Upselling or Creative Marketing?

by Julian Westaby.

Today’s Guest Blogger is the shy, retiring, Alasdair Smith, who goes under the rather splendid nom de plume of Kid Cairoon Twitter. He’s still not fully explained exactly why he chose this name but we think he may have watched a lot of ‘Mr Ben’ in the 1970’s. Either that or he was a big fan of Kent Walton’s wrestling hour on ‘ITV’s World of Sport’, when he actually WAS a ‘kid’.

Alasdair’s on secondment from Skillset to Skills Development Scotland and as our Julian’s on the Board at Skillset, we see Alasdair in at Dunning Towers a fair bit. Here, we’re only letting Alasdair take a pop at our flippin’ lifeblood, our very raison detre! Up-selling? We’d call it ‘Creative Marketing’, Alasdair! Are we mad, or just delighted his blog’s got nothing to do with politics?


Up-sell this!

“NO!” I shout at the now stunned student making ends meet in the coffee shop near the station. “I do NOT want a muffin or pastry with my coffee, if I had wanted a muffin or pastry with my coffee I would have asked for a muffin or pastry with my coffee when I ordered my coffee!”

Red in the face and with an audience of bleary eyed commuters now all taking a step or two away from me I grab my small cappuccino (No thanks, I don’t want to upgrade to a “grandissimo” for only 75 pence) and escape into the crowds, knowing full well I’ll never be able to set foot in there again.

I have just lost the plot at the increasingly creative approach to what is known as up selling by marketing wonks – or devious bastards as I like to call them. Up-selling is the technique used by sales people to get innocent consumers to buy more expensive items, product upgrades or accessories – tricking them into parting with more money than they had originally planned.

It’s not new; I remember even as a child when getting my new school shoes the assistant always suggesting a tin of polish or some waterproofing spray (hold your head as you read this if you too have seven unused tins of waterproof spray in the cupboard under your stairs).

The trouble as I see it is that it was once possible to spot up-selling a mile away; we all have purchased white goods, other household appliances or high-cost electronics and said no thanks to the offer of an extended warranty offering total peace of mind for an extra year for only half your total family income per annum for the rest of your life.

But the practice is creeping more subtly than ever before into our everyday routines to the point where even the simplest of transactions are baited with little add-ons that individually don’t amount to much, but collectively and over time help to empty our pockets quicker than ever before.

Railway stations are by far the best places to avoid if you want to steer clear of the temptation of these little extras. The concourses are positively littered with traps waiting to be sprung. Even the most innocent transaction these days ends with a tantalising question and unmissable special offer.

It starts at the fast-food outlet. Just a burger? Are you sure you don’t want fries with that? How about going large? These guys pretty much wrote the up-selling rule book and we’re pretty wise to their game thanks to Morgan Spurlock. But you’ll need a newspaper for the journey won’t you? Make your selection from the newsstand, get a handful of small change out of your pocket to pay then place a little private wager with yourself as to whether you’re going to be offered a giant bar of Fruit and Nut, a Toblerone, a catering-sized bag of Haribo sweets or a tube of Pringles.

All this is just the retailers wanting to ensure that should your train get stuck in a 20 foot snowdrift for several days you will have enough to eat. They will also have made sure you have topped up your mobile phone so you can keep in touch with your family while awaiting rescue and that you have plenty of stamps to send postcards just in case the train ends up taking you for a long weekend to Aberdeen instead of up your cosy suburban commuter line.

Even on-line, where user choice prevails you will not escape. Recently, after diligently “un-checking” all the optional extras added to my request for car-hire, I received a phone call not 24 hours later strongly advising me to take out additional cover to reduce the potential excess charge in the case of an accident; I hung up!

After all that, it must be time for another coffee and NO, I do not want a muffin or a pastry with that – oh, mind you these DO look good!