Friday, May 11, 2007

The upsell - you can say no, save your money!

Have you ever called Customer Service at your bank or credit card company, only to find yourself in the middle of a sales call? Several months ago, I had to call American Express to dispute a charge - I purchased a Nikon D50 digital SLR from an unscrupulous NYC camera outfit, only to receive a gray market version - a camera built for the Japanese market! Needless to say, I was furious, and instead of trying to negotiate with the folks at this company, I disputed the charge immediately (AMEX is extremely helpful in this regard). Five minutes into the call, I'm being offered fraud protection, travel programs, etc etc.

There was an article recently on MSN Money entitled "Just say no to the upsell," and its premise was that companies find it much easier to sell additional services to their existing customers than to spend marketing dollars chasing new customers. Back in high school, I worked at JC Penney in the mens' dress shirt department. Upsell! My boss would say, "Q, if someone is looking for a dress shirt, upsell them. Show them a tie that nicely complements their shirt purchase. Take them to belts. Perhaps they need a handkerchief."

Everything is a commercial now - sales pitches are all around us (many of these blogs, including this one, are loaded with ads). Where there was once outrage and disdain among Americans regarding this saturation of ads, there is now a dull, numb acceptance. And it is not exclusive to the U.S. Whereas our baseball and football uniforms are free of advertising (except the occasional Nike swoosh), European soccer teams' uniforms are adorned with ads.

The upsell barrage continues because it works. And when an upsell is successful, the margin is usually fat. But, did you really need what they sold you? During a time of distress, like calling your credit card company to report a stolen card, an offer of credit report monitoring might make sense (while at the same time striking you as horribly opportunistic). I had some trouble with my DirecTV service - first time in 7 years I had a problem of any kind. The phone rep sold me hard on the service plan, which for xx dollars a month would make service calls free. I never had a problem in 7 years, and it's their satellite service that's broken, not mine. I kindly talked them into fixing it for free, and asked them to keep their service plan.

Many consumers feel obligated to listen to these prewritten scripts, and some even feel compelled to buy. You do not have to buy, and you do not have to listen! You can even remain polite while regaining control of the conversation (I am unfailingly polite on the phone, Mrs. Q even laughs about this). Your time is precious, and you don't have time to listen about the latest gizmo guaranteed to enhance your banking experience. You may wait until the schpiel is over, or you may kindly interject.

"Sir (or ma'am), I have something cooking on the stove, may we please complete our business here?"

"Sir, I have to put my daughter to bed, may we conclude our business?"

Please do not feel compelled to buy - your bank, credit card company, etc - they are there for you, not the other way around. Any money you spend on an upsell could be invested for retirement. Save your money.


KMull said...

Good idea with the excuse. How about "Sir/Madam, I've got a conference call I need to jump on...", or a meeting... etc. Depends on when you call.

Q said...

The "something hot on the stove" comment usually works well, because it lends an air of urgency to the situation.

As a joke, I have also literally said to a telemarketer, "I'm too drunk to make any decisions right now." At least I was laughing.

Anonymous said...

Nice brief and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you seeking your information.