How did they do it?

Two well-known clichés come to mind. If something is too good to be true, it is, and all good things come to an end. There on the ice-cream carton was a little circle with the words, “limited edition.” This has been a favorite technique of businesses for ages. It’s called bait-and-switch. This wonderful ice-cream was put out by the company to lure customers like me. Then when we got used to this flavor and this brand, the wonderful ice cream would be quietly discontinued, or if continued, those big premium chocolate chunks would shrink to little imitation chocolate slivers and the big blobs of caramel and fudge would shrink to ribbons the size of the lead in a pencil. Artificial flavors replaced the genuine.

There’s nothing wrong with this. You have to expect it in a capitalistic economy. How else could the Dow have broken 16,000? But the wise shopper will be aware of such tricks.photo 4 stocks

The Savvy Shopper

And the wise shopper will seek recommendations and reviews for mechanics, doctors, lawyers, hair-stylists, contractors, plumbers, electricians, any provider you’re unsure of. Amazon and Angie’s List are the big review providers.

Do others a favor and post reviews of those who are particularly bad as well as those who are good. This is the best way to keep businesses honest.

Although you’re a savvy shopper, there are those who aren’t. Charlatans prey on the old and young and poor.

Be Aware of the Following

  • Computer games that target children to put charges on their parents’ credit cards. Keep a close check on your children’s computer usage and protect those devices by password.
  • Telemarketers who scam the public with contests, vacations, investment schemes, and a hundred other ways. They change their tactics so often, it’s hard to keep up, but discuss this with your elderly parents and their friends. If you hear of a scam, pass the warning on by word of mouth and social media.
  • Pawn/check cashing/gold buying businesses that target the poor. Some of these businesses are legitimate, but it’s a shame they’re necessary. If a friend or relative is having a hard time, lend them a hand. You’ll be blessed for it.
  • Slot machine and gambling establishments who entice people to lose their rent or grocery money. Run them out of business, if you can. Pressure the local authorities to take action to outlaw them. Remember what happens when good people do nothing.

If you’re savvy enough to care about your budget, you’re probably not easily deceived by dishonest advertising and business practices. But any time money is involved, there’ll be ways to lose it.

Next week I’ll get back to the budget, but being aware of deceit in the marketplace will always save money. The prudent shopper will know what’s going on.

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