Have you ever happened to you while browsing in the net, to see on the web page you are visiting, an ad with a discounted price for something you wanted to buy and you were watching the other day in an online store? You quickly enter the site, you see that the price is specially configured for you and you order it.

It’s a happy ending because you still buy something you need.

But there’s another option. Your kid’s playing on your smart phone some game. At some point, you realise that your phone bill has swollen. Turns out some innocent electronic champion was buying boosters for the game. He could not stand the temptation and went shopping. Just EUR 2.5. The same happens the following week, then again, and finally there’s a serious conversation.

Don't scold the kid too much. Sometimes you can slip and buy some gadget you have seen in Facebook. It will appeared on the right, in the advertising wall several times, and you will like it. Meanwhile, they will reduce the price from EUR 27 to EUR 17 and in 3 days it will arrive in your office. Only then, it will turn out you do not need it that much, and on top of that, it’ll be on another site for EUR 15.

Tell your spouce not to scold you too much. This is not because you are an unreasonable user, but because we humans have so-called bounded rationality. We are simply not machines that make only well thought-out decisions based on precise criteria, but we make a holistic choice based on information that we currently have. We have a short period of concentration, opportunities, time, resource, and we use so-called heuristic methods- common rules, based on which we make decisions. However, during our choices, we are rationally bounded by different types of cognitive errors. Here are some of them that we often make as users:

  • Anchoring effect- this happens to us when we make our decisions based on the information initially submitted to us. For example, like the case where you see on Facebook an ad that the price of a widget is EUR 27 and then, in a subsequent ad in another page you see that it is discounted to EUR 17. You couldn’t help it and you bought it.
  • Bandwagon effect - it is our tendency to appreciate something simply because others appreciate it. For example, you're looking at some online cooking utensils. From one bottom corner of the screen, messages pop- up about someone buying a pot right now. Next thing you know, your computer beeps again and a message pops- up again that someone else bought one. You thing that if these pots are so popular, they're good, and you decide to buy one, too.
  • Default effect- this is our tendency to adhere to standard options. So there’s a danger you'll never know there’s a service that’s better configured for your needs.
  • Framing effect – is our tendency to be strongly influenced by the context in which a piece of information is presented to us. For example, you read on some lifestyle site about celebrities who are stylishly dressed and wear some expensive brands of clothes and jewellery. They look great on those images in the web page but next to them you see an ad of some outfit that looks super cool to you. It’s not very cheap, but it looks a lot like that shirt that the beautiful famous actress next to it is wearing. You click on the ad, and you're already in an online store where you buy the shirt, even though you already have another one in that colour.
  • Scarcity effect is tempting us when we worry that something will run out of stock. You go to this accommodation booking site and book a hotel. However, while you are considering the offer, your site serves real-time information that 20 more people are watching the same offer and there are only 2 rooms of your type left. For fear of running out, you're in a hurry to book. After a few days you know from the friends with whom you will travel together, that the rooms are not only not finished, but the platform has given them a discount.
  • Sunk cost fallacy is when you have a tendency to keep doing something simply because you have already invested a lot of time and money, even though this action is detrimental to you. You have subscribed to an application to learn a foreign language, because you will travel to this country soon. You don't have much time for it, but you hope that soon you will have and learn some phrase, at least to be able to read the menu in the restaurants and order. Your subscription is running, every month you have a deduction from the credit card, but you still do not find that time. You don't stop it because you have already invested several monthly fees and you still have hope that you will learn the language one day. In the end, you realize how much money goes into something you don't use, and you wonder why you did it.

Of course, it is human to make mistakes. The problem is that the professionals who create the smart algorithms of online stores use exactly these errors, and when the software collects information corresponding to a certain behavioural pattern, suggesting that we are prone to a cognitive error, they set small traps for us and make us spend money.

This is not so scary, because after all, the control of this process is in our hands. We make the final decision. We just need to be aware when something like this happens to us, to stop for a moment and think. Only then to make the purchase decision.

Let's not forget that we could make the best use of what artificial intelligence does for us. It saves us endless digging in the web by selecting for us suggestions that we may like. Being informed about the price reduction is a good thing, especially if you have been following the prices of the product you are willing to buy.

But even if you make a mistake, you always have the right and the option to cancel the service or return the goods within 14 days. This right is given to you by the Consumer Protection Law. As long as the product / service is not made especially for you, because it is difficult to re-sell such a thing after the return. If you are hesitant about something after the purchase, you are not satisfied, you feel cheated, you can always file a complaint to the seller. Even if that doesn't help, contact our ADR Centre - NAIS. The NAIS platform will forward your complaint to the trader and invite him to resolve your dispute in it. Mediators will try to help you find a mutually beneficial way out of your situation. If that doesn't work, you can always file a complaint with the Consumers’ Protection Commission- CPC.



In the following articles from the "Consumer Reader", you will learn what situations you can find yourself in, succumbing to cognitive errors. Follow them on the NAIS profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as on the NEWS page on, in order to better protect your wallet and interests as a user.

Published on March 2, 2020. Back in the News

Published on 02.03.2020 Back to news