Sometimes we just really need to stick up for each other. So there they were, just before Christmas, two friends struggling with a store guy to get a refund after being slipped a useless extended warranty.

Becca had been upsold. "I really did feel subtly coerced into purchasing the warranty by a lovely and very helpful young man who sold me a cheap laptop and tablet."

Upselling is that sales technique where we get offered another related product just as we're buying something. "Want fries with that?" is perhaps the best example of all time. It's extremely effective.

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"He really was on my side and looking out for me - that's what I was led to believe anyway."

Still, there's something shady about it. Here's why: studies have shown that something called "decision fatigue" is real. Making choice after choice is downright draining mentally.

So if we've been exhausting our brainpower on selecting the right laptop - comparing features, prices, etc. - we're more prone to being upsold an extended warranty we'll never use.

We spend our mental energy on the first choice, without realising that there will be another to make that will need our full attention, and without much time to think, either.

He really was on my side and looking out for me - that's what I was led to believe anyway.

The best upsells are supposed to give us some additional benefit to our original purchase, which is why extended warranties make good candidates. But in Becca's case, when she looked at her receipt afterwards, the warranty was not what she thought she'd bought: it was for one year, not three; it didn't cover the full value of the computer either.

And here's the thing: that laptop was already covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act, which gives us the right to expect that our purchases will last for a reasonable amount of time. And this applies for most things we buy.

The Fair Trading Act also gives us the right to change our minds on extended warranties and ask for our money back within five working days.

"So I asked for a refund after everyone in the office was aghast that I fell for it," Becca says.

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Now it helps to have friends in high places, or at least one whose job it is to let people know about their rights as consumers. And it certainly also helps to be able to whip out a smartphone and dial up the Consumer Guarantees Act when you're aiming to get your money back. Yet the salesperson almost convinced Becca to keep the warranty.

"If Clem wasn't with me, getting out her phone to show the Consumer Guarantees Act to the store guy," she says, "I would have lost the gumption." After what seemed ages, the refund finally came through.

When the successful pair left, the store guys were scratching their heads, not quite sure what had just happened. "So that lady just asked for a refund on the warranty? But she didn't return the laptop? What's up with that?"

Apparently this sort of thing doesn't happen as much as it should. Who knows how many needless warranties we've all been upsold over the years?


Get Sorted is written by Sorted's resident blogger, Tom Hartmann. Check out the guides and calculators from Sorted - brought to you by the Commission for Financial Capability - at sorted.org.nz.