Before my husband left for a 5 week business trip to India, someone kindly gave us a gift card for a steak dinner. Not ones to turn down a steak, we went. We’re not huge eaters. We simply wanted a basic steak dinner. My husband ordered a drink. I ordered water, not to be cheap but because I felt like water.
“Bottled or seltzer?”, our pleasant server asks.
“Just tap water is fine, thanks.”
“For an appetizer?”
“I think the classic dinner would be plenty, thanks.”
“Would you like a side caesar salad with that? An extra helping of vegetables?”
“Could we please just have two classic steak dinners, medium rare?”
“Would you like to ‘Keg Size’ your steaks?”
At this point it’s getting ridiculous. I want to say, “Look lady. I’m not trying to be cheap. We don’t eat that much food. What we ordered is more than enough.”
I take a deep breath. This woman after all will be left alone with my food at some point. I don’t want to tick her off.
“No thank-you. Eight ounces is plenty.”
I couldn’t even finish my whole meal. When the server arrived to clear our plates, she said, “I’ll bring you the dessert menu. Will you have coffee with your dessert?”
I know it’s her job to upsell. I imagine it works for a lot of people, especially once they’ve had a few drinks and their inhibitions are down.
It seems everywhere I go these days, I’m being sold on something else. Recently I needed a new watch battery. It was $10 installed. The salesperson offered to sell me an extended warranty for $3. A warranty on a watch battery!
Upselling works on assumption. They assume I want something I had no intention of buying. The server was well trained. She didn’t ask if I wanted to pay for my water. She assumed I did and needed to clarify whether I wanted to pay for bottled or seltzer. She assumed we’d want drinks and appetizers, a side salad and dessert. In contradicting her assumptions, I was put in the position of correcting her which made me feel uncomfortable and put me on the defensive. I imagine it works for a lot of people, especially people who are more open to the powers of suggestion than I happen to be.
I don’t want the extended warranty, the supersize, the waterproof spray, the deluxe version or fries with that. I am the customer and I’d like to tell them what I want rather than having someone else tell me what they think I should have.
It’s why I like my favourite Thai restaurant so much. They practically ignore us. We can stay for hours and they keep bringing us pots of green tea at no extra charge. When our defenses are down and there isn’t pressure to spend, strangely enough, we order more and keep going back.
If you are trying to live within your means or cut back on extras beware of the upsell. Make your mind up before you arrive what you plan to order. They are professionals who know what they’re doing. It is their job to persuade you to buy more than you planned.
I can’t help but wonder if there is a way I can communicate exactly what I want without being sold on more.
Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.