Brynne Conroy | 

Don't Get Ripped Off by Commission-Paid Workers at These 5 Companies

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It’s probably no surprise to you that we live under a capitalistic system that’s built to make companies as much money as possible — sometimes by any means necessary. So we all know that at any given moment, someone is going to try to exploit us out of as much money as possible. NBD.

But some companies really go the extra mile. They don’t just mark up prices on products and then blame it on “inflation” (a shameful practice called price gouging). They go so far as to pay their employees a commission to take extra cash out of your pocket. It can be a minefield out there, so here are five companies and industries where you’ll want to be particularly careful to guard your purse.

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1. Frontier Airlines pays commissioned gate agents to rip you off.

A Frontier plane parked on the tarmac.

Frontier Airlines made headlines recently for their bag policies! One of the reasons why Frontier Airlines is so cheap is because it charges a lot of extra fees… for things like bags. If you try to bend the rules and bring a bag that doesn’t meet size dimension restrictions, you can get hit with a massive $99 fee at the gate.

Earlier this year, a viral TikTok showed a group of women who had bags that fit, but for some reason the gate agent was charging them the extra fee anyways — refusing to let them get on the plane unless they coughed up the cash.

It turns out that the reason the gate agent was so insistent is because Frontier Airlines pays her a $10 commission for every bag she flags and charges. So the next time a gate agent tells you your bag doesn’t fit even though you think it does, you’ll know why!

TIP: Other budget airlines, like Spirit, have a similar scheme going on.


2. Almost all Nordstrom workers are commissioned employees.

a person walking out of a nordstom store

Nordstrom employees are paid on commission. Some of their employees are completely paid on commission — with no base pay.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every Nordstrom employee is trying to screw you over. But it does mean that you should be mindful of any upsells to a more expensive product, or any insistence that you open up a store card.

RELATED: Nordstrom Anniversary Sale


3. Be super mindful about signing up for a Victoria’s Secret credit card — many employees are commissioned to sell them.

A Victoria's Secret credit card held in front of a Pink pamphlet used for registering for a card.

Depending on your local store, there may or may not be commissioned salespeople at your local Victoria’s Secret. When there are commissioned salespeople, they typically work at the front of the store. They also have to work full-time to qualify for commission. It’s gonna be really hard to identify them as a lay consumer.

But regardless of if they’re commissioned or not, all Victoria’s Secret employees are strongly encouraged pressured to push the Victoria’s Secret credit card. It affects their manager’s standing with the company, so if the store numbers aren’t high the employees are going to be feeling the heat, even if they don’t get paid for it.

Maybe the store card is a good deal for you. Maybe it’s not. But be prepared to look at the fine print yourself rather than blindly trusting the person at checkout.

RELATED: 20 Victoria’s Secret Sale Tips to Help You Save 75% or More



4. You (probably) don’t need to pay for the insurance at Budget Car Rental.

Depending on the company, a lot of car rental agencies will pay their employees to upsell you on car features or short-term insurance for your rental. Budget Car Rental is one of them.

I’m a cheapskate, so unless the car features actually make the car safer, I’m gonna make a judgment call that most feature upgrades are unnecessary.

Insurance is a little trickier. If you do get into an accident, you want to make sure you have coverage. So it’s not like it’s never a good idea. But there are multiple other ways to get coverage for free without paying for the upsell at the Budget counter:

  • Check with the company that provides your regular, day-to-day car insurance. The coverage you already pay for may extend to your rentals, too, in which case you should absolutely not pay extra.
  • Make your reservation with the right kind of credit card. A ton of different credit cards offer free insurance coverage on rentals as a benefit. Call them up before making your reservation to make sure your rental is covered; they might cover your average rental, but they’re not going to cover a Lamborghini.

TIP: Even at companies that don’t pay their employees commission for vehicle upgrades and rental insurance policies — like Enterprise — you might still feel the pressure. These sales numbers might not affect the employee’s paycheck directly, but there are often incentives for managers if their store’s sales numbers look good. And like Victoria’s Secret, that pressure can trickle down to employees.


5. You can probably get a better deal on a Verizon phone if you push back on the commissioned employees’ offers.

a person walking into outside a verizon store

Shopping for a new cell phone? You might get different quotes from different agents, even if you’re shopping at the same company. That’s because agents are often paid at least partially on commission. This is true at all kinds of cell phone carriers, but the phenomenon is extremely well-documented with Verizon in particular.

That said, you can play them at their own game. Get quotes from multiple companies as you’re shopping for your cell phone. While an agent won’t be able to give you a deal that doesn’t exist, if you find a deal at a competitor and bring it up, you might be surprised how much wiggle room they can actually find in the price.


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