MILLIONAIRE Shaf Rasul is our brilliant business columnist. The star of Dragons’ Den Online knows the economy and enterprise inside out — and can help with YOUR ideas and problems.
You may not be familiar with the term ‘upselling’, but you’ve almost certainly experienced this business tactic in action.
If you’re in McDonald’s, the chances are you’ll be asked if you want to “go large” when you buy your meal.
If you’re in the local newsagent, there might be bags of sweeties on the counter that you’ll be offered at a special discount.
Maybe you’ve phoned for a takeaway and you’ve been asked if you want to add on extras, or you’ve walked into your favourite coffee shop and been told you can buy a bigger cup with extra cream for a relatively small price increase.
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Businesses do it because ultimately they want to sell more product and make more money.
But in the last week they’ve come under a fair bit of scrutiny for it.
The Royal Society for Public Health has hit headlines for saying that this common tactic is fuelling the UK’s obesity crisis.
First things first — yes, there clearly is an obesity crisis. And of all the places in the UK, Scotland has always been particularly in the spotlight.
We’re not known for our restraint when it comes to sweet, fatty, salty indulgences.
Only a week ago this very newspaper reported that Nicola Sturgeon had declared war on the country’s obesity crisis with plans to curb the ways in which junk food is promoted.
She wants to limit the marketing of food and drink products that contribute to ill health.
Last month a survey from the National Charity Partnership revealed that almost half of the country’s parents were worried about their kids’ snacking habits, but a large percentage of them continued to give their kids crisps and biscuits between meals.
And as lots of schoolkids have recently started the new term, it’s worth remembering that less than a year ago figures came out revealing more than 8,000 kids in this country had started school either obese or overweight in the last decade.
So there is clearly a problem.
But, unpopular as this view may be, I’m not sure I entirely agree with pointing the finger at businesses that upsell.
Should we put so much blame on them? Some of the news reports I read said consumers were being “tricked” and that it’s a “marketing ploy”.
Well I beg to differ. If you are in a fast food restaurant and somebody asks you “Do you want fries with that?” and you say yes, are you really being tricked?
Nobody is sneaking those fries onto your tray — least of all Ronald McDonald with a big, reassuring grin on his face, telling you to go wild.
You’ve got a tongue in your head, so use it. As a consumer you are being offered a choice, and you are choosing to say yes.
I say this in a completely non-judgmental way. I know that weight loss can be a challenge.
In the last year I’m proud to have dropped a good number of pounds after watching what I ate and working my socks off in the gym.
But when I was buying less healthy options, I wasn’t being fooled into doing it.
It was my choice to buy it, just like it was my choice not to when I took a healthier approach.
Despite my views on the upselling debate, I do still agree that big brands have a responsibility when it comes to tackling obesity, and we’re already seeing them taking this seriously.
More and more companies are expanding their ranges to include low calorie and no sugar options.
Just look at Irn-Bru — owner AG Barr announced a few months ago that they’d be making massive sugar reductions by this autumn ahead of the UK Government’s crackdown on fizzy drinks.
So let’s not be overly harsh when it comes to criticising retailers that offer consumers freedom of choice.
But equally, let’s applaud those Scottish companies that are finding innovative ways to modify recipes and present healthier options.
Deal is a matter of fact
I’ve seen a lot of people change career very successfully. Most of them were inspired to do so by a desire to spend more time doing something they love.
I admire that tenacity — realising that you want to step out on your own and do something you feel passionate about shows real strength of character.
Reading about the latest development in the business journey of two Banchory brothers reinforced the notion that, with a spark of ingenuity and some determination, a good idea can change your life.
The dynamic duo of Jim and John Ewen started out in the oil and gas industry but decided to set up Scotland’s first rum distillery — Dark Matter — in 2015.
And Dark Matter rum will now be stocked in 450 Tesco stores across the UK in a deal worth millions.
The pair employ three people but it’s hoped if the Tesco listing is a success, more jobs will be created.
It’s a dream scenario for the brothers and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The rise in craft brewers and artisanal distillers shows that people are moving away from quaffing mainstream booze and are up for trying something new.
Jim and John have used the scientific skills gained from their oil and gas days and channelled them into this venture.
That’s what business is all about — using skills from different roles and refocusing them on what you love to make it work.
We all have to work at being masters of diversification to help our businesses evolve.
A willingness to change to make things better should be at the heart of every businessman and woman — and if that passion can change the behaviour of consumers in your favour, then you’re onto a winner.
Humour is just the jobby!
THE poo-r girl who had an unfortunate toilet mishap on a first date is still firmly in the news.
No wonder — it’s not often that you get stuck in a window while trying to get rid of a number two that won’t flush.
While I feel really sorry for her, there’s been an amazing business angle to the headlines.
In order to extricate the girl, the window had to be broken, and when tenant Liam Smyth was quoted £300 for the repair, he set up a GoFundMe page, pledging to donate any excess money to charity.
He has now raised almost TEN TIMES that – so the girl’s ‘deposit’ has effectively helped some very good causes.
It just shows how much can be raised when a country is united — in this case, by humour.
ASK SHAF…YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED…ASK SHAF
Dear Shaf, I am thinking about investing in property. I see from your website that you invest in a lot of commercial property rather than residential. Can you tell me why?
SHAF SAYS: I prefer commercial property as an investor because it provides a better return on investment in terms of the income it produces.
The average return can be up to 12 per cent which is much higher than residential property.
Commercial property is let to companies rather than individuals, therefore the income tends to be more secure.
Commercial property also gives more opportunity to increase the capital value of the investment, through active asset management.
Dear Shaf, I closed my business down in 2010. There were a couple of companies I couldn’t afford to pay.
I called them, explained the situation to them and they asked me to put it in writing which I did.
Last week I got a letter from one of companies saying that I owed them £870 plus interest and what were my proposals to pay.
I am worried as I have a young family and I can’t afford to pay.
SHAF SAYS: I wouldn’t worry about the letter as the debt is unenforceable.
Under the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 your debt has been extinguished.
The creditor has never made contact since 2010 about the debt.
You have not acknowledged the debt since 2010 nor have you made any payments against it.
Finally, there are no decrees on the debt.
I have emailed you a letter which you should print and send recorded delivery to the company which I think will bring the matter to a close.
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