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Honey deal trap: trick the target into side deals, then renege (Singapore Airlines example)

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This is an old trick since court of laws and third-party guarantors first appeared.

And it continues in modern digital times with digital platform that can enforce monetary resolutions by holding onto the plaintiff's cash.
Almost any e-commerce platform offer those types of services, so you must be watchful for this one.

How does the trick work?

1. Avoid official channels, talk directly to the plaintiff

When one party escalates a dispute through official channels, the defendant does not talk to the plaintiff through official channels, but seeks to find a resolution directly with the plaintiff.

2. Offer good terms

The defendant is usually pliable and nice to the plaintiff and offers good terms -or "good enough" if he wants to seem more credible-.
They agree on a resolution.

3. Invite the plaintiff to close the resolution in the official channel

The defendant then says "OK, now we got a deal, you can withdraw your complaint and I'll send your money right away".

4. When the plaintiff withdraws the official complaint, renege the deal

Once the plaintiff withdraws the case from the official channels, he often renounces his right to enforce any resolution through that official channel.

And since most of the time he has no other way to impose any sanction on the (former) defendant, now the plaintiff his powerless. And he can be easily screwed. Which the plaintiff, at this point, is quite likely to do.

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Matthew WhitewoodStefDeleted userKavalier
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Singapore Airlines Example

What's truly shocking to me is that Singapore Airlines seems to be using exactly this technique on me.

I opened a controversy through PayPal, and they contact me directlynot through  PayPal as one is expected to do.

See here the first approach:


And then their latest email so far, sounds a lot like the set up for the screw to come:

Notice this:

  • Full refund "may" be accorded to you: like you don't know if a flight you canceled is enough for a refund? Sounds like a great of covering their asses in case they won't
  • We will await for your confirmation: sounds a lot like "confirm it's OK for you, and now you can withdraw your official complaint".

IF this were the case, it would be terrible of an international business like Singapore Airlines.
BUT so far I'm not sure yet.

So, for now, take this as a warning on the technique, not as a strike against the company.
And I'll keep you updated on this, really curious to see how it goes.

Your Counter-Technique: Play the Sucker,

When you smell a cheat, you have an advantage.

Your goal is not to shame them right away, but to play stupid.
By playing stupid, you want to play the game one step ahead.

If Singapore Airlines now tries to make me close the dispute in PayPal without offering no real guarantee they'll refund me, I will have a proof of their cheating ways, which I might then bring it to PayPal.

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StefDeleted userKavalier
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Wouldn't it be easier to just say hey paypall, fix it? Or am I just being lazy now.

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StefDeleted user
Quote from Guest on May 1, 2020, 1:48 pm

Wouldn't it be easier to just say hey paypall, fix it? Or am I just being lazy now.

You mean escalating to PayPal to handle on our behalf?

Certainly possible.

But think of the message that would send.
It would make me look like an impatient buyer with a short fuse.
In the description of the claim I said that I tried to cancel first on my dashboard, that I call Singapore Airlines more than once, and I wrote an email and that I gave them enough time to reply

That's all true, by the way.

But if I escalate quickly, I send the opposite message: that I'm not giving Singapore Airlines a chance to say their piece.

Instead, think of what waiting does.

It costs me absolutely nothing to wait.
And the more time passes without a Singapore Airlines official reply, the more they look like an unresponsive, uncaring company.

That really helps my case, and exactly confirms what I claimed in the dispute: that they don't respond.
That stuff weighs on the final decision.

The more SA writes in private while ignoring the official channels, the more they are hurting their case.
They might have wanted to be smart and outsmart the customer -but I'm not yet sure about that, they might just be incompetent, updates to follow-, but they are hurting themselves.

Makes sense?

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StefDeleted userKavalier
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The "honey deal trap" I'm learning so much :).

I think I might be in a similar situation right now that would be interesting to share.

Back in March, I ordered a suit for a meeting with directors and producers that was scheduled to take place in June. The company said the package would arrive in 8 - 10 business days.

After placing the order in March, the package had not arrived until a few days ago in August. That means that the meeting had already passed and I no longer needed the suit.

I was concerned this might happen when I placed this order, which is why I ordered so many months in advance. After the 10th business day had passed, I immediately disputed the transaction with my bank to make sure I could get my money back if push came to shove after contacting the company (I wasn't sure if they would negotiate in good faith, but I was concerned they'd stubbornly hold onto the money because companies are going out of business due to the virus and need every cent they can get). This was their response:

Since the first early reach out to the company that I made back in March was only done as insurance, there was no real urgency yet with the meeting being all the way in June. But, now we're in June.

Luckily, the meeting had been pushed back due to the virus as well, so I patiently waited 13 more days instead of 10 for more negotiating power.

Still no package.

So, I notified them to contact their logistics department to search for it, all the while keeping my bank updated on the situation. This is what they said:

Ouch. Not good news. We're in July now, the date for the meeting has passed, and I no longer need the package. What I need now, is a refund. So, between keeping my bank updated on this new development, I'm also contacting the company. This was my first response:

Looking back, perhaps I could have been more persuasive here in this reach out. However, I'm emailing with the expectation of receiving a refund so that they can display good customer service and maintain a good relationship with a "happy" customer (I was actually upset, but didn't want to break rapport).

I also held back on the persuasion because when they offered me only a $10 discount, something told me they weren't going to be too open to giving me a full refund later down the line (which is what I wanted). By reaching out this way, if they don't give me a refund now, it looks worse on them when I show these emails to my bank, in which case I would have a higher chance of getting my full money back.

Their response:

"We need to apologize to keep you waiting so long" (= we have the power to make you wait)

So, the apology was really a covert power move, but I let that one go.

They don't give any timeframe on when they will get back to me, all we can tell from their email is that they completely ignore my request for a refund.

Note to self: be more direct next time you reach out to them.

They sent that email on July 31. Since they gave no timeframe, I have to reach out to them weeks later to find out what's going on:

The virus affecting shipping speed can cause customer satisfaction to suffer. That's understandably out of their control, but there's no real excuse for this lack of customer service here. They respond with:

I'm already in something of a sour mood from the whole process, and now they're asking for favors. Still, I want my money, so I make the calls and do the work over the following six days. Nothing.

Remember that note to self I made earlier about being more direct in terms of wanting a refund? Yea, it's time to apply my lessons learned. I address the confirmation link and post office so that we can remove it from the conversation. Then, I put my foot down a bit harder.

I'm not sure how banks operate in terms of disputing transactions, but I assumed if they saw emails of me attacking the company angrily, they'd feel less like I deserved a refund and be less inclined to help out. So, as dissatisfied as I am, I do my best to maintain warmth throughout my emails. This is what the company says:

Even if it wasn't their intention, after the way they ignored my first request for a refund as well as the extra work they have me doing, it feels as if the only reason they brought up the post office in the first place was so they could shift the blame toward them. This way, they keep their money, I get my money, my bank has one less issue to deal with, and everybody wins.

Smart, but the way they went about it wasn't smooth at all. It's as if they thought I wouldn't notice the game being played here after we've been emailing back and forth for the past five months.

It's at this point that it's really setting in the severe power disadvantage that I'm at. They could draw this out until the end of the year in which case my time is more important than these trivial emails. It makes their apology for making me wait sting that much more.

Either way, as bad as I want to fully put my foot down by using the Insist & Dominate frame control technique, I'm at the point of using the broken record frame control technique to be direct without being demanding. Since I'm at such a power disadvantage, I have a strong feeling that what's going to make the difference here isn't me, it's my bank. In response to my "broken record" frame control, the company finally says:

I have no need for the suit anymore, so yes, I'll take the refund. After I let them know this, they pull what I believe to be the honey deal trap.

Honey Deal Trap:

LOL, that's not happening. Let's see what happens when I play dumb.

Here, I'm pretty much trying my best not to expend too much social effort since this entire process has now felt like an almost half a year argument. I should've guessed that someone who wants to keep their money this bad wouldn't be swayed by a trick like this, especially when they're the ones with my money and in the power position.

Great. Time to bust out those Yale negotiation skills :).

If you're a little unsure of what my thought process is as far as why I think this is a honey deal trap, I'll explain it the same way I explained it to them:

In other words, I didn't come all this way to get screwed over by a cheap shot.

My bank doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot, so I empower the company to work with me on solutions that will allow us both to walk away satisfied. I extend an olive branch to recruit them to my side.

Instead of working with me to find a solution, they slap away the olive branch and demand that I "trust them". They say there is no risk even if I close it first, but don't use the persuasive power of "because" to explain why there is no risk. So, I'm supposed to only take their word for it.

Here's the thing, as bad as I want my money back, this whole experience has been worth more than what I paid for the suit. If I close the dispute now, not only am I at risk of not getting a refund at all, but I lose the opportunity to put more of the negotiation and frame control techniques I learned to good use.

I'm going to keep negotiating and see what else I can learn.

Who wants me to release updates on this development?

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StefDeleted user

Very educational. I'm sure we all can learn a great deal from this continued development.

From what I can see, it sounds like a classic Sunk Cost Fallacy in action. Hook you in with bait, than pull back and keep you bound by the investment (in time, money and energy) you have already made. Combined with positioning themselves as higher value and dangling a prize over your head, it is designed to keep you in an enslaved and dependent state.

Whatever or not it is conscious on their part is uncertain, but it's not a good position to be in. Are there other avenues you can take? Is there a weak point (a person, policy or something else) that you can exploit? And at worse, can you pull out and withstand the losses? Because the price isn't just money, it is also your freedom, energy and peace of mind.

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Great note, @Kellvo!

It seems like you're seeing this situation as the carrot-and-stick principle, where I'm the mule chasing the carrot (my refund) that's being dangled in front of my face by the company, doing what I can to avoid the punishment of losing everything I've invested so far (time, energy, etc.). That may be right, and I love that analogy :).

I'm at an information disadvantage here, so it may be worth it to run a quick check of the policies listed on their website.

So far, since I don't know what their weak points are, my negotiation choices have been implemented based on their responses. For example, here was my response to their email that I should trust them because there is no risk even if I close the dispute first:

Here, I used what I call "argument flipping", a negotiation strategy I learned from negotiation expert (and my former Yale professor) Barry Nalebuff. I'm testing the waters on how far they will go to play this game since they completely ignored my willingness to work with them on a solution that will work for both of us when I said, "What can we do to make this work?"

As far as your comment on my freedom, energy, and peace of mind, I appreciate your friendliness mate. However, I see this as an opportunity to put everything I've learned to good use. I'm curious to see how this case unfolds, what ways I can achieve my desired end result, and what else I can learn from this company's style of negotiation, customer service habits, and social skills in difficult situations such as this one. I'm kind of excited about this opportunity for my personal development!

So far, my primary concern is that they'll stop emailing altogether. But, that's not in their best interest since the dispute case with my bank is still open.

Either way, it's not easy going up against a customer service representative with so much domain authority. The best-case scenario would have been collaboration since a competitive frame would most likely end in a win-lose with me losing. Since they've rejected my initial move for collaboration, I really want to see how this ends.

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KellvoStefDeleted user

Sounds like you got this under control Ali! Great mindset btw, finding a way to win no matter what happens, you got the antifragile thing down pat. You're showing you're not taking it lying down either, which is always a good thing.

Your argument flipping tactic looks pretty cool. I'm not familiar with this arena, but I know a pressure flip when I see one. I'm guessing the intention is to create a game of chicken where your intention to get a refund and come out ahead is pressed against their desire to control you and to keep their reputation. Good, it shows them you're not taking it lying down. I don't like saying this, but there are people that are only interested in collaboration when they know you're willing and able to not collaborate first. It's low quality behavior, I know.

To use several comparisons: In Prisoner's Dilemma terms, you chose to respond to their defect with a defect of your own. In Game terms, it's like a disrespect shit test: are you willing to show strength by standing your ground? (Clearly, yes) In military terms, it's like a feigned retreat where you stopped falling for the trap and they either have to launch an attack of their own or ride away and lose an opportunity. And in Poker terms, it's calling their bluff.

The question is, how invested are they? How much leverage do you have? I think, one way or another, this will prove most insightful. I'm looking forward to seeing how this ends.

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Deleted user

Great catch on spotting that honey deal trap, Ali!

Just one note from my side to help you with analyzing -and controlling- power dynamics:

Quote from Ali Scarlett on August 24, 2020, 7:44 pm

"We need to apologize to keep you waiting so long" (= we have the power to make you wait)

So, the apology was really a covert power move, but I let that one go.

I wouldn't have personally considered this one a covert power move.

Yes, there is an element of power, but it's out in the open that you were waiting for your suit and that you wanted it -that's why you bought it, after all-.

It's different when, for example, a girl says that to a guy "sorry that I didn't reply to your last text", which implies that you wanted her reply -an assumption- and that she snubbed you -a power move-.

In your case, those guys were trying to get you your suit on time, you both knew that, and you needed and wanted the suit -and you both knew that-.
There is not major power relations there, just how things are expected and supposed to be.

All the rest, overall, great going.
Funny how frequent those "honey deal traps" really are. Sometimes I'd just be tempted to "fall" for it, and see who was playing a nasty game or who was going to be honest about it.


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StefDeleted user
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Ladies, gentlemen, and power movers...I come bearing news of the final results of my honey deal trap situation :).

If you've been following so far, you remember my little "argument flip" on the topic of risk when it comes to closing the dispute vs issuing the refund first.

Here was their reply:

Once again, they shift the conversation back to me needing to "trust them".

At this point, there's not a whole lot that I can do. If this is how they're going to play it, then they're not negotiating on the basis of "principled arguments" that I was taught throughout the Yale course. They're negotiating on the basis of "ethics and morals" like trust. That changes the entire game.

I had the option of taking their "moral high ground" judge frame and reframing to something more collaborative while attaching another "high moral" to it. Something like:

Ali: "Look, this isn't about trust, it's about fairness and I think the route that would be the most fair for everyone is if we..."

Still, I felt like that would be no fun. I really wanted to see how this would end if I trusted them. Are they actually an honest company? Have I been a little too harsh in judging them?

So, instead, this is how I responded:

If you haven't checked out Lucio's post on the silver medal technique, you're seriously missing out. I used this technique in another negotiation and it worked like an actual charm.

After sending this message, I still took some time to review all my options. If I decide to call my bank and close the dispute like I said I would, the ball would be fully in their court and they would have the full power they need to screw me. So, I made a few calls to see if I could get a wild card up my sleeve. Unluckily, not much could be done at this point.

So, I followed through with my end of the deal the same day:

I used the silver medal technique on August 28 and closed the dispute that same day as promised.

Three days later, the company went out of their way to email me to confirm whether or not the dispute had actually been closed. This email that I sent to them (the email above) contained both an image and full attachment of the email confirmation I received from my bank that, yes, the dispute has been closed for three days now.

The real question now is, how's that refund coming?

They ask for a day to sort things out with their financial.  I give them a week, then have to go through the trouble of following up to figure out what's going on (what happened to the promptness you showed when you weren't sure if the dispute had been closed yet?).

Long story short, this was their response (and also how it ends):

Didn't hold up their end of the deal but made sure to try and secure my business for the future. The definition of trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Honestly, when I got this email, I was annoyed. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed because my expectations for this company were already very low. But, I felt that this was a very cheap cop-out that showed their hand.

I already forwarded them all of the information they needed as proof that the dispute is already closed. If they were interested in playing fair, they would have worked with me to find a solution to the problem of "the complaint still being opened" since it sounds like more of a problem on their end at this point.

If there is actually a serious problem on their end preventing the refund from going through, they can't admit that they're no longer able to provide the refund because I promised them my long-term business in exchange for their honesty. So, instead of putting themself in a position where they have to go back on their word and risk losing my business, they make the claim that the problem is actually on my end so they can pitch me more products while still holding onto my refund.

Dirty, yes, but still cheap. I was hoping for a more fun ending to bring back to the forum :).

@Kellvo, what are your thoughts mate?

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