In the Philip Man Article, Playing the Real Life, one of the things that really got my attention is what he calls, the ‘“illusion of voluntariness”’. An example that Man gives is when supermarkets give out rewards cards for reduced prices, in exchange for personal information from the customers. In effect, the customers are forsaking their privacy and their personal information to get ‘better deals’. This is not only unfair because the price of the “rewards customers” is probably closer to the price that it should be (the standard price is usually marked up way too high), but also because it forces customers to give up their privacy for something that should already be given to them. I think that is a disgusting marketing tactic; it deceives the consumer into thinking that they are getting a deal or a discount, but in actuality the only people benefiting are the corporations.
This kind of tactic remind me of when I used to work at GNC (General Nutrition Store). GNC sells a plethora of different dietary supplements (vitamins, herbs, etc.) as well as a wide variety of sports related products for athletes and weight lifters. GNC, however, is probably most known for its annoying and hassling employees (yes, I was once one of them), who always try to push their customers into buying more stuff. In particular, their brand of supplements that are marked up sometimes as much as $20 or more than the third party products they sell. However, they offer “buy one get one half off” deals on most of their products, so that customers think that they are getting a good deal and will buy more. The truth, however, is that the half off price is probably around what the product should be selling for in the first place! It’s a sneaky and deceptive tactic that the public eats up and doesn’t even realize how hard they are being played.
Another deceptive tactic that GNC forced its employees to do (under the threat of losing one’s job) was to collect email addresses from its customers to spam their inboxes with a bunch of emails. The way they taught us to get the emails was to tell customers that if they gave us their email then we would send them a free 25% off coupon. However, GNC never actually sent any of these coupons; it was simply a marketing strategy to extract personal information from their customers. After almost a year I eventually quit the job because I couldn’t take its shady practices. It made me feel sick that I lied to people for a living. However, the sad reality is many companies operate like GNC does, and its scary. The illusion of voluntariness is most certainly a real thing, and it is frightening how fast people will give up their privacy for a “deal”.