Don’t Fall for Online Retailers’ Sneaky Tricks

Don’t Fall for Online Retailers’ Sneaky Tricks

While there are advantages to brick-and-mortar retail establishments, it can be hard to resist the convenience of online shopping — especially when it comes to comparing prices.

The idea of doing that is, of course, to save money, but in order to get what you want at the best value, you also must ensure that you don’t fall victim to the sneaky tactics online retailers use to trick you into spending more money than you had planned. Here are a few you might see the next time you’re browsing for deals.

Tricks online retailers use to get consumers to spend more

If you’ve ever looked at your credit card bill or a receipt and noticed that a retailer charged you more than you had expected, there’s a good chance that their website used tactics called “dark patterns” to either tack on additional costs, or make the process confusing (intentionally).

Recently, researchers at the price comparison website Merchant Machine visited 72 online retailers, and logged the dark patterns they observed. Of the 12 they identified, here are a few of the sneakiest:

  1. Sneaking extra items into your cart. They’re hoping that you won’t notice and remove the items.
  2. Hiding the price of a single item. When you search for an item, results for “value” packs containing multiple products are prioritised. The retailer does have the option of purchasing only one of the items, but they make it hard to find.
  3. Hidden fees. Though you probably expect to pay taxes and shipping, retailers may add on other fees — sometimes simply labelled as “fees.” Or, they could make express shipping the default, requiring you to opt into regular delivery.

In case you’re curious, the report found that Amazon was the worst offender when it comes to dark patterns, utilising 11 out of the 12 the Merchant Machine researchers identified. To read the full list of 12 and learn more about the findings, you can read the report here.


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