Quartz recently took a look at the various nefarious ways that shopping websites are separating us from our money.
According to the story, “the sneakiest design and interface tricks [websites] use are known as ‘dark patterns,’ and an extensive analysis conducted by Princeton and the University of Chicago found that those ‘dark patterns appear on more than 11% of roughly 11,000 shopping sites studied.’”
The article goes on to explain that these dark patterns are perfectly legal, “even though they can fool users into giving up personal data, leverage compulsive behaviors in adults and children, and even lead to financial loss.”
Examples of dark patterns include “limited time offers” that pressure consumers “by creating a false sense of urgency” even though “deadlines are often meaningless.” (Researchers “found more than 100 instances where a site’s timer would either reset… or the limited-time offer simply remained valid” after the purported end date.)
Sites are also displaying unverifiable information about other customers’ shopping activity — those “so and so just bought…” widgets – and ThreadUp was called out by name in the article for using “fake names and locations in combination with products that were always identified as being ‘just sold.’”
Other tactics include “short supply” messages, “confirmshaming” — where a site makes you select an unflattering option to not opt-in to an offer — and “pressured selling,” which “makes the most expensive option the default.”
And because data continues its reign as the 21st Century’s most valuable currency, “sites may force you to create an account just to browse,” allowing them access to data that might not have been shared otherwise.
On the upside, some “US lawmakers have proposed a bill to ban certain varieties” of dark patterns. High-capacity magazines and 8chan are apparently still cool, though.
But until legislation passes, we’re on our own. So double-check them carts.
You can read more about it at Quartz.