Biggest consumer rip-offs and how to avoid them

Everyone is going to be ripped-off at some point. It is just a sad fact of this modern consumer life, but there are some situations where the situation is extreme and the solution to saving is easy.

Many of the biggest rip-offs trade on convenience, but with a little forethought you can save yourself a packet. Here are some of the biggest consumer rip-offs and how to avoid them.

Greeting cards
I’m going to start with this one, because it is a lesson that I’ve learned from both my mum and my kids. Firstly, buying cards individually for whatever occasion can cost at least $6 and usually around $10 per card.

You don’t fall for this scam at Christmas, with most people buying their cards in bulk, and that is really the least you should try and do with birthdays, weddings, condolences, etc.

However, the much better option is to make your own cards. My mum has been doing this for years now in retirement and not only does it show more thought, the standard of the cards she produces is amazing. My mum will now often provide a batch of the cards that she makes as gifts, for others to give, saving them the expense of having to buy gift cards.

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Okay,I’ll put my hand up and acknowledge that I’m not a coffee drinker and don’t understand the fascination people have with it. But I know that I am in the minority.

Even if the brew lives up the hype so many people are willing to bestow upon it, I still don’t understand the need to pay around $5 a cup when it can be made at home or in the office for practically nothing.

Most offices even invest in fancy coffee machines for staff morale, yet still staff will take the takeaway coffee option and pay the exorbitant price.

Even if you just appreciate the opportunity to get out of the home or office, you are better off investing in a keep cup and taking your coffee out on your walk with you.

Bottled water
While we are on the topic of drinks that are costing you a fortune. Let’s look at the stuff you can get free, but that people are willing to pay top dollar for – water.

Readers of this website are all old enough to remember when this first became a thing.

At the time there were the sensible people who thought that this idea would never take off, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

It turns out that people will happily pay around $6 for something they can get free.

However, this isn’t just a problem for your hip pocket, it is also terrible for the environment. If you are one of these people paying for bottled water, you are much better off investing in a water bottle and drinking tap water.

And if you think the water is better, you couldn’t be more wrong. There are studies that show some bottled water wouldn’t pass the stringent tap water tests that we have in place in Australia.

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Prescription medication
Mark-ups here range from 2000 to 3000 per cent, enough to give anyone a headache and leave them with an empty pocket.

On average, prescription medication costs four times more in Australia than the rest of the world.

Saving on prescriptions is easy. Just ask your pharmacist for generic substitutes, which are much more cost-effective while equally beneficial. 

The generic versions must contain the same active ingredient and have the same effect. They are also tested by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, just like any other medication, to ensure they are safe.

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Popcorn and other movie snacks
This is a rip-off that everyone knows about. However, making your own popcorn, which costs next to nothing and taking it with you to the movies to avoid paying around $7 for a small popcorn, is not the same as having fresh hot popcorn.

However, the other snacks available at the candy bar are just as easily purchased from a supermarket next door for about one-third of the price.

The same story goes for buying snacks and food at the airport. Plan ahead and take you own food and snacks, and save yourself a heap of money.

Booking fees
While we are talking movies, let’s talk about one of the biggest scams, which comes when booking your movie tickets online.

Cinemas charge around $1.50 per ticket when people make an online booking, a charge that can be avoided by buying your ticket in person.

The thing that infuriates me about this particular scam is that it is cheaper for consumers to buy their tickets online as it doesn’t require a staff member to sell you a ticket, meaning that they are just opportunistically gouging consumers.

What rip-offs annoy you most? How do you go about saving money and avoiding these rip-offs? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben