UX: Discounting can be deceptive

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      Deceptive discounting in user experience (UX) refers to the practice of presenting discounts or savings to users in a way that is misleading or manipulative. This can occur in various online platforms, including e-commerce websites, subscription services, or mobile applications, and it aims to influence user behavior by creating a false perception of value or urgency.

      Some common tactics used in deceptive discounting:

      1. False Baseline Pricing:

      One common tactic is to inflate the original price of a product or service to make the discounted price seem like a better deal. However, this original price may not reflect the true market value of the item, leading users to believe they are getting a larger discount than they actually are.

      • An online clothing retailer marks a shirt as originally priced at $100 but consistently sells it at $50. This gives the impression of a 50% discount, but in reality, the shirt may have never been sold at the higher price, creating a false sense of savings.

      2. Limited-Time Offers:

      Another strategy is to create a sense of urgency by offering limited-time discounts or promotions. While time-limited offers can genuinely provide value to users, they can also pressure users into making hasty decisions without fully evaluating their options.

      • A travel booking website displays a countdown timer next to a hotel deal, indicating that the discount will expire in 24 hours. However, upon closer inspection, users notice that similar discounts are offered regularly, suggesting that the urgency may be fabricated to encourage quicker bookings.

      3. Hidden Costs:

      Some platforms may advertise discounts on certain products or services but fail to disclose additional fees or charges that users may incur during the checkout process. This can make the final price higher than expected, undermining the perceived value of the discount.

      • A meal delivery service advertises a discounted meal kit subscription, but users only discover additional shipping fees and taxes during the checkout process, significantly increasing the final price and diminishing the perceived value of the discount.

      4. Subscription Models:

      Subscription-based services often offer discounted rates for new customers or introductory periods. However, users may not be fully aware of the regular subscription price or the terms of the agreement, leading them to sign up for a service under false pretenses.

      • A streaming platform offers a one-month free trial for new users, but buried in the terms and conditions is a clause stating that the subscription automatically renews at a higher rate after the trial period ends, catching users off guard when they see the charge on their credit card statement.

      5. Bundle Pricing:

      Bundling products together and offering a discount on the bundle can sometimes obscure the true value of individual items. Users may perceive the bundle as a better deal without realizing that they are paying for items they don’t necessarily need or want.

      • A software company bundles several productivity tools together and advertises a 30% discount on the bundle. However, users realize that they only need one of the tools included in the bundle and could have purchased it separately at a lower cost, making the bundle discount less appealing.


      1. Increased Sales: Deceptive discounting tactics can create a sense of urgency or perceived value, prompting users to make purchases they might not have otherwise. This can lead to a short-term boost in sales for the business.
      2. Competitive Advantage: In highly competitive markets, businesses may use deceptive discounting to stand out from competitors and attract more customers. Offering seemingly better deals can help capture market share and gain a competitive edge.
      3. Revenue Generation: By presenting discounts in a way that maximizes perceived value, businesses can potentially generate more revenue per transaction, especially if users are willing to pay more due to the perception of a bargain.
      4. User Engagement: Limited-time offers and other deceptive discounting tactics can drive user engagement by encouraging users to act quickly. This can lead to increased website traffic, interactions, and conversions.


      1. Loss of Trust: Deceptive discounting practices can erode trust between users and the business, leading to negative perceptions and a damaged reputation. Once users feel deceived, they may be hesitant to engage with the brand in the future.
      2. Customer Dissatisfaction: Users who feel misled by deceptive discounting tactics may experience dissatisfaction with their purchase or the overall user experience. This can result in negative reviews, returns, and decreased customer loyalty.
      3. Legal and Ethical Concerns: Some deceptive discounting practices may violate consumer protection laws or regulations, leading to potential legal repercussions for the business. Additionally, such practices can raise ethical questions about honesty and transparency in marketing.
      4. Long-Term Damage: While deceptive discounting tactics may yield short-term gains, they can ultimately lead to long-term damage to the brand’s reputation and relationships with customers. Once trust is lost, it can be challenging to regain, impacting future sales and growth.

      Deceptive discounting can erode trust between users and the platform, that leads to negative user experiences and can damage the brands reputation in the long run. To promote transparency and fairness in UX, brands should strive to provide accurate pricing information, clearly communicate the terms of any discounts or promotions, and prioritize the needs and interests of their users above short-term gains.

      UX: Discounting can be deceptive

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