The economy is in the proverbial pooper and many are trying to cut back, but unfortunately, there's a reason you came back with a new hi-def TV and 10-gallons of discount mayonnaise last time you went to buy bread. The retailers have gotten very good at what they do.
We've already detailed the advanced advertising techniques being used to turn us into a society of shambling Baconator-craving zombies, but the manipulation certainly doesn't end once they've got you into the building...
There few things more easy and profitable (and fun) than scamming drunks, so it comes as no surprise that bars have their own list of ploys. Let's look at a few of the ways you're getting cockslapped along with your cocktail.
Less Socializing, More Drinking
Every time you use your mouth for frivolous non-drinking related activities like talking, you're costing the bar money. So they try their hardest to make sure your interactions remain at the basic head nodding and pointing out hot girls level. Music is pumped up to ear splitting level, making conversation impossible and lights are kept dim, partly to disguise how dirty most bars are, but also because we feel uncomfortable talking to someone we can't see clearly.
Your "Friend" the Bartender
There are many ways to cut down on the amount of precious alcohol actually getting into your glass. Taller, thinner shot glasses appear larger but actually contain less volume and, in fact, simply tilting the glass toward the customer slightly while pouring creates an optical illusion making you think you're getting more than you are. Measuring cups may have washers in the bottom ensuring you don't get a full double, and narrow pourers are used on bottles ensuring a 3-second pour gives you less booze than you might expect.
Oh, and in perhaps the most diabolical trick, fruity girl drinks may have the rim of the glass coated or straw filled with alcohol with little to none in the drink itself. Come on bartenders, if you're not there to get girls sloppy on oversized pink beverages what exactly are you there for?
An even bigger dickhead than you thought.
Of course, as the night wears on the need for such intricate schemes melts away. That's when bartenders start charging whatever the hell they want on a person-by-person basis, using the "would I like to bone them?" scale. Also, never offer to pay for your group's drinks as most bartenders assume anyone generous (and dense) enough to do such a thing won't mind them adding a dozen or so extra drinks to the tab.
How many times have you stood in your kitchen, packed with enough food to feed a starving African village for a day, and yet found you had nothing you actually wanted to eat? You're not alone; 60 to 70 percent of grocery purchases are unplanned, as supermarkets employ an endless array of tricks to ensure your fridge always has 10 different types of pickles in it, yet no milk.
Rats in a Maze
Supermarkets are carefully designed to be migraine-inducing labyrinths, with the essentials tucked away in the outer reaches of the store. Food's often shelved in seemingly random ways and stores reorganize their shelves every few months to keep you on your toes and send you scrambling again to find the Super Sugar Chocolate Breakfast Nuggets.
Supermarkets are also designed to keep movement as slow as possible, with displays stuck in the middle of aisles to create bottlenecks, strategically placed cart-slowing carpets and smaller floor tiles in expensive aisles (cart wheels click faster over them making you think you're traveling quicker and thus you subconsciously slow down). Oh, and we suspect something might be up with every shopping cart on the planet having at least one bad wheel.
Using Your Kids Against You
Walk into any supermarket and you'll be greeted at the door by the mash-up of smooth jazz and at least a dozen squalling children. Candy, cookies and all the diabestest cereals are usually grouped together in a single aisle feared by mothers everywhere, with the most expensive stuff all shelved at kiddie eye-level. Some supermarkets even offer kid "cooking" classes, which teach a lot more about brand recognition than cooking. Your kid might not know his ABCs, but at least he knows I Can't Believe It's Not Butter now has even more butter taste.
If your mother loved you, she'd buy you this.
"Deals" That are Anything But
Most sales or discounts actually cost you money as typically only the most expensive items are marked down (your 10-cents off five pounds of beluga caviar coupon might not be the hot bargain you think it is). Beware "Buy 5 for 5.99!" style offers, as frequently it's actually less expensive to buy the items individually.
Also your friendly neighborhood grocer isn't afraid to blatantly steal from you at the checkout, just ask the guy who, unlike most, decided to actually pay attention to the scanner at a supermarket where you got free items if you were overcharged. By the end of the year he took home $4,000 in free food.
Grab Bag of Douchebaggery
Supermarkets keep the lights too bright and Muzak overly loud because making you uncomfortable will keep you from making smart shopping decisions. Even those delicious cubes of cheese on toothpicks they give you are a scam (they don't care about selling you cheese, they just want to get your gastric juices flowing). We suggest next time you're hungry you save yourself a headache, grab a rock and see if you can't nail yourself a squirrel for dinner.
The best meat is in the tail.
But perhaps you prefer to leave the tiresome business of food preparation to others. Well don't think you're avoiding being screwed (and we're not just talking about the gallon of waiter and busboy fluids you've consumed due to your lousy tipping).
Eat and Get the Hell Out
There's nothing casual about "casual dining" chains. Their goal is to make you spend as much as possible, as quickly as possible, then clear you out to make room for next minivan full of jalapeno popper-hungry mouths.
To keep you from lingering, chairs are ass-numbingly uncomfortable, the restaurant is divided up into sections to prevent a social atmosphere, and as many tables as possible are "un-anchored" away from walls or partitions (we tend to feel uncomfortable sitting out in the open and won't stick around). Warm colors have been shown to make us eat more and move on quicker, as has fast paced music (as a rule don't eat anywhere with "Flight of the Bumblebee" playing over the speakers).
Getting Less for More
In troubled economic times everyone becomes united in a single goal: chiseling as much money as they can out of everyone else; this includes restaurants, who are using the current economy as an excuse to raise prices while simultaneously cutting down on portions.
Plates are subtly reduced in size and raised in the middle, concealing reduced portion sizes. Even silverware is taken into account, as restaurants will use lighter forks, making the weight of the food on it more noticeable, causing you to think your bites are more substantial. The quality of ingredients is also dropping, with food being aggressively recycled, even picked right out of the trash, and less expensive ingredients are substituted for what's printed on the menu (hey, it all tastes like chicken anyways).
Menu design has become an exact science with the most profitable items placed in the upper left-hand corner (the third dish down is always the most popular item on any menu). Menus today are basically porn for fat people, with the emphasis on big sexy pictures and over-elaborate descriptions, with prices obscured or spelled out (instead of using numbers) so you won't notice them until you've already become smitten with a particularly alluring chunk of meat.
The Dreaded Bill
Heart skip a beat when the bill arrived? Could be they were charging for those obligatory breadsticks, or pouring you bottled water instead of tap. They may have automatically included a 12 - 15% tip "for your convenience" which often leads to accidental double-tipping. Though it may be worth it if it prevents the waiter from putting his dick in your milkshake next time.