Will you ask a question that shows your ignorance?

My friend is looking to rent an apartment, and I went with him to check out a new place last Sunday. His new rent is 633 dollars, and they promised him 300 dollars off the first month’s rent, when he inquired over the phone. He is planning to move in the new place on October 1st, because his current lease ends on the 30th September.

When we went to check out the place on Sunday, the lady there said that they had another special going, and if he moved by September 12th; the first month’s rent will be free.

We tried to calculate which option would work out cheaper in our heads; but couldn’t. The nice lady said that she will do the math for us, and then went to her computer, ran some numbers, and came out with two print outs.

What I saw next completely amazed me. The print outs had detailed calculation of what he’d need to pay for the next couple of months, which included a security deposit, processing fee and one or two other items.

Those calculations showed nothing about which option will be cheaper. She said she could give the 600 dollars off, but can’t deduct it from the security deposit, so some of it will be deducted from the second month’s rent, but the 300 dollars can be deducted from the rent, and the whole thing was so complicated – I can’t even recall it now.

I know this much: it showed nothing about which option was cheaper, which is all we wanted to see.

We were a little baffled by all these detailed calculations, and embarrassed by the fact that we weren’t able to figure out which option was cheaper. Finally, I summed up the courage to ask her for a calculator, and ran the numbers myself. My numbers showed that the 300 dollar discount was just slightly better, and I asked her I was doing it right. She didn’t answer that, and then went ahead and rattled a few more numbers.

This was really crazy because it is such a simple question, and someone who ran such detailed numbers should be able to answer it.

I can’t help but think that companies realize that regular people are afraid to ask questions that might show they don’t understand something fully, and take advantage of that. They complicate stuff, and then hope that you aren’t able to see beyond their smoke screen.

The only way to deal with this nuisance is to accept that they are trying to do that, and then keep asking questions, even if it makes you sound stupid. Not doing this, will play you into their hands anyway.

It is something easier said than done, and I wonder if I am being unduly skeptical. But, to me admitting I don’t know something and then asking about it is much better than making a decision without knowing the full facts. Again, this is easier said than done.

What do you think, do you feel that sometimes companies complicate things unduly and hope that you don’t understand them? How do you react to such situations?

Photo Credit: Uthor

8 thoughts on “Will you ask a question that shows your ignorance?”

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  3. Regarding asking questions. Hmmm…. I guess it depends on how important something is to me. In this case, it’s to do with one’s living situation then, yes, I will be asking a ton of questions. After all, the lady would be getting my money. Now as far as smoke screens, yes they are around. However, if you’re dealing with a legitimate outfit, you should be able to “get your money back” if you realize you’re dissatisfied. But unfortunately, there are many companies that aren’t so generous.

  4. “do you feel that sometimes companies complicate things unduly and hope that you don’t understand them?”

    Yes. It’s standard operating procedure.
    Ethics in business dealings is a very scarce commodity.
    The proof is in the fine print!

  5. This is an interesting scenario. I think you and your friend asking Qs (such as those described in your post) doesn’t make y’all come across as ‘ignorant’. If at all, it makes y’all come across as logical, reasoning people coz y’all want to evaluate the options. But the lady at the office doesn’t look one bit helpful. What it does look is that she has got this pre-set / formatted macro in which she inputs a couple of nos and it spits out smthg; and this ‘smthg’ she shows to everyone who walks in her office asking some Q related to rent. But the ruse of throwing smthg really complicated in someone’s face so as to deter them from noseying around too much and accepting any offer which is suggested, won’t work everytime. Most people will just get turned off or will avoid poking into things when it comes to their money, complicated calcs and other ppl’s suggestions.

    If I were in such a situation, I would just get the details of both offers seperately…run back home and do the calcs myself. Thats the only way I would be satisfied that the option I chose was better, even though the way I calculated it was nowhere close to the mumbo-jumbo macro they had for such a simple Q. 🙂

  6. I think that you are setting yourself up not to ask important questions, if your assumptions it that asking questions = ignorance.

    I would say, this person is hedging her bets that most people won’t ask and she’ll get what she wants – closing the deal.

    If I don’t understand, I will always always ask questions. If they don’t know the answers or create a situation where I feel ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’ (ie. they are condescending) then I simply won’t buy whatever it is they are selling.

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