Sneakiest Business Tactics You Never Noticed Scamming You

Lots of businesses and companies deceive you in small, subtle ways. Let's find out about the sneakiest business tactics that secretly scam you.


When you purchase something, it’s nice to think you’re getting your money’s worth. But unfortunately, the truth is, many companies are short-changing you in some way. Often, they achieve this by using sneaky manipulation that you probably don’t even notice to squeeze extra cash out of you. But by the end of this article, you’ll know how to spot these sneaky tactics and avoid being swindled.

Are People Really Looking At This Product?

Companies know that turning the pressure up is an extremely effective way of turning an uncertain potential customer into a guaranteed sale. Online sellers soften create that sense of pressure and scarcity by listing how many people are viewing a product at that moment. But what few people realize is that many of these ‘now watching’ numbers are completely fake.


One Twitter user uncovered an instance of this by inspecting the coding of the displayed number of people looking at a specific flight on an airline’s website. They soon made the eyebrow-raising discovery that the displayed number was actually determined by a random number generator!

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A lot of companies are currently under investigation for this borderline-illegal practice, so next time you see a ‘now watching’ number online, boot up Chrome, right-click, and choose ‘inspect’. You may be surprised at what you find.

Toilet Paper Scam

One of the most common forms of customer deception is the packaging used on toilet paper. Often, you’ll see nonsense like the image below, with each type of paper stating its superiority when compared to ‘regular’ rolls.


These nonsensical numbers and comparisons are designed to confuse you into buying the package with the largest number displayed. What’s more, the packaging will make comparisons against a ‘regular’ roll. But there’s no industry standard for what ‘regular’ even means; it’s a completely arbitrary measurement set by the manufacturer.

For all you know, they could be comparing a 1,000-sheet roll against a ‘standard’ roll with only 50 sheets! To avoid getting sucked up into this nonsense, look for the listed quantity in square feet on the packaging, so you know what you’re really getting.

Dishonest Food Packaging

An even more important thing to check for in-store is the weight of items. The Doritos in the image below, for example, claim to be a ‘bigger bag’ for sharing. One glance at the weight label, however, reveals that, despite the bag being taller, it’s exactly the same weight and hence the same quantity of chips as the regular bag!


Unfortunately, not even hotdogs are safe from the clutches of deception. This hotdog packaging employs a common tactic of appearing to offer 2 extra free. Except, turning the package sideways reveals that the ‘extras’ have simply been taken from the regular section, leaving it only partially filled and, ultimately, giving you the standard amount! Unbelievable.


McDonald’s is equally guilty of under-delivering on the implied product. At least, the McDonald’s in India this Redditor visited is. With its misleading, wasteful excess of cardboard, the Big Spicy chicken wrap should come with a disclaimer: BIG not included.


The chocolates below are even worse, using an all-too-common tactic that could prove embarrassing for anyone giving these chocolates as a gift. The packaging is extremely literal, in as much as the chocolates visible through the clear plastic are the only ones you actually get. The rest of the space is just wasted space, which translates into more profit for the devious chocolatiers responsible.


The Jameson whiskey gift set in the image below is so outrageously misleading, the manufacturers must have been drunk on their own supply when they designed it. While the box implies you’ll be receiving a big bottle of Jameson’s and a little ginger ale to accompany it; the exact opposite is true! After a scam like that, you’ll need a drink.


Surprisingly, some of the worst forms of customer deception can be found in store-bought juices and cooking oils. For example, thanks to the wily ways of corporate lawyers, companies can legally claim a bottle like this contains 100% juice when it actually only contains 27%.


Because they technically use juice in the product, they can imply that it makes up 100% of the drink. In reality, 73% of the product is water and other ingredients. Similar deception can be found in products like this avocado oil.


Just because it contains some avocado oil, manufacturers can legally imply that’s what the product mainly is. But only ‘up to 10%’ is actual avocado oil; the rest is generic canola oil. If you’re looking for the real deal, always check the back label!

Leave it to China to take the helm of the most outrageously-cheeky packaging con of all, though. This box of jumbo shrimp seems guaranteed to fill stomachs, until the central label is peeled back.


The dastardly company sneakily pre-cuts their shrimp and spreads them apart to make them appear bigger. It seems there’s no limit to the lengths companies will go to appeal to the ‘bigger is better’ mentality that many shoppers, unfortunately, tend to have.

'Decorative Additions'

Electronics aren’t safe from misleading practices either. This Redditor purchased a speaker set and was shocked to discover the smaller, upper speaker was totally fake and non-functional.


While some companies will mention ‘cosmetic’ or ‘decorative’ additions in the fine print of their product descriptions, some neglect to mention it entirely! So, next time you buy some electronics, keep an eye out for the word ‘decorative’, check the reviews, and make sure you’re not being swindled.

Ad Notifications

In an infuriating development, some companies like Samsung are now displaying adverts for their other products as unsolicited notifications on their smartphones! Imagine the frustration of hearing your phone buzz, only to find it’s an advert. If you paid for their product, surely the company shouldn’t be annoying you by trying to sell you more?


Pre-Installed Apps

Mobile-phone networks are even worse than the phone companies themselves, having begun favoring sponsored deals over user experience in a pretty outrageous manner. Certain sellers pre-install bloatware from associate companies on their phones, clogging up your phone’s memory before you’ve even turned it on for the first time.


But the worst part is that many of these pre-installed apps can’t even be deleted, and can only be disabled. Yet they remain right there on your phone, mocking you with their presence. All the while, the phone network profits from your inconvenience.

Fake Stars

Moving onto shady eBay sellers now, it pays to keep your eyes open for this kind of trickery. Some sellers use star emojis in their descriptions like this to trick you into believing they have a genuine 5-star rating.


Genuine, high-quality sellers don’t need to fake their scores, as their reviews speak for themselves. Faked ratings, on the other hand, are almost always a marker of inferior products. So, before you make a purchase, make sure to count those lucky stars!

Fake Hair on Screen

Occasionally, the audacious tactics companies utilize to get your attention can be impressive. Like this Instagram advert, which uses a fake strand of hair to get you to swipe up and open their online-shopping page as you try to wipe the hair off your screen.


Companies measure their online success by how often people interact with their content. So, even if you don’t buy anything from their store, simply interacting and visiting their page is still a win for them.

Misleading Retail Sales

Next time you’re in a clothing store, see if you can spot any sale cards. They’re intended to catch your eye and draw you over to a section, but on closer inspection, the deals are rarely what they seem. In the example below, the enormous $3 number only applies to selected items, likely only one or two of the many on the rack.


But, for the store, deceiving you doesn’t matter. What’s important is they got you looking at the clothes up close. By drawing you in to browse, hands-on, you’re more likely to make a purchase than if you just meander through the store. So, remember to look upon these big, bold signs with a skeptical eye.

Misleading Airbnb Advertisement

The online holiday-booking industry is equally guilty of using sneaky tactics to maximize profits by any means possible. One Reddit user shared her experience as an Airbnb host, where she stumbled across this advert for her place.

While the picture was accurate, the advertised price was only half of the per-night price the Redditor charges for her Airbnb. Her discovery exposed the fact that Airbnb was straight-up lying in their ads, luring in customers with false promises of cheap accommodation.


Sneaky Hotel Listings

But hotel owners listing their accommodations online are some of the guiltiest of all when it comes to deceiving potential customers. A Polish hotel’s Trivago page depicted a pleasant-looking place to stay, which conveniently crops out the ugly power plant immediately behind the hotel.


Similarly, the online booking page for a hotel in Vietnam boasted an impressive infinity pool which turned out to be more like a bathtub.



If all this swindling is stressing you out, I wouldn’t recommend tucking into a double Snickers bar to calm down. The duo bar may be a few pennies cheaper than buying two individual bars, but you also receive 20% less product than you would be buying two separately.


In many cases, including this example, it’s worth calculating the price by weight, because it actually works out cheaper to buy two individual items.

While some scams are almost immediate, other companies opt for the long game, through a rage-inducing practice known as ‘shrink-flation’. This is a process whereby companies make their product smaller while keeping the price the same.

Cadbury’s, and their parent company Mondelez, are among the guiltiest parties when it comes to shrink-flation. In fact, the past few years have seen Cadbury cutting corners with their Dairy Milk chocolate bar, literally.


By rounding the corners, they use less chocolate and save themselves money at a cost to the consumer. The new, rounded design is a shocking 8% smaller than the previous iteration, all while steadily increasing in price to match general economic inflation. Is it so much to ask to eat delicious chocolate without feeling like the victim of a pickpocket?

Other chocolate companies also like to appear sweet on the outside, while the center is, well, lacking. This Godiva chocolate, for example, looks delightful from the outside, but its promises of a full, solid bar melt away once the packaging is removed.


A hollowed-out candy bar like this saves on production costs by removing approximately half the expected volume of chocolate, while leaving the customer feeling empty, in pocket and belly!


Popcorn gift sets can easily match and possibly even exceed Godiva’s confectionary cons. What seems like a nice full popcorn box, once out of the packaging, is revealed to be scarcely a third full.


Slyly, a cardboard sheet inside the box stops you from realizing the scam until you’ve already bought the set and opened it up. And worst of all, according to the Redditor who shared the image below, the popcorn was stale!


Apple Ripping You Off

But if there’s a king when it comes to finding innovative ways to leech more money out of their customers, it has to be Apple. For starters, there’s the debacle that occurred in 2019, when Apple announced they’d be selling the stand for their latest Mac Pro separately - for $1,000. Indeed, a stand for a grand.


But Apple also employs much more subtle methods of convincing consumers to cough up cash. The presentation of their iPhone 11 on their website is a prime example. In a bid to convince potential buyers to opt for their most premium devices, Apple displayed the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max next to the regular 11 on their website like this.


By choosing a dark wallpaper for the premium models, Apple created the illusion that there’s essentially no visible notch at the top of their most expensive phones. Meanwhile, the regular 11’s notch was clearly visible and stood out as less sleek by comparison.

Of course, in reality, all three models feature the notch. But by creating the illusion that the premium phones possess a more seamless display, like their fully-notch-free competitors, Apple was subtly nudging customers toward the most expensive phones.

I hope you were amazed at the sneakiest business tactics you probably never noticed before. Remember these tricks next time you buy anything. Thanks for reading!

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