I live in the UK
, and it's a rip-off
The concept that Britain is particularly expensive to live in and that people who are forced to shop here are being given are very bad and unfair deal is known as Rip-Off Britain. As it slowly becomes better known, the British people begin to resist it, and the fruits of that resistance are now starting to appear.
Traders call Britain "Treasure Island", refering to the fact that it is generally easy to charge consumers in the UK more for their goods and make a larger profit than is usually possible in Europe and the United States.
Here are some common tactics used to keep profit levels high:
- Different shop, same group
Not everyone in the UK realises that most of the common high-street and commercial centre stores are owned by a few large corporate groups. For example, Dixons Group owns Dixons, Currys, PC World, The Link, Partmaster Direct, Mastercare, PC Service Call, Electro World and a number of others not operating in the UK. People think that there is competition between shops, but when they are owned by the same group obviously there is none.
- Charge what the market can stand
In most countries, retailers take the cost of an item to them, add a certain percentage based on how many they expect to sell and a few other factors, and then try to come up with the lowest possible price they can while still making a healthy profit. In the UK, many retailers simply try to figure out what the maximum they can charge is before people refuse to buy the product.
- Stifle competition
The removal of things such as RRPs (Recommended Retail Price) on electrical goods and other price fixing measures was supposed to introduce more competition into the UK marketplace. Unfortunately, retailers have simply found other ways to keep prices artificially high. Many conspire to keep prices at the same level as others, either locally or on a national scale.
Another common tactic is to make it hard for the consumer to compare prices. For example, particular brands of electrical goods, such as TVs and VCRs, are only sold in particular stores. However, the same goods are sold in other stores under different brand names, so essentially you get the same product but one store can charge more if it is branded with the name of a more respectable company.
- Extended warranties and customer service
By law all electrical goods must come with a one year warranty, which entitles the owner to replacement or refund if a defect is found that is not a result of mis-treatment. 90% of failures in electrical goods occour within the first year. However, most retailers will offer some kind of extended warranty, which they know is good value because most people never use it. The warranty often includes such bogus terms as cover for things that are already covered by the consumers basic rights.
Customer service is often non-existant or of very poor quality, saving money for the company and increasing profits. A common tactic is to try and fob the customer off, telling them to contact the manufacturer directly instead of the store, or pretending a problem does not exist. Another is to try and drag any service issues out long enough to either make the customer give up or for the warranty period to run out, at which point the retailer has no interest in further service unless being paid to give it.
- Fake sales
It's now impossible to go down any high-street in Britain without seeing at least one "sale" sign. Shops constantly have sales, but many are fake. Furnature stores are particularly good at the fake sale. By law all items on sale must have been on offer at the original non-sale price for at least 28 days, so they have a lots of highly overpriced sofas sitting in one shop, typically in London, for 28 days. After that, they sell the sofas in their other shops around the country for the "real" price they always intended, with big "50% off!" and "massive savings" stickers all over them.
I have also noticed a disturbing trend in shops opening, typically in the cheaper parts of town, and immidiatly having a closing down sale. One shop in Reading has been perpetually closing down for at least two years now too. -Update 09/06/2003- It's finally become a barbers shop, although a new "closing down store" which looks oddly similar just opened down the road.
The thing to keep in mind with any sale is that, more than likely, there is still a profit being made. If they can offer the goods at 50% off and still make money on them, just think how much you are being ripped off if you pay the full price.
- The illusion of reasonable pricing
PC World were caught out doing this a while ago. Basically, they sold iMac computers at a slight loss, making their prices seem very reasoble. However, everything else in the store was still very expensive. So, even though some items are cheap, they are typically the ones that make you buy other items which are expensive. It's not uncommon to see 50p cables retailing for £14.99 in PC World, for example.
- We find the lowest price for you!
Many companies claim that they can get you the lowest price for something by checking all the available options, saving you the hassle. A great example of this is car insurance. However, they almost always work out more expensive, as they simply look for the best deal (or are paid to promote one companies scheme over all others anyway) and then add on their own commission.
A similar scam is that of shops that claim to have checked all ther other local trades to make sure their prices are the lowest. Apart from the usual get-out clauses such as what counts are "local" (certainly not the internet) this is usually done for the sole aim of stopping people comparing prices.
There are many, many more ways in which you can be scammed in the UK. The fact that DVDs can be imported from Australia for less than they can be bought on the high-street is proof that the UK is still expensive.
Be alert! Shop around! Ask for a discount (yes, it does work)! Don`t become a victim.