Why Canada is an upsellers paradise


Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware. This age old legal principle and warning used to be applicable on the sale of goods where the seller did not disclose everything he knew about the product he was selling.

However, this is nowadays also applicable on pricing and what the consumer agrees to buy. Let us start with upselling first. It is generally defined as a sales technique whereby the seller induces the customer, who has already bought, to purchase more expensive items, upgrades or add-ons in an attempt to make the sale more profitable for the seller. This process always commences after a deal has been struck and usually move in small increments that add up to a whole lot. Just think of a fast food establishment that wants the buyer to go bigger and better.

In my view upselling exploits the natural gullibility of a person by having said ‘yes’ once, you will say it again, especially confronted by reasonable and almost logical add-on options. It is not surprising that in many instances one feels violated after the reality of the upselling transaction sets in.

Practitioners of this border line dishonest sales technique can only be successful where the buyer is used to paying more for items than the asking price.
Now – herein lies the conundrum of anybody that has ever bought something in Canada.

This system is perpetuated by the Canadian Government by adding taxes on to any purchase to such an extent that it becomes a perplexing problem to any visitor to determine the price of anything. The main problem is Canada’s Goods and Services Tax (GST), provincial sales tax (PST), and/or harmonized sales tax (HST – combined PST & GST). This is not included in any asking price with the only exception being fuel (gas/diesel/petrol) and some dining at some restaurants.

In fact, dining out can be 22% to 35% more expensive as one is required to leave a tip of 10% to 20% as well. There are also additional taxes on any liquor enjoyed during the meal. In addition to the above there are a tax on aerosol containers, bottles, plastic bags etc. This all makes it quite difficult to work out what the item you bought will actually cost.

So – Canadians are used to a system where the shelf price and the price you are required to pay are two completely different things. There are numerous examples of businesses that has been investigated and exposed of running such upsell scams, such as car rental companies, lube shops, financial institutions, auto repair, veterinarians, dentists, hearing aids, education – even the printing shop down the street from where I live. The list is long.

Maybe it is time the Canadian Government gives consideration to making tax inclusive of the shelf price as they are in our view cultivating an environment for upselling.

The line between upselling and dishonesty is a finely drawn one.

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