Terror sales tactics at all-time high package: Hard-sell horrors

PHOTO: Terror sales tactics at all-time high package: Hard-sell horrors

They pester.

They offer.

They don't take "no" for an answer.

Complaints against hard-selling retailers are at an all-time high.

The biggest culprits are the beauty and slimming industries, followed by the timeshare industry, and salesmen selling electronics and electrical products.

The case files from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) reveal just how some sellers go to the extreme when hawking their products and services.

Among the tactics? Forming a human barricade and refusing to let the consumer leave the room, stopping a beauty treatment halfway unless the consumer agrees to buy more sessions, refusing to return identity or credit cards unless the consumer pays for an additional warranty.

In the first seven months of this year, Case had received 849 such complaints.

That's more than the whole of 2008, and looks set to top last year's figure of 1,054.

Over the last five years, complaints have been rising.

Case's executive director, Mr Seah Seng Choon, says one cause for the rise could be due to more educated consumers learning to exercise their rights under the provision of the law.

Under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, it is unfair for a business to take advantage of a consumer by exerting undue pressure or influence on the consumer to enter into a transaction involving goods or services.

"Hard-selling is not acceptable," says Mr Seah.

"When a consumer refuses (to buy), the salesperson should respect the consumer's decision and not continue to try changing his or her mind for the next few hours."

Hard-selling, he says, can include appealing to the consumer's fears, greed or vanity.

Says Mr Andrew Lee, a marketing lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's Business School: "When pitching their products or services, the sales representative can leverage on your looks as their key sales pitch to try and entice you to buy.

"That's how some people end up buying things that they cannot afford."

Assistant Professor Zhang Xiaoling from the Nanyang Business School says that it is "typical" of beauty consultants to tap on the customer's fear of ageing.

The marketing professor, whose research interests include in-store decision making and salesperson-customer interaction, says those selling luxury goods can also tap on the consumer's vanity and those offering discounts can appeal to the customer's greed.

Associate Professor Li Xiuping from the National University of Singapore Business School says some industries lure consumers with free-trial coupons and count on the fact that after the free service, consumers will feel "obligated" to buy something in return.

When faced with hard-sell tactics, the experts say it is best to walk away.

Says Mr Lee: "As consumers, you should know yourself and what you can afford.

"If you're not comfortable with buying something, just say 'no'."


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