Don’t be fooled by fake scarcity sales

This morning I saw a post on Facebook about a fantastic gel product that uses some method of suction to keep anything in place. It was very convincing and in all honesty I have no doubt that it works just as expected.

I was intrigued and decided to investigate further. I left Facebook and visited the website that was selling the product. Everything looked legit and I was sorely tempted to purchase, but something caught my eye.

There was a sale on and the number of products in stock was going down fast…too fast! I did a bit of digging in their codebase and came across an interesting little script. First things first, the website uses Shopify to sell products. If you don’t know Shopify and you’re involved in ecommerce you should have a look at it. It makes selling online very easy. Shopify is a platform and like many other platforms it has a marketplace where 3rd parties can offer plugins to shop owners to enhance their sites. Think Wordpress plugins and you’ll get the picture.

The plugin in question is this one. It creates a fake scarcity environment around a product which induces customers to make a purchase before time and/or stock runs out. This is of course completely fake. If you delve into the codebase you can see it very clearly. Here’s a little snap to show you:

Hurrifyme script. Notice the word ‘fake’ all over the place

Is this illegal? Honestly I don’t know. It certainly isn’t ethical. Essentially this tricks you into believing there is a scarcity for a product when there isn’t one.

How to spot a fake scarcity sale

If you’re not a programmer or not inclined to look at the codebase of a website you need to look for a few other telltale signs. So here they are:

  1. How regularly does the amount of stock drop
    This plugin allows the shop owner to determine how often that number drops in seconds. It runs a loop based on the number of seconds. If the amount of stock drops at a regular speed and by a regular amount (1 each time) it might be fake.
  2. Quantity catcher
    The aim of this plugin is to induce you to buy. If the stock left goes below the quantity you want it’s game over. Set a high quantity and see if the stock drops below that. If it does, chances are it’s not fake.
  3. No stock left
    Of course this would make any of us disappointed. We’re just about to buy something and then we’re told there is no stock left. But that’s not good for sales, especially in a fake scarcity sale. The stock should never drop to zero.

At the end of the day, if you want to buy something you’re gonna buy it. If you’re not sure about a product and the shop is rushing you into a purchase with a supposed scarcity sale take a moment and consider the above signs.

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