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Adjunct Sales

Shading the meaning of the word 'Free' is nothing new in marketing and it is not unique to online shopping. It can be done ethically, but it can also be intended to trap consumers.

Hiding additional costs in the fine print or using tricks to confuse consumers is unacceptable in all cases. Including a fourth item when someone buys three or offering a consumer an incentive to sign up is perfectly ethical and encouraged.

Adjunct Sales

Adjunct sales are multiple sales or sales that stem additionally from the original sale when you buy a product or service online. Understanding the way they are intended to work, why they can be beneficial and why they are also something that can be misleading is an essential part of becoming a shrewd consumer and an effective digital citizen.

Cross Sales
A cross sale is an additional sale that is linked to the original purchase at the time your purchase is made. Usually you will see a �special offer� noted on the join page or shopping cart checkout page stating that you are entitled to an additional service or product for a small fee. In some cases these can be useful, fair and convenient offers designed to improve your online shopping experience.

For example, you might visit a site that offers a subscription based monthly membership for a social networking community with an original purchase price of $30.00 per month. You may notice that on the join form there is a "check box" asking if you would also like to become a member of a somewhat related dating site for a discounted price of only $15 per month. In this example you are being given additional purchasing power and all of the information needed to make an informed decision about the original purchase, and the potential cross sale offers are clearly presented as well.

Honest merchants use cross sales on the join pages to promote "impulse shopping" by offering products and services that a customer is likely to find desirable at the point of sale - when the shopper is most willing to accept a desirable offer.

However, cross sales can also be unfairly and unscrupulously utilized to confuse, mislead or defraud consumers if they are implemented in an unethical manner. A broad spectrum of "tricks" are used by scam sites including cross sales that can range from mildly misleading to some that constitute grossly illegal activity.

For example, some "scam sites" place the cross sale information below the "submit" button on the page making it less likely the consumer has actually noticed it exists. Some deceive consumers by printing the cross sale information very small or in low contrast color choices making it more difficult to view. Even worse, there are scam sites that fraudulently include cross sale information in their terms of service without mentioning it on their join pages or that use "time delayed" cross sales intended to be charged at some future moment so as to make the origin of the transaction more difficult for a digital citizen to recognize. Worst of all, some sites commit blatant fraud and add additional charges without any explanation whatsoever.

WebsiteSecure.org seeks to review each verified website and to determine if cross sales are being used, if they are being used ethically and if any cautionary signs are present that a consumer would benefit from noticing. In the official report linked from the WebsiteSecure Certification Seal Number, a notation is made showing all findings regarding cross sales on the particular website along with information that you may find useful about the implementation of any cross sales.

Upsell Sales
An Upsell is different from a cross sale. Upsells are additional sales that take place after the original sale. Often they involve advertisements specifically chosen for their appeal to a particular consumer. In many cases an Upsell is a welcome method of connecting consumers with products and services they otherwise may not have known about.

The best upsells are able to provide useful information about products and services specifically tailored to be complimentary to the product or service you originally purchased, and the ads are provided in a way that does not distract from or degrade the user experience of the product or service you have already purchased.

For example, you might join a travel site designed to review spa resorts around the world. Your original purchase of $20.00 per month may entitle you to read detailed reviews with pictures and personal feedback from other site members who have previously visited each destination. A beneficial Upsell might be the inclusion of an advertisement from the specific spa you are reading about which offers you a discounted rate or package services if you decide to register via the travel site you have already joined. In this way the spa site is making a seamless offer of an Upsell to purchase a vacation that you have already shown some interest in, and the site is doing it in a manner that is ethical.

Conversely, if you joined the same fictional spa site described above and on the members area pages you find hundreds of blinking flashing banner ads for unrelated products like food supplements and herbal medications, those additional offers provide no value to you and can become a distraction. They may also be an unethical usage of space within a members area that the owner intimated would be enjoyable and rewarding enough to be worthy of your monthly fee.

As with all ethical issues, the key to providing adjunct sales in a fair and acceptable manner depends on how well-informed the buyer is, how transparent the advertising intent is and whether or not the adjunct sale truly stems from the original sale as compared to less ethical adjunct offers that constitute an unethical attempt to gain a new original sale or to a sale without the informed consent of the consumer.