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When Did Upselling Become So Unethical?
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When Did Upselling Become So Unethical?

Today I am going to give you a few facts behind the science of upsells, in particular the hordes of upsells, downsells...upsidedownsells...that exist on the Internet. How is the average person supposed to keep up? My goal is help you acknowledge what is going on out there so you do not succumb to these sorts of offers.

They are slick, they are pesky, and often times you are in a such a “buyer” mode that you don’t realize what is happening. Confused? Don’t worry, I will explain.

Most people don’t understand the funnel they are being put through, so I am going to clarify how the process works.

The Initial Sale

When you buy something online, whatever it may be, this is considered the initial sale. If you by a product on eBay, you are like being sold the tangible product and that is it. If they then go on to offer you a warranty on the product or insurance on the shipping, that is an upsell. A fair game upsell.

In the digital product world (think Clickbank, think e-books, guides and memberships...usually in the make money niche) where information is cheap, and offers are relentless, you see a process that is much more crafty.

An upsell is typically hidden behind an initial sale price being quite low, usually under $30 is typically a sign of things to come.

When you buy this “cheaper” item from your favorite guru, then you are put through a “buyers” upsell funnel. You don’t really know this at first, but just follow along with me here.

And then came the upsell...

Once you buy, the person (guru) selling the product knows right away you are a buyer. This is a good thing in the marketing world. The minute you become a “buyer”, the minute the vultures come out to prey on you, well, within the unethical world anyways.

They then put you into an upsell funnel, offering you premium services, memberships, support and packages. These are almost higher than the initial product price and a lot of the time charge you a monthly fee to join. Sound familiar?

If you buy the offer, you will likely be offered another upsell (seriously)! I have heard of these sales funnels being up 7 layers deep. By the time they are done with you, your pants are on the ground, your wallet has been emptied, your credit cards have burn marks in them, and you feel violated.

If you don’t buy something anywhere along the way, then you are put through a downsell funnel trying to sell you something else.

So here you are, the unsuspecting customer sitting there with your credit card out looking to buy one thing online, only to realize that you have bought just a small “part” of the package. You thought you were getting an “awesome” deal initially, only to find out that you are missing half of the stuff you need.

This plays with your psyche, and many people unwillingly continue to buy. The $27 product all of a sudden becomes a purchase into a continuity program, and before you know it you have spent several $100’s and are locked into a membership that you didn’t anticipate buying initially.

Again, this done very often on low priced products. They sell you on a product under $30. Once you have bought, you have fed nicely into their system. They now know you buy stuff online and are going to take advantage of that.

The Most Unfortunate Aspect

These are the exact methodologies being taught out there. Newbie marketers are learning how to do upsells before they understand “business”. The think that upsells are simply part of business because that is all they know. Gurus tell their followers that this is an awesome idea for maximizing the money you can get out of a customer.

Let’s look at that phrase again.

Maximize - The most possible

Customer - You

So, if I rephrase this using my definitions above, this is what many Internet businesses are trying achieve...

The most possible money they can get out of you.

How does that feel? Does it feel good to know that the sole purpose of many marketers online is to get the most money from you that they can get.

To me, I think that this is a model that should be exterminated. I think the people that are utilizing techniques like this without and underlying purpose are “vultures” and taking advantage of the consumer.

Their typical response as to “why” they use techniques like this, “because it works”. There are a lot of things that works, stealing your neighbours mail “works”, but it doesn’t mean that it is ethical or should be done.

But I want to make one thing very clear...

Some Upsells Are OK!

I am not saying upsells are bad. Distasteful upsells are bad. The ones I mentioned above I find to be very distasteful and unethical. Not all upsells are like this though.

One of the most famous upsells comes from one of the biggest companies in the world, McDonalds. Have you ever heard the phrase:

"Do you want fries with that?"

This is an upsell that compliments you are order. This is beneficial to the business of selling burgers and over the years it has lead to billions of dollars of revenue for McDonalds. Fries don't come with a burger (unless you order a meal), but they complement your "meal". An ethical upsell, although one that may not be all that good for your health. :)

Let’s have a look Apple...

Apple doesn’t give you half of a product and then require you to buy the rest after you have already bought. You don’t get home with your iPhone, pull it out of the package and then read a little letter stating that in order for your phone to work, you have to send in $100 to buy a processor for the phone.

Instead, they upsell you on things to make your phone cooler, more functional, such as Apps, music, cases, and adapters. This is done very tastefully and it is not a requirement for your phone to work and to be “awesome”. The upsells are also far cheaper than the actual cost of the phone.

Web hosting is another example of upsells. People that need web hosting, likely need other complimentary services. For example, more powerful hosting that can handle more domains (upsell), some customized themes for their Wordpress Sites (upsell), and domains (which you need to buy if you want a website).

These are examples of upsells that make sense. These are complimentary to the service that you are buying, they are not PART of the service you are buying. That is the distinguishing fact.

If you are selling a book on how to make money, and then you upsell another book on how to make money, stating that you need this book to be EXTRA successful (and make your customer feel bad if they don't buy it), you are running a distasteful upsell operation.

Enough about my thoughts, I would to hear about your feedback and experiences, and if you are one of the marketers out there that offers upsells, feel free to comment as well.


Street Talk

The worst of these upsells is when you get a phone call from a so-called coach that wants to know your credit card balance along with a myriad of other personal info. These scam artist then proceed to get you to the right level (the limit of your credit) so that you too can make tons of money for 2 hours worth of work a week. It gives the industry a very bad image.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Great article Kyle! There is another aspect to this game other than the upsell. What annoys me the most is you have found a course or whatever you would like to buy. You go ahead and buy it , you recieve fullfillment of the course and the next thing you know you have 30 emails from the same guru wanting you to buy another and another. Heck you didn't even have time to look at the first thing. Very annoying. Anyway thanks Kyle.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

The upsell experience I fear most is medical. Healthcare is a business. Your doctor has to do certain things to bill your insurance company for services. So you leave with a prescription. Didn't need a prescription? You get one anyway because that's how he/she gets paid. It destroys trust and demeans a noble profession.

Reply
  about 4 years ago
Sherry B.  

Great article! Before finding WA, I looked at a lot of this type of stuff, which wasted a lot of my time, but fortunately no matter how tempting it was to click on some of these to buy their "magical" products, I stopped myself and instead looked up reviews of their products or companies. Lol. Just the day before finding WA, I almost slipped up and was about to put my credit card number to purchase one of these "products" when I realized I didn't even know what I was buying...so glad I came to my senses in time and tried looking again another day!

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Post your articles at ArticlesUpload COM

Reply
  about 5 years ago

I am really thankful that we started when we did. Both Becky and I are learning how to do things the right way, not even realizing that there was a wrong way. Learning the hows and what we need to get started have been an issue, especially the way we are coming in and what we are setting up, but the foundation that everything is built on is rock solid. Our initial goal is to transition what we have already built to an on-line presence, then reach as far as possible doing something that we both have total faith and a fairly deep understanding of. I'm just glad we didn't have to go through all of the horror stories I hear about and found WA and SA fairly early on. Your Apple reference has me extremely excited because the major focus of our entire launch is to give a situation where anyone can spent time on the site, learn something that can truly help them in a life-changing way, and have a PoA to implement those changes if they really desire it, and not have to spend a dime to do it. I am daily getting a deeper understanding of exactly what we are creating, and was probably a tad premature in starting to learn the IM side first (even though that has helped me develop a plan that is both stronger and more aggressive then I would ever have been able to for our initial launch), but I am glad we did it this way. Awesome article and thanks for everything!

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

That is great to hear you are making such wonderful progress. The thing is that you are learning the correct way of doing things, but you are subtly learning why the are correct through your activities. It is easy to learn the wrong things out there because there is so much crap out there and there are so many vulture based companies that build their success not off of quality, rather human vulnerabilities (typically financial stress). Our approach is much different and I do believe if you take the approach of ethics you will be setting yourself up for a much longer term business. :)

Reply
  about 5 years ago
Johnney  

Well I have certainly starred in that movie in the role of the unsuspecting customer. Some of those up up up upsells, down, down, downsells feels like what being in a tornado feels like. Guess that's why it's called a sales funnel. Keep it at an EF0 and I'm alright.

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

I prefer to call these the "sales gauntlets". You know you are coming out of them battered and bruised...unfortunately this is going on still and on a very regular basis, my hopes is that this article is going to wake some people up to what is going on.

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Yes Materialism. Some of the web-sites I visit during my re-search are loaded with pop us and other mechanisms to confuse visitors and have them clicking all over the place. Byt this is just one way Internet Business is tryying to "get" The users...it is like a drug.

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

It is the way it seems these days, I hope it is a passing trend because people are becoming jaded by the industry because of this! Thanks for your feedback.

Reply
  about 5 years ago
Susan K  

By the way Kyle, keep up with your "rants". Thank you for this great information that usually validates 'feelings of suspect' many of us are experiencing but because so many of these practices are common place, we don't follow our instincts. Maybe you could give me some insight on why isn't blatant misrepresentation in affiliate marketing considered illegal?

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

I will keep them up. I will be touching on some issues that are taking place within the affiliate marketing world. My goal is to inform you folks with things that you might think you understand, but may the complete behind the scenes story. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated Susan.

Reply
  about 5 years ago
Susan K  

Can't believe I just read this...Today, I wrote an article about how I refused to promote a VERY POPULAR affiliate membership product even after paying my initial NON-REFUNDABLE $25. WHY? Because, nowhere in their sales enticement did they explain that in order to be an ACTIVE affiliate that could make money, you were required to also pay a $19.95/mo AFFILIATE FEE. In other words, unknowing to me, they sold me a non-refundable product that would not work. While setting up my blog, I found out that in addition to paying the $25/mo membership fee, I was required to pay another $19.95/mo affiliate fee in order to be able to make money from my blog traffic. In my opinion, that is the epitome of an unethical upsell. Talk about playing on your psyche--how do you refuse to pay the affiliate fee??? That means you just threw $25 away. This should be illegal--the fact they are requiring an affiliate fee should be disclosed BEFORE collecting the non-refundable membership fee. I immediately cancelled my membership and lost my $25. I have no interest in making money using this technique...how sleazy. Why do we tolerate this? Are we so conditioned to being occasionally tricked and taken advantage of, we're apathetic?

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

Sounds like you were put through the upsell run around. This is more common than some may think and like I said in the article, this is actually what is being taught by many of the "acclaimed" out there. I personally think it is unbelievable and may be somewhat accepted by consumers that are looking to seek for opportunity online. I think many people have been conditioned within this niche in particular to think it is OK to be sold multiple times in order to get the "full" product. Glad you woke up to what was going on before you were into this one too deep!

Reply
  about 5 years ago
Phyllis O  

I know what company you are talking about!! And I am having the same problem with how they initially market their products. It's called sales funneling...they get you into their funnel by purchasing an inexpensive item and once YOUR IN...they finally disclose all of the other upsells you need in order to make the BIG BUCKS!! I contacted one of the big wigs the other day and she actually wrote me back saying...that it is an powerful technique that weeds out the tire-kickers from the real buyers. Unfortunately, upsells and funneling have become very popular and useful techniques. I don't understand why they can't just disclose it all in the beginning. If they really believed in their product then they shouldn't have a problem doing that. Not my cup of tea!!!

Reply
  about 5 years ago
Phyllis O  

What gets me is that they are boasting about how many people in their company are making 10, 20, 30 and even 100 grand per month using their techniques.

  
  about 5 years ago
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