Online Clothing Retailer Accused Of False Advertising


Advertising ExpertThis case involves an online clothing company that made false and misleading claims in its advertising. The company was marketed as a luxury clothing line and used high-pressure sales tactics to draw consumers to purchase. The company had various high-resolution images of their merchandise online and pop-up testimonials speaking to the speedy delivery service. In addition, the company ran deeply discounted promotions for 5 minutes at a time and placed a large clock at the top of the webpage that commenced countdown the moment a consumer began browsing the webpage.  After purchase, most of the consumers never received their clothing. Those that did only received their purchases after 2-3 months and were sent very low-quality garments that did not resemble the online images. It was alleged that the defendants participated in high-pressure, aggressive sales tactics throughout the process, manipulatively impacting the consumer’s buying decisions. An expert was sought speak to the psychology behind high-pressure sales scenarios and the consumer decision making.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please explain your knowledge of the psychology of high-pressure sales?
  • 2. What are the manipulative impacts on consumers?
  • 3. Are you familiar with the psychological profile of consumers who are particularly susceptible to such tactics?

Expert Witness Response E-019669

High pressure sales tactics are strategies that manipulate people based on societal norms and capitalize on individuals with psychological vulnerabilities. Often, a rapport is first developed between the salesperson and the target consumer, sometimes a so-called gift is given, or some act to make the consumer feel obligated to the salesperson. The consumer feels guilty and indebted. When he or she does resist, they are talked over, or the salesperson talks non-stop and the potential consumer is worn out, a captive audience, abiding by the social norm to not interrupt rudely. High pressure sales takes advantage of both social psychological principles (how people tend to behave in groups or towards one another), as well as the psychological profile of those most susceptible. This includes individuals with a history of abuse, being bullying, or simply having grown up with a highly authoritarian or punitive parent. These individuals could tend to feel incapable of standing up or walking out on someone that might resonate or trigger similar feelings that they experienced as a child. They might go into a “freeze response” (fight-flight-freeze is a stress reaction, particularly common in individuals with anxiety and those with trauma in their background).

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