Super Size Me – The Art of the Upsell

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Upselling is an unavoidable part of doing business and the art of the upsell has graduated far beyond the ubiquitous line, “would you like fries with that.” Just about anywhere you spend money, the salesperson is going to try and make you part with more of it. I understand it from a business perspective, but it can…

Upselling is an unavoidable part of doing business and the art of the upsell has graduated far beyond the ubiquitous line, “would you like fries with that.” Just about anywhere you spend money, the salesperson is going to try and make you part with more of it. I understand it from a business perspective, but it can be annoying at times.

Last night I ordered a pizza online from Papa John’s. After entering my order I was taken to a separate screen trying to sell me extra dipping sauces, an order of cheesy bread, or any of their other appetizers (I already had an appetizer in my order). After declining that option, I was taken to another screen that offered to send me a free Netflix trial. I’m already a subscriber, so no thanks.

Altogether, I had to go through about 6 different screens to complete my order, and no, I will not store my credit card info in your system, but thanks for checking that box as the default option. (rant over). Papa John’s ordering process may not be very good, but the pizza was excellent!

Last weekend I got the oil changed in my car (at a national chain that I would prefer not to name). They told me it would take about an hour. An hour later they called my name to the desk and pulled out a list of everything I had agreed to pay for – an oil change, tire rotation, and 50 point inspection (all for around$20!). But then, they showed me another list of “recommended maintenance.” My car is exactly 2 years old, and the total cost of the recommendations came to almost $1,000. Wow!

The first recommendation was a full set of new tires. My tires are the original factory tires and have 25,000 miles on them. They are still good for quite a few more miles, but the repair shop was willing to swap them out a little early for my benefit (or so they say). I verified my tires are still safe for driving, and I will make sure to replace them when it is necessary. But not before then.

They also recommended doing an entire fuel system cleaning (around $80), change the air filter ($30), and a full alignment (either $75 or $160 for a lifetime alignment). None of these were necessary. In fact, I bought an air filter the next day to do it myself ($12 at Auto Zone), and when I removed the old one, it was not even remotely dirty. My owner’s manual recommends changing the air filter at 35,000 miles.

The worst part was not only did they try to sell me unnecessary maintenance, but they stopped working on my car while they tried upselling me. (they couldn’t very well finish until they knew if I wanted new tires, a fuel system cleaning, a new air filter, and an alignment). After declining the upsell, my car sat untouched for an additional 20 minutes before they put the tires back on and finished up. Thanks!

I have considered not returning to this shop, but I only go there for oil changes. I can regularly get coupons on my grocery store receipts for $12.99 oil changes, and $5 tire rotation and 50 point inspection. With tax, oil disposal, and everything else, it comes out to about $21. I can’t beat that deal anywhere, and it is a national chain that uses quality products. So, for now, I will just get my oil changed there, and beware of the upsell.

Shop with a plan. The best way to abvoid the upsell is to shop with a plan in mind and avoid spending unnecesary money. Salesmen make their money by convincing you to buy a product or service whether or not you need it. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Would you like fries with that?

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Ryan says

    I love Papa John’s. 🙂

    We rarely buy it though. We love cooking and it’s so much cheaper to cook your own food. But sometimes… it’s just great to order out!

  2. Jon says

    Any reputable shop will inspect your vehicle. It’s actually a disservice if know one lets you know if your car needs any additional work. You’d hate to break down somewhere because no one check your fan belts. But remember it’s always buyer beware.

  3. Ryan says

    Thanks for the comment, Jon. I realize that auto repair shops check everything, and they should. Not only for their business, but for the safety of the cars on the road and the people who drive them. But in my experience, some shops are a little overzealous on the upsell, and/or recommend changes to be made before they are necessary.

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