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Slow Down And Read The Fine Print! Always!

A lot of people seem as though they have just entered some kind of race as they sit down in front of their computer and begin to browse around the web. Maybe it is just the immediate nature of the medium that makes people keep the virtual pedal to the metal as they speed from one site to the next in search of the next great thing.

Don’t think that clever marketers have not taken notice of this behavior. I saw an interesting demonstration of that today and I was a little surprised today to see one way they are hoping to take advantage of it.

I was placing an order for some vitamins on a site I have been using now for a number of years and have done a lot of business with. I have always been quite satisfied with their service and up until today, saw no reason to look elsewhere for a place to purchase vitamins.

I had selected the products I wanted to purchase and completed the checkout process and was about ready to leave the site when I noticed a message on the page asking me if I was interested in getting $10 cash back on my next order. Well, of course I am interested in saving $10, so I clicked on the ‘Yes’ button. That’s when things got interesting.

It is not at all unusual for online stores to offer various discounts and coupons to regular customers, so I was rather expecting to be brought to a page that would congratulate me for being smart enough to save $10 and provide me with a coupon code or some other incantation that I could use for that $10 cash back when I made my next purchase. That’s not what I got at all.

I became suspicious immediately when I was taken to a page that seemed to have a lot more content on it than I would have expected for the simple purpose of providing me with a discount coupon code. And to pique my suspicions even further, I was ‘greeted’ by a rather obnoxious voice that said something like ‘Congratulations (thank goodness I got my expected ‘congratulations!’). Get your $10 cash back on your next purchase, plus money-saving discounts. Click yes below now.’

Hmmmm, that leaves little doubt about whether they wanted me click ‘Yes.’ And to do it ‘now,’ no less. Now red flags are going up left and right so I know I need to hit the brakes and take a long, hard look at that page.

It turned out I had been taken away from the vitamin store site where I placed my order and had been shuttled off to a site called ‘one-time-offer.com’ which apparently has something to do with a program called ‘Reservation Rewards,’ ‘The premier online travel discounts & protection club.’ Yeah, I’m sure.

Appearing prominently at the top of the page is a representation of my $10 cash back coupon. Basically a graphic intended to mimic a coupon that one would cut from a newspaper or magazine. Pretty typical-looking stuff.

To the left was a couple of paragraphs duplicating what the obnoxious voice had already told me and under that, a paragraph that thanked me for my purchase at the vitamin store and yet again encourages me to click ‘Yes’ below to get $10 cash back on my next order at the vitamin store, plus (and this is where is gets interesting!) sign up for all the money-saving benefits of Reservation Rewards, our premier online travel discounts and protection club! Plus enjoy all this FREE for the next 30 days and only $9 per month thereafter…

Aha! Therein lies the inevitable catch! Sure enough, down toward the bottom of the page just to the left of the big ‘Yes’ button is a blue box of small text explaining that you will be signed up for ‘Reservation Rewards’ free for 30 days and then they will start charging $9 per month after that. And for ‘my convenience,’ they will happily sign me up right then and there using contact and credit card information that I just used to make my purchase on the vitamin store site! My goodness, how can I possibly resist such convenience?

Quite easily, actually. So, what’s wrong with this picture? Many things in my opinion and I’ll be happy to share them with you now.

Firstly, I am rather ticked off at the vitamin store site for pulling what I consider a sneaky bait-and-switch type deal on me. Their original link to the $10 cash back said nothing about being enrolled in any kind of ‘club.’ And then they have the nerve to just offer up my contact and credit card info to this other outfit so it will be more ‘convenient’ for me to sign up? Bad move, vitamin store, bad move.

Secondly, the web page with the offer is obviously written to prompt the reader into action without taking the time to read the fine print. Heck, the extra lazy web surfer who is in a hurry to get to the next web site doesn’t have to read any of it. The obnoxious voice tells you what you should do as soon as you arrive! Who needs to read all that small print anyway? It takes too long!

Needless to say, I did not end up clicking ‘Yes,’ despite their double-barreled dose of encouragement. In fact, not only do I refuse to do business with anyone using shady tactics like this, I will be contacting the vitamin store to let them know that despite my many years of satisfactory service I have received from them, I will be looking elsewhere to purchase my vitamins in the future because I do not appreciate their being part of something I consider misleading and sneaky.

Why, you might ask, would the vitamin store want me to sign up for the ‘Reservation Rewards’ deal? Chances are very good that the vitamin store is acting as an affiliate for whomever is behind the ‘Reservation Rewards’ deal and the vitamin store will get a cut of the profits from each person that signs up on the ‘Reservation Rewards’ site that arrives through the link on the vitamin store site.

The affiliate business is huge on the Internet and there’s a lot more to it than what I just outlined above ‘ both good and bad. I hope to address that issue another day because it is something a lot of Internet users know nothing about.

The bottom line is simply this: Always read the fine print before you agree to anything on any web site. On the surface it may sound like a good deal, but you can never be sure until you know all the details. Sure, it takes a little extra time, but it just might save you a lot of time and aggravation in the future.

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