5 Everyday Rip-Offs That Are Surprisingly Easy to Avoid

The world is an awful place, filled with people like us, all trying to screw us over every chance we get. Our only defense is intense, bile-filled suspicion, of anyone and everyone we deal with, including infants.


I've always considered it this column's mission to help my readers put up walls between themselves and everyone close to them. Which is why today I'd like to turn everyone's attention to the long grass of consumer purchases, and the jackals that lie in wait for you there. With the tips presented here, you'll soon find yourself saving five, even six dollars a week, which, over the course of 10 years, will add up to two or three grand. Which ... is actually a lot less impressive than it sounds. Huh. OK, I'll also put in some advanced tips, ways to avoid being ripped off so hard that you may actually rip something else entirely. So, as with most of the advice I give, please, please, remember to stretch first.

#5. Razor Blades

Disposable razor blade cartridges can cost more than $4 per cartridge, which, when replaced once per week, turns shaving into one of the most expensive face-related expenses we ever have to face. And yet, thanks to society, shaving is something that can't be ignored, unless we live in the hills, or Portland.

How to Avoid Being Ripped Off:

Replace the blades less often. First, those guidelines that say we should replace our blades three or four times a month come from the companies that are selling the blades. Now, these guys do know razors, but because they also know "taking your money," they might not be the most trustworthy source of advice. Instead, try replacing your blades when they stop working. And you can keep your blades working a lot longer with a few easy tips, also conspicuously absent from the razor blade cartel's promotional reading.

Razor blades don't dull from cutting your soft doughy face, nor even your food-encrusted whiskers -- the dulling effect actually comes from water and air corroding the metal. You can greatly limit that corrosion by simply drying the blades after each use -- blotting them on a towel is the easiest technique, but other people have had success with dipping them in alcohol, blowing on them really hard or throwing them in the direction of the sun.

"Helios! Bestow upon me your bounty of heat!"

How to REALLY Avoid Being Ripped Off:

Pluck your face. Tweezers last basically forever, so it's economical, so long as your time isn't very expensive, which, let's be honest here, Cracked reader, it probably isn't. Also, the confidence you gain from plucking every hair on your neck and face will give you a demeanor that many observers would describe as "wild, shit-eating intensity" -- which will certainly come in handy during business negotiations or when staring down any hostage takers.

#4. Gas

Gasoline makes our cars run and our Molotov cocktails burn. And depending on how much you drive, or how much you fight The Man each week, gasoline may very well be one of the biggest expenses you have. Although the rising price of oil is the primary cause of the rising price of gas, the fact that every oil company is currently making record profits is justification enough for your rage, and offers a hint of who to offer your next batch of justice cocktails to.

How to Avoid Being Ripped Off:

There are a lot of tricks on how to save money when shopping for gas floating around out there. Gas-saving websites let you track local gas price fluctuations. Also, try timing your purchases to buy gas at the cheapest times (mornings, the 1980s). And if you can avoid driving all summer, you should definitely do that.

How to REALLY Avoid Being Ripped Off:

Don't give those sons of bitches your money in the first place by cutting back your need for gas. Gas-saving enthusiasts who call themselves hypermilers have compiled a whole bunch of fuel-economy tips that you can use, although the more advanced ones get pretty crazy. I'd suggest starting off with simple measures, like keeping your tires properly inflated, rolling your windows up and tailgating behind semi-trailers while driving downhill with your lights and air conditioning off.

Also, try blowing through stop signs while shrieking obscenities about OPEC.

#3. Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are typically offered when purchasing big-ticket appliances and home electronics. "Hey, wouldn't it suck if your television stopped working?" the sales pitch generally goes. "Give us a bunch of money and we'll make sure it sucks less."

"Please work, television! You're all I've got! I've made some big mistakes in my life, and ... I need House so bad right now. Just give me some House, please?"

There are a whole bunch of reasons why extended warranties are a rip-off. Briefly:

- Because many issues will be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

- Because many repairs may cost less than the warranty itself.

- Because the extended warranty generally won't cover accidents, or abuse, or fudge damage.

How to Avoid Being Ripped Off:

Don't buy them. Even aside from the above reasons, there's a general rule about insurance -- which extended warranties are a form of -- that you should know. On the other side of every insurance deal is an insurance company with nerds and spreadsheets who know exactly how much that insurance should be worth and will sell it to you for a markup way higher than that.

For example, let's say you're insuring against an Uh-Oh.

Like getting into a Zeus-fight.

The insurance company figures this Uh-Oh has a 1 in 10 chance of happening each year, and if it does, it will cost $1,000 dollars. The insurance company will conclude that this insurance should cost them about $100 a year, and will then offer it to you for $150 a year with an enormous smile.

That's not completely unreasonable, incidentally. They obviously have to cover their overhead, the costs of maintaining all those nerds and spreadsheets, and they certainly have a right to make a profit. But you also have the right to not overpay for shit.

Now, in some cases, you should really still buy insurance. For things like home insurance, or life insurance, or car insurance, where you couldn't afford the costs of an Uh-Oh, then insurance is usually a prudent idea. It spreads out the costs of the Uh-Oh into small, bite-sized chunks. But if the Uh-Oh is less big -- more of a Meh-Oh, I guess -- where you can afford the costs, there's a concept called "self-insurance" you should know. This basically says, "Don't buy the damned insurance, Chester." The money you save by not buying it will more than offset the costs you'll incur. Losing a television would suck ...

"I would sell my body just for one tiny glimpse of you, Don Draper."

... but it's something most of us can probably recover from.

How to REALLY Avoid Being Ripped Off:

Offer Best Buy a reverse extended warranty. In exchange for them paying you a small fee, if at any time the product fails during the next three years, you won't drive your car through the front window, shrieking obscenities about OPEC.

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Chris Bucholz

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