Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why Savvy Shoppers Buy From Shysters

I recently had an interesting experience with 8HourTrafficSchool.com.

Over the Winter break, I received a speeding ticket. I was going with the flow of traffic, and was probably unfairly singled out (it was a classic SoCal speed trap, designed to catch people coming off the high-speed I-5 and onto the 405) but you can't fight the fuzz.

Fortunately, as a generally good driver, I had the option of traffic school. I did a quick survey of the possibilities and settled on 8HourTrafficSchool.com, which was both the cheapest ($14.95) and the most convenient (no in-person test required).

I finally finished the course yesterday (with about 8 days to spare on my deadline), at which point, I came to a payment page, warning me that I had paid for my certificate to be mailed in 2-3 business days, and that previous students had warned that it might take up to 6-8 mailing days for the certificate to arrive. I was then offered a series of different "expediting" options, including Certified Mail, and various flavors of FedEx.

Now this struck me as suspicious, since I know for a fact that 1st-class mail sent within California takes about 1 business day to arrive. So I decided that rather than let myself be panicked into spending extra cash, I'd call up the customer service line.

When I finally got on the line with a customer service representative, he told me that the company actually faxes the completion certificate directly to the court.

In other words, the mailing of the certificate has no legal meaning, and the time it takes for the certificate to arrive is irrelevant.

8HourTrafficSchool.com's certificate expediting business is the equivalent of the extended warranty--an unnecessary add-on that is foisted on the unwitting and weak-willed.

And that's why I'm glad I chose 8HourTrafficSchool.com as my traffic school.

You see, savvy shoppers buy from shysters. In this day and age, it's hard for companies to get away with blatant scams and fraud; they have to rely instead on letting you trick yourself into overpaying.

In the case of 8HourTrafficSchool.com, when you've already invested 8 hours in completing traffic school, and you're facing a deadline from the court, some mumbo-jumbo about mailing delays and cheap expediting can be very compelling.

I'll bet that a lot of people put off completing traffic school until the last minute, then panic and plump for the $28 FedEx expediting option...which is nearly double the cost of the entire course!

And that's why 8HourTrafficSchool.com is so cheap. The stupid subsidize the savvy.

The only way they can offer their product so cheaply is that they wedge a ton of extra money out of the naive.

That's why, if you're a smart shopper, you should seek out shysters!

3 comments:

alice said...

I noticed easyjet doing this last week- massive long page full of optional extras you "need" (to opt out of). Everything from travel insurance to extra baggage to getting on the plane before everyone else. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

That is such a lucky example of "shyster", or perhaps just a misnomer. By contrast, a true shyster takes your money and delivers an inferior product. To wit:

A couple years ago, I bought a laptop battery from a disreputable dealer. They sent me a dead one, I complained, they sent me another dead one, I complained, they disappeared off the face of the earth. Good-bye $60. That was the very definition of unsavvy!

Paul Sweeney said...

I think you are "way wrong' on this one. The expediting fee is a slight of hand and will leave the customers feeling ripped off. True, the company brand "stands for" low cost, no frills. And True, the users are unlikely to be repeat customers, but this is one of those situations where "ripping off" the customer will, eventually, be exposed. One camera crew, one poor little boy that saved up his money so he could drive his dear ole gran to the shop every day, and bingo, you have a neat little company destruction event. It is also incredibly lazy. Is this the alternative to creating new value?