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5 Ways Big Companies Rip You Off (And What You Can Do To Stop It)

5 Ways Big Companies Rip You Off (And What You Can Do To Stop It)

Companies aren’t known for having the little guy in mind. The United States has a number of consumer regulations, guidelines and safety protocols in place to protect customers from being taken advantage of by major corporations. Unfortunately, many of these regulations are poorly enforced, not widely known and difficult to prove.

Large companies will frequently take cost-cutting measurements to save on profits and try to sneak it past the consumers, charging a similar price for less or lower quality products. Some of the biggest culprits, in fact, are companies that provide critical and necessary services. Here are five ways big companies have ripped you off you may not have noticed.

  1. Putting unjustified fees in your bills

Some companies are notorious for inserting unjustified, inapplicable or unsolicited fees into customer bills, relying on customers to either not notice or not care about a small additional charge and supplying significant profits to the company. Internet provider Time Warner admitted to overcharging its customers approximately $2 million in 2016, according to a report drafted by a U.S. senate investigation into the cable industry. The report concluded that multiple cable companies overcharged for equipment, overcharged for services, added unnecessary fees or intentionally failed to reimburse overcharges. “Time Warner Cable and Charter made no effort to trace equipment overcharges to their origin unless customers specifically asked them to and did not provide notice or refunds to customers,” the Senate report said.

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Customers looking to protect themselves from this should be diligent about examining fees on their bills, comparing offered prices with charged prices and following up with companies about an overcharge. Don’t assume a company will charge you an agreed upon price without checking your bill first.

  1. Lying about the lowest priced option

Companies are also fond of lying to customers about the cheapest options available. Cable companies are once again top offenders in this scam, often hiding or entirely failing to include the cheapest plan from customers until they believe a customer may cancel their service entirely. Other companies do this in smaller ways—for example, all Starbucks stores have an 8 oz ‘short’ size cup available behind the counter for hot drinks that is unlisted on the store’s website and menu options.

Keeping this information from customers forces them to choose from the offered, more expensive options, believing that they have no cheaper option even if it meets their needs.

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  1. Giving you less than you think you’re getting

Companies will shortchange customers in creative and inventive ways. Many bars have begun using thicker beer glasses that carry 14.5 oz of beer or less, rather than the full 16 oz of a pint, but without alerting customers to the quantity change. Other tactics include making ‘ice cream’ airier and more whipped, relabeling the carton ‘frozen dairy dessert’ (because it fails to meet the minimum fat content required by the Food and Drug Administration to be classified as ice cream) and selling it to customers without announcement. Breyer’s ice cream has been notorious in recent years for decreasing the size of their pints as well as the fat content of their ice creams.

Even Starbucks perpetuates this scam, admitting that their cups are not even realistically capable of carrying the amount of liquid claimed without filling it to the brim. Many of these companies have been successfully sued in court for fraud claims, but new scams pop up regularly.

  1. Ignoring customer requests

Many companies, with cable companies once again topping the list of notoriety, will flat out ignore customer requests to cancel a service, remove a charge or offer a clear final price they will be charged. Using intro rates with unclear terms, relying on customers failing to double check a bill or bank account, or purposefully training customer service to redirect or ignore customer requests, all top the list of ways companies will attempt to dismiss customer requests for information or service changes.

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  1. Using insurance negotiations to lie about pricing

Health insurance companies are notorious for arranging misleading prices within the healthcare industry. Frequently, insurance companies will negotiate a unique contract for cost per pill, per dosage or per product for customers insured under them, but the contract cost doesn’t have to have anything to do with the cost of creating the pill, and your co-pay may be higher than a medication would cost if you paid for it out of pocket instead. In addition, different pharmacies will have similar deals, which means medication that can cost less than $50 in one store can cost over $200 in another.

Many of these scams have been outed by whistleblowers and are no longer in operation. However, you can do your part by vigorously price comparison shopping, calling a medical service provider and asking for an itemized list of charges and closely examining your medical bills and insurance plan information.

Customers must be vigilant to avoid being ripped off by major corporations. All the regulation in the world won’t stop a company if no one offers a serious enough punishment, which means it frequently comes down to the consumer to protect their money or take the initiative to identify a problem.

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Featured photo credit: Mainstream via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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