You wan’t fries with that? Anyone who frequents restaurants is familiar with the concept of up-selling. It’s when the waitress asks you if you’d like to add something or upgrade your order. That’s an obvious example, but most of the times you probably don’t notice when you’re being up-sold. For example, if you order a vodka martini, a good bartender would say “sure, what kind vodka do you like?”. You may think they are being helpful, which they are, but they most likely have been trained to say that as an up-selling technique. Just by asking that question, you are much more likely to order a more expensive drink. When the bartender asks what your favorite vodka is, you are unlikely to say “whatever is cheapest”. You will either tell them your favorite brand, glance at the liquor shelf and pick one, or spurt out the first brand that comes to mind. This will automatically add a few dollars to the price of the drink. If this is done for every customer, by every bartender and server at the business, it could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars at the end of the year.
Up-selling at restaurants is usually a win - win concept for the business and the customer. If the server is truthful and wants to be helpful, their suggestions can make your dining experience a pleasurable investment. Drinking a vodka martini with the cheapest ingredients will save you a couple of dollars, but so will chugging windex, and it will taste the same.
There’s another tactic that resembles up-selling, but it immediately robs the customer of value in their purchase and can hurt the business in the long term. I call it “bluff-selling”. You’ve undoubtedly been “bluff-sold” before.
I’m writing this blog post because I was a victim of it yesterday.
I was at my local tire shop replacing a damaged tire. As I was paying they casually mentioned that they are adding a “protection plan” to my tire. Supposedly it “protects” me against defects, and if I get another hole in the tire I can bring it in and have it fixed for free. Now, I’m don’t know the statistics of how many people get a hole in their tire while driving next to the same place that they bought that tire, but I would guess that the chances of the “warranty” being a wise investment are minimal. The tire company knows this and that’s why they instruct their employees to add the cost to customers’ bills. This was a bluff-sell, but at least there was still a small chance of there actually being value in the added expense.
There are several other businesses which bluff-sell you items that return zero value. How often are you charged a “resort fee” at a hotel? They may tell you it’s covers your Wi-fi or free local calls, but they might as well be honest and just say, “it’s complete bullshit and we take your money simply because we can get away with it”.
Fortunately bluff-selling is an outdated way of doing business. As technology helps businesses become more transparent, success will favor those who provide value to consumers. There are finally repercussions to businesses and their employees who put a bad taste in the mouth of their customers, whether it be by bluff-selling or windex.