As much as it stinks to admit, even the best of us get taken advantage of from time to time. While in most cases there is not much you can do about it except fume and blame the system, as a consumer the best thing you can do for yourself is stay informed. Shop around, ask questions, and be a sceptic because these are the 25 biggest ways you are being ripped off.
25. Movie Theatre Popcorn
Although it costs less than ten cents per ounce to produce, popcorn in movie theaters will typically cost you around $5, which ounce for ounce is more than filet mignon! So why do movie theaters mark their concessions up over 1000%? It’s because they rarely make very much off of the tickets. Most of those profits go right back to the studios, leaving popcorn as their primary source of revenue.
24. Text Messages
It costs a carrier about one-third of a cent to deliver a text message. Users, however, generally pay between 10 to 20 cents per text. That is a markup of over 6,500%!
23. All You Can Eat Buffets
The average buffet charges somewhere around $12 per meal. And sure, you can eat all you want but the buffet owner knows that most people’s stomachs can’t hold much more than $7 – $8 worth of fast food. But it’s not fast food you say? Wishful thinking we reply.
22. College Textbooks
Over the past 20 years textbook prices have increased twice as fast as the annual inflation rate with the average student forking over a ridiculous $900 for textbooks they will probably not even use.
21. Wine Service At Restaurants
Most people, when taking their date to a fancy restaurant, will not order the cheapest wine on the menu for obvious reasons. Restaurant owners are aware of this which is why you will often find the highest markup on the second-cheapest bottle of wine they serve.
20. Printer Ink
It’s a classic marketing scheme that you’ll see on this list at least a couple times. You sell one product (like a printer) at a bargain price, essentially losing money and then you turn around and sell everything else that you need to use that product at a significant markup. In the case of printer ink, just make sure you shop around.
19. Razor Blades
Just like with printer ink, razors are marked up sometimes at nearly 5,000% for very similar reasons. Costing the manufacturers only pennies to produce they are often sold to consumers for several dollars.
18. “Free” Credit Reports
Evidently most people don’t know that the government requires consumers to be allowed one free credit check per year, which may be the reason these “free credit report” websites are offering their free service…that is already free. Why would they do that? To snag customers on their monthly subscriptions.
17. Hotel Mini-Bars
Like restaurants, hotel owners understand the human psyche. They know that after a long day of traveling/vacationing people will not want to leave the hotel to go find a snack late at night and a 1,300% markup won’t look so unappealing.
16. Electronics Warranties
In almost every scenario the price of repairing the electronics is the same as the price of the warranty you are buying and it hardly makes sense to buy something of that sort when you may never need to buy it all.
15. French Fries At Fast Food Chains
Potato distributors typically charge around 15 cents per pound of french fries while consumers are charged over a dollar for less than half that amount. The middle men (fast food restaurants) snag the profits.
14. Oil Changes
Although these aren’t always rip offs, a good amount of the time you will find yourself struggling not to pay for needless upsells like “high performance” oil and premature transmission flushes. In some cases you might even end up with an unscrupulous mechanic only partially filling your oil tank. The only defense is caution.
13. Fountain Soda
Costing restaurants only a small fraction of the price they charge, fountain drinks are a sour deal for consumers. Moreover, the restaurants that overfill your cup with ice and don’t use disposable cups are really making a killing.
12. Printer Cables
Everyone knows that the price of technology falls over time…in which case printer cables must not be technology. It seems like they’ve always been $30. The reason they are on this list, however, is because outlets like Staples get them for $3 before reselling them for ten times that price. Besides, you can’t use your printer without them.
11. Restaurant Coffee
This one is really no secret as you can brew yourself a regular 16 oz. cup at home for about $0.50. Of course, maybe the convenience of paying several dollars for a really small cup of coffee is worth it but just remember, by the end of the year this can equate to hundreds of dollars.
10. Travel Size Products
Any price conscious shopper knows that many times travel size products are one tenth the volume of the original but still 90% of the price. Your best bet is to get a small dispenser and keep filling it up, especially if you are a frequent traveler.
9. Brake Jobs
Similar to oil changes, many times the garage will mark up their labor costs significantly and recommend new pads and rotors when they are not at all necessary. Its not very hard to imagine people getting duped, especially when they’re told that their brakes might stop working.
8. Public Stadiums And Arenas
Although teams have always and will always try to justify the cost of building a new stadium using public funds by pointing out that the local economy (primarily hotels and restaurants) will get a boost, the statistics suggest otherwise.
7. Lottery Tickets
Just in case this is a surprise to anyone, playing the lottery is not a smart thing to do with your money. But, if you do happen to play…and win, realize that you are certainly not going to get the number advertised on the billboard in your bank account. After everyone else gets there cut (which includes Uncle Sam) you may feel a little less lucky.
It’s the happiest day of your life, at least until you check your credit card. According to several reports recently, everyone from hotels to hair dresses hike their prices up as soon as they hear you drop the “W” bomb. Just neglect to mention that little detail if you want to keep the opportunists at bay.
5. Health Club Memberships
Although certainly not every health club is ripping you off, its more common than you think. Take Bally’s Total Fitness as an example. They have some discreet wording in their contract that says you can’t cancel your membership unless you die or move farther than 25 miles away from any Bally’s gym. Read the fine print, lives have been ruined.
4. In-Room Movies
It’s hard to conceive of a more expensive way to watch a movie. At $12 – $15 ordering a movie from your hotel room is potentially 15 times more expensive than going to a Redbox, ordering from Netflix, or just watching online.
3. Premium Gasoline
Unless your car requires higher octane fuel because it has a high performance engine, you are wasting your money every time you get premium gasoline. It doesn’t clean your car, make it run smoother, or do anything magical. Just read your owners manual. If you require special fuel it will be plastered all over the place.
2. Branded Painkillers
Branded painkillers generally come with a 60% markup over generic brands. Although some people think the relief they offer is better, it would be cheaper to think again. Generic drugs are required by law to have the exact same ingredients.
1. Bottled Water
Although big companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola would have you think that the water in their bottles flows from fountains of purity and that it passes through all sorts of “reverse osmosis” filtration, they are in fact simply putting tap water in bottles and charging you $1.25 for the plastic (you can drink the same amount from the tap for $0.0001).
BY DAVID PEGG