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Assistance offers

Whatever service or product people want they want to have it the more hassle free possible. This is simply because people want the benefits without the difficulties which can be associated with getting them. This leads more and more companies to offer assistance to help in using their products or services.

Paying for the offer

The term offer doesn't mean for free of course. One way or another someone will pay for this extra service, but of course during the service/product selling process this will be kept quite hidden. People will say the assistance is free, which usually means that you don't pay for it straight when you buy the product. The most common and yet subversive example of this is the famous hotline assistance which you will pay only when you use it. This example is interesting as it illustrates quite well the trap consumers fall into with the endless music to finally be told no one is available at the moment, the automatic repliers which usually filter your call, ... Of course during all this typing and waiting on the phone you are paying expensive minutes.

Assistance business model

In some areas the assistance concept has in fact been transformed into a full blown and effective business model. A pretty recent example of this is the business model generally associated with open source software development companies. These companies spend much effort developing freely available (source code and binaries) applications and aim at earning money by providing service around them. Only, this model has a malicious side effect. In order to increase their chances of getting assistance contracts (this is their only way of earning money) these companies tend to somewhat complexify the applications they provide. This is dangerous because these companies' apparently free offerings soon make a mess in the market and wipe the real commercial competitors. It's only after this is done that they start trying to get assistance contracts and thus complexifying the products. Then every one is stuck with a free but unusable product for which they finally find themselves obliged to buy assistance.

Step back and jump better

In conclusion, maybe focusing too much at making money at the sales time isn't the best idea. In many cases it is more effective to wait a little and make the money later with assistance. On the other hand as consumers we should learn to be much more attentive to this kind of merchandising.