Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

Don’t be fooled by the spin Sign up to the schemes But try to avoid be­ing in­flu­enced

au­di­ence for­gets about the thorns.

This was long the case for the per­ni­cious elec­tric­ity prompt pay­ment dis­counts.

Pos­i­tive lan­guage ob­scured the re­al­ity that th­ese dis­counts are in re­al­ity dis­guised (and ex­traor­di­nar­ily high) late penalty fees.

Per­haps worse, they are a tool which pow­er­ful com­pa­nies can use to sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion.

One of my friends just threat­ened to switch power provider, but stayed when of­fered an ex­tra boost to their prompt pay­ment dis­count.

The thorns in the fuel re­wards schemes are per­haps less prickly than in the elec­tric­ity sec­tor’s, but I am tired of busi­nesses’ ever-in­creas­ing ten­dency to oc­cupy my time, and in­trude on my life.

Re­wards schemes (sorry, I mean penalty price avoid­ance schemes) are de­signed to cap­ture your data, open a di­rect mar­ket­ing chan­nel to you, and bam­boo­zle you into think­ing you’re get­ting spe­cial treat­ment so you be­come a loyal cus­tomer.

Re­ally, you aren’t get­ting spe­cial treat­ment.

The petrol re­wards are now claimed by the ma­jor­ity of cus­tomers.

The dis­count price is the nor­mal price.

It would be wrong to sin­gle out the petrol re­tail­ers.

Su­per­mar­ket ‘‘spe­cials’’ and the off/on ‘‘sales’’ at big-name shops strike me as sim­i­larly hol­low con­sumer-be­wil­der­ing lin­guis­tic trick­ery.

In­dus­tries such as car sales and real es­tate have also had tens of thou­sands of pro­fes­sion­als work­ing for decades to hone the lan­guage and strate­gies that sell.

And some other re­tail­ers use penalty pric­ing for cus­tomers who refuse to sign up to their ‘‘mem­ber­ship’’ schemes.

Re­wards schemes tend to favour peo­ple from high­er­in­come fam­i­lies like mine, so I guess I should be grate­ful.

But hon­estly, they are a bor­ing and com­plex pain in the neck, and an at­tempt by busi­nesses to ma­nip­u­late us.

So, sure, sign up for the ‘‘re­wards’’, ‘‘dis­counts’’ and ‘‘mem­ber­ships’’, but see them for what they re­ally are.

They may have started out as some­thing pos­i­tive, but th­ese days they are the hoops you have to jump through just to be al­lowed to pay a re­tailer’s or­di­nary price for some­thing.

Fam­ily fuel bills are mak­ing life hard for many.

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