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Stupid Media Watch: Trickery? Pshaw!

By Ken Magill
Only a so-called consumer advocate would call the commonly used art of the upsell trickery.
That’s exactly what Consumerist did last week in a post about Macy’s using online ordering and in-store pickup as an opportunity to upsell.
“Here’s How Stores Trick You Into Spending 20% More,” said the headline on the post.
It then paraphrased and regurgitated some copy from a Q&A in the Washington Post with Macy’s chief omnichannel (I hate that term) officer R.B. Harrison.
“He says the increasingly popular option to ‘buy online, pick up in store’ is a great time to create a sales opportunity as well as serve as a convenience for customers. There are a couple big advantages to that set-up, he explains,” said the Consumerist post.
“’The most important is that we are getting that customer into the store. And that then becomes an opportunity for her to either, on her own buy something else, or in a really good situation, to use our selling skills and offer other alternatives,’ says Harrison. ‘If a guy’s buying a dress shirt, you sell him ties. If you bought a KitchenAid mixer, how about the adapter so you can make pasta?’
“It’s not like this is a secret, as anyone who’s ever been faced with a tempting array of items offered at the checkout to inspire spontaneous purchases knows” the Consumerist write continued. “But there’s a big difference between a pack of gum and a nice tie — so how much more are people spending, usually?
“’It gets footsteps into our stores,” Harrison says. ‘We experience, on average, increased sales. So, they buy $100 worth of stuff, on average, they leave with $120 to $125 worth of stuff. So it’s a very good transaction for us, and we get them to experience a Macy’s brand.’”
This is trickery? No, trickery is deception. There is nothing deceptive in Macy’s attempts to upsell. Macy’s is in the business of selling, for crying out loud. Upselling is as old as selling itself.
In Consumerist-land, when a waiter asks if diners want coffee and desert after a meal, he is attempting to trick them. The stupidity of the average consumer advocate is an awe inspiring thing to behold.  
Too often, the term “consumer advocate” is shorthand for “someone who reflexively hates everything associated with free-market capitalism and who thinks everything should be free.” They hate sales and advertising and everything it entails. They lack the mental capacity to look at all the amazing innovations around them—the cars they drove to work, their smartphones and their tablet computers, for example—and understand they were made possible and affordable by people who were motivated by profit.
We have more computing power in our hands than NASA used to send astronauts to the moon—all because of people aiming to get wealthy.
There are places in the world with people in charge who think just like America’s consumer advocates. Venezuela comes to mind—a formerly prosperous country whose citizens now can’t find milk, toilet paper or diapers, because of price controls placed on private businesses. It would be nice to send American so-called consumer advocates—who love the concept of price controls—to live in Venezuela for a few months. 
On a lighter note: In another life I was a bartender. The consumerist post reminded me old, dirty joke. I would advise the easily offended to stop reading now:
A new employee at a store that seemingly has everything is being taught by a veteran employee the art of the upsell.
Someone walks up to the counter with a bag of grass seed.
“Would you like some fertilizer with that bag of grass seed?” the veteran employee asks the customer.
Customer: Why would I want fertilizer?
Veteran employee: Well, it’ll help your grass grow faster.
Customer: Okay, I’ll take the fertilizer.
Veteran employee: How about a hose?
Customer: Why would I want a hose?
Veteran employee: Well, you’re going to want to water your grass.
Customer: Okay, I’ll take the hose.
Veteran employee: How about a lawn mower?
Customer: Why would I want a lawn mower?
Veteran employee: Well, you’re going to need to cut your grass.
Customer: Okay, I’ll take a lawn mower.
The customer then leaves having purchased the grass seed, fertilizer, hose and lawn mower.
“See how that works?” says the veteran employee to the new employee.
“Yes,” says the new employee.
“Do you think you can do it?” says the vet.
“Yes,” says the newbie.
“Okay, then you try it on our next customer.”
Pretty soon a woman comes up to the counter and puts a box of tampons on it.
“Would you like a lawn mower with those tampons?” asks the new employee.
“Why would I want a lawn mower?” asks the woman.
“Well, you’re not going to be screwing, so you might as well cut the lawn.”
The average consumer advocate would probably need that joke explained to them.

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