Beware of the up-sell economy

A spectre is haunting American consumers: The spectre of the up-sell.

Faced with declining same-store sales and a need to discount aggressively to sell anything at all, retailers are putting pressure on their employees to up-sell consumers. Head in to Old Navy to buy a pair of 2 for $5 flip-flops, and that nice teenager working behind the counter might smile and suggest some $15 swim trunks to complete the look.

The USA Today reports that airlines are also joining in the fun.

For cash-strapped consumers, this can be incredibly annoying. Shouldn't retailers be grateful that you're shopping at all? Do they really need to make you feel like a miser for not wanting to buy more garbage that you can't even really afford?

The best way to avoid these tactics -- in addition to avoiding your own tendency to splurge impulsively -- is to use a shopping list whenever possible, and stick to what's on it. If you head into a store to buy flip-flops, leave with flip-flops and nothing else.

In a larger sense, I think that many consumers are probably resentful of up-selling right now, given how hard up for cash so many people are. It might not hurt to call or email a company's customer service department to let them know that you prefer a low-pressure shopping experience. If enough people do that, they might decide that up-selling isn't worth it.
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