I am a veracious reader. Most evenings you will find me curled up on the couch or in bed with my iPad firmly planted on my lap. I like to read novels as well as articles on many different topics.
A few days ago I came across an article on CNN Money with the headline “America’s Biggest Rip-offs.” The article went into detail about a number of different ways you get parted with your money in the forms of rip-offs, scams and cons. This wasn’t a look into the criminal world; rather it was an article exposing companies that do huge mark-ups on their products and services.
I loved the article. It was a true exposé. And over the next few days I continued to think about the article as I encountered situations talked about in the article. The thing is, the article barely scratched the surface of scams and rip-offs we face every day! I’ve put together a few more rip-offs that I want to make you aware of so you can keep ahold of your money. Enjoy!
The concession stand at the movies. CNN’s article touched on this. They brought up that movie theater popcorn is marked up 900%. A staggering figure. But really all of the candy and drinks sold at movie theaters are marked up significantly. A fountain soda will run you $2.50-$3.00 when it only costs a few cents to make. Same with any of the candy. A candy bar that would cost $0.75 at a convenience store is marked up to $2.50. Same goes for the nachos, hot dogs, and any other food purchased at the concession stand. Save yourself $10-$15 by sneaking in a can of soda and a small bag of candy in your purse or pocket. And don’t worry if the people in the seats next to you give you a funny look when you pull out your goodies from your bag. They’re just mad you didn’t buy into the idea of spending nearly $50 to go see a movie and eat snacks!
The hotel mini-bar. My advice for this one is to avoid it at all costs! Everything in the mini-fridge is marked up significantly. You’ll likely pay $7 for a bottle of water that would usually cost you $1. And the mini bottles of wine and alcohol are typically marked up anywhere from 500% to 1,000%! Luxury hotels are the biggest offenders of this rip-off. They are notorious for extreme mark-ups! A robe that cost them $50, they will sell you for $200. You are paying a premium for convenience. Trust me, no matter how tired you are it is a lot more economical to walk around the corner to purchase a bottle of water or snack instead of from your hotel mini-bar.
Name brand over-the-counter medicine. When you buy a brand name medicine you are buying peace of mind. You trust it to do what it says it will do. But the much cheaper, generic brand medicine should give you the same peacefulness because they will work the same as their more expensive counterparts, they have to by law. The Food and Drug Administration mandates that generic brand medicine must be as safe and effective as brand names. So why pay more for a drug that does exactly the same thing? Pain relievers like Tylenol, Advil, etc. have the same active ingredients as the generic versions do… Except they cost 60% more. Don’t fall for this. Check the active ingredient list on the generic version of whatever medicine you are buying next time and see if it isn’t the same.
Razors and their blades. You can buy a razor for a relatively cheap price; it’s the disposable blades that get us. Companies like Gillette and Schick have been so successful using this business model that other companies have adopted it. Video game makers love to sell their consoles for a loss or break even because the margins on the games are so high for them!
All men and women have to start shaving once we reach age 15 or so. I guess these big companies figure we’ll just keep buying from them because that’s what we’ve always done. It seems like each year they come out with a new razor with more blades and we all rush out to buy it. Then we find out it doesn’t shave us any better than our previous one. The trick to saving money here is to figure out how to make the blades last longer so we don’t have to buy the expensive replacement blades as often. It’s actually the moisture from the shaving creams and water the big companies encourage us to use when shaving that dull our blades. Moisture on the razor blade oxidizes and creates a thin layer of rust on the blades thus dulling it. Next time you shave rinse your blade off and then pat it dry to reduce the amount of moisture left on the blade. You’ll extend the life of your razor blades exponentially!
Travel sized bottles. These tiny bottles sure are convenient but you’d think their shorter stature would mean a shortening in the price. Nope! You’re actually paying more for the product when you buy it in the travel size. IndependentTraveler cites how a 1.7 ounce bottle of Pert Plus was found on sale for $2, while “the regular 13.5 ounce bottle…cost just $3.69″ – in the very same drug store! Your best bet is to purchase travel sized containers once and re-use them for each trip. Simply fill them from the bottles you are using at home for each trip. Frequent travelers will get the biggest savings!
Beverages at restaurants. Next time you go out to eat anywhere pay attention to how much of your total charges come from drinks. It’s not uncommon to pay $2 for a fountain soda, $8 for a glass of wine or $10 for a mixed drink at many restaurants. The mark-ups in this category are astronomical. Soda costs restaurants pennies to make. And any good bar owner will tell you they charge customers per glass what they pay for the whole bottle of wine. They like to get back their money on the first glass they serve from the wine bottle so the rest is pure profit.
You should expect to see mark-ups as high as 500% on wine and alcohol purchases at restaurants. The same goes for coffee. You can expect to pay $1.75 for a large coffee from a retailer like Dunkin Donuts, but you’ll pay the exact same amount for a tiny teacup’s amount of the same brew at any diner or restaurant. Try to stick to water at restaurants and you’ll shave off quite a few bucks every time you eat out.
Text Messages. Wow, now this is a major scam. Cell phone carriers charge $0.10 for any incoming messages and $0.20 a pop for any outgoing. Just 50 outgoing messages will put a $10 dent in your wallet each and every month. What gives? Why so much dough for a tiny, 160 character note. It costs cell phone carriers less than a penny to deliver the messages allowing them to mark-up the price by a staggering 6500%! Even if you sign up for unlimited plans or to receive just a few hundred a month the carrier is making a profit off you since it costs them next to nothing to provide this service. Make sure you NEVER go over your allowance in this category. And in this case picking up the phone instead of texting your message might save you some green.
I could go on for days with the rip-offs and scams like these that inundate our lives. I easily have enough material for a part two and three to this article! Knowledge is our best weapon against these cons. When you can recognize areas that try to get us to spend more money than we need to it’s easy to find a work around that keeps our money in our pockets where it belongs!
Until next week…
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,