Upselling: The Customer Perspective

Submitted by nigel on Sunday 31st October 2010

The chances are sometime in your life you have been subjected to the sales technique of upselling. Upselling from the retailer's perspective is providing the opportunity for the buyer to purchase related items they may not have considered otherwise, thus maximising sales. Upselling from the customer perspective is a pushy inducement to spend additional money when there is no desire to do so. These days it does appear that all businesses are indulging in the practice, and the fact they do this suggests that the technique yields results and any prospective business lost by being too pushy is mitigated by the greater revenues.

So who are the principal perpetrators? In my travels I seem to be coming across them more and more.

  • Caffè Nero: Whenever I go into one their stores for a coffee, I am always prompted with a "And would sir like a pastry with that?"
  • McDonalds, KFC et al: Supersize me! I am not in the habit of frequenting fast-food joints, but I have reasons to believe their Go Large offers are still extant
  • Dell: Whilst I would never consider buying from Dell being a PC builder myself, I have had to buy from them in a professional context whilst working for clients. Usually, memory, hard disk or Operating System upgrades are proffered
  • Sky: Premium grade content is always offered when dealing with these guys
  • Shoe Stores: It's impossible to buy a pair of shoes without the salesperson attempting to sell a protective spray of some description

It's difficult to know exactly how to respond to these techniques. When asked whether I want a Danish pastry the glib reply would be "If I wanted one I would have asked for it". Or how about "Are you offering it for free?". Neither are satisfactory. Losing your temper is certainly to be avoided - you will be the one playing over the conversation in your head for hours afterwards, regretting not coming out with something pithier. You are the one who will look foolish in front of the other customers. Vetoing the stores that indulge in upselling doesn't work either - as most do you will be limiting your coverage and cutting off your nose to spite your face.

So what is the answer? Upselling from the customer perspective is insidious, endemic and annoying. Until there is a cultural sea-change in retailing, us customers will just have to bite our tongues and tender a very polite "No thank you".

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