I’ve long been an fan of infomercials and television advertising – or as I prefer to describe it, “a student of the pitch.’
I’m not crazy mind you, I do prefer commercial free broadcasts, have time-shifted since the age of the VCR and have been known to pause a DVR long enough to get ahead of even the most stubborn commercial breaks.
BUT, if I’m watching the ads I’m studying the pitches and trends. Of particular interest to me are the vague unspecified upcharges.
The BOGO offer has long been a staple of retail – once a two-for-one arrangement, it’s more commonly a one at full price and one at a discount type of deal these days.
“Just pay separate shipping and handling,” once the popular tag line, has been replaced with some variation of ‘Just pay an additional fee.”
In the age where free shipping has become the sought-after norm, an ‘additional fee’ is suitably vague and potentially all-encompassing.
While behemoth Amazon is working to make it even easier to return things, with it’s Kohl’s partnership, there are still companies out there who work to keep enough of your money even after a return, to make the whole transaction worthwhile.
On a related thread, in case you missed it a few years back the company behind “As Seen on TV” products agreed to pay $550,000 to settle allegations “it confused and deceived customers into buying and paying for items they did not want,” according to published reports.
New Jersey-based (surprised?) Telebrands also agreed to revise telephone and internet ordering systems toward more clearly informaing customers of their purchase and its price, according the Attorney General’s Office.
Here’s some older advice that still holds true today concerning hidden shipping and handling charges.
The case study therein concerns a product designed to deal with earwax.
How about this: in March of this year (2017) The Federal Trade Commission charged a group of online marketers with deception in connection with ‘free’ and ‘risk-free’ trials of golf equipment and online subscriptions to related services, and cooking gadgets.
“According to the complaint, the defendants’ websites, TV infomercials and email deceived consumers by prominently claiming that their products and services were free, without clearly disclosing that they would start charging consumers if they did not cancel their “free trial” or return the “free” products. They also misrepresented their return, refund and cancellation policies. Specifically, they buried these terms in pages of fine print that people could reach only through a tiny hyperlink.”
But wait, there’s more…
In April the brand behind the Pocket Fisherman announced plans for its IPO. Analysts question whether the Ronco has any real value left. I say it’s one to watch. The company’s website boasts “free shipping,” with an “*” and the shipping policies include “A shipping and handling fee is applied to all orders. The shipping and handling cost is a non-negotiable flat rate fee that covers the cost of postage as well as handling and packaging costs for the 48 continental states. An additional shipping and handling fee will be applied to all Canada, Alaska and Hawaii orders.”
What’s up with that?