Image: iStock / yevtony
We consider ourselves pretty savvy, right? That's part of the beauty of growing up in the digital age! We can spot a scam a mile away. Despite what your grandma really wants to believe, we know that Nigerian princes don't send emails promising millions, banks and credit card companies don't ask for your account information via Facebook Messenger, and the IRS, no matter what people think, doesn't make phone calls. We hear all the time about people falling for the silliest scams, and it's actually pretty sad! But that's not us. Sorry, single ladies - that guy on Tinder with the celebrity profile picture isn't ... a celebrity. But how savvy are we, really? Sure, we can spot an obvious scam. But how good are you at spotting everyday scams?
We're not talking about schemes to steal your identity or money. (Well, maybe your money.) No, we're talking about things we encounter every single day that we think are normal, but are actually a complete crock. These everyday scams can affect our quality of life, our financial security, and more. They're designed to just seem like part of life. But when you really think about -- we are getting the shaft in so many ways. It would be funny if it wasn't so infuriating! How many of these everyday scams have you fallen for? If you're like us, then probably quite a few.
Do you commute to work? If so, how much of your time is spent just sitting in your stupid car, inching closer to your office or workplace? Maybe you're lucky and live in a place where traffic still hasn't reached epic levels. But for most of us, our commute is a huge chunk of our day. But why? Once you get to work, you're probably doing tasks that could have easily been done from home. Lots of companies are moving to a more flexible work schedule and allowing employees to work remotely one or two days a week. Even those one to two days can save you (and your company!) money, time, and stress. Traffic is a godd*mn scam that we shouldn't have to deal with every single day.
Now, this one is beyond. It's actually criminal, is what it is. Everyday scams sometimes target a specific demographic for no good reason (except sexism, to be honest). Once women hit puberty and get their periods, they're on the hook for the feminine hygiene product scam for years. Pads and tampons are insanely expensive considering they are a necessary expenditure. There's even a "tampon tax." What's that, you ask? Well, for some stupid reason, feminine hygiene products are subject to value-added tax, even though other basic necessities like toilet paper are exempt from the tax. So we need pads and tampons (unless random strangers really want to deal with the reality of women not having access to period products), and we have to pay more for them. Such a scam.
While there are areas of this country that do not have access to clean drinking water from the tap, most of us can get good water right from the fountain. Not only is drinking tap water cheaper (and more environmentally friendly!), it's basically the exact same water you're paying to drink when you buy a bottle of water. Hate to break it to you, but companies aren't filling those bottles with pure, natural spring water, or water melted from a glacier; They're tapping into local water sources, depleting valuable natural resources, funnelling it into damaging plastic bottles, and then selling it to us as safe and natural. Our oceans are drowning in plastic waste. Get a good reusable bottle, put a high-quality filter on your faucet at home, and stop falling for this scam.
Before the invention of streaming services like Netflix, cable was pretty necessary. How else would you watch Survivor? But now, if you're still paying for a cable plan, you're totally getting scammed. Why on earth would you pay $100 or more to watch shows and movies you can access ... pretty much anywhere else on the internet? If you have Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu, your TV viewing is covered. You already pay for internet, so there's no sense in paying more for cable. Even sports fans who think they need cable to watch the game can get cheaper subscription plans through ESPN. Not only are you paying for cable, but you're getting served commercials -- which basically means your cable provider is getting paid double (1X from you 1X from the advertiser) to keep your eyes on the screen. Cut the (cable) cord, you absolutely don't need it.
Now that everyone is Konmari'ing the crap out of their house, they're probably finding some old relics. Like phone books -- remember phone books?! The giant directories would show up on your doorstep a couple of times a year, and most people just sort of shoved them in a closet somewhere or put them directly in the recycling bin. Completely unnecessary nowadays with paper-free internet phone directories, so... remind us why they continue to make and distribute these tree-killers? Who knows. They might be "free," but the cost of compiling, printing, and delivering phone books is astronomical and a complete waste of resources.
Why do pennies even exist anymore? Honestly. You can't buy anything with a penny and it costs more than a penny to make a penny. Tons of people don't even use paper money anymore, now that everything is digitalized. But even those who use cash hardly ever take the time to fish out seven pennies from the bottom of their dirty purses to get exact change back. Instead, all those pennies pile up and take up space in trinket plates and couch cushions while continuing to build up in circulation. Countries like Canada are ahead of the game. They stopped minting their one-cent coins in 2012 and only pennies minted after 1982 are still legal in circulation. But here in America, we continue to produce and mint pennies, even though the cost of producing one penny is actually MORE than the penny itself (they cost 1.7 cents to make). It makes no sense.
Is there anything worse than that stupid "Ink Low" warning on your printer? When you see it, you know you're going to have to rework your entire monthly budget just to be able to buy some new ink. The cost of printer ink is one of the biggest everyday scams we all fall victim to, or make our company fall victim to if you get all your printing needs done at the office. According to a viral video by YouTuber Gregory Austin McConnell, we're all getting shafted. McConnell used to work as a tech support agent and decided to share a disturbing truth with us: cartridges that we spend upwards of $60 on only cost companies around $0.23 to manufacture. Then there's the whole cyan ink scam. If you're printing in black ink only, why do you need cyan ink? Answer: because the cartridges are designed to add cyan to black (for a nicer black?), but it always runs out first, requiring a whole new cartridge. SCAM.
We can't be the only one who notices that our phone battery suddenly depletes in quality the second a new phone comes out from the company. Battery life is a drain on us all (pun intended). But buying a new phone battery is even more of a scam than being forced into buying a whole new phone. Phone batteries are super expensive, so logic would lead many of us to believe it's just better to splurge on 100% new hardware and just go on with buying a whole new phone. The sickest part is that phone manufacturers almost certainly know how to create a phone with better battery life, they just choose not to because money's better for them if their product is a little sucky. We are suckers, and companies know this. These things are literally built to fail, and we are all taken for a ride.
Okay, so there may be a few superfoods that are worth the hype. But generally speaking, no one food is going to magically make you healthier/stronger/younger/skinnier/smarter/better. Some of the superfoods we're sold aren't even as good as their cheaper alternatives. For example, everyone is into açaí right now. Açaí Bowls and smoothies are all the rage, but blueberries are cheaper and just as good for you as açaí is. Superfoods are over-marketed fads that try to lure you in with promises of health and vitality. But really, all you need to do is eat smart, balance your diet, and pay attention to what you put into your body and you're good to go. You don't need to spend $100 at the health food store on food rumors.
Why do we pay $200 for two concert tickets that cost $70 each? It completely goes against everything we learned in grade school math! How much you pay for something should be how much it costs. Yet we have ticket fees, delivery fees, banking fees up the wazoo. Basically, we're paying extra for the convenience of having our money in a secure account or buying something online, which kind of makes sense because it's for convenience. Late fees we get too because it's kind of like a penalty for breaking an agreement. But transfer fees when all you did was move your money from one account to another using a computer (no cost associated to the provider) and ticket fees are where things get crazy. If you're going to tack $15 worth of fees on every Ticketmaster ticket, why not just include it in the base price? They're totally trying to trick you into thinking you're paying $100 for an Ariana Grande ticket. But before you can even think, 'wow, that's a great deal!', your ticket price is suddenly up to $150. It's gotten to the point where you have to budget $100 extra just to account for hidden fees at checkout.
Prescription drug commercials are weird. For everything from erectile dysfunction meds to asthma meds and even meds for more serious ailments. you'll see some ad for it while you're watching The Bachelorette. These commercials run on television, on the radio, and they're all over the internet. It really highlights the predatory nature of the for-profit pharmaceutical industry. Selling medication like cereal is a scam. Patients shouldn't ask their doctors for a drug by name because of some commercial that told them to, doctors should be prescribing the best medication for that person's particular ailment.
Hate to break it to you, but Extra Strength Tylenol isn't going to cure your headache any better than the regular Tylenol will. In fact, the FDA has warned against taking pain medication that contains more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per tablet, and it's not even been proven to be more effective than regular-strength Tylenol. Extra Strength Tylenol has 500 mg per pill, while regular Tylenol has 325 mg. So popping two extra-strength pills puts you at the high daily dosage (1000 mg/day), whereas taking two regular will be just as effective and you'll be at the low end (625 mg/day). But people love being extra, so they're willing to pay $3 or more for something that's not even helping any more than the cheaper option.
We suppose if you like paying double for something because it has a name brand, go on with your bad self. You do you! But when it comes to choosing between off-brand and name brand stuff like medicine, there is no difference. None! Not a single difference. All medications go through the exact same testing by the exact same organization in order to be cleared to sale. The ingredients are the same and the side effects are the same. Your headache will go away just as fast with Walmart pain reliever as it will with fancy-schmancy name brand pain reliever. Plus, you'll be like, four dollars richer, so there.
Hopefully, one day soon, we'll be able to look back at how the healthcare industry presently operates and be like, 'LOL, that was crazy. How did we live like that?' If we live that long, that is. Everyone needs health insurance. It's a human right that's currently treated as a privilege. You pay hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars a month just to have health insurance. Not to use it, mind you! Just to ... have it.
But then, god forbid, you need to use it. Only then do you find out that you have to pay thousands of dollars before anything is covered, you have to pay a portion of the sh*t that even is covered, and they can just cancel you at anytime. Oh, and because that's not bad enough, you can't get really sick because there's a limit to how much money your policy will pay and you can't get an accident in an area with an out-of-network hospital because you'll be on the hook for basically the entire bill. Spending one night in the hospital alone (with out the cost of procedures, blood tests) can be upwards of $2,000... and you don't even get a king-sized bed or streaming services on an HD TV. With prices like that, it should be better than the nicest hotel you've ever slept in.
For a long time, we were fed the lie that all fat is bad fat. This lead to the invention of fat-free items. Fat-free milk, fat-free butter, even fat-free candy! But we know better now. Fat isn't bad for most people. Sure, there are less-good types of fat and eating a diet that is high in fat without balance may create a whole bunch of problems for you. But come on ... fat-free candy? This is a scam, guys! It doesn't matter if it's fat-free. If you're eating three-days worth of sugar and carbs, it's still gonna mess with you.
Speaking of fat-free candy, Americans spend approximately an astonishing 60 billion dollars per year on diet and weight loss products. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more predatory industry, to be honest. The diet industry exploits people's vulnerabilities and securities and wind up selling nothing but snake oil and empty promises. We get it, when you struggle with your weight, you'll try anything to feel more confident. But the pills and drinks and supplements and frozen meals full of preservatives and junk are not going to make it happen. In fact, you may just wind up with some nasty side effects. People want the easy way out and are willing to pay a premium for it.
Along with the classes, the parties, and the friends you made, you may remember the credit card bills and loans as a remembrance of your college years. Even if you got a scholarship or could afford your education, the sky-high prices for textbooks that your professors required you to buy definitely made a dent in your life plan. Spending hundreds on a textbook for a Gen-Ed requirement only succeeded in making you resentful of your teacher. Don't even get us started on when teachers assign books that they wrote themselves. Spending a thousand dollars a semester on single-use books is criminal. We can read anything and everything on the internet, so why are college kids still being forced to buy textbooks?
Your vagina is a magical organ. It's pretty fantastic. But somewhere along the line, women were told that their vaginas were dirty or smelly or some such nonsense and an entire industry was born. Companies started selling a bunch of "feminine hygiene" washes and douches to "clean" the vagina. But vaginas clean themselves! Not only are douches unnecessary, but they're also actually incredibly harmful. They upset the pH balance, wash away bacteria you need, and instead, introduce harmful bacteria into your system. Your vagina should have a scent, and if it smells off, then that's a sign something might be wrong. You need to see a doctor, not squirt some concoction inside of yourself.
The fact that you pay upwards of one hundred dollars per night on your hotel, then have to pay fifty dollars extra per night for parking is... bonkers. We could see having to pay for parking at a hotel you're not staying at, but if two people are sharing a room at a hotel and each of them drive there, the hotel is making an extra hundred dollars per night on the room. That sounds crazy! Sure, it's great that the establishment is hiring valets, but couldn't they put the parking price right into the price of the room instead of basically tricking you into thinking your stay will be cheaper?
Listen, we get it, we love a good sale, too! We don't buy anything at full price anymore. But Black Friday is one of the biggest everyday scams that no one even talks about. It is a major shopping day, yes. It's the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season, in fact. But when you really think about it, the stuff you find on Black Friday isn't that great. Unless you're willing to stand in line for hours in the cold to hopefully score one of two decently marked-down TVs or something, the rest is kind of meh. Plus, if you've noticed, the prices on Black Friday aren't even the lowest prices you'll see of the season! Retailers slash prices quite a bit more as it gets closer to Christmas and Cyber Monday gives you all the deals without having to leave your home.
The fact that no one knows how much money they need to buy something while they're queuing for the register is pretty wild. Sales tax varies by state and city and county, Since it's basically not the same in any two places, it's impossible to do the math in your head -- even if you do know how to multiply with decimals in your head. Sure, the money collected from sales tax funds various programs and services that are crucial to our society. But why can't we have one standard tax and fold it into the price of goods and services? So you pick up something that costs $25, you know it's going to cost $25, and whatever is added to the seller cost as a tax is paid to the state by the seller. Sales tax is one of the biggest everyday scams, and none of us are safe unless you live in Montana or Oregon.
You know you've done it -- looked at the price of something and saw the $0.99 at the end and thought to yourself, 'wow what a bargain! It's less than <insert amount here>!' But is it really? If your budget is, say, $100, and something cost $99.99, you ... aren't really under your budget. Plus, those nasty aforementioned sales taxes will definitely bring you over your budget. Then, adding these [x].99 numbers together is hard. Retailers think you're more likely to buy something that's one penny less than a larger round number. Remember what a scam pennies are? The saddest part is that the retailers are probably right.
We already talked about how much fees stink. Fees to buy concert tickets or to keep your money in a damn bank account should be eliminated. But we'd almost argue that airline fees need to be eliminated first. As if buying a plane ticket isn't expensive enough, airlines tack on enough fees to buy a second ticket! It should be a simple, transparent process, right? Pick a destination, pick a date, buy a ticket. But then you're asked whether or not you have a bag, how many bags, are they too big for a carry-on, and if they're too big for a personal item. Anything you want to bring costs more. Then, if you don't want a middle seat for your six-hour flight, prepare to pay extra, too. Don't even get us started on the price of airport food, either.
We're all told that the only way to get a good job that will make us enough money to be comfortable as adults is by going to college. But there are a lot of things people don't tell us about what an everyday scam the U.S. education system is. For example, how many people will tell you that the first two years of college are pretty much the exact same everywhere, from fancy four-year universities to community colleges (which are so much cheaper!)? How many people tell you that 60% of your college education will be spent on classes that have literally NOTHING to do with your chosen major (but classes you have to pay for anyway)? Then there are the statistics on how few people really use their college education for the jobs they take later in life. College in this country is not free, lots of people are doing it, and people are slammed with loans for decades trying to pay off classes that don't really affect how well-versed they are in their industry.
Everyday scams that prey on people's fear and uncertainties should be illegal, especially when it comes to dealing with a health issue. Say what you will about the pharmaceutical industry, but at least there are some studies that show the medicine they're peddling actually has measurable benefits. Seaweed, on the other hand, isn't going to cure your psoriasis and essential oils aren't going to cure your autoimmune disease and some pink drink isn't going to cure your IBS. Can they provide some relief? Sure, in some cases. But they aren't a substitute for actual medical attention and support.
High rent prices is another one of those everyday scams you can't really avoid (in most cases). Not everyone is in a position to buy a home, and not everyone wants to buy a home. Owning your own home is a lot of work and a lot of worries. Plus, you need some pretty hefty cash up front, and if you live in an area where the housing market has gotten out of control, you might be priced out of everything but a box on the side of the street. But paying rent really isn't any better, and because of demand, it's getting worse. It's impossible to get ahead of the game when you're a renter, and you're at the mercy of landlords and management companies who can raise your rent without much of a notice and charge basically anything they want for a room the size of your childhood dollhouse. New York City and San Francisco residents probably have it the worst, but it's pretty bad everywhere.
Some of you might get your panties in a wad over this one, but we've got to break this everyday scam to you. That MLM 'business' you're doing? Not a business. The majority of MLM's are basically pyramid schemes designed to exploit the labor of the people at the bottom in order to make the people at the top a whole lot richer with minimal effort. What's worse, these companies sell products that prey on people's vulnerabilities, fears, and insecurities, and make it seem like they're selling the answer to their prayers. If you're thinking of selling wraps or miracle drinks or supplements or makeup or jewelry and the business model means you only make money when you recruit more people to your team? Run, don't walk, as fast as you can.
Really, this is one of those everyday scams that would be sort of funny if it wasn't so infuriating. Why are razors so expensive and why to women's razors cost so much more than men's and work so much worse?? Listen, we don't need squishy floral handles with a lavender scent; we don't need ergonomic grips; and we certainly don't need our razors monogrammed with our initials. We need a razor that will remove hair from our bodies, not give us insane razor burn, or cut the back of our knees. Even when you think you're being smart and buying a razor with replaceable heads, those razor companies are always 'sold out' of the replacement cartriges so you've got to buy a whole new, more expensive razor. At this point, you're better off letting your body hair grow out.
Listen, we love us some beauty products, we do! Makeup and skincare and hair stuff, we're all over it. But when you see a beauty product commercial with some gorgeous, flawless celebrity or model, you have to know it's not real. We're sure the products are used for the shoot itself (probably with the help of some other products, TBH) but do we really think that Gal Gadot and Halle Berry use Revlon foundation? Do we really believe that any of these celebrity spokespeople are using products they can buy at Walgreens or Target? They're there to sell a product and collect a paycheck, so don't base your decision to buy something on these commercials or sponsored Instagram ads. Head to the internet and look for real reviews by real users.
iStock / jacoblund
You'd think data grows on trees based on how tightly cell companies try to ration and regulate it. It's not a finite resource! Your phone company is not going to run out of data, but you are. Those cables and satellites exist regardless of how much data the individual uses, but that's not what Verizon wants you to think. We pay exorbitant fees for 5Gs of data, and then have to pay double that for 1 extra gigabyte. It's a completely arbitrary number decided on by the company. Plus, most companies won't even let you roll it over! It's so dumb. It's just another way for companies to make money by selling us something that we can't really live without but also shouldn't have to pay so much for.
Much like cellular data, the internet is not a finite resource. Once those cables are in, bam! Internet. So why do internet companies offer so many packages for different speeds and usage, and charge an arm and a leg for them? Short answer: because they can. It's not like you're paying a premium for the fastest internet speeds in the world, either (even though that's what they'd like you to believe). A lot of the time, you're paying upwards of $60-70 a month for slow internet that cuts out way too often. What sucks even more is a lot of the time you don't even have a choice about which provider to use since certain areas are only equipped with certain internet and cable providers. If you're moving to a TimeWarner area, expect to pay TimeWarner prices. You have no control.
People get wild with their Kohl's cash. We suppose if you play your cards right and do your homework, you can game the system a bit and walk away getting an actual good deal as opposed to a deal that just looks good. But often, you're spending money to 'get money,' but then you spend your earned money (and more) when you're trying to cash in your rewards. You get $10 for spending $100, but when you go to spend your earned $10 rewards, you probably wind up spending $50. It's always worth it to have rewards cards for stores that you shop at regularly, but you should never go to a store just to get or use your points. That's how they get you.
Between coupons, markdowns, clearance, and the quote-unquote holiday sales that stores seem to run every other day (Arbor Day Sale - 20% Off!), why is anyone paying full price?! It sounds like even more of a scam when you start to research how much things actually cost. Not their retail cost, but their wholesale cost. If you've ever wondered how stores can mark stuff down so much, think about what their cost for the item must be in the first place. We're talking a few bucks here, and then they turn around and sell it for $60, mark it down to $30, and somehow we're convinced that we're getting the deal of the year. Never pay full price, full stop.
It's upsetting how many of the everyday scams on this list seem to prey on certain segments of the population. Payday loans, or fast cash or cash advance loans, are one of the worst. These lenders prey on financially vulnerable people who are in a bind, and they make it seem so easy to get some quick cash. When you're desperate, you'll do what you have to do. When people go to payday lenders to borrow a small amount of cash, usually for an emergency that popped up or an unexpected bill that came in the mail, they can wind up paying huge fees in interest. Then the lenders come calling asking for the full amount of the loan plus interest (interest rates for payday loans can be anywhere from 400-5000%, really) and these people are in a worse financial situation than they were before. If you live paycheck-to-paycheck and need every cent of that check to pay your bills, you're going to be hurting in a big way come payday. Sometimes taking the late fee is a better option.
In 1947, the De Beers diamond syndicate created a brilliant marketing plan around diamonds and somehow convinced people that a diamond engagement ring was a necessary tradition. So couples began dropping big bucks on the stones, and the "tradition" continues to this day. But here's the thing: diamonds are a massive waste of money. They're useless, they depreciate like crazy (have you ever tried to resell a diamond engagement ring?!), and spending that much money on a piece of jewelry is a really bad financial decision. Yes, they're pretty, but so are so many other precious gemstones! Plus some of those diamonds you're buying to signify your love of a partner are blood diamonds.
All-natural! Whole grains! Sugar-free! Low-fat! People see these proclamations on food labels and assume that the food is healthy and good for them. But advertisers walk a very fine line between truth in advertising and stretching that truth. Can something be considered sugar-free if it's loaded with other artificial sweeteners? Is a sugary breakfast cereal really a good source of whole grains? Can orange juice be called all-natural if it only contains 2% of actual juice from oranges? The labels on food packages don't come close to telling the whole story about what's inside the package, and many people are fooled by them.
Buying a car is one of the hardest things you'll do in your life. There's the MSRP, the dealer price, the sale price, and all of them are different for some reason. You've got to weigh the value of add-ons, and talk to a salesperson who is raising and lowering the price like crazy trying to seal the deal while getting the biggest commission they can out of you. Oh, you want floor mats? That's going to cost you. You finally make a deal, only to see several hundred dollars tacked onto the final price for those aforementioned stupid fees. Paperwork fees. Moving the car from one space to another on the lot fees. Transfer fees. It's a scam! Nine times out of ten, if you threaten to walk, those fees will magically disappear. So why even include them in the first place?!
You've got your LinkedIn all updated, you polished up the resume, and you're ready to apply for some jobs! We hope you have approximately one million hours to spend on your application because it's time consuming filling in the exact same information you've already provided them on multiple different pages. Your LinkedIn and resume has all your job history, but now you've got to put it in this box and that box. Then, answer some personality questions, do an hour of unpaid labor so they can see "how you work," and write a cover letter repeating all of the information you just spent two hours submitting. Of course, then you hit submit and never hear from them again. Lather, rinse, repeat forever.
Where to start with this one... The electoral college is used for the biggest and most important elections we have, and it's asinine that someone could be elected president of the United States of America when the majority of the people in the country didn't even vote for that person. It's not just that they didn't win the popular vote, but they actually lost it... by a significant margin! Every vote from every person should count, regardless of where they live and how many electoral college votes their state was given a couple of hundreds of years ago. It makes the vote of someone in Nebraska more valuable than someone in California and contributes to voter apathy. Really, why would someone want to vote when their vote literally doesn't matter?
Let us say first: if you are a no-tipper or low-tipper, you are not a good person. We definitely think tipping is a scam, but not one perpetuated by the people receiving tips. Rather, tipping is a scam created by employers and owners to avoid paying their service industry employees a living wage. Waitstaff, bartenders, and bussers all make a wage that is considerably lower than even minimum wage, and nowhere near a livable wage. So tips are how they are able to scrape by. Thankfully, a lot of establishments are doing away with tipping and paying their staff more. It's better for business, better for workers, and better for consumers (yay, transparent prices on goods and services!). Tip 20% always, though.
All throughout childhood and adolescence, we looked forward to growing up and being an adult. All the things we would do and buy and say and watch! The dreams we would realize and the mountains we would conquer! Couldn't wait, to be honest. But then you become an adult and you realize VERY QUICKLY that this is a goshdarn scam. It's never easy and rarely fun. It's expensive and soul-sucking and stressful. All you do is work and pay bills and work some more to pay some more bills. Maybe have sex every once in a while and get tipsy off of one glass of red. Things hurt in the morning and you need supplements to sleep at night. Kids can't wait to grow up, but meanwhile, we're over here trying to figure out how to go back in time. Adulting: biggest scam of them all and one of the only everyday scams we cannot avoid, no matter how hard we try.