/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Enough already! No, I don’t want fries with that

Mesmerising fries

Have you had enough of being asked whether you’d like a muffin with your coffee, a coffee with your muffin, a gigantic block of chocolate with your newspaper or a loan with your overdraft?

I know I’m not the only one annoyed with shop assistants upselling me extras when I get to the till. Helen contacted us via the Which? Convo inbox saying:

‘I think the sales pitch that now always graces the end of the Post Office counter worker’s spiel is deeply annoying and totally unacceptable.’

And it’s not just the Post Office. It seems most chain shops now have standard lines that their staff are forced to jump in with when you’re at the till.

Sugar and a cherry on top?

Like Helen, this annoys me intensely. Every time, the same thought runs through my mind: ‘But if I’d wanted that attractive range of mortgage products, bottle of fizzy water or cut-price sandwich… I would have asked for it.’

I’ve yet to have a Michael Douglas/Falling Down moment of rage where I snap this back at the poor person serving. Instead I bite down my natural reaction and mutter a “no thanks” before walking off, with the goods that I actually wanted to buy.

Who will buy my till-side extras?

So I’m annoyed. But I channel that annoyance into making sure I never buy the extra thing I’m being offered, even if I am slightly tempted. That doesn’t seem to work out very well for the company concerned – if everyone acted like me, the company wouldn’t make any money from the tactic.

I can think of just one time I actually bought the extra – recently when buying a card I did actually need some stamps… so I popped next door to the bank to get a small loan and then bought them too. (OK, I was joking about the bank – I bought the stamps with the card).

But am I in a grumpy minority here, or does this strategy work with you? Do you sometimes say ‘go on then’ and buy the extra item suggested?

Are you bothered by being ‘upsold’ items when you’re at the till point?

Yes - if I wanted the extra thing I’d have asked for it (80%, 209 Votes)

No - I don’t mind, occasionally it’s useful (20%, 53 Votes)

Total Voters: 270

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When I order a vodka and coke I was always met with the “Do you want to make it a double for just…”. I now ask for a single vodka and coke which avoids the annoying question but still confuses some of the less intelligent bar staff who ask anyway.

This does annoy me too. I haven’t encountered it yet at the Post Office but it sems to be compulsory at W H Smith. They invariably invite me to buy one of their discounted chocolate bars which have been kicking around the counter for days. Recently I noticed another customer was seduced by the offer so she bought two big bars of chocolate and then asked for a bag to put her, by now bulky, purchases in. Needless to say they charged her for that as well. Superdrug is another annoying miscreant in this respect with “Do you want any stamps or top-ups today?” uttered in a bored drawl. This usually happens when I’m trying to remember the particular pin number I need to use on that occasion so I muck up the payment and delay the whole queue. Super.

loskie says:
15 August 2012

No this does not annoy me at all. I am perfectly capable of saying no as most of you should be. I do sometimes feel sorry for the assistant/bank worker/shop worker who is told to ask this question. I sometimes say “yes” when asked do I want help packing my bag and the response is usually one of great surprise. You should all say yes even if you just have a couple of items….just for devilment.
But it is certainly not worth getting annoyed over.

I too feel sorry for the assistant – they most probably have a really boring job and just to make it even more boring the manager asks them to try and flog something that isnt selling in the store and that no one wants

Keith says:
16 August 2012

The shop assistant asks the question he or she has been told to ask – I answer ‘no’ and we both move on with our lives. It takes about 5 seconds, and doesn’t annoy me. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes, having to ask the same question over and over again. Sometimes, however, shop assistants will continue to try and sell me additional product insurance even after my first ‘no’. That changes things, because they’ve now stepped over the line, and I find that annoying.

Sophie Gilbert says:
16 August 2012

At the bank it’s “would you like an ISA with that?”. It doesn’t happen systematically thankfully. Sometimes it annoys me, sometimes it doesn’t, it depends on the kind of day I’m having, I guess. But I won’t take it out on the people asking, like loskie and Keith I have a degree of sympathy for them. But we could all do without it, couldn’t we?…

I had not thought about this and I probably just say ‘no thank you’.

Which? Conversation has helped me appreciate a lot of problems I did not realise that I have.

Richard says:
16 August 2012

Usually I just say no, but the most annoying is when I ring Three for anything.

Every time I ring they say that they have an offer for a new additional contract for good customers like myself ( paying the bill presumably, six months with them isn’t exactly gold plated customer material). Being single, why I should want a second 2 year contract is something that baffles me.

I was bored one day and said what have you got to offer me, and then they put me through to the sales team and the person didn’t have a clue what I was being put through for. Wow that made me feel special.

Helen says:
16 August 2012

Richard’s article quotes my letter – which, granted, may have been a bit strongly worded, just as I got home from town, the post office being one chore too many! I’m struck by the generosity of the people commenting so far and wondering, am I really so uncharitable?! I don’t actually object when a shop assistant mentions a cheap deal on, for example, a bar of chocolate, as it takes a second to be told and a second to say no. But it’s the big financial institutions who try and sell you their financial products that bother me (nb not the person at the counter who’s obliged to do it – which is another reason I’m annoyed with the institutions!). Many of the banks are not in the public’s good books, for good reason, and listening to cold-selling when you’re innocently withdrawing your money or purchasing stamps – all couched in friendly sales-speak – really does irritate me.

mcdonalds are becoming well known for upselling now. What part of medium big mac meal with medium coke do they not get. They tried to upsell to large big mac meal with large choc milkshake and an ice cream and onion rings. which would have added 25% to the bill. Spent more time in there saying no, no, no, no than eating the food.

I am far more concerned with supermarkets that entice us with ‘buy one – get one free offer” on fresh food’, usually after pushing up the price of the individual item.

It is just another way of getting us to buy more than we want and particularly hard on single people who may either have to eat more than they want or waste some of the food.

I’m with Richard and Helen on this – I find it really annoying to be offered things that have only a tenuous connection to what I’m buying. If I pop into a shop to get a newspaper and they offer me chocolate, I don’t really get why. Likewise if I’m at a bank paying in a cheque and they offer me a loan, I get *really* annoyed.

I think there are some times when these extra offers are nice – for instance if it’s something that might genuinely be useful (i.e. stamps with a card, as Richard says), but so often it just seems like a desperate attempt for the shop to hurl more products at you than a genuinely thoughtful offer.

Speaking of tenuous connections … . The one thing that *really* annoys me is buying diesel at a garage and being pestered with some deal on sugary snacks and loyalty cards. This is before the assistant has even had the courtesy to greet me, or start dealing with my basic need to pay for fuel and leave. Rather than risk snapping at the assistant, my tactic is to approach the till and announce: “Hello, pump number 3 please. I do not want any chocolate and, no, I do not have a Shell card.” This sometimes gets a smile and a sheepish admission they are told to ask each customer this, or risk some unspecified purgatory from the management.

Good point, Em, and I do feel a bit sorry for the assistants in this scenario. I once worked in a call centre doing ‘retention’ (i.e. talking to angry people who wanted to cancel contracts) and I had to answer the phone with the most cringe-inducingly cheesy line. A couple of customers picked me up on it and said “You’ve got a nerve”, to which I wasn’t allowed to respond “well, the company makes me say it…” so I just had to repeat the line. Excruciating – was always welcome when the customer recognised that it wasn’t my choice to say such annoying things!

par ailleurs says:
16 August 2012

I get really irritated by petrol stations that make it compulsory to buy chocolate if you buy fuel with a credit card. Well I tell Mrs PA that they say that anyway.


There’s a pub at Waterloo and another at Victoria (so perhaps quite different to typical high street or village pubs), where the staff routinely ask whether you’d like a bag of nuts with your drink.

The funny thing is that the same staff ask the same question each time you go to the bar. It’s not as if the pub’s busy or that they think I may have developed an appetite within the half our that passes between rounds, it’s because the question’s asked without thought. This to me, doesn’t represent good customer service.

Good customer service should be tailored to the customer – even if that just means only asking whether the customer wants nuts once per visit.

As an employee of a cinema chain, you are pressured to up sell, other wise your job is on the line. As much as i feel the frustration of the customer, the employee feels the same (at least the people i work with). Its money grabbing people at the top, who let you know if you refuse to do what they ask to there ideal standard then you will be easily replaced!

[We’ve made a slight edit to your comment John. Thanks, mods.]

What I always do is say “you know, despite what your manager told you, upselling really *doesn’t* work”. If they’re then dumb enough to repeat their pitch (most of them aren’t), I say “see?, look at it not working on me right now”. I’ve only once had someone dumb enough to try and launch back into their script a third time (in WH Smiths), at which point I just handed my item to them and asked them to return it to the shelf for me as I was no longer interested in even making the purchase I’d come in for let alone listening to more of their failed attempts to upsell. I sincerely hope their trip to the freezer to return the item in question (an ice lolly) peed them off, and I’ve a feeling it did.

It’s only when you waste the assistant’s time as much as they are wasting yours that this discoureous and greedy behaviour will stop. And please don’t attempt to make me feel sorry for the person behind the till – they get paid to annoy people, so they can deal with the consequences. By not patronising them and playing along with their attempt to impose on my good manners, maybe I’ll even encourage them to get a job that’s actually worthwhile.

What an incredibly arrogant attitude towards shop assistants RP displays. I would agree that anyone daft enough to keep repeating their spiel when you’ve said a firm no isn’t too bright but many companies are quite unpleasant to their staff if they don’t reach “targets” so getting upset with the assistant is very unfair. They are just doing their job. To suggest that shop workers are not doing a “worthwhile” job is ignorant in the extreme. Many are extremely knowledgeable about the products they sell and can offer useful advice.
Despite what RP thinks “upselling” DOES work and that’s why companies persist with it.

helen b says:
16 May 2013

First of all you have no good manners. People like myself who have made the choice to go back to work and are fortunate to get employment are pressurised to try and push these products or loose our jobs. Believe me none of us agree with this so please take it up with the management or do some sort of high profile protest and do us all a favour.

I’m truly glad to see that my response has exactly the intended effect on the perpetrators of this behaviour – i.e., to annoy you as much as you are annoying customers. One of you even managed to trot out the old “I’m just doing my job / I vos only obeyink orders” line as justification for your behaviour. What a pathetic and easy to refute excuse for doing anything upleasant.

Funnily enough, I quite often get that “my boss made me do it” response from people in person when I object to upselling too. The conversation usually goes something like this: “Would you also like to buy a….”, “No, and please refrain from upselling during the rest of this transaction”, “I’m asked to do this by my boss” (usually said with an air of entitlement that indicates they believe this renders any subsequent attempt to upsell inevitable and absolves them from all responsibility for the consequences of their behaviour). I then say, “…and did your boss ask you to argue with customers or react in this angrily offended way when customers merely ask you to stop upselling in their individual case? No? Well, now we’ve established that you’re capable of exercising some limited initiative and doing things that your boss hasn’t specifically asked to do, all you’re being asked to do now is direct that carefree attitude into not wasting any more of my time during the rest of this transaction. As I said, no more upselling please. Unless you want to put this item back on the shelf for me and I’ll take my business elsewhere.” The nicer the tone you can adopt whilst pointing out the hypocrisy of their actions, the more the cognitive dissonance of their obviously delusional “my boss made me act like this ” excuse makes their head explode.

They generally go on to ring up my item, whilst quietly fizzing and turning red.

[Hi, we’ve edited this comment slightly to meet our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

sam says:
27 July 2015

You are quickly going to run out of shops to go in with an attitude like that.

[Hi Sam, we’ve tweaked this comment slightly to meet our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Pink bex says:
8 September 2013

I have recently finished university and have gotten back into work as a sales assistant (isn’t the most ideal job but I refused to go on the dole) we have been told if we don’t sell at least 20 items at the till in a 8 hour shift we could lose our jobs. I have to say that most items we have on the tills are however best sellers so this does help. Thankfully I have yet to receive a complaint about asking if someone would like extra items I just get a simple no and carry on with my job.

Paul says:
25 June 2014

I am a WHSmith employee. I know you are annoyed at being asked to buy extra stuff but we have no choice. We have targets to reach. We also have to scan and give out a voucher with every transaction. If our standards are below expected then we will get fired.

Hopefully a polite ‘no thank you’ will be sufficient. I make a point of not buying more than I have selected, or buying anything as a result of an unsolicited phone call or doorstep visit. I can see that it might help some to be offered shoe polish with shoes or batteries with electrical goods, but that’s about all.

Good luck getting a new job when WH Smiths inevitably goes the way of Woolworths, HMV, Jessops, Comet and all the other stores for whom upselling “worked” so well.

The “only doing my job” was a defence used at Nuremberg. suffice to say, the court generally didn’t accept it. you are reponsible for your own actions. just because it’s your job it doesn’t mean you’re not being an a******e if you do it.

Roy says:
12 April 2015

Can’t retail workers join a Union if they’re unhappy about conditions? I think USDAW is a Union for shop workers (or some such name!) Ultimately I believe, it’s the responsibility of store management to stand up for the welfare of it’s staff, and if there ARE issues such as ‘upselling’ at the checkout, the issue should be raised with Head Office.

A lot of shop workers are poorly paid, working part-time, on difficult shift patterns that restrict their ability to work additional hours elsewhere, have low contractual status, enjoy hardly any security of employment, and they are frequently with employers who will not recognise a trade union. Obligatory “upselling” is hardly at the top of their agenda and to raise such issues might jeopardise their position. As for the store management standing up for the welfare of its staff, if an employee objected to being required to ask customers if they wanted to buy a bar of chocolate with their newspaper, I can imagine the two words of managerial guidance likely to be given.

As s person who works in retail and indeed has to ask these questions on a daily basis; I would like to let you know that we have to make a percentage of our sales on upsells. They normally want £30 an hour in upsells. If you don’t meet this percentage for the week you are given a warning, 3 weeks you are brought into the office for a talk on where you went wrong, 3+ you most likely lose your job.
I know this is not the customers fault but maybe think next time someone offeres you an extra candy bar.

Makes me think that’s your problem, not mine. And no excuse for annoying people. At least when your company closes because everyone is shopping at Amazon to avoid these annoying upsells, you wont have to face customers any more from inside the Amazon Warehouse.