Let the Buyer Beware!

There’s an old saying in real estate—caveat emptor, or “let the buyer beware.” This came from the fact that the seller usually pays the real estate commission. Since the seller is paying the agents, the buyer technically has no representation—so he should “beware.”

But this is a phrase that goes far beyond real estate. Out in the real world of marketing and consumerism, “buyer beware” simply means that you better watch out for yourself and your family. It’s not someone else’s job to make sure you aren’t getting duped—and it’s certainly not the government’s job, either.

Americans see thousands of advertisements every day, and more than a million marketing messages each year. If we don’t learn patience and restraint—and how to say no!—then we can get into some serious financial trouble.

As consumers, we need to think about what we’re buying and how it’s been sold to us. We must quit being lazy in making purchase decisions—because millions of marketing dollars are spent in an effort to prey on this laziness.

Think about some of the ways in which we are sold stuff. Personal selling happens when an item is sold to you by a salesperson as a result of one-on-one discussion. Companies spend a lot of money each year teaching their front-line people how to dress, talk and walk in order to influence you to buy. This is how these people make a living. If they are not good at persuading you to spend your money on their product or service, they simply starve out of the business.

We also buy stuff because of what seem to be “unbelievable” financing offers. Ever heard of “90-days-same-as-cash” or “no finance charges until [insert month here]”? Think about it: These companies—who are driven by the bottom line—must have some type of ulterior motive in these offers or else they would go broke.

Truth is: The product is already priced higher to cover the expense of the financing. But that’s not all. More than 70% of the time, purchasers do not pay it off within the stated period and end up paying much more than they anticipated.

So what should you do? First, remember that you are not helpless. Develop a power over purchase. Second, carefully consider your buying motives when you are making purchasing decisions. Why do you want or think you need this item? Do you want it for selfish reasons, like showing up the neighbors, or is the item of use to you? Finally, make slow purchase decisions. If the item is a significant purchase, you should never buy without waiting overnight.

Companies are spending billions of dollars and using hours and hours of work time to sell us their stuff. Some of their products are quality, some are not. No matter what you are buying, don’t get caught up in a marketing trick, paying for something you don’t need at a price you can’t afford.