February 25 2010|08.54 AM UTC

Jonathan Rivers

The 12 Biggest Ripoffs in America

Category: Featured, SavingsTags: , , ,


Many of us feel ripped off in our day to day spending, so much so that bringing up even a single rip-off story in a group of people is likely to trigger a flood of them from everyone else. Whether it’s at the movies, in restaurants or on vacation, we seldom believe we are getting as much for our money as we ought to. Of course, some rip-off stories are more debatable than others. Often times, what is called a rip-off is little more than someone’s subjective opinion of what they “really” deserve for their money, whatever that means. However, other purchases actually do appear, by all objective criteria, to be a raw deal just about all the time. Today, BillShrink analyzes some common rip-offs as mentioned recently by CNN Money, that most of our readers are likely to be well acquainted with.

Movie Theater Popcorn

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Movie theater popcorn is as much an American icon as baseball and apple pie. Like a moth to its flame, movie-goers instinctively load up on hot, buttery popcorn before sitting down to enjoy the show. It’s hard to imagine things being any other way. That being said, movie theater popcorn is without question one of the biggest, most egregious rip-offs around. ABC News reported in July 2008 that a small bucket of movie theater popcorn will run you “around $5.50 — more per ounce than filet mignon.” University of California-Irvine professor Richard McKenzie, who wrote a book on this very subject, conjectures that popcorn costs less than ten cents an ounce to produce. That makes the markup somewhere between 900%-1,300%! The reason appears to be that movie theaters do not make much money on actual ticket sales. According to McKenzie, “the theater can be paying 70 or more percent of the ticket price to the studios.” That leaves concessions, like popcorn and candy, as the next logical place to raise prices and recoup some of the revenue being sacrificed at the ticket counter.

Text Messages

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Another rip-off most of us would hate to go without is text messaging. According to Srinivasan Keshav, a computer scientist who testified before the Senate on the matter during summer 2009, text messages cost about one third of a cent each for a carrier to deliver. But despite that cost, the typical pay-per-text plan whacks cell phone users to the tune of twenty cents and ten cents per each outgoing and incoming text, respectively. That equates to an eye-popping markup of 6,500%. Nor do unlimited texting plans completely eliminate the rip-off factor, since the carrier’s overhead is likely to be right around the $10 or so that is usually charged for such plans. Most of the time, the carrier comes out ahead regardless.

College Textbooks

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College textbooks have the unique feature of being a rip-off on at least two different dimensions. First is the price charged to students. CNN cites a study by the Government Accountability Office showing that “textbook prices nearly tripled from 1986 to 2004 — a jump that’s twice the rate of annual inflation over the last two decades.” In fact, the average estimated cost of books and supplies in a given college year is $900, and many students report paying far more than that. However, it’s not just the actual price of the textbooks. In many college courses, the textbooks are never or seldom even used! Savvy college students have found that they can often glean the material needed from the Internet, or simply by looking on with a friend on rare days when the text is being used by the professor. It’s bad enough to be gouged at the checkout counter, but to rarely even use the textbooks takes the rip-off factor to new heights!

Branded Painkillers

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Brand name, over-the-counter painkillers like Advil are sold at a 60% markup, according to Yahoo! Finance. Many will no doubt counter this fact by objecting that yes, the price is higher, but the pain relief is superior. But this is incorrect. As Yahoo explains, the law requires all generic drugs to be just as effective (and even use the exact same active ingredients) as the branded drugs they are modeled after. Yet still, a 50 tablet bottle of 200mg Advil somehow costs $8.49, while Duane Reade charges “just $5.29 for the exact same bottle of generic ibuprofen.” So unlike the age-old “store brand” debate where there is a qualitative difference between a generic and branded product, painkillers are the rare exception of being, literally, the very same product for a lower price.

“Free” Credit Reports

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Admit it – you’ve found yourself humming one of those catchy FreeCreditReport.com commercials at least once or twice. But while the commercials are memorable, the service being offered – allegedly “free” access to your credit report – is an unmitigated rip-off. For one thing, it’s questionable that there is a need for any business to offer such a service, as the government mandates that all consumers can check their credit score history once a year for free anyway. [Ed. Note: You can only check your credit report & history for free once per year, per each credit reporting agency. Thanks to eagle-eyed readers and the friendly call-in!] Beyond that, most of these services unwittingly bilk people into signing up for paid monthly subscriptions that actually charge them for what was supposedly being offered free. Time Magazine reported in November 2009 that the government went so far as to issue public warnings that FreeCreditReport.com and their ilk were not free at all. When you charge money despite the word “free” being in your corporate name, it’s tough to argue that your service isn’t a rip-off to consumers.

Wine Service at Restaurants

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This rip-off rests upon a shrewd appraisal of human psychology by bar and restaurant owners. Most people, when dining with a date, will never order the least expensive bottle of wine on the menu for fear of looking cheap. Instead, they will opt for the second least expensive wine to cover their bases. According to Time Magazine, “restaurateurs know this behavior well, and so they often put the heftiest markup on that second-cheapest bottle.” In fact, the cheapest bottle on the restaurant’s menu might actually cost more if you bought the same thing at a package store. The best course of action is deciding upon a wine that you objectively enjoy drinking (regardless of where you are) and order that without regard for the psychological pricing tactics of restaurants and bars.

Hotel Mini-Bars

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Anyone who has ever paid $2.00 for a minuscule bag of Doritos is already nodding their head in agreement. It’s true: hotel mini-bars are one of the biggest ripoffs around. Here, again, human psychology is taken into account by the hotel operators doing the pricing. Years of experience have demonstrated that the typical hotel guest is tired and weary from a day or more of traveling. Once they arrive, the last thing they want to do is get back into the car and drive around a strange new area looking for a convenience store. In fact, they are so loathe to venture out on the road that paying 1,300% more than usual for candy and soda starts to look like a decent idea after all. Rather than paying such inflated prices, just anticipate that you will want snacks in advance and stop off somewhere before checking in.

All You Can Eat Buffets

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All you can eat buffets thrive on an all too appealing sales pitch: pay once, eat all you want. It might seem difficult at first to find fault with such a generous offer. However, buffet operators do not offer that deal because they’re generous – they offer it because they know their numbers and study their customers. While the typical buffet charges somewhere between $12-$15, they know that that the average customer is not likely to eat very much more than they would’ve purchased for $7 or $8 at McDonalds, despite the fact that they can if they choose to. Furthermore, it’s questionable whether the quality of the food being served is much better than that of a fast food restaurant. Therefore, what often ends up happening is that a buffet’s customers pay for the ability to eat twice as much as they actually eat, on average.

Premium Gasoline

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This one is sure to draw the ire of at least a few people that swears by “premium” gas (when their car doesn’t need it). For whatever reason, many people believe that filling up with premium grade gasoline is somehow “better” for their car, or even that it “cleans out the engine.” Others actually believe that it is essential to put premium gas in their car and that it will malfunction if you try to run it on anything less. For most drivers, nothing could be further from the truth. Just check your car’s owners manual. If you need to use premium gas for a legitimate, mechanical reason, it will be stated in the manual so many times that it will be impossible to miss. Many luxury and performance cars often require premium gas because their high performance engines require higher octane – that is, slower burning – fuel. But if your owners manual makes no mention of it, you are simply wasting money on each premium gallon you purchase.

Actively Managed Investments

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In his book I Will Teach You to Be Rich, personal finance blogger Ramit Sethi writes that “fund managers fail to beat the market 75% of the time.” Not only do they fail to beat the market, Sethi writes, “but they actually charge a fee to do this.” With such a lousy track record of performance, one might expect mutual fund managers to lower the fees they charge. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort is true. It is common for mutual fund managers to charge 1.5%-3% on however much money you invest into their funds. It might not sound like much, but a 2% expense ratio on a $10,000 portfolio means $200 out of your pocket at the end of the year. Index funds, on the other hands, have few or no fees and generally at least match (if not slightly beat) the overall market’s performance year in and year out.

In-Room Movies

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As if gouging you at the mini-bar wasn’t enough, hotels are also happy to help themselves to your money via in-room movie sales. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with offering such a service, the rates charged are hardly what one would call competitive – as much as $10-$15 for a single movie, according to CNN. A Redbox machine, by contrast, will rent you a DVD for as little as $1 a night. A NetFlix account isn’t much more expensive, and streaming movies on your laptop is another inexpensive alternative. In other words, paying for in-room movie service at a hotel is just about the most expensive way to watch a movie imaginable. As with snacks and soda, it’s smarter to anticipate that you will want to watch one before checking in and make less expensive arrangements.

Health Club Memberships

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While not every gym or health club membership is a raw deal, many of them are. In most cases, it’s not the price that’s unjustified but the terms of the contract itself. Bally’s Total Fitness, for instance, hides a clause in their contracts stating that you cannot cancel your membership – even if you lose your job and sincerely no longer wish to use the gym – unless you die or move to a town where there are no gyms. No exceptions are made. Consumer Affairs even reports that a man who provided “military orders sending me to Europe” was denied the ability to cancel his membership. A gym that insists upon charging someone money for a service they are not using and do not wish to use, even when they are given orders to leave the country for combat, is a rip-off in the purest sense of the word!

Printer Inks (Bonus Rip-off via BillShrink Readers)

You’re absolutely right, Shrinkage readers. How could we forget about the abominations that is printer ink — the bane of all consumer existence? As pointed out succinctly by the Oatmeal, and frequently noted by other people on the interweb, printer inks makes us want to scream in silent rage (especially during the checkout aisle at Office-Super-Max-Staple-Depot). Unfortunately for us, printer inks follow the tried-and-true razor blade marketing tactic of offering something at an hugely marked down price (printers) in order to sell something disposable, but needed continually, for a much higher markup price (printer inks).

Alternatives? We suggest finding a printer you can trust that has all the features you’ll need for years to come, and find a good alternative/generic brand ink cartridge set for that particular printer. You should note however that many generic brands may be manufactured from refurbished ink cartridges (there’s a huge industry for this), and at times, some generics or refilled ink cartridges may not work well. Always do your homework before you buy!

Beyond the nine rip-offs mentioned by CNN, we’ve also added in four more rip-offs that makes us cringe. What are some other rip-offs you can think of?

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{ 468 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter March 9, 2010 at 2:43 am

@MB Syd
“Printer out of ink? Order one from your office and take it home”
This is called theft.

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Augustine March 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm

FWIW, sick and tired of the printer ink rip-off, I bought a $200 Samsung CLP315W wireless color laser printer. Although its toner pack of 3 costs about $100, I get 1500 color pages out of them. Each page is about 5x less than on an ink-jet and the printer pays for itself in 9 months.

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Daryl March 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

20oz bottles of soda in gas stations are sometimes more expensive than 2 liter bottles in the grocery stores. I’d also include just about anything that my corner convenience store sells – I should have to pay $4 for a can of Campbell’s Soup!

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Gabe March 9, 2010 at 10:21 pm

orange juice at Ihop.

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Nate Geezy March 10, 2010 at 4:09 am

Actually, I’m not so sure text messages are rip offs, at least not at the %6,500 percent you claim. I saw the debate on CSPAN with Srinivasan Keshav, and he failed to account for the infrastructure required to send a text message. Without all of the satellites, cell phone towers, servers, and whatever else it takes to send a text message, you wouldn’t be able to send a text message in the first place. Sure, its cheap for them to send a text message NOW, but you have to realize the enormous investment that goes into building and maintaining the network that can send your text message in the first place (not to mention upgrading and keeping the network up-to-date and working).

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@Lexx2099 March 10, 2010 at 5:34 am

Good call on the text messages -US citizens, your phone plans are A JOKE. Demand free unlimited texts, magic numbers and data/internet usage that the rest of the world takes for granted right now. Oh -and get your terrible phone companies to provide half-decent coverage while you’re at it!They are laughing at you! LAUGHING!!!!

*goes into apoplectic fit*

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Stephanie March 10, 2010 at 2:24 pm

FGS, all you bloody whining waiters and waitresses, as some other commenter said, if you don’t like being paid [edit] money, don’t flaming be a waiter! We shouldn’t feel obligated to supplement your terrible wages just because you happen to be serving us. I worked at Superdrug throughout my teens and had to deal face to face with the worst examples of humanity daily-did I get tips? NO. Did i moan like a little [edit] about it? NO.
I now work in a laboratory diagnosing brain tumours, do I expect to get tipped by my patients even though I work my backside off for them? NO.
Of course our ‘dining experience’ wouldn’t cost twice as much if servers were paid an accurate wage-successful restaurants just wouldn’t make as much of an obscene profit. There are plenty of successful eating establishments that do pay ethical wages, by the way.
Yes, I do tip. But I do it through gritted teeth, because it isn’t fair. Why should I give you my hard earned money just because your employers are tight? I don’t get tipped for doing my job, nor should I expect to. Its my job. I get paid for it. And if I wasn’t happy with my wages, I’d do something about it.

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napoleon March 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm

/\ “Of course our ‘dining experience’ wouldn’t cost twice as much if servers were paid an accurate wage”

why would you tip 100% of the bill when the common accepted practice is 20% at most?

the cool thing about tipping is that we as customers get to decide how much they should get paid. i’d bet you were just being silly in saying it costs twice as much because of tipping, but the truth is that you are a cheapskate and shouldn’t go to restaurants if you cant afford/appreciate the common practices of dining culture. you cheap and whiny pud.

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Dave March 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Nothing is a rip off if someone is willing to pay for it. It is only a rip off if you are a sucker and dont check other options. Its called Free Market Capitalism and it rules baby! If the movie theater didnt sell a $5.00 popcorn then there would be no theater. High octane gas gets better mileage. The $2.00 hotel Doritos are cheaper than taking a cab to the grocery store. Every one of these examples is competitive with something. If they couldnt sell it, they would be out of business, so they are competing with something and winning to get the sale. FREE MARKET CAPITALISM gives you all the wonderful options.

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brusifur March 10, 2010 at 8:12 pm

i cant believe no geek has mentioned pre-orders. Gamestop is notorious for this, and i think just about any pre-order deal is total nonsense invented to get you eager about a product.

There is a great TED talk about product sales, which i cant find right now. One of the keys to guaranteed sales is creating a sense of limited availability. Another one was to create fake “insider info”.

The real reason i had to make a reply here was in response to all the people screaming COFFEE! I worked in a coffee shop for two years, and man let me tell you roughly 3 out of 5 customers would make some snide remark about the price. Let me lay some brief facts on yall:

Those espresso machines cost upwards of $10,000. Milk is NOT WATER. It costs money dictated by the freaking stock market like every other commodity. In order to make 10 espresso drinks in five minutes, you need a significant amount of energy across the board. Energy to keep a massive steam resevoir, and machinery to keep it stable. Energy to grind pounds and pounds of beans every hour, and the knowhow to maintain a precise grind. This is not the same as the gas station.

I worked downtown in Chicago. We would have a line trailing out the door sometimes. Everyone in that line knew what they wanted, and were willing to pay $5 for their latte. They made their stupid jokes about the price, and i pretended it wasnt teh millionth time i heard it. The important thing was that everyone had tried to make a latte in their houses and failed. They dont want to deal with keeping fresh beans. They dont want to deal with cleaning an espresso machine, or adjusting its parts. They make the calculated decision that a latte made professionally is worth $5 or more. I agree with them.

Everyone talks up these small family coffee shops getting pushed out by the big shots like starbucks. This is a meaningless talking point. NO ONE REMEMBERS COFFEE BEFORE STARBUCKS BECAUSE IT SUCKED THEN. It was Folgers or it was beech nut or it was some other godawful crud youd find in a break room. Starbucks became a nationwide craze because americans had, for the most part, never had great coffee available. There was no market. Those family owned small coffee shops may have looked cozy, but their product was crap. Presently, starbucks has proved the market exists, and the independant coffee shops are coming back. That is cool, but it only exists because the roasting companies have grown so much.

In conclusion, if you think coffee is a ripoff, then seriously make your own and pretend it tastes as good as the professional variety.

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Mary March 11, 2010 at 10:20 am

Rental car insurance. I pay $25 extra per year on my credit card (MC), and I don’t have to pay for rental car insurance. I also pay $35 per year extra for lower interest rate, and saved that much in the first month. The extra amount can be cancelled at any time, and the refund is prorated. Great deal.

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Anonymous March 11, 2010 at 7:07 pm

extended warranties on electronics purchases is bad enough, but the other day I bought two office chairs at Staples for $25 each and the clerk asked me if I wanted to buy an extended warranty on the chairs for $20 each (for 3 years). I just looked at him with a blank stare thinking, are you really asking me to buy an extended warranty on chairs and he asked me again trying to convince me that if they break for any reason they will replace them. For 5 bucks more I could replace them myself, that is if I ever experienced a freak chair malfunction for some reason!!!

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Jared March 11, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Mail-in rebates didn’t make it on the list! Those are the biggest scams because they know so many people won’t mail in the rebate before the deadline

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Ex waiter March 12, 2010 at 4:25 am

Stephanie, and all you cheapskates, don’t be the kind of stingy person who saves money at the expense of someone else. Life is too short to be so nasty. It is a form of theft to not tip for service rendered. And before you go off and find some picayune reason for not tipping your server, remember that much of what makes up your experience is not under his/her control. Why don’t you grow a little empathy and compassion while you are at it? News Alert: This is the way most sit down restaurants work, if you don’t plan to go along with it, don’t go in. But don’t be such a provincial wanker/petty thief.
I often got pay checks for $0. when I waited, AND the government taxes what you get hourly by assuming you are getting a certain amount in tips.

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Stephanie March 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm

OK. If I was a cheapskate I wouldn’t tip. But I do. Because I feel obliged to. Not because I want to.
As I have painstakingly tried to explain, waiters should get paid a decent wage for doing their job-BY THEIR EMPLOYERS. Not by the general public who have already shelled out for the service in question. I do a service job-I work with human brains and organs. A harrowing and difficult job, which i am privileged to do and for which I earn a fair wage. If i didn’t, I’d find another job as I am only human and need to earn a living wage. And I don’t expect Joe Public to pay it for me, as that wouldn’t be fair on them. By the by, as far as empathy and compassion goes, I volunteer at the hospital I work in, and in September 08 I spent a month volunteering at a AIDS clinic in Nigeria. How DARE you accuse me of lacking compassion because I resent tipping? More fool you for accepting pay checks for $0. Not my problem, you should have got another job, that way your employers wouldn’t have been able to get away with treating their employees so badly.

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Marco March 13, 2010 at 5:22 am

PIZZA! Flour, water, oil, salt, tomato puree, cheese plus a random topping. £10 here from Dominos in the UK! That is some scary mark up.

Same goes for pasta! Mass produce the sauce, boil pasta that probably costs 25p at the maximum. Add it to the sauce…job done. Another £8-£10 here!

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Youre an idiot March 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

You’re obviously not too familiar with the concept of supply and demand. Price reflects cost of production as well as the demand for the item or service. No [edit] texts cost next to nothing to deliver. And are you trying to say that it doesn’t actually cost a restaurant anything to uncork my wine? It’s not a ripoff because people are willing to pay it you crybaby asswipe.

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Sarah March 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

OK, I have read it all. Good points, great points. No one has spoken to choice. If something is a rip off, choose not to buy it. There are alternatives. Bikes over cars, eating at home instead of out,read the book that you pick up at a thrift store instead of going to the theater, juice over soda…these are the things that I choose when I have the choice. There are things we have no choice over and they will cost you. I have held down 2 jobs many times to be able to get those things, and yes it bothers me when I see my tax dollars wasted. Who wouldn’t want the first time home buyers credit of 8K, which also adds to the national debt? Have you ever heard of anyone saying “no”, and and sending the check back? Do you know of anyone refusing the interest on their childhood savings bonds? How about any of the tax breaks? I certainly haven’t. If you need entertainment, find you next “new outfit” at the thrift store, the hunting is fun. Also do as the earlier person offered–research your candidates. Start getting involved at the local level. Start bartering or trading your labor. I got an entire garage framed up in one day in exchange for laying someones sod. Free exercise and new friendships without a contract! And clip those coupons. I am happier to clip the coupons than use an EBT card. Go find your pride back! I glad this site was here and don’t care where the info came from. Look how many of us landed here! Are you just going to get angry or has it started a process of you thinking again?

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paul March 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

I live out in the country (very little stop and go driving) and I get better FUEL MILEAGE (I don’t know about that other stuff) with premium (I track it). 88 F150 with a 302,at current prices; regular costs me $.1789 per mile.. Premium costs me $.1523 per mile. Not much, granted, but it comes up to about 13 bucks a week. or the equivalent of 83 free miles.

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Michael March 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Great list… with a few exceptions.

First: Health clubs are no generally ripoffs. Just because you found one with a weird membership agreement doesn’t mean that is in any way common.

Second: Premium gas. While it may not be necessary for most people, I have done quite a few comparisons in my car and found that it does, in fact, improve fuel efficiency, sometimes even enough to cover the difference in cost from regular gas. This should not qualify for a top 12 ripoffs list.

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jb March 16, 2010 at 6:50 pm

The two party system. You get screwed no matter who you vote for.

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LR January 31, 2011 at 10:27 pm

EXACTLY! And when one is done ripping you off, they are replaced with the other to
take their turn to rip you off more. Rinse, repeat.

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Matthew March 19, 2010 at 4:56 am

Great article. A very interesting read.

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Jon March 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

Is anyone putting a gun to your head to purchase these items? Are they being misrepresented? According to Adam Smith, any trade, freely entered into, is beneficial to both parties. According to Ann Landers, you can’t be taken advantage of without your permission. If you think something is too expensive, don’t buy it.

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Dan March 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm

What about any form of consumer electronics, specifically cell phones? Phone companies make phones that are going to break intentionally in order to require customers to purchase a new one at full retail price (normally $200+ for the cheapest phone in the store!) They call it “planned obsolescence”. Then, on top of that, you have to pay the monthly bill for the contract (somewhere about $90 for those Unlimited plans, maybe around $50 otherwise, but then extreme overage fees and texting costs). AND THEN, those “buy one get 3 free” deals they offer with the phones require that a NEW 2-YEAR AGREEMENT be signed in order to receive one of the “free” phones.

Software is another big ripoff. $150 for Microsoft Office? Ridiculous. My favorite part about that is how PCs used to come with the software pre-installed. When I bought my laptop 2 years ago it had the software on it, but only a trial version! I haven’t had any Office applications since 3 months after buying my computer (which was $600 two years ago and probably worthless now. Planned obsolescence yet again).

Another HUGE ripoff is the cost of a visit to the hospital. They charged me about $3000 so they could have me lay in a bed hooked up to a heart monitor just so they could tell me they didn’t know why I was having palpitations and that they couldn’t do anything for me except send me home and that if they come back I should try yoga.

OVERDRAFT FEES AT THE BANK. I love how they charge $30 for you not having money. My favorite is when they throw them on on a Saturday so you have to watch them get tacked on until the bank opens again on Monday. (Happened 3 times to my roommate at Bank of America). Oh, and the best part about that was how she had $1100 as AVAILABLE FUNDS when they gave her 5 Overdraft fees.

Finally, the last (and in my opinion, the biggest) is buying just about anything in California. Buying a can of Arizona Iced Tea (the 99 cent can) is actually $1.09, due to the 10 cents you have to pay per can or bottle. Then, on top of that, there’s the 9.75% sales tax for everything that isn’t considered a necessity. It’s a lose-lose situation, and even with the ridiculously high sales tax, we’re still EXTREMELY far in debt with layoffs happening every day and the job search STILL unsuccessful after 9 months of searching day in and day out. THEN, there’s the rent on my apartment. 2 bed, 2 bath for $1620 per month BEFORE utilities. It ends up being about $700 a month each for the 3 of us living there. Then, there are groceries to buy. Plus gas to get around (mostly around $3.10 a gallon for regular). Then there are insurance bills, car payments, electric, gas, water, cable, internet, and phone bills to pay.

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Sarah March 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm

while it’s true that many brand-name products have a highe profit margin, generic ibuprofen is NOT as effective as brand-name! Ibuprofen has two possible conformations, so unless you do some separation and purification, you’ll have a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of the useful form and the useless form… meaning you have to take more of generic ibuprofen to get the same result as with the purified brand-name kind.

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Scott March 21, 2010 at 4:37 am

About the text messaging. You pay for sending and receiving messages. usually it is 10c/message for text and 25c/multimedia. So text message is actually being charged at 20c.

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Tom March 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Buffets are good if you’re hungry and of course it depends on the buffet. Look at the photo you use as an example: does any of that food resemble food from McDonald’s, the place you use as a comparison? You can’t even get all the salad you want at McD’s. Variety at McD’s? Fried on a grill or deep fried; take your pick. I’ve eaten at an Oriental buffet which has shrimp, frog legs, salmon, flounder, mussels and crab legs. Yeah, just like McD’s, right? Hardly!!
I bet you pick you heart surgeon based on their fees, eh?

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mike March 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Great part about capitalism is if you don’t like it don’t buy it. It is called the dollar vote if a company charges way more than something is worth stop buying it but quit complaining stuff is a rip off when you keep buying it. Only you can get ripped of if you allow it. Read a book on economics and it might make sense.

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chris March 22, 2010 at 5:57 am

Tipping is a scam of a system. so lets see, thee employer pays you NOTHING, you agree to it, and then you expect me, the customer, who has already paid through the nose for food that is overpriced, to supplement YOUR wage because you gave me “good” service? really? so I should pay you extra to do what is expected of you? lets remember that YOU willingly took a job that pays crap. So, while it is nice to get a tip, it is certainly NOT something I feel obliged to do. seems like the restaurant business needs to do what every other business does, and PAY its employees. I am an electrician. When I come into your home to do work, the costs aree clearly laid out for you. I don’t or wouldn’t agree to do hard work for less than its worth. why do servers? and I certainly would not be relying on the “generosity” of my customers to pay me what My work is worth. damn, they are already paying for the job, and the parts.
Servers, wake up and figure out that the job you are doing is worth whatever you agree that the wages for it are. anything extra is a bonus, not a necessity.

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TnT March 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Difficult to find the middle ground. Some charge too much for services or products, and when people try NOT to rip the public off by charging much less, the public thinks there’s something wrong with the product or service, and go elsewhere anyway.

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Steve March 23, 2010 at 5:47 am

Take a look here, before talking about rip-offs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand

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Secret33 March 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

my simple solution is to buy a new printer when the ink runs out, it’s literally cheaper than buying an ink cartridge

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madam mim March 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I like a bottle of water once in a while. If it were a bottle of sugared tea for $1.50, or a soda, then you’d all give me a high-five?

I think most of us bottled-water users refill the bottle once in a while. Do you do that with a can of soda? No.

I usually distill or filter tap water and keep it in food-grade containers. That’s probably best, but sometimes, yeah I will buy a bottle or two of water. It keeps me off soda.

Get over it. Find something else to be self-rightous about.

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ryan March 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Water in amusement parks

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ali March 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

For those that think tipping is a rip off, it’s not. Most waiters/servers make $2.13 an hour. That’s less than a gallon of gas and we get taxed on that $2.13. I understand that not all states have such a low wage for servers, but most do. If you want to be waited on properly TIP. We remember you- for either having given a great tip (you’ll get even better service next time) or a lousy tip (when we won’t go the extra mile for you because we know other customers value the service we provide).

$2.13 – just saying.

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t-rex March 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm

HDMI cables for TV’s have a 600% markup at electronic stores

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brent March 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm

o man some of the responses are crazy. Anyway tipping seems to be mis-understood. The idea is that it forces the individual providing the service with motivation. If you get a flat wage for your service then why would anyone try to please any particular customer, unless you’re trying to sleep with them? In most jobs you’re trying to impress your boss for a raise, which is usually a biased situation and comes down to if the boss likes you or not. In the service industry it is instead left in the hands of the customer to reward good work. A much better way of doing things. This puts the customer in control. You’re the one receiving the product and you get to be judge and jury. If there weren’t tipping then yes wages would be higher and prices would be higher for that meal.

Additionally, a great thing about tips is the community aspect of it. I work at a coffee shop, one of the best, and receive good tips. When people are good tippers I will occasionally give them drinks for free and also will be more inclined to remember the way they like there coffee and etc. when they come in. Then, when I go to some of the places where these customers work, I tip them well in return for there good service and next thing you know I’m being hooked up with free drinks at the bar. This also, in many cases spurs friendships.

I think they call that karma…?

Also coffee is not a rip off for the consumer! It’s a rip off for the farmers! For all it takes to grow, process, ship, roast, and prepare, it’s pretty amazing coffee is so cheap. Compared to other beverages coffee is very difficult to prepare. Yet people pay more for alcohol that’s cheaper to produce and takes nothing to prepare. (with the exception of some crazy cocktails out there, but overall it’s an insanely more stable beverage than coffee)

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Beti June 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Thank you! I was really sorry to read all the complaints about products being overpriced. There is a long supply chain to bring products to consumers.

That $1 burger at McDonald’s? It took a rancher to grow it, meat packers to process it, truckers to ship it, distributors to sell it to the restaurant and clerks to sell it. That’s a lot of people to split a buck. And how fairly is McDonald’s going to mete out that one dollar the consumer paid for it?

And so the producers make less and have to pay smaller wages which in turn means employees have less to spend and demand lower prices which means producers make less. It’s a vicious cycle.

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Bryton March 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Gift Certificates are the biggest rip off as well. Most people dont even use them. Companies make large amounts of money off of them.

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shiloh.shelagh March 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm

“what about tipping? that is the biggest scam of the last 2 millennia”

You have obviously never had to work as a waiter. Employers are allowed to pay their waiters under minimum wage because tips are what they rely on to get the rest of their wages….and when jerks stiff them, well, they go hungry. I never leave less than $5 for tip…just for their time. Certain my Mother, 3 sisters, grandmother, and great grandmother who were waitresses would appreciate that.

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Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm

even if buffets are slightly overpriced, you get much more of a selection than at any type of restauraunt, and you often get better quality than just a fast food place. You can get a three course meal if you are hungry enough for much less than at any other place. I just don’t understand the reasoning

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Edmian March 26, 2010 at 1:20 am

What about “shop supplies” when getting your vehicle serviced, and based on a percentage.

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Anonymous March 26, 2010 at 3:18 am

don’t forget those ‘buy 3 get 1 free products’

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Terry March 26, 2010 at 9:07 am

I was in chattanooga, TN, movie theater last year, one of those fancy 20+ plexes. They were charging $8.50 for a bucket of popcorn. (small buckets at only $5?? I’d jump at the chance for that cheap!!)
They were offering “GREEN” tub popcorn, they put it in a rough newsprint bag, rather than the fancy slick popcorn bags, and they were charging almost $11 for it!! I couldn’t believe it, not because it was so expensive and so obvious a scam on being “green”, but because the popcorn was old and stale. It wouldn’t be as terrible if the popcorn were being made that second, nice and hot, but it was popcorn sitting around unheated!! Insult to our intelligence along with injury to our pocketbook.

In Albuquerque, NM, in the 1990′s, a local movie theater was running family oriented films, especially for moms to bring kids to during daytime. In tv interview, they admitted they were embarressed by how much the reg theaters overcharged for popcorn. So at this family theater, you could buy a reg ticket for $4, and spend only $3 on the largest bucket of popcorn, and still save money rather than going to dollar theater, and paying big bucket prices. At the theater, their biggest drink was only $2 and biggest bucket of popcorn was $3. Sadly, they sold the business later on.

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TW March 26, 2010 at 9:39 am

tired of expensive printer ink? go to ebay, find some cheaper brands. Instead of nearly $16 for replacement cartridge (Staples cheap brand) for my portable canon printer, I pay $2 each cartridge. But they do run out quickly compared to reg cartridges. But you can by 5-10 of them for the single reg price, especially if you’re getting an older nearly out-of-date one. So even tho’ I go thru the cheaper cartridge much quicker, I have a dozen waiting in the box to use up, and still saved money.

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Nikki March 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Coming from a specialty coffee shop, not Starbucks, I can say that true coffee isn’t a rip off. Starbucks with its overroasted beans and diabetes filled lattes is charging you for crap. We offer an amazing cup roasted less than a mile from our stores. Plus, we are aware there is more than one roast for different beans and spend 12 months training roasters so that you get your monies worth.

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mike March 30, 2010 at 12:54 am

People don’t seem to understand. Luxury items (diamonds, sports cars, designer clothes, etc.) are not ripoffs. In this case, markup isn’t important, because you’re paying for the brand name. It’s different.

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vern March 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I agree with those who mentioned diamonds. But they failed to bring up the fact that diamonds have been manufactured for decades (mostly in Russia).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_diamond

Go pick up a pebble on the side of the road, that is about what a diamond is worth.

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Daniel Moore April 3, 2010 at 12:17 am

I have to point out a gaping whole in the premium gas argument because I used to believe the same myself and lost a $100 bet with my father over it.

You are only looking at cost per gallon when the actual cost of operating your vehicle should be thought of in cost per mile. In the case of standard vs premium the many gas operated vehicles will get 20%~30% better gas millage with the higher octane fuel. Meanwhile your cost per gallon is only 20 cents more than the cheap stuff (in the photo provided) that’s less than 5% cost increase. He bet me the millage increase from premium fuel would lower my cost per mile and I had my whole extended family collect data for it. We owned only ONE car that got better gas millage with low octane fuel.

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J April 5, 2010 at 12:24 am

WHOMEVER SAID TIPPING IS THE BIGGEST RIPOFF CAN GO TO HELL. I AM DIRECTLY CALLING YOU OUT. YOU HAVE OBVIOUSLY NEVER WORKED IN A RESTAURANT.

SURE, TAKE AWAY TIPPING STANDARDS…FINE WITH ME. INSTEAD OF BEING COURTEOUS, PROFESSIONAL, AND EFFICIENT YOU CAN COME IN AND SIT IN MY SECTION. I’LL RUDELY BERATE YOU WHILE I DUMP A HUGE PLATE OF PASTA ON YOUR LAP.

COME FOLLOW ME FOR MY ENTIRE SHIFT…IM SERIOUS! YOU WON’T HAVE THAT UNEDUCATED, IGNORANT ATTITUDE ANY LONGER.

BTW. If no gratuity is left on a bill of $100 for example, the IRS still assumes that 15$ was left in gratuity and such remians reported as income by the restaurant as wages for that server. So if you stiff restaurant employees they ultimately pay out of their pockets to wait on you.

I think the biggest rip-off in America is the time lost reading ignorant responses to articles and having to inform ignorant individuals in general.

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Jack April 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Regarding printer ink: it’s actually cheaper to buy a new printer with cartridges in it than to replace them most of the time. I’ve been doing this and selling the old printers on craigslist for some time.

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