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Illusory Advertisements: Don’t be a victim of ads that are deceptive

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It is quite common to see the word “sale” highlighted and displayed by most of the outlets in UAE  these days, because of “Eid” and “Diwali” festival.  We come across  advertisements either in the newspapers, magazines, internet, billboards, TV,  supermarkets, hypermarkets, departmental stores  or hear them on the radio. The end objective of all these ads is the same ? Draw you close to the product and tempting you to buy more and more.  

In a highly competitive market like UAE,  different retail outlets are forced to use these tactics to draw your  attention.   It may be in the form of unbelievable discounts, raffle draw,  prizes to be won, scratch and win, clearance sale, festival discounts, schemes or offers, and fantastic deals. You finally end up buying too many things, or unwanted materials and then realise that the offers were just  meant to lure you  to the  product.   

We need to exercise precaution and care, when it comes to deceptive advertising. To quote an example, a retail outlet in UAE once  advertised in the leading newspaper that a product costing Dhs. 10 was available at half the original price in their outlet. This was a fast moving product and their idea was to attract the customers. They were offering two packs for the price of one. And it was not nearing expiry, (the trend here is they usually band near expiry food  products on 1+1 basis if a product is expiring – Buy one and get one free).  Once you enter the shop you realise that the stocks advertised are actually not available and  they use a board to display “sold out” in bold letters and then you may be forced to buy other products. It happened to me and so it can happen to anyone.

There may be some shops running a promotion throughout the year continuously by using different words like “Seasonal Discount”, “Summer Promotion”, “Winter Promotion”, “Festival Offers”, “Summer Surprises”, “Ramadan Discount”, “Xmas and New Year Offers”, “Shop & Save”, “Shop & Win” etc., to attract the attention of the customers. The prices remain the same but then the display, layout, outlook and the board conveying the message changes. Customers who are ignorant of the prices land up in the trap set by the dealers.   

Some of the outlets place a higher price tag on different products and then offer 60-75% discount on the marked price. A person with some intelligence would sit back and think whether it is really possible to operate an outlet with this type of a discount structure?

I asked a few people in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E to comment  on  this topic –  What do they actually feel about these type of offers? and whether they were victims of deceptive ads anytime?  Here?s what they have to say:

Alwyn(Thani Murshid Uni-Lever -Abu Dhabi) & Vanitha Fernandes (Thani Murshid Establishment-Abu Dhabi)

From the consumers point of view, I feel consumer promotion is the best way of promoting the outlet. For e.g. If any big outlets distribute their flyers one get attracted to that. You visit that particular outlet end up  buying more things than required though you do not get the offers on some product. More volume sale leads to more profits.
Osborne (H.S.B.C-Abu Dhabi) & Gail Monteiro (Worley Parsons-Abu Dhabi)

Lucrative offers posted by various brands are only meant to grab the consumer’s attention and make us pay more than actually what we would normally spend.

Although companies use their tactics to sell their products, one has to admit that it is difficult to resist the temptation of entering the shops which has hoardings of “On Sale” or “50% discounts”!!!!

Haridas(ex Gray Mackenzei ?Abu Dhabi )  and Yashoda (Nurse in Mafraq Hospital ?Abu Dhabi)

Shops usually  give huge discounts to clear off  very old stock and  slightly damaged stock not visible for the human eyes (e.g while buying a shirt a thread must have come out or the stitch is not perfect). Their main objective is to get rid of the old stock and bring in new stock.  A genuine discount sale can take place if there is a building demolition or winding up the business.  The shop may be selling fake or counterfeit products which are actually not approved by the municipality.  That is the reason why usually  no returns are accepted during the sale period.(At the most they may allow you to exchange for another product of same value but definitely  no cash returns).  If the sale is really genuine then small retailers/groceries will take the benefit and resell the product to the end consumer once again. Small Grocery shops right below your building will buy items from hypermarkets and big supermarkets and then resell the products by removing the banded offer. They end up making the profit. So you should have the patience to visit the bigger chains.  Please do not jump and buy items soon after seeing an ad or just  because they are cheap.  We should exercise precaution by  comparing  the quality, brand and the actual price of the product.

Claudy (DHL Courier) and Brenda Pais (Teacher at St. Josephs School Abu Dhabi)

Food products are usually sold at low rates when they are nearing expiry.  The shopkeepers want to get rid of old stocks by using the key word “clearance sale”.  This usually applies to garments. More innovative and new designs enter the market so people might lose interest in the old designs.  The shopkeepers main objective therefore is to clear the old stock.  There is a term called “end of range products”. In this case the shop keepers usually sell assorted items (unsold items) in one allotted space.   Shop keepers and retailers main objective is to  get rid of the left over quantities.   Retailers during the sale period shrink their margins to the maximum in order to attract customers.  They are left with thin margins. A “sale” can be compared to a mouse trap too.  Sometimes customers enter the outlet just  like a rat entering a trap.  He is sometimes compelled to buy huge quantities of other unwanted items because he is lured into buying  just  because of the word “sale” or an appealing ad or a good display.

Linda  (Al Nasser Holdings- Abu Dhabi)

“Today we live in an opportunistic environment where the name of the game is money. If we look around the market, there is always some or other kind of Sales promotion or marketing campaign, almost throughout the year.  In addition to these there are massive reduction sales during the festive season, end of year clearance, or shop closing clearance sales to name but a few.  With the kind of reductions offered, one wonders as to how the traders could afford these and yet achieve a profit, which would allow them to continue their business.  One of the modus operandi adopted by these traders is to give reductions on items which are not in demand with the consumers, and keep the price of essential items at a high level.  Thus while they attract customers to their shops, they deceitfully ensure that nothing is given away free. As the saying goes “there is no such thing called a ?free lunch?”.  Therefore it would not be out of place to assume with an amount of certainty that such marketing campaigns are nothing but a gimmick designed to attract people and generally to create an excitement and a spirit of consumerism all around, since such attitude will only benefit the traders immensely.”

Linda(L); Jane(Right)

Jane D?Cruz (Abu Dhabi Ship Building)

The promotions that major outlets have are an “eyewash”.  They advertise in bold letters “Sale” but the facts are different. They first hike up the mark up price by at least 200% and then announce the “sale” and bring the mark up prices to half and still make a profit. Can you imagine buying an item for Dhs.5/-  and feel happy and content, thinking that you got it cheap, when the actual price of that product is Dhs. 5/- itself ?. I had a very bad experience with a jewellery outlet here in uae. They have attractive incentives during the festival seasons – buy jewellery for AED 1000 – 1500 and get a free pendant (they don?t talk or advertise that the offer applies to a particular chain alone) and then comes the catch – if you buy an additional worth of Dhs. 1000.00 then the earrings come free ….. the list is endless – we end up not only getting fooled and paying more for something that is not really worth our while.

This write up would be incomplete without my wife Sandra?s ideas and inputs. Ladies play a major role in decision making and purchasing major items  specially during the “Sale” period. We  visit different outlets during  free time and compare the quality of the product and the price.  She then buys something only  if she finds the products reasonably priced during the sale period.  This applies to garments, footwear, household items, and electronic items.  The other day she showed me a believe it or not ad which appeared in one of the leading weekend magazines in uae. The group of outlets was offering 10 lucky customers free stay in uae for one year. All you had to do is just shop for Dhs 100, in any of their branches spread all over uae, and then enter into a raffle draw. Each winner would then be entitled to a prize money of approx. Dhs 100,000 ? Dhs 125,000 (U.S $ 30,000 approx) which would take care of a family?s annual expenses (house rent, school fees, Water & Electricity charges, Telephone bills, Fuel expenses, and additional shopping expenses).  A believe it or not ad but this is true. In this case you do not loose anything. Not even a single Dirham. This group is well known for its best business practices and ethics. There are many other similar  chain of outlets specially co-operatives and multi national chain of outlets that follow this practice. They usually don?t cheat their customers.  They apportion a small percentage of their entire  turnover towards  promotion expense. This clearly shows that not all retail outlets and advertisements are meant to deceive their customers.  Only a few really are deceptive. You need to be careful and exercise precaution and care.  So the golden rule is think before you decide to buy anything or  make a purchase decision. You are the decision maker. That is why they say the customer is always the king. 

Author: Claude Fernandes- UAE

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