Just the other day I had cause to tweet to vendors about some of the underhanded tactics they use in trapping and defrauding customers all in the name of smart marketing. It was surprising that many of my followers didn’t even know that there was such a deliberate strategy even when it had been used on them multiple times.
There are two main ones: (i) false advertising and (ii) bait and switch. There’s the third one of “kicking the can down the road” but some people will not agree that it is fraudulent. All of these tactics come from the inability of an online vendor to physically stock the goods they are selling. Stocking goods means capital intensive logistics and warehousing especially when you are not sure if you will eventually sell those goods. So what you do is primarily market it for someone else and get a commission for any sales that come through you. Harmless right? It depends.
You see where this becomes a problem is two fold. The first happens when you are selling knock off wares including shoes and wristwatches then you go on the internet and take the most glossy picture of the real authentic version and use it to market your product on the internet. Even looking at the physical quality of the item you can tell that it is nowhere near as good as the original. The material and the sewing is rough and the brand label is misspelled, all of which your advert does not disclose to the consumer. This is called false advertising and apart from the fact that selling knock-offs can get you in trouble with the original owners when they catch you, it is the deceipt of the customer that is most painful.
I know you will argue that the low low price of the item should be fair warning to any reasonable person that the item is a fake replica, but that is not a fair assumption to make as not all customers even know how much the real thing costs. Which is why it looks quite the steal when they see it splashed on your page for a fraction of the real price. The surprise is that in many third world countries like Nigeria, most customers do not care very much that it is a knock off as long as it looks exactly like what was advertised.
The second problem is where the seller deliberately uses a different, more appealing item to lure customers to her page and then as soon as the enquiries start from a potential customer she pretends to go and check the store then comes back to tell the customer that the item has been sold out but that there is another “similar” item that is even slightly less expensive. The real issue is that the seller never had that first item in store but knows that no customer would ideally buy the item they are selling in stock so they deliberately go and use something in higher demand to trap the customer then last minute offer them the lower quality thing. This is a classic ‘bait and switch’ approach that most customers fall for without even knowing it becuase it is conceivable that the seller really did run out of the actual one you wanted. It usually only becomes obvious when you are a repeat purchaser and the pattern begins to show.
The third tactic which most people are divided about is the delay tactic. So the seller never had the items, did not even have them readily in stock, took the customers order and tricks them into paying a deposit so they are trapped, then just at that time places the order for the goods to arrive from wherever in the world. Sometimes these goods take weeks to arrive and they will simply keep kicking the can down the road regarding delivery, telling the buyer all sorts of excuses and even promising a refund that never comes through. The buyer is usually eventually frustrated enough that when they finally get the items 6 weeks after, they are just happy their deposit was not lost altogether so they move on.
All of these practices are fraudulent and playing on the intelligence of customers who worked hard for their money and could easily have taken their patronage elsewhere. It creates misstrust in the mind of buyers against other vendors who are doing the right thing and overall destroyes consumer confidence. Being transparent with the consumer about what they should expect to get and how long it will take them to get it, will always remain the best standard for doing business. Capital is hard to come buy and we understand the constraints of stocking, but your costumers worked for their money and deserve better.