In a world of ‘fake news’ perhaps we are also seeing a glut of ‘fake discount’!
“We’ll give you a whopping 10-15% percent off any purchases made to our fantastic discount partners…” How many times do we see offers like this today? Yet, there’s a catch. You need to pay $20 per month to be a member. UK banks also do it. “We’ll give you cash back on your debit orders each month!” The catch, a £5 monthly fee!
Offers like these play on the underlying obsession of all who love a good bargain. Yet, is it really a bargain? Perhaps not. Unless one invests a lot of time managing one’s ‘discount’ account or club activities, you’ll probably find that you come off second best.
Some of these offers require significant effort to get your cash back and the refunds take weeks. The way things are worded it sounds like they are doing everything they can to get money into your pocket while in reality they are stringing your repayment out for as long as possible. At the end of the day, time is money and when we waste time running after little discounts, when it could have spent it creatively, earning money, that’s not good common sense. The old saying, ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ comes to mind!
Most people are all for saving and making the most of loyalty cards and offers, but not at the risk of actually losing money. Even simple ‘Buy one, get one free’ offers (known in the UK as BOGOFs) need some degree of scrutiny. But, it’s the discount offers that require an upfront monthly payment that are most questionable.
Sometimes such offers are hard to avoid. For example when every time you purchase a bus ticket, you are presented with an opportunity to get a significant discount on your next ticket. Now that seems to be a no brainer! However, when you find you have to pay $20 or £15 a month to be part of the club in order to get that discount, then that should raise a flag. For many, it doesn’t because of the promise of at $20 / £15 welcome payment makes you think you’re at least breaking even.
Then you find it takes a month to get your welcome payment and by that time another $20 / £15 is due. And, if you cancel your membership you are probably going to lose your refund. “Ah, but I get discounted tickets each time I travel,” you may say… Yes the discounts can be beneficial, especially if they have an immediate discount code. All brilliant until you come to purchase your next ticket and you realise the offer is expired. It seems that somehow the service providers have a way of ensuring your offers run out just before you need to use them! Suddenly the thrill of bargain hunting loses its allure.
Getting customers to upgrade their purchases with a whole list of add ons is also very much part of this system of sly marketing. If you aren’t careful you’ll be charged for seating preferences that make little or no difference and extra insurance you may already be covered for. We need to be careful that we don’t allow anyone, particularly online enterprises, to take advantage of us and our impulses.
Think twice the next time you’re offered discount for a fee and consider how much money you’re really saving by saying no. If you are part of a discount club that requires a monthly fee, maybe its time to cut your losses and opt out. We are all called to be good stewards of our finances and we can do that best when we have wisdom.