|WHAT DO I PAY YOU PEOPLE FOR?|
|Tuesday, 17 April 2012 06:00|
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Let's discuss the fringe world of shadow commerce: additional profits gained by purposely overcharging the customer in the belief that he or or she won't bother to correct the situation, either due to laziness or inattentiveness, or (in more extreme cases) due to peer pressure or embarrassment.
Why should anyone be concerned if they get accidentally charged a few extra cents here and there? Because subtle manipulation of the invisible margin of error on balance sheets is a billion dollar business. And despite what you might think, it's usually not an accident. Nothing that consistently earns corporations millions of extra dollars is EVER accidental. Even should it start out that way, it won't take long for the "accident" to be recognized, systemized, and formally institutionalized.
How does it work? Well, huge corporate merchandisers are betting that you, the consumer, won't bother to take time to compare your bill or store receipt with actual merchandise price tags and store signage. And it turns out to be a pretty safe bet. Shoppers fill their carts with items chosen in response to signs, stickers and placards advertising special bargain sale prices, etc. But-- when the shopper checks out, the merchandise actually scans with a higher price than marked. Back in the old days of manual price entry, the check-out clerk who ran the register was responsible for such errors. But now their blanket protest when faced with a customer complaint is typically "Sorry, that's just how it scanned."
Some stores sneakily arrange their check-out scanners so the customer cannot see the price when an item scans, forcing purchasers to wait until after they pay and a receipt is printed. Because once you've already PAID, who wants to inconsiderately delay other shoppers to dispute a charge? Stores rely on the unwritten code of shopping manners dictated by polite society to keep lines moving and "accidental" profits flowing. If you do complain-- forcing a tedious item price check-- the innocent cashier will usually fix the error. But not many shoppers dare complain, even if they notice a discrepancy... they would rather avoid a potentially embarrassing scene.
And beware the old "round to the highest dollar" game. Since it's tax time, you may have noticed that the Internal Revenue Service isn't interested in cents-- so much so that they have almost completely eliminated the ability to list cents on federal income tax returns. The official justification for this is that it costs the IRS too much to do the extra math to tally a few cents here and there, and it's so much easier to have taxpayers "round up" to the next highest dollar. Seems reasonable, right? But... you must always round UP. So in actual PRACTICE, this cute little deception not only saves the IRS a lot of cent-counting, it actually earns them hundreds of millions of extra cumulative tax dollars not actually owed.
Always check your receipts and count your change. It's tough enough making a decent living in this economy without giving away your hard-earned money for nothing. Fair is fair. In a capitalist society, the only requirement for dishonesty to triumph is that honest people do nothing about it.