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Jacqueline Drew: How to avoid those sleazy marketing tricks

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Jacqueline Drew, founder of Start Marketing in Calgary
(Listen to the original audio)

It's a sad thing that I have to do a column on sleazy marketing tricks used to dupe consumers. But, alas, we know they exist.

And I'm sure there are a great many of you out there who would just love to know what they're being subjected to, from the inside perspective. So as a marketer myself, albeit not a sleazy one, I thought I'd give you the scoop on how it's done, so you can better protect yourself!

Bait and Switch: Ever see an ad for an item that seems impossibly low-priced? This probably means one of three things:

1) Limited availability of the item (in other words, the store has all of a dozen of that item in stock, and every one else has to buy the more expensive model)

2) Optional add-ons that aren't really optional to use the product, or

3) The product is faulty, or the manufacturer no longer supports it.

In other words, be very cautious of pricing deals that appear to bait you - and be ready for the switcheroo!

Freebies: Many business claim to be giving you something for free. But chances are you're going to be subjected to a sales pitch (think aggressive time share companies), or you end up committing to a big contract (think mobile phone services). Businesses rarely give real freebies - that is, items that have value without any strings attached. Because if they did, they wouldn't be in business.

Grouped Pricing. I was at a grocery store recently that priced a lot of its items as a "2 for" price, that is, instead of saying a can of soup is 75 cents, they'll say "2 for 1.50".which makes you think you have to buy two to get that price. In fact, when I asked the cashier, I found out I could have bought one for 75 cents if I'd wanted to. But because of the way they were presenting the price, I was misled, and ended up with almost double the groceries. So if you don't need that number, ask what the single price is before you assume.

The upshot is, if we as consumers can be a little more discerning in how we shop, then we can prevent ourselves from being easy targets. And more marketers will have to start doing their jobs the honest way.

-- For the Business Network, I'm Jacqueline Drew, in Calgary.

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