8 Sneaky Ways You're Being Upsold

Upselling is defined as "a sales technique whereby a seller induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale." And it can be used in almost every industry where money changes hands for goods and services. Most of us can spot a big upsell — like the heavy-handed extras car dealerships will try and push on you in the financing room. But there are more subtle upsells being used on you; some you may not even realize are upsells at all. Here's how to spot them, and sidestep them. (See also: This Creative Shopping Strategy Could Save You Tons)

1. "Did You Save Room for Dessert?"

It seems like an innocent enough question, although if you really think about it, it's kind of insulting. "Hey… did you completely pig out, or are you planning to do that with a slice of cake?" However, this question is the classic restaurant upsell, pushing you to add an additional series of charges onto the bill that you were not planning on. Some restaurants will go one step further, and actually bring around a dessert trolley, or a cheese board. Then it gets even harder to say no. But it's an easy enough one to turn down. Know that your server is not interested in seeing you enjoy a delicious piece of triple-chocolate fudge-mallow brownie. He or she simply wants a bigger tip, and the more you spend, the more they get. Even if you could eat another main course, simply say you're too full… unless, of course, that sweet treat is calling your name.

2. "This Shirt Comes With Your Choice of Tie..."

At first, it almost sounds like a freebie. You look at the ties (or replace ties with anything else that could complement your fashion purchase) and select one. You're invested in it. Only then are you told that if you'd rather not have the tie, the shirt will be $20 less. In other words, you're paying for the tie. But, you've already invested in the tie emotionally, and may even feel embarrassed to give back the tie and pay less for the shirt. This is a common technique used by salespeople in many industries. They will offer you an item that naturally complements something you are going to buy, using language that suggests it's all part of the price. It's certainly a little deceptive, but not illegal as they will always state that you can pay less for the original item by not choosing the add-on. Sneaky.

3. "Would You Like Fries With That?"

Or batteries. Or a matching waistcoat. Or insurance. Whatever the industry, asking you straight up if you'd like an additional item, be it with your food, clothing, gadget, automobile, or even new home, is a classic upsell. It's become synonymous with the fast food industry, which more than any other has perfected the art of the subtle upsell. Simply asking if you want fries with a burger is a no-brainer, but not all places include them for free (looking at you, Five Guys). The most common reaction is "sure," and bingo, you've just added an extra cost to the bill.

4. "These Items Are Frequently Bought Together…"

If you want a prime example of this subtle upsell, look no further than Amazon. When you pop an item in your cart, let's say it's a set of kitchen knives, you will see a "Frequently Bought Together" box that could contain a knife sharpener and cutting board. You will also see a combined price for all three. Now, some people think that buying all three will apply a discount for the bundle, but that's not usually the case. Amazon is simply upselling you a package that contains three related items. You could buy all three separately and spend the same, or buy just one extra item without losing out on any kind of discount. It's quite clever when you think about it.

5. "For Only $50 More, You Can Get…"

Faster processing speed. Bigger rims. An extra handset. The salesperson or, more commonly these days, website, will prompt you to get some upgrades to your purchase for a small fee. Apple and other computer manufacturers do this masterfully. You select your model, perhaps a 27-inch iMac, and then get asked a series of questions about upgrades. Would you like it to run even faster? Would you like to give it more storage space, or a more powerful graphics card? You click through the upgrades list, and by the time you've finished, your $1,500 computer now costs over $2,000. Of course, they could always offer you the best model available from the very beginning, and ask you to reduce the price by downgrading it, but that leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. No one likes de-pimping their shiny new gadget, and the starting price would be prohibitively high, resulting in fewer sales.

6. "…And Did You Want the 16 ounce?"

When you're in any kind of place that serves food and drink, this classic, but subtle technique is a way to upsell you without even getting you to think about it. Say, for instance, the menu lists three different sizes of steak – 8 ounce, 12 ounce, and 16 ounce. The server can easily get you to choose the most expensive of the three options simply by not acknowledging the other two. If he or she asks "and which size of steak would you like?" you will look at the menu and probably choose based on your hunger level, and the price. But by turning the question into one that's more presumptive, they are much more likely to get a "yeah, sure" response.

7. "You Get a Lot More for Just a Little Extra Money."

This is a quality upsell, and it is used everywhere — from restaurants and electronics stores, to car dealerships and vacation sites. The basic premise is this; you've already committed to spending a big chunk of money, so why not spend a tiny bit more to get something way better. Maybe it's going from a $300 mountain bike, to a $400 mountain bike. But it has extra gears, a leather seat, and will last forever! When this happens, chances are the salesperson is on commission and wants a bigger check. Now, that's not to say you aren't getting value for your money. Quite often, when you pay a little more for a better quality brand, you are doing well. But, don't be fooled, as this is always about making money for the store.

8. "Would You Like a Smaller Cocktail?"

Most of you are probably thinking, That doesn't sound much like an upsell to me. But, it is, when used correctly. When this little tactic is invoked, the customer in question has already indicated that a regular drink, or dessert, is too much… either in volume, or price. They'd rather just settle the bill.

But servers don't want you settling the bill if there is a chance you could spend more. So, they will entice you with a smaller item, which is still much better for them and the establishment than you ordering nothing at all. Every item has a profit margin. They may even make the smaller item sound like a much better deal. For example "this smaller cocktail packs a real punch, and it's half the price." This doesn't just apply to restaurants though. Whenever any salesperson sees you opting for the "I'll have nothing" answer, they will immediately bring in smaller, cheaper options. This technique is actually known as "downselling" but it's still technically an upsell.

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