back to article The seven deadly sins of the 2010s: No, not pride, sloth, etc. The seven UI 'dark patterns' that trick you into buying stuff

Dark patterns – user interfaces designed to deviously manipulate people into doing things – have become common enough on websites and in apps that almost two dozen providers have sprung up to supply behavior persuasion as a service. And in some cases, these firms openly advertise deceptive marketing techniques, describing ways …

  1. Chris G

    A lot of the sellers on Chinese platforms like AliExpress and Gearbest use countdown timers on so called Flash Sales and often dubious reviews.

    I have seen similar things on Amazon and E bay but none of these techniques are particularly new.

    What it does mean is that schools ought to run 'Buyer cynicism' classes to prepare kids fir real life, never believe what a seller is telling you about his products until you have checked for yourself.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      What it does mean is that schools ought to run 'Buyer cynicism' classes to prepare kids fir real life, never believe what a seller is telling you about his products until you have checked for yourself.

      Not to disagree with you too much, but I would say that that lesson should come under "regular parenting", rather than being shoved off to schools to be taught. If you're not willing to teach your kids that lesson dont complain when they max out your credit cards...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Not every child is lucky enough to *have* decent, reliable, non-abusive, or even any parents, so, yes, sometimes it does make good sense to ensure that society/schooling also plays a positive role in a child’s upbringing.

        “It takes a village to raise a child” may be a corny phrase, but it *is* a well-meaning and important one.

        1. TheSmokingArgus

          Re: Parenting

          The STATE is about the last group of yahoos you want to "raise" a child, unless you are in the business of rearing low IQ, criminal miscreants.

          1. Rich 11

            Re: Parenting

            The STATE

            No-one mentioned the state, you high IQ, law-abiding moral person.

            1. holmegm

              Re: Parenting

              Er, then who is running the "society/schooling" to educate the village, if not the state?

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Parenting

                Er, then who is running the "society/schooling" to educate the village, if not the state?

                Societies are "run" by everyone in them, though political affordances vary widely, of course.

                How schools are run varies by school, particularly for private versus public schools; but in general it's a complex relationship of multiple state institutions at various levels, administrators, and teachers, with other groups such as parents and students exercising sometimes considerable influence.

                Reducing all of that to "the state" is a useless sophomorism.

      2. holmegm

        But ... but ... if *parents* teach their children things, they might teach some un-approved ideas!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      If they don't even do basic finance, what makes you think they're going to move onto higher level stuff like buyer cynicism?

    3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Good point, but the cleverer children will use this information to deceive teachers and parents, and in later life possibly built websites that use those techniques. May as well teach hacking techniques too.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        May as well teach hacking techniques too.

        No need, their peers will handle hacking instruction adequately.

    4. Mike Moyle

      Are you mad?!!?

      Ignoring for the moment the fact that it can't be easily quantified by standardized testing bean-counters so isn't likely to make it into "teach-to-the-test" systems where school funding is based on test performance, do you have any idea how many business/religious/political organizations would jump nutty on any school system that included "critical thinking" in their curriculum?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Critical thinking is already taught. explicitly and fairly thoroughly, in many school systems, at least in the US. I've taught college-level critical-thinking classes myself. In my experience, students already have decent critical-thinking skills and are quite capable of exercising them.

        The problem is when and whether they choose to do so.

        I'd like to see more (methodologically-sound) research into what proportion of typical online consumers notice and understand these techniques, how well they understand them, and how they feel about them. For example, scarcity signalling can be useful information if 1) it's accurate and 2) the potential purchase in question is sufficiently sensitive to it (e.g. because it's an item that some task the buyer cares about depends on). So some consumers may approve of scarcity signalling on sites they afford some trust, particularly if they feel confident in their ability to weigh a scarcity signal rationally.

        1. Kiwi

          So some consumers may approve of scarcity signalling on sites they afford some trust, particularly if they feel confident in their ability to weigh a scarcity signal rationally.

          I am one such person.

          I maintain some ancient vehicles (ie >20yrs old). Where I can I buy new[1] parts. Knowing a particular critical part is about to become unavailable may mean I buy some spares this week instead of next month.

          Where possible I also do a simple test on the scarcity/time limits. If I see the numbers falling on my normal browser, I'll use a different browser (VM, mate's computer etc) to visit the site. If the numbers are matching the original (Like NordVPN's everlasting 3-day sale) then I know it's a false rush. If the numbers match the last I saw (or are lower) - eg "Only 15 remaining" whereas yesterday on the other browser it was 16 remaining, then I know there's a greater chance it's real. Of course, that too can be faked so we move to how much I need/want it and how much I trust the vendor.

          [1] "New Old Stock" as in 'Been sitting in a warehouse for the last 20 years unopened'

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gee - nothing new under the sun. PT Barnum said that there's a sucker born every minute, and the Romans came up with the still relevant phrase "caveat emptor". Grog the caveman once famously stated "try the flints and stones to make sure they produce sparks before you hike the 30 days back to your tribe and try to trade them".

    6. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Like amazon making it increasingly difficult to buy something without signing up for that prime shite.

      As a result, Amazon has virtually lost me as a customer which in itself is no bad thing. Makes me a lot more selective about what I but. Impulse buys have gone the way of the dodo.

      FU amazon and your desire to rule the retail world.

      1. Citizen99

        Re: Yeah

        Absolutely. Only the other day I was trying to checkout from Amazon without Prime AND IT WENT TO PRIME CHECKOUT JUST FROM MOUSE MOVEMENT - NO CLICK - whilst I was trying to navigate (that I had done successfully in the past). GRRR.

  2. Giovani Tapini

    Cineworld - Misdirection

    Big blue box "continue & log in" (aka let us harvest your data and link it to other providers..) and tiny white text on black background "proceed without registering". I have to say its an art this sort of thing, but I don't like it. Consumers cannot be savvy in everything

    1. herman

      Re: Cineworld - Misdirection

      In most cases the tiny 'Proceed without registering' feature is completely missing.

  3. RyszrdG

    A Prime example

    Just try avoiding Amazon Prime on checkout - they probably employ Voldemort!

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: A Prime example

      Yes, Amazon. Big buttons everywhere for stuff you don't want and a tiny text link for what you do want. Can only vote you up once, as I'm honest.

      Also in your face promotion of KDP Select on KDP (it's evil) and Amazon's borged Createspace for paper. I cancelled my CreateSpace when without warning the books turned up with Amazon branding. No Bricks & Mortar shop wants that.

      Google Search & deceptive ranking.

      Deceptive Amazon search results.

      1. DropBear

        Re: A Prime example

        ...aaaand that is why all those years of hunting for the elusive "download slowly for free" button is actually absolutely essential Consumer Training...!

    2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: A Prime example

      Have one of these as well as an upvote

      Funny you mentioning that one. I seem to be the only one in my family recognising this scam :(

    3. Dave K

      Re: A Prime example

      Couldn't agree more. I once "accidentally" signed up for Prime when I wasn't paying attention as they have the big green "Yes, give me a free trial of Prime!" button, then a smaller grey button underneath that used to be "No thanks", but was then changed to another "Yes, I'd like to try Prime!" button. It's now a small link over to the left which quietly says "No thanks". No doubt this will soon change, that link will also be a "Yes" to Prime and I'll have to click on a pale grey pixel in the bottom right corner to avoid the sodding thing.

      After this escapade, I promptly cancelled the Prime membership, sent a snotty e-mail to Amazon and vowed never to sign up for Prime ever again.

      For some reason, I have a big problem with websites trying to con people. All Amazon's dirty trick has done here is to guarantee I'll never use Prime, and means I try to avoid Amazon wherever I can now. Still, it has taught me to read all options very carefully every single time - even on big websites...

      1. Chris G

        Re: A Prime example

        I have found a lot of sellers who use Amazon also sell direct, typically their Anazon prices are higher

        That also seems to apply to sellers who are both on eBay and Amazon the same product cost more on Amazon.

        1. Mr Humbug

          I'da always assumed that was because selling through Amazon costs more than selling through eBay or selling through your own site

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A Prime example

          there's not fixed rule that amazon is more expensive than ebay or seller's own website (and I'd be the last to defend amazon! :)

          Generally, yes, ebay is somewhat cheaper (but the difference is minimal sometimes), and recently, I found that sellers' website price was actually significantly higher than what they offered on amazon.

          Sometimes it's also worth paying a little extra for amazon, as their returns policy is more customer-friendly (if you know which button to click).

          But, in general, in 2019, you have an online battle between, practically, just two platforms, amazon and ebay. The rest are hardly ever cheaper (unless you're talking own brands, like, say, argos vacuum or asda kettle).

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: A Prime example

            The problem I typically run into is that, while a seller's site may offer lower prices, it also offers a worse experience through and through. Take a market for electronics parts. I place a relatively small order with them, with my bill coming in at the price of a standard meal. My shipping bill was twice my actual purchase price. I was told I could get a discount on shipping (not free shipping, but a discount) if I increased my order to about the price of a cheap laptop. After purchasing, I got my email receipt, but no information about delivery date or package tracking. Frequently, this is not necessary. In my example, I didn't care when the parts got there and I didn't need to be present. However, it is useful that Amazon provides some clarity as to package delivery, and their low shipping prices don't hurt either, aided strongly by the fact that I can buy all the things I want from multiple suppliers at once and they can be shipped to me in one go. If only they could make it so that the search results were relevant to my search query and included one, but not zero or seventeen, of each unique result.

          2. File Not Found

            Re: A Prime example

            YMOV (where O=obviously) if you think Amazon’s returns policy is more friendly than anything at all - my experience is that it was invented by the devil and is managed by brain-damaged cyborgs using one-finger typing on reconditioned Amstrads, under zero-hours contracts that limit their ‘operating’ hours to ten minutes a week on alternate Mondays. Harrumph.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon

              Re: A Prime example

              Amazon is definitely becoming more of a mixed bag these days, but I've been a customer for many years and even had several occasions to return stuff for one reason or another - not always perfect, but certainly not awful by any means.

              The only reason I put up with some of their more recent shenanigans is that it's still pretty convenient (and quick) for certain purchases.

            2. holmegm

              Re: A Prime example

              Are you sure you are using Amazon??

              Their returns are insanely easy, at least in the US.

              They give you your money back the second the carrier scans it, usually.

              Heck, last time I did a return, they said just bring it to UPS and they will package it up for you! (I still felt compelled to put it in a box, but I did let them fiddle with replacing the shipping labels.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I once "accidentally" signed up for Prime ...

        I once, needing a next-day delivery, tried to sign up for Prime. However, since at the time they were pushing "Amazon Music" or some such, I accidentally signed up for that instead. I was so impressed by their trickery that shortly thereafter I cancelled both.

      3. Stuart Halliday

        Re: A Prime example

        Signed up to Prime once by accident. But they allow you to cancel and give you a free trial.

        Done this three times now. Excellent way if you want free 1st class postage or a few days of good movies, music etc.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: A Prime example

      I've just had to go through three pages to cancel Prime, and on the last one you could have been forgiven for just closing the page and leaving it active.

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: A Prime example

      Just try avoiding Amazon Prime on checkout

      I see other people complaining about this, but to be honest I've never had this problem. Not sure what I'm doing differently. I don't have Prime and just ignore the requests to subscribe to it.

      Amazon is under the persistent delusion that I'm currently a student and keeps trying to get me to sign up for their student deal, but I just decline that when it shows up. I actually enjoy that a bit; it's a reminder that their data harvesting and analysis are still flawed.

      (I'm not particularly keen on buying from Amazon, but my entire family like to use it for gift lists and such, and I've had difficulties with gift-buying from some other online vendors. I do generally try local shops first.)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    11,000 websites, as ranked by Amazon's Alexa service

    Amazon's Alexa, pretty ironic, given the subject matter, eh?

  5. 0laf

    It's all obvious when you know them

    Car salespeople do these things to.

    I've enjoyed many experiences over the years of spotting these things then trolling the saleperson trying to use them on me.

    It's the hurt look on their little faces when you call them out on it like you've broken some unwritten agreement.

    I'll add that a good salesperson with a decent product doesn't need any of these tricks.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: It's all obvious when you know them

      Yeah, sales ends today and only one remaining are used all the time everywhere. IIRC synthetic sale scarcity is illegal in some jurisdictions but this is very difficult to enforce.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: It's all obvious when you know them

      >Car salespeople do these things to.

      As do practically all home salespeople eg. double glazing/replacement windows, solar panels, alarm systems, insurance... (These also have other tricks, like wanting husband and wife present and refusing to quote if they aren't.)

      >I'll add that a good salesperson with a decent product doesn't need any of these tricks.

      One double glazing company (I used), played an interesting gambit, they only quoted one price valid for 30 days, it made no difference if you signed there and then or within the validity period.They suggested you should use the 30 day period to get the big names in and see if they could better the deal. The laugh was showing the salesman from a major the quote, they terminated the meeting and left without quoting...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all obvious when you know them

        We had a double-glazing salesman that needed us to accept a quote for their end-of-week processing. When I explained that we already had another salesman coming round the following Monday it turned out their end-of-week processing actually took place on a Tuesday!

        This was only one of the 'tricks' they deployed and, by the end of it, I wouldn't have awarded them the work if they had offered to pay me to install the windows.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: It's all obvious when you know them

        One double glazing company (I used), played an interesting gambit, they only quoted one price valid for 30 days, it made no difference if you signed there and then or within the validity period

        Yes, I've known other smaller vendors to do this. It's a good way to build customer goodwill if you're willing to stand behind your estimates, and you think they're fair.

        When we reroofed the Stately Manor (not a trivial job - it's a Queen Anne with multiple intersecting gables and steep pitch, and it needed not only a complete tear-off but new sheathing as well), we had three firms give us bids good for 30 days or longer. We also had one that tried high-pressure sales tactics, and we showed them the door.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's the hurt look on their little faces

      I hate to say this, but the hurt face is probably also yet another technique. After all, pride before fall...

      1. 0laf

        Re: It's the hurt look on their little faces

        Doesn't work then. I've grown up with dogs and I'm immune to that sad look.

        If I do a deal and the salesperson is still smiling I've not haggled hard enough.

    4. oiseau

      Re: It's all obvious when you know them

      ... a good salesperson with a decent product doesn't need any of these tricks.

      Indeed ...

      But many a good salesperson will quickly end up out of a job if they don't employ those tricks, usually the idea of the company's ever busy marketing droids.

      But those utterly despicable abortions of nature respond to a boss, who in turn responds to management, who in turn responds to upper management, who in turn responds to the board who in turn ...

      You get the idea.

      It boils down to nothing but corporate greed at its best.


      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: It's all obvious when you know them

        I once worked as an account manager, charged with saving large accounts when the company was going through a spot of financial troubles.

        Since I wasn't trained in sales and the main client was notorious for having a near-perfect bullshit detector I just decided to see what was what and ask him what he wanted.

        He told me the issues he had with his (multi-site) network and I diagnosed the main problem as being the fact our company had provided him with really shonky routers.

        In exchange for all of his routers being upgraded for free (one off cost) he not only stayed with the firm but he agreed to improve the bandwidth at several locations (something he was holding off doing because of the poor performance he'd been seeing).

        When the company sales team got wind of what I'd signed them up to they went nuts, even though this was a million pound/year account (recurring revenue) and the upgrade costs were less than £20k all-in. Seems they (sales) don't like a 'good deal for all involved' - they prefer to ream people out, even if it hurts their business in the long run. Never really understood them and gave up trying, I suspect not being able to 'deliberately poke my own eyes out whilst listening to loud rock music when someone was trying to save my life' might have something to do with that. Odd breed, sales.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: It's all obvious when you know them

          Seems they (sales) don't like a 'good deal for all involved' - they prefer to ream people out, even if it hurts their business in the long run. Never really understood them and gave up trying,

          I too have suffered this. As a buyer.I'd offered a local company the same price I was paying nearby, if I was to buy some other expensive kit at teh same time ( to save me buying at two different places.) They said no. The other place, however, accepted the mirror deal and sold me the kit I wanted at the lower price available, wanting to keep my custom. And as they said to me, "we still make a profit, what's to lose?"

          There seems to be a version of sales people who'd rather sell 10 units with a £5 markup than 50 units with a £4 markup.

    5. Morat

      Re: It's all obvious when you know them

      I'ts pretty much ubiquitous.

      How many times have you had a quote for a software license or piece of hardware that was a "specal price because we need to make out target this period"

      or even "I was passing and I had some tarmac left on the wagon, do you want to do your drive while I'm here?" Same thing.

      1. Kiwi

        Re: It's all obvious when you know them

        or even "I was passing and I had some tarmac left on the wagon, do you want to do your drive while I'm here?" Same thing.

        Twice fallen for that - and very gladly.

        The first, got a driveway re-done at a rental I was at. Cost me less than a weeks rent but the owner was very pleased so gave me a few weeks off - literally was a messy driveway in severe need of attention and a load of asphalt that was surplus to requirements.

        Second was a carpet installer doing a shop fit-out where the previous tenant had re-done the carpets and not lasted long. This week one of my charges gets a new carpet (2nd hand but great condition and a few days use) throughout her home for next to nothing, just in time for winter. Probably the savings in heating costs alone will pay for it in a couple of weeks.

        The big trick is spotting the "too good to be true" and the "incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time" deals, and not losing out either way [wanders off grumbling about missed opportunities ]

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: It's all obvious when you know them

          Just rephrasing your point:

          The art is being in the right place at the right time and spotting the "too good to be true" and the "incredibly lucky" deals, and being able to take advantage of them ie. have a need for the product/service and the funds (in the right form of exchange) necessary to avail oneself of the deal.

          1. Kiwi

            Re: It's all obvious when you know them

            Just rephrasing your point:

            Yup, been there a few times.

            The most fun I've had is with some door-door types who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer.

            "You need this new vacuum cleaner!"

            "How much?"

            "Both your first born son and daugher"

            "Sorry, no kids"

            "But you need this vacuum! And for only the price of your kids, you can't afford to miss it!"

            "I have no kids. Go away"

            "But this is our best model! Surely you have some spare kids somewhere. Have you checked behind the couch?"

            "Quite certain I have no kids anywhere. I don't want or need your vacuum even if I could pay for it".

            "But you'll never be offered it at this price again! YOU HAVE TO BUY IT NOW!"

            "I cannot afford it and I don't want it. Why is that so hard for you?"

            Ok, slightly paraphrased but you get the gist. I also often ring the "as seen on TV" shops just to check the price on something. They'll say "We have to read the script first", I'll say "I'm already interested in the product so you don't need the script. How much is this thing". If they start reading the script I hang up and ring back, try a different person. Happens less because so far I've rung up about an item I'd happily pay $50 for, and buy it at $70 - but you might as well add another 0 to that figure before doubling it and then trippling it - well above what it'd cost me to get an engineering firm to make me a couple of the items, or import one from somewhere else.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's all obvious when you know them

      >Car salespeople do these things to.

      If you can't spell "too" try using "also"

      Anon for reasons

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Ironically, they used a product well know for its dark patterns to get installed by users...

    ... Google Chrome....

    1. Updraft102

      Re: Ironically, they used a product well know for its dark patterns to get installed by users... doubt running on Windows 10, so there's a two-fer.

  7. Lee D Silver badge

    "Sneaking - Attempting to misrepresent user actions, or delay information that if made available to users, they would likely object to."

    Can't really think of an example of this, but I'm sure it happens. "Oh, by the way, we're going cloud-only next year" is one I've had pulled on me.

    "Urgency - Imposing a deadline on a sale or deal, thereby accelerating user decision-making and purchases."

    I have literally never bought anything "because the price is gonna go up". a) because I don't believe it (and often get sale prices even after sales end if they are reputable sellers), b) because that's when I have to think *more* about whether or not I need it. If it was just an impulse, I'd likely click. As soon as it becomes "it's this price only until Wednesday", I will have a much bigger think about it to avoid making a mistake, even if that means missing the deal.

    "Misdirection - Using visuals, language, or emotion to steer users toward or away from making a particular choice."

    Why, yes, I did mean to download the £30 a year antivirus and not the free one that I Googled, landed on, clicked download, clicked No, I'm sure, and then still ended up being advertised at with only a tiny little blue-on-blue "get the free version instead" link hidden away on a page of text.

    "Social proof - Influencing users' behavior by describing the experiences and behavior of other users."

    I honestly couldn't care less than my brother bought from your brand. Really, I couldn't. It doesn't influence me at all. Especially when, for example, it's an outright fecking lie (*cough* Facebook *cough*). Sorry, but I speak to these people... if I want a product recommendation, I'll ask them, not take your word for it just because they bought it. And, no, I couldn't care less that "500 people saved money using this link" or whatever other nonsense.

    "Scarcity - Signalling that a product is likely to become unavailable, thereby increasing its desirability to users."

    So you mean it'll be hard to get returns, repairs, replacements, support, parts? Yeah, I'll just wait until they're back in stock, thanks. If that means going elsewhere, oh well, at least they could source enough of the product to give me confidence, eh? This one backfires terribly with me.

    "Obstruction - Making it easy for the user to get into one situation but hard to get out of it."

    See above re: antivirus. Gym memberships. "One-click" electronic sign-ups that, to cancel, you have to send a fax in Swedish to a telephone number that you only get after solving a Swahili crossword puzzle while underwater.

    "Forced Action - Forcing the user to do something tangential in order to complete their task."

    Sign up for an X card, and after 30 days, you can write to us in order to get the 10% cashback but only if you do so with the aid of a Navajo code-talker on a full moon within 1 day of your purchase (*purchases can only be made at new moon).

    I'm quite baffled as to who these techniques work on. I've walked away from dozens of "deals" like this, almost always to a better deal that doesn't involve this kind of hassle and is cheaper.

    And UK consumer law being pretty god-damn fantastic, I don't have to follow any of your expectations (granted, I need to know that, but it doesn't take a lot of research/memorisation to know what you can and can't do). No, I'm cancelling. Here's your notice. No I don't care about your cancellation procedure. No you don't "just have" to tell me anything, especially if it involves upsell... I'm cancelling. That's your notice. Write me a letter with any important information that I legally must know. No, I'm sending it back. It's not fit for purpose. It was a mistake. I didn't realise it would have all this rubbish attached. I don't like the colour. I just don't want it. Or, even, "you lied to me".

    Sell me a product, at an agreed price, or get out of my face. Personal, or professional. I actually use 4G for my Internet because I got tired of the "broadband" nonsense. At least with 4G, you can just swap a SIM and be with someone else immediately with no hassle at all. I don't give out my phone number precisely because I don't want to talk to these idiots. Pressure-sell me in work and watch all my purchasing with you disappear. You give me the prices I ask for, when I ask for them, and I'll allow an occasional, small semi-social catch-up if you're one of my regular suppliers. Spam me with your latest products and your emails silently drop into Junk and the next company on my ever-growing list of "Well, I'm glad you're happy with your current suppliers, but can you just keep on your list for consideration in case you need us in the future" gets a chance.

    Have bought a car from new. It was one of the quickest transactions ever because the guy realised that I wasn't party to their nonsense.

    Have enough budget in work to cause the *actual* "big boss" in most companies to get involved if I have a problem or threaten to move my business elsewhere.

    I get taken to shops by friends to "do the negotiation bit for me" because I take no nonsense.

    I even once made my feelings on upsell perfectly clear in a conversation in an Italian electrical shop without even being able to speak the language.

    I will walk out. It's not a "move". It's not a trick. If I start to walk away, I'm gone, even a free product at that point won't get me back, and you'll have no custom from myself ever again. I've done it in everything from restaurants to supermarkets, electronics stores to garages.

    The one, perfect, guaranteed way to lose my custom forever is to even *try* to pull this junk and not hastily retreat from such tactics the very second that I express my opinion on them.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Good points.


      Example: Withholding details of associated costs eg. shipping (and the actual delivery services used) until you have provided all your details and committed to pay.


      There is a fine line here between showing a (very) low stock level and making a feature of the low stock level. One company I do a lot of business with, I've learnt, if I really need it tomorrow and it is shown as low stock then phone up as phone orders take priority over web sales, plus they give a discount for talking to them!

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Phone often good, company I use takes orders online only, and delivery is 3-5 working days. However if you have. tight deadline (< 5 working days) a phone call in advance works to see if they can guarantee you delivery by the date you need - normally they are able to prioritize my orders as they know the short notice is due to me being "last minute" dumped on with the request.

        1. eldel

          A great way to get my repeat business is to be honest. Example - a bullet supplier (that's the lead bits that come out of the dangerous end - not the whole cartridge) - web site shows no stock (this is a few years ago when the "OMG the dems are in power" stupidity was going on).

          Phone up -

          "can I have some"

          "there's a reason we're showing no stock"

          "yeah - I know - but I'm out"

          "Hmmm - how many do you need"

          "Couple of thousand - normal order"

          "No - how many do you NEED - not want"

          <thinks> "150?"

          "OK - we can do that - be with you this week"

          They've been getting my regular business ever since.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon

            I'm curious as to whether or not you would have received the same down votes had the product been something slightly more benign :)

    2. Roger Greenwood

      "I'm quite baffled as to who these techniques work on."

      They probably work on most folks (el-reg readers excepted of course), especially the young, the innocent and the stupid. By definition half any population is below average savvy, you do the maths.

      1. Tom Melly

        And the Amazon Prime is one that almost anyone can fall for (or once at least). The bastards don't even give you a "Welcome to Prime!" splash. It's vile.

        1. Nick Kew

          Not me guv

          I've never signed up for amazon prime. Something about the way they push it just doesn't smell right.

          And amazon is one of very few supposedly-reputable companies to spam me - email addresses I've had to delete having created them to buy from someone. Not to mention a company that fails to deliver, and whose poor service can double a price.

          -- your regular local curmudgeon.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They kind of worked on me. I'll admit it. Once, I was a child. That was great. Then, I was an adolescent. I was your standard adolescent, in that I had a lot of time, no money, and little cynicism. If a site said it had something I wanted, and it wasn't obviously malicious (I wasn't a total idiot, at least I like to think so), I'd try it. To further support my not-an-idiot agenda, I used fake names and email accounts. But if the site said "fill out this survey to get in", I'd go for it. To this day I don't know why some sites want people to fill out surveys when the responses are clearly worthless, but they do. Similarly, it took me longer than it should have to realize that those software download sites aren't actually useful. I'd click around on those for long periods trying to see which "Download Now" link actually downloaded the binary. In further attempts to support my assertion of not being an idiot, I can say truthfully that, after I got the binary, I'd first run a malware scan on it and run another one after the reported-clean installer was run.

        Posting anonymous because, after writing this with the intention of posting under my typical handle, I'm feeling self-conscious and slightly wishing I hadn't.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You sound so very wonderful and clever that I’m startled you aren’t going to be our next PM, and I’m a little baffled that an importantl geezer of your calibre has quite so much time on your hands to let us oiks know how it’s all done. Thanks tho for all these smart and original tips. I’m walking away now, tho....

    4. RFC822

      And UK consumer law being pretty god-damn fantastic

      Actually, most of that fantastic consumer law is EU legislation, not UK specific. Sadly, it may not be there for much longer :-(

      1. Morat

        Wasn't it all signed into UK Law under the Great (Not actually a) Repeal Bill?

        Genuine question not a dig!

  8. ratfox
    Paris Hilton

    Aren't those standard marketing tactics?

    "Sale ends tonight", "Last room available at that price" are pretty much standard. I'm not sure whether "Influencing users' behavior by describing the experiences and behavior of other users" is intended to cover user satisfaction surveys and customer reviews?

    Most of all, "Using visuals, language, or emotion to steer users toward or away from making a particular choice" is so vague that it describes literally any advertisement ever made.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Aren't those standard marketing tactics?

      Yep. Magazines, newspapers, shopping malls, car salesmen, pushers in playgrounds, ... oh and >SHOCK!< >HORROR!< t'interweb thingy as well.

      Making it all illegal is one thing, enforcing the law is quite another. Caveat emptor*, There's one born every minute, and all that.

      You can't rip down the lies on the wall of a shop or commit mayhem on the person of a sharp salesgirl, just report it to a regulator who won't act until the next scam has taken its place. With AdblockPlus, NoScript and liberal use of the blocking options, I suffer less of it online than elsewhere.

      * Latin for "buyer beware"

    2. vir

      Re: Aren't those standard marketing tactics?

      We've had a jewelry store in our town go "out of business" several times and advertise a massive stock-clearing sale: banners, sandwich boards, the whole thing, only to quietly take it all down and do it again 18 months later.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Two such patterns missed completely

    1. Throwing completely irrelevant junk into search results. Sometimes it might be a genuinely poor matching algorithm or the junk having irrelevant key-words but not always. Throwing in a bunch of key-words deliberately is included.

    2. "You may also like...", "Other customers also bought..." and the like.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Two such patterns missed completely

      I wouldn't mind those if they actually worked, but they never do.

      Keywords get spammed with junk.

      "Relevant" products almost without exception aren't at all. I was trying to buy a dishwasher hose thing yesterday. I needed a particular type (one that fits on a 40mm pipe and provides two 20mm host connections, with a valve to let it breathe). The "relevant" products weren't even the same thing - all kinds of nonsense. Now if they'd had, say, other sizes, that's relevant. If they'd had other types of fittings for hoses, that's relevant. Even the hose itself, that's relevant. But the other products were just completely unrelated plumbing items, nothing to do with wastes, traps, hoses or anything of the like.

      I can kind of get the "this is the battery that fits this product", but they don't do that either.

      And I really don't care what other people looked at / bought from there, unless it's fitting the same kind of criteria. That someone looked at a hose connector and then bought a telephone is of no use to me at all. You may as well just remove that kind of recommendation entirely. But that they went on to buy another product which does the same job, or was needed to do the same job, or a cheaper equivalent - that's relevant.

      The thing that convinces me most that AI is a shed-load of junk is that Amazon, with all that server oomph behind it, all that money and expertise, all that customer following, and a huge impetus to get these things right, can't even recommend a properly related product half the time. And even if you try to search for something specific, your search is often converted to something so generic and worthless that you can't see the needle-in-the-haystack that you were after no matter how many keywords and modifiers you throw at it.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely

        If you must buy from Amazon, best way is to use search engine of your choice and follow some of the hits it gives.

        Amazon search engine is not fit for purpose (unless it's something they cannot fchuck masses of dross results into such as ISBN search)

        1. Down not across

          Re: Two such patterns missed completely

          Amazon search engine is not fit for purpose (unless it's something they cannot fchuck masses of dross results into such as ISBN search)

          It is indeed so bad, that it must be on purpose to try to make you buy more. It can't be that bad just due to incompetence.

      2. Carlie J. Coats, Jr.

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely


        An example I recall: search Amazon for "30-inch 2560x1600 monitor" and only 3 of the top 10, and 7 of the top 25 match that specification.; instead they're 24-inch or 27-inch or some other resolution. That's wasting my time in an obnoxious way.

        Do they want me to assume they bring the same (lack of) competence to everything else they do?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Two such patterns missed completely

          "Do they want me to assume they bring the same (lack of) competence to everything else they do?"

          They may not want you to but it's a good idea to do so.

          Item shown arriving at depot and never leaves - do they not raise regular exception reports for items that weren't despatched on time? Or items which, as I'm sure this did, "evaporate"?

          And items which leave the despatch point en route for a locker and don't get put into the locker - don't they alert the courier before he moves on?

          And when an item goes missing, do they not realise that despatching another PDQ is the proper way of dealing with it?

          I assume these are all the result of agile development and one of these days they're going to get round to these user stories or whatever they're called but they didn't make the MVP.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely

        "Relevant" products almost without exception aren't at all.

        I loved the Dell website, when I was looking for the XPS-18 (effectively a tablet running Windows with an 18" Full HD touchscreen), the relevant/similar products were all standard desktops, namely non-portable systems...

    2. DropBear

      Re: Two such patterns missed completely

      A DIY/tools store I use is doing 1) on its web catalogue quite brazenly - when the product you are looking for can only be reasonably identified using two or three words and they throw at you absolutely everything having _any_ of the words in their description somewhere (no option for "expression search") so the result list is never shorter than 48 pages, heuristically sorted by irrelevance... well, you get pretty damn annoyed really quickly. Unfortunately, the other options I have locally don't allow me to just ditch these guys...

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely

        Go to Google


        "my specific item"

        Should get you to the right place.

      2. Diogenes

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely

        Big green store in the fair land of Oz perchance ?

        1. Kiwi

          Re: Two such patterns missed completely

          Big green store in the fair land of Oz perchance ?

          Name rhymes with "scummings"?

          We have them here as well. Same website issues.

          Oddly enough, I have a tendency to visit local suppliers first. Sometimes visit their site in desperation, only to visit a bricks&mortar site to chat to a real person the next day in even more desperation.

        2. DropBear

          Re: Two such patterns missed completely

          Sadly, no. Eastern Europe. Same practices though, I presume...

    3. simonlb Silver badge

      Re: Two such patterns missed completely

      'Customers also bought...' - That only usually works on me in a pub that sells a decent selection of cask beers. YMMY

      1. Updraft102

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely

        I really like the "frequently bought together" things where the two items are both competing products within the same category. No, I don't believe those are frequently bought together, $site.

    4. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Two such patterns missed completely

      Your second one happens right into the non-consumer sphere. For example, RS Components do this as standard, even in the case of equipment in the multi-thousand pound bracket. Generic descriptions of an entire range of a product rather than the specifics of the one in question, plus "alternatives" and "essential extras" that aren't because they're typically incompatible or irrelevant. On top of which, in common with almost all online retailers, all images are "representative of range" (elsewhere typically described as "for illustration only"), so you can't see exactly what you're buying. This is typical of box shifters, as they probably don't really understand what they're selling anyway.

      I once took a technology supplier to task for "illustration only" where the illustrated item was not the one being sold, saying that if it doesn't illustrate the item being sold they might as well put up a picture of an elephant. The result was an ongoing non-comprehension situation...

      It's actually possible that images that don't show the correct item could constitute misrepresentation in law, but I don't think that's been tested.

      1. TheWeddingPhotographer

        Re: Two such patterns missed completely

        A component supplier is between a rock and a hard place with online cataloges

        It's a massive task to have the correct image for every component, there are often multiple suppliers for the same product, and it's often the case that they look slightly different

        They will be onboarding tens of thousands of products a month

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Two such patterns missed completely

          >They will be onboarding tens of thousands of products a month

          No they might be restocking tens of thousands of products each month, but onboarding new products...

          In the case of RS/Farnell et al their customers rely on them having the right technical specification documents associated with each product listing.

          >It's a massive task to have the correct image for every component

          Only when you are starting from nothing, or doing a rebranding.

          For a friend who runs a web business stocking a few thousand low value parts, we built a 'studio' in a box. with a modern 'camera' and appropriate software it is relatively simple to set up the necessary workflow to automate the process of on-boarding a new/replacement product into the catalogue along with its associated pictures and reference documentation. The chore was when he took the decision that all the pictures really needed his logo on the backdrop and so he had to update the entire catalogue over a few weeks...

          1. Dwarf

            Re: Two such patterns missed completely

            The chore was when he took the decision that all the pictures really needed his logo on the backdrop and so he had to update the entire catalogue over a few weeks...

            What was wrong with using a transparent image overlay on top of the pictures or scripting something in image manipulation software ?

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Two such patterns missed completely

              >What was wrong with using a transparent image overlay on top of the pictures or scripting something in image manipulation software ?

              The images already showed his web address, due to ebay rule changes, this was now a no no. So that he could use the same pictures across all his store fronts and not have them ripped off (too much) he put a logo on them instead...

    5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: another pattern missed completely

      Is for the Big 'A' to send you emails with the wording

      Amazon has new recommendations for you based on your browsing history.

      One of these had things related to gaming consoles.

      I have never even touched a gaming console let alone looked at buying one or anything to do with consoles.

      What a load of cock.

      Posting A/C as I really don't want any more of these emails.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: another pattern missed completely

        "Posting A/C as I really don't want any more of these emails."

        Well, you blew that one Steve Davies 3 ;)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    think of the children!

    yes, schools should have MANDATORY lessons and kids should learn to be able to point out those techniques (not that this is going to help much ;). However, in real world...

    a) such classes will never happen (are you crazy, you want to teach them WHAT?!)

    b) kids don't give a flying monkey (...), and their reaction would be between a polite, verbalised, "whaaa?", to a silent :"whatthefuckareyouonaboutoldman?!"

    btw, I hate to admit but, even though I claim to be ad-resistant, some of these dark patterns do work on me too, even though I'm aware of them, looking at them, as they look at me and doing their dark tricks :( Particularly "only 4... 3... 2 seats left at this price". What pisses me off is that I know that it might actually be true (unlikely, but not impossible), and that they (I'm looking at you, ryanair!) know that people realize it MIGHT be true and the marks can do fuckall about it, i.e. I have no way of verifying this information, so it can be played. Also, they know the law can not force them to stop using this trick, because they'll claim their prices are "dynamically adjusted" against a billion variables, so lookie here, it goes up... it goes down... up... down... up... up (yes, IP switching does help to a degree).

    Also the aliexpress "ends in x days" does work on me, although, I generally build up to make one combined purchase (of cheap tat), so I'm drawn to SALE NOW ON!!! On the other hand, buying 20 items from various sellers, all during a "sale", saves a couple of quid so yes, those items "rotting in my basket" for the last 5 months have finally been paid for, because SALE!

    However, as to aliexpress product ratings, it's driven not so much by their manipulation, but by sheer stupidity of users, who come up with gem reviews such as: "item received, well packed, will see how it's going - 5 stars". WTF?! But then, I generally read reviews from worst to best, so... And amazon mis-reviews can be easily verified by checking against fakespot website (if you trust that site! ;)

    p.s. but then, can it not be claimed that ALL advertising is "dark patterns", as they all press invisible buttons?

    1. antman

      Re: think of the children!

      >...I'm drawn to SALE NOW ON!!!

      We all are to some extent but you should have your wits about you. When I bought a mattress a few years ago I was attracted by the 70% discount posters plastered all over the first shop I looked in. I was not immediately convinced their prices were that good so I checked a nearby competitor. They had no OTT sale offers but their mattresses were a similar price. I got quoted a real discount from them which undercut the supposedly discounted price of the other store and they got my custom.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: think of the children!

        Somewhere in the world is a town. There are no residents. Tumbleweed blows down the main high street. This high street is populated by all the big brand name shops. Each shop has a single part time staff member and a full range of products. They are sold at exorbitantly high prices. Business rates are non-existent as there are no local services. Sales are zero, profits zero. Costs are minimal. BUT LOOK!!! Every other branch in every other town offers 50-60-70 even 80% DISCOUNTS, BUY NOW WHILE THE SALE LASTS (forever)

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: think of the children!

          John Brown (no body)

          Oh yes. The fake sale made legal by a tiny notice that says "Sold at the higher price between 26 December and 1st January at our stores in Lower Shitting, North Dumping and Arsehole Central".

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: think of the children!

            Or, they rotate the discount between two very similar items. For example a mattress might be available in two different colours, but who cares because they only time you see the colour is when you change the sheets.

            In other cases where I do care about the colour, I will just wait until the colour I want is the one that is reduced.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: think of the children!

              Some bricks and mortar supermarkets do an equivalent trick. particularly with kids' toys. They'll have a display of some range that's attractive to kids. With SALE plastered over it. But the items the kids really want will be full price, and some junky stuff next to it will be reduced.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: think of the children!

        "I checked a nearby competitor."

        This is where the parking vultures are out to get you. Check and find the first one had the better offer but you incur a fine if you go back to their car park within a couple of days or whatever.

        The trouble there is that car parking is really customer service but no doubt all siting negotiations are handled by estates or something with a similar title and they're more interested in their cozy relationships with landlords than avoiding having their customers being screwed over.

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: think of the children!

      An alternative to the only 5,4,3,2,1 left, is the bargain everyone has missed ploy

      About a decade or so ago on late night British TV there used to be these "quiz" shows, where would offer a prize and ask some blindingly simple question, they used to sit there for half an hour pleading with people to phone up, as the first to do so would win. In reality thousands of people were calling in, and going through some automated call system, racking up massive call cost on an eye wateringly expensive premium number, before before one was chosen to go on air. It was such a rip off, the the regulators specified they had to show on screen in real time how many people were actually calling. Strangely enough all these shows disappeared off air within a few months of that being imposed.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      "schools should have MANDATORY lessons"

      "Defense from the Dark Patterns" ?

      "Expecto Patronum Clientium!" and a silver customer protection representative appears...

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: think of the children!

      In my experience, you can expect the following reviews:

      Five stars:

      95%: "$Product works great.", and that's it.

      5%: "This product is excellent and here's a page on exactly how I use it and what it does."

      One star:

      80%: "$Product is crap."

      5%: "$Product arrived broken [in some way]", with details that seem like it could be the fault of the manufacturer, the shipper, or simple bad luck and you don't really know.

      10%: "Product broke after not very long" with even less detail than the arrived-broken people so you really haven't a clue. One time, I read a review of a hard drive (internal mechanical kind) where the user complained that it had lasted only a few months when strapped to a motorcycle, which wasn't exactly the most instructive in estimating its lifespan in something normal.

      5%: "This product doesn't work, and here's a page on what I did with it and why it wasn't sufficient."

      Those final 5%s on each of those categories are wonderful, but frequently they're absent. That's why I tend to discount all the one and five star reviews of a product if it has enough reviews and focus on those people who assessed it in the middle. Failing that, I weight reviews by length and go with the longest ones I can find. Failing that, I weigh them by use of certain words. I've found that nearly any review mentioning the word "Linux" is useful, even if you never intend to use the product with Linux.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: think of the children!

        "I've found that nearly any review mentioning the word "Linux" is useful, even if you never intend to use the product with Linux."

        I was looking for a new washing machine but gave up when not a single review mentioned up to date Linux drivers.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: think of the children!

          I smell an Amazon review meme inbound.

  11. DropBear

    Ahhh, "Dark Patterns"... words only ever used by those utterly desperate to sound more like an actual scientist or those discussing "The Great Compendium of Knitting" by Darth Vader...

  12. Cuddles

    Nothing new under the Sun

    Not really sure why this is talking about UI patterns on websites. Every single thing listed here has been employed by shops everywhere for thousands of years. Really the only interesting part of this research is how poorly their automated tools worked - only 11% of shops employ at least one of the methods listed? 91% would be a lot more believable.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new under the Sun

      I think the point is that in many jurisdictions, many of the techniques described are already illegal or regulated. But because "on the internet" is a bit technical and "Hard to do", even the big names are getting away with it. It's all rather reminiscent of obvious or even existing patents being granted because "on a mobile device".

    2. Jon Blund

      Re: Nothing new under the Sun

      I think most people accept being jerked around, face to face, by a real salesperson as being normal behaviour, having it hardcoded into business logic raises it to a higher level of "nefariousness".

  13. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    "Dark Patterns"

    It was interesting to compare those patterns with the door-step proselytising undertaken by Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and others.

  14. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I'm currently looking to hire a car for a week. I found one place with simple pricing and a total, and even then I'm doubtful. All the other places I found online seem to start at "£10 per day" and then end up being "plus £11.50 plus £80 a week plus £8 a day plus £250" or "£2500 excess on any scratch more than 1 nanometer in diameter". Or it looks good and says "200-mile limit, extra miles charged at 30p/mile". Basically every site seems to deliberately make it impossible to compare like for like -- and that's another sin: Customer confusion and obfuscation.

    They used to do it at PC world. You'd have a range of 3 or 4 crappy computers in front of you - starting at £400, with each one being around £50 more than the one to its left. So the one on the right might be £600. But then behind you is a range starting at £500, which includes the thingy that the middle one on the first row had, but not the thingy the last one had - that one is £700 but it includes a 250GB drive instead of 200GB so it must be better. And so on.

    You end up being frustrated and confused, and buy the most expensive one.

    1. Andytug

      Ah yes, the "confusopoly"...

      See also energy prices, mobile phone contracts, broadband, etc, etc, etc...….

    2. Stuart Halliday

      You never buy from PC World/Curry as most of their products are special models designed to be as cheap as possible for them, with missing details (sockets, plugs) and maximum profit for them.

      You won't find many of them anywhere else.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        That Curry's con goes back a long way. In my youth I had a decent little camera. My dad borrowed it and it got broken so he gave me the money for a new one. I went back to Dixon's and the exact same (apparently) camera was now rebadged as an own brand. (It was a long time ago. We were more innocent then).

        It never worked right. The film didn't wind on properly for a start, so the pictures overlapped..

        After I'd given up on it and bought a better one I took it apart.

        They'd replaced the original metal toothed wheels with plastic ones. That the film just slipped over. Every part that they could they could make cheaper and nastier they had. It wasn't sold any cheaper btw.

  15. Wenlocke

    Works on me

    "Urgency - Imposing a deadline on a sale or deal, thereby accelerating user decision-making and purchases."

    Sad to say, I'm very well aware this works on me. I mostly blame a childhood where there wasn't as much money available as the other people in my local friends group, and usually the translation of "we'll go away and think about it" was a polite fiction for "we can't afford it, so we'll make our excuses and leave." The over-use of that particular euphemism left me heavily susceptible to "if you wait, you'll never get it."

  16. Stuart Halliday

    Wait untill you're over 50. Most companies simply ignore 50+ groups.

    We're too savvy. I can spot a dodgy deal from 20 feet away.

    I've just got to put up with life or funeral insurance....

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Buy Now Before... Offer... Ends !

      Two For One !

      Rest In Peace of Mind !

      1. Psmo

        Yeah the two-for-one funeral insurance really isn't worth it.

        Unless your name is Lazarus.

    2. quartzz

      although....careful with possible complacency. I've been using ther 'net since ~1995. A couple of months ago, I had fraud for the first time. downloaded an infected file, virus scanner went nuts for a couple of minutes. and my hotmail junk folder got a strange receipt for a £200 delivery sent to Scotland (not where I live).

      what I didn't do, was run malwarebytes. 3 days later, my paypal was (correctly) frozen as £700 had been ('suspiciously') spent on it, by someone else. paypal accepted liability, refunded me. (malwarebytes picked up about 200 items). happy ending to that one. fair do's to paypal.

  17. Andy Non Silver badge

    Multi-buy discounts, or not.

    One of the biggest cons is assuming that larger packs of a product are cheaper. I always read the price per unit in supermarkets and often it is cheaper to buy smaller quantities. e.g. today in Sainsbury's four cans of speckled hen ale are much cheaper per litre than buying a 12 can case.

    Morrisons annoys me with all their 3 for the price of 2 products. Often I only want one, two would be too many, so three is just out of the question. But I'm not going to buy just one at the unitary inflated price, so I don't buy any at all and go up the road to Aldi and buy a similar product cheaper!

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Multi-buy discounts, or not.

      I always read the price per unit in supermarkets

      That's OK when they don't deliberately obfuscate that. Tricks like one pack size being xxp/100g and another size being yyp/each - particularly annoying when it's something (such as the dental sticks I buy for the pooch) you only deal with as eachs, and I don't even recall seeing a weight on the pack !

    2. taxythingy

      Re: Multi-buy discounts, or not.

      One of my local supermarkets switched to fully electronic price tags on all their shelves a few years ago. It means you can't lift or slide the special price tag and check what the normal retail price is. They are also more expensive generally.

      My response is (1) don't shop there unless necessary, and (2) assume I'm always being shown a lie.

  18. arthoss

    netflix and friends - misdirection

    putting a black and white icon to push people to watch less Friends

  19. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Fake price differences

    Amazon are terrible for this. The same item will have a range of sellers' prices. Ranging from well over priced to quite reasonable.(Sorted by price). But when you add in the P&P the prices all become the same.

    As in - a pen filler worth about 50p. Priced at £5 on Prime, £4.50 + 50p postage on ordinary. Down to 20p with £4.80 P&P from Joe's pen emporium.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Apropos nothing.

    1. Mr_Pitiful

      Re: DFS

      I was going to post about DFS

      I'm 53 this year, and I can't remember a single advertisement that isn't/wasn't for a sale ending soon.

      I do however know that they are, located between Darley Dale & Matlock (Why do I know this?)

      I'm guessing if I ever need to go to Derbyshire, there will be a massive manufacturing plant with hundreds, if not thousands of employees, an office block the size of the shard and a car park for millions.

      They must be one of the biggest manufacturers in the world (cut price sale items)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You want the free version, hidden on the corner. Click.


    No is hidden down the corner. Click.

    "Don't you want to UPGRADE YOUR CURRENT VERSION FOR FREE FOR THE VERSION WITH A FIREWALL, and get your credit card secretly charged in 30 days?" No is again the tiniest font in the site. The whole "charge to cc" is also inconspicous. Click.

    Close pop-up ad. Click.

    Close bugged download CNET and AKAMAI site, and find the grisoft original repository in the corner that has no further pop-ups or obscure linkage. Click.


    1. doublelayer Silver badge


      How about this one that happened to me just a few months ago. My father (he's not reading this, so I can safely call him nontechnical) wants to do something his laptop can't do right now. I find him a good piece of freeware (in this case true free software with code on github, score) that does that. Knowing how search engines work, I give him the address to type in over the phone, no fooling me. The site looks nice and clean, with only one link saying download, so all I have to do is get him to select the x64 instead of the x86 and we're done and I can show him how to use it. The problem is that I have an ad blocker and he doesn't. He clicked on a download link and installed the thing it auto-downloaded (fortunately not malware but definitely not the thing I had in mind). I got him to run a defender scan just in case and removed the unwanted application with extreme prejudice next time I was near. Ads allow people to infect good sites with their nastiness; this is why we need to block them.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge


        For my late mother I had Teamviewer installed. And an icon on her screen that just said "HELP".

        And I did the rest.

    2. Charles 9


      I gave up on AVG and Avast when they both got too spammy. Nowadays, it seems the ONLY defense programs worth keeping around have to be paid for. Seems they wised up to one of those "dirty tricks" of economics: the Captive Market.

  22. fidodogbreath

    Is a person (or website) manipulating or lying to me?

    Does he/she/it want something of value from you (money, vote, marketable PII, etc.)?

    If yes, then yes.


  23. StuntMisanthrope


    A sterling pound in the city mile is worth more than an order of magnitude in value than the other 65,000. #squarekilometer #theta

  24. Muscleguy

    I sometimes wonder whether my conclusion that the search function on some commerce sites is pants might perhaps be Dark Nudges.

    I was online supermarket shopping recently and put the brand name of something I wanted in but it only came up in contexts I didn't want. Clicking through menu levels to the 'shelf' with such products found it to be there but unfound by the search.

    On a different site I searched for mustard and found one version by one brand in the quick search but I wanted both versions and low and behold on the 'shelf' there was both of them.

    I wonder if the non presentation of what you want in the search is there to make you look on the 'shelves' where you are in effect browsing and might impulse buy.

    Either that or the online supermarket shopping experience is designed to mimic the real thing. Where have they moved that to now?

  25. anoco

    Sin # 8 - The Nag

    There are more ways to sell on the internet than through shopping carts, and because of that their bot missed this one. The Nag, when they keep asking you the same question a zillion times and the are no options to "never ask again". It requires eternal refusal and only one moment of weakness or distraction to erase all your efforts.

    Google turns out to be the top offender with YouTube, Amazon with Prime probably comes a close second. But most companies out there figured out that males that have been married for more than 3 years are very susceptible to The Nag technique.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Sin # 8 - The Nag

      "But most companies out there figured out that males that have been married for more than 3 years are very susceptible to The Nag technique."

      Probably because the ones who don't get it don't stay married. As Jeff Foxworthy once put it, "If she ain't happy, you ain't happy. And if she ain't happy long enough, you're gonna be unhappy with half your stuff." If men married for more than a few years are most susceptible, recent divorcées are probably least susceptible, as they're the ones who actually had the nuts to fire back: with obvious results.

  26. DiViDeD

    The old 5...4...3...2.. gambit

    I see those a lot:

    Buy While You Can!! only 5 left!!!!

    only 4 left!! Don't miss out!!!!!


    What are you, nuts? Don't miss your last chance!!! Only 1 left


    Congratulations! You've earned a Second Chance to Buy!!!. Only 255 left! Hurry while they last!!!!

  27. BlindWanderer

    Forced Action with a side of Urgency

    I recently had the desire to find out about someone who had died. I wanted to know his cause of death but I didn't want to wait the 10 years or pay the 10$ for the death certificate. So I found myself looking for a website with the information.

    The site in question had this insane interface which was 100% forced action. Like answer all sorts of questions about the person. And timed delays. I knew what was happening. With all the delays it took more than 20 minutes. Long enough you won't want to go through the process again. Also it said if you left the page you would loose your progress in "finding the records." I was curious just how long the scam would go on and finally after the 20+minutes I got to the credit card prompt. It was a neat scam.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forced Action with a side of Urgency

      I wish the credit card companies would allow generation of "honeypot" numbers that can be used in the event of a likely fraudulent site. That way you can do a "con the con" like I suggest paying a boot seller with fake money. Not like the seller can turn you in to the plods without revealing his own fraud.

  28. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The Hidden persuaders

    Nihil novi sub sole...

  29. Guido Esperanto

    5 people are viewing this article since you started looking, click 《Buy Now》 to avoid disappointment.

    1. Charles 9

      I wonder how many sites go all the way and do an, "Aw, too late! All Sold Out!" Only to find some other way to hook you?

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