I Know What They’re Up To… But I Fall For It Anyway

A sneak peak into my fridge.

A sneak peek into my fridge.

I’m currently undergoing the slightly painful process of looking for a new car insurance provider. The way I see it, there are a couple of dangers to this: 1. Filling in a form wrongly and voiding my policy if I do need to claim and (more worryingly) 2. Missing out on a free Meerkat toy.

Supermarkets, companies selling just about anything, banks… they all try to reel us in with sneaky promotions and freebies. I think we all know they are doing it. We don’t want to be taken in by ‘The Man’ and tricked by his little ploys to make us spend our hard-earned cash. Even if you think you’re wise to these sales tactics, I bet you’ve been unable to resist a ‘buy one get one free’ at some point in the recent past.

‘Comparing the market’ is, in theory, a reasonably efficient and sensible way to sift through the various companies offering us insurance products. By filling in one form online yesterday, I was provided with over 40 quotes for how much money I could part with to insure my wheels. Unfortunately, the efficiency of the whole process is hindered when I know that the next few weeks is likely to be punctuated by phone calls and emails pestering me to choose an insurer, even if I’ve ticked the appropriate boxes to avoid this happening. I had this trouble a few months back when sorting out pet insurance for our little furball of fun. Unless “More Than Freeman” himself rings me up, I don’t want to hear any more from you: please leave me alone.

Have you ever looked in your fridge and realised that the supermarket have forced you to stockpile yoghurts as if you won’t be able to leave the house for the next three months? I only need to buy enough yoghurts to last two people a few days. Instead, my inability to resist a multi-buy promotion can mean that instead I buy 15 yoghurts for the price of 14, saving me a grand total of about 20p. Brilliant. I do have quite strong feelings about the types of food supermarkets include in these promotions: there should be more fruit and vegetables on offer, and less chocolate and ready meals. That said, I don’t think we should encourage food waste either, so I’m not saying five cabbages for the price of four is the right way forward.

Then of course there’s the classic point-of-sale marketing. You don’t need that chewing gum, sweets or chocolate, but it’s right by the till and, well, you are a bit peckish. The worst bit about this is it preys on children and the parents who have just dragged them around a supermarket against their will. We all know why sugary, tempting products are placed where they are, but it’s surprising how often you pick one up. Shops everywhere also make you feel like you’re saving a fortune by odd-number pricing. For example, you can buy a car for £9,999 and convince yourself what a great deal it is (ONLY four figures!). There’s no two ways about it: You’ve spent ten grand.

Even paying for things can be more expensive than you think. I have a credit card that allows me to collect Air Miles whenever I use it. This leads to all sorts of trouble when I’m charged for the privilege of paying. I sit there trying to figure out whether the additional £4.50 I am giving the bank to “process” my payment (i.e. for doing its job) is worth the Air Miles I will gain. I’m reasonably sure it’s rarely worth it, but I regularly pay that stupid £4.50 anyway.

I do realise that nothing I have written about here is groundbreaking stuff. We all know what they’re up to! We like to think we are savvy enough to understand the marketing we are constantly subjected to. But at some point we still end up coming home from the supermarket with enough blueberries to feed a small army or letting a bunch of Meerkats sort out our car insurance because we are actually a little bit excited by the possibility of receiving a cuddly toy in the post. So maybe we aren’t so smart after all.

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