Consumer IQ

You Did What? 5 Foolish Things Consumers Do

Oops! How to Recover From a Financial Resolution Slip-Up

You’re a smart, enlightened consumer. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.

But even smart people sometimes do dumb things. I see it almost every day.

There’s no scientific link between intelligence and better consumer behavior, at least none that I’ve seen.

Which is to say, you can get a Ph.D from Prestige U., but still be functionally illiterate as a consumer. (Oh, I’ve witnessed that.)

So what are some of the not-so-smart behaviors we engage in? Here are the top 5 from my case files:

Spending a lot of time to get a small savings.

I see a lot of really successful people who will spend hours trying to save a few dollars.

Most of the time, this happens with a dynamically-priced product, like an airfare or hotel room, but it’s not limited to those categories.

Buying something just for the points.

Loyalty programs can reward a company’s best customers, but lately they’ve morphed into schemes that control what you buy.

I’ve seen people buy big-ticket items and put it all on their credit card to collect loyalty miles.

Worse, I’ve seen them offer their loyalty to the wrong company, repeatedly buying a more expensive product of inferior quality so they can collect awards. How warped!

Thinking that because it’s a sale, it’s a bargain.

Now, I know that you know that’s not true. But marketers know that when you see the lights flashing and the big red signs, you can’t help yourself.

Some stores are constantly going “out of business” because it’s the ultimate sale, and otherwise smart people discard all reason and start spending.

Not reading the contract, terms or warranty.

In the heat of the moment, when a purchase is being made, it’s easy to forget to do your due diligence.

This is especially true of impulse buys, like a scammy vacation timeshare or travel club, two products where I get a lot of complaints.

In the moment, all you can think about is the next vacation in Cancun. Think again!

Saying nothing when they’re unhappy.

You don’t want to “make trouble” so you don’t speak up after you’ve bought a lemon. This happens a lot more often than you might think.

Smart people tend to be well-mannered — they don’t like confrontations and they often hate arguing.

Businesses know this, so they frequently put up barriers that make the polite people go away and accept their substandard product.

If you’re unhappy, you need to say something — if not for you, then for the next guy who gets suckered into buying the same bad product.

Remember, this is my own top 5 list. I’m sure you have your own list of unbelievably moronic things that intelligent customers do.

Maybe you work for a business that sees them regularly. I’d love to hear your story.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.