15 Things That Are a Scam but Have Been Normalized by Society

Have you ever seen something that is so crazy and ridiculous that you are sure it’s a scam but is actually normalized by society?

Have you ever heard someone referring to something as a scam or unfair that you always thought was normal, and you had your mind blown?

Society is a complex thing, and the things we do often have reasons behind them; however, sometimes the reasons are just… to scam you.

Recently, someone posted on Reddit, “What is a scam that has been normalized by society?” and it went viral. Here are some of the best responses.

1. College Textbooks

“This has been said a million times, but..College Textbooks,” one person wrote. Someone added, “college textbooks are basically >$100 pieces of paper that become obsolete next year….”

College textbooks are a fortune of money and are often unnecessary or merely exist to help professors pay the bills. You can get college textbooks for free sometimes, but the overall idea of college textbooks being that expensive is a scam.

2. School Pictures

“The school picture industry. $80 for an awkward picture of my baby? Nah, thanks,” someone wrote. Someone else added, “I think this made more sense 25+ years ago. Not everyone had a camera or took many photos with film. Picture day was special. Now with everyone having a high-quality camera in their pocket, it seems a bit silly.”

School pictures are very expensive and a little unnecessary. While the photographers should be paid for their time, it seems a bit scammy that the school hosts and encourages parents to spend so much money on something like this.

3. Printer Ink

“Printer ink prices. Now the most expensive liquid on the planet. Cheaper to buy a new printer each time the ink runs out, ” wrote one person.

Why is printer ink so expensive?  I don’t know the answer to that.

4. End User Agreements

“End-user agreements. Nearly all of them are unconscionable contracts that allow corporations to harvest user data via malware, even when you’re not using the app. There is no accountability regarding use or sale to other parties. The courts do nothing because they are terrified of the intelligence community,” wrote one person.

Well, that is terrifying! Especially since everything you need to do for some reason requires an app...

5. Textbook Access Codes

“Textbook access codes that you can use only once,” someone wrote.

That was a new one for me! Apparently, others agreed. Is this a new Gen-Z thing?

Someone clarified, “Yeah, the moment textbooks were digitized, the h***hole that is academia capitalized on it in the worst way possible. Not only do you have access codes that mean you’ll only be able to access the textbook for that semester, many professors have interactive assignments that require you to pay up to $100 to use their specific code or else you won’t get graded for it. Gone are the days where you can buy or rent a second hand book for cheap (or just pirate it altogether) to save money.”

Wow! That is horrible!

6. Mega Churches

“Mega churches. The owners of these churches make millions off their congregations but do very little to actually help them in their time of need,” someone wrote.

Someone added, “It’s sad, but your comment is so true. It’s also true, though, that the vast majority of churches are run by people that are far from rich, and those churches do a lot of good for the poor and hurting people in their communities. It’s just sad that there are charlatans in it for themselves that taint the perception of all the others.”

That is sad.

7. Health Insurance

“Health insurance. Pay hundreds of dollars into a pool of money. And the people holding the money will fight you tooth and nail to ensure you use as little of it as possible.” one person vented.

I assume they are talking about American health insurance because many countries give their citizens a lot of medical care for free. Only in America do we have to fight tooth and nail for hospital visits to be covered by insurance or else risk going bankrupt.

8. Ticket Master

Someone wrote, “Don’t know why this isn’t getting more love. They run their own secondary market. No incentive to stop scalpers… That’s on top of all the bulls*** fees etc.”

As the recent Taylor Swift fiasco showed us, TicketMaster has no reason not to charge exorbitant fees for their popular shows. They also charge so many fees that even the cheapest tickets end up costing a lot of money.

9. Weddings

“Spending so much for a single day is wasteful. Better to get married in a courthouse or something and invest the money,” said one person.

Not everyone gets sucked into the wedding hype and industry, “We could not bring ourselves to spend even 5k on our wedding. It is just such a waste of money for one day. We ended up going to the courthouse with our parents and siblings and invited them to dinner afterward. 700 € well spent, and everybody was happy.”

10. Workaholics

Someone wrote, “Being forced to work more than a workaholic; not being able to afford rent; and being called lazy as you slowly starve to death”.

With so many workers feeling that their pay is not fair and a growing employee discontent at the wage gap between workers and CEO’s it seems that many workers are starting to understand this scam.

11. Bottled Water

“In the UK, convincing people that buying bottled water is better and healthier than tap water,” wrote one person. This is an issue in America as well.

Someone wrote a cool hack, “Or you can just buy a filter for like $5… or more like $20 with inflation these f**** days. My house has weird-tasting tap water. It’s not dangerous or anything; it just tastes weird, so I put it through a filter, I fill it up, and leave it in the fridge, it comes out fine.”

12. Tipping

Besides the fact that you should pay your staff a living wage, many more places are now expecting and requiring tipping.

One person wrote, “And now it’s crept into anything that uses a modern card-reader. No, I’m not going to add a 15, 20, or 25% tip on the $200 pair of jeans that you just rang up for me.

The entire tipping culture needs to be eliminated top to bottom. If that means businesses need to increase the base price to bake in the cost of a livable wage, do it.

Anecdote: we recently had hired a new housekeeper. Said price was $X to clean the house every two weeks. First time she comes, I pay $X + tip. Housekeeper says “what’s this extra money for? We agreed on $X; don’t make this weird by paying me more. My rate is $X.” This should be our standard response.”


13. Pyramid Schemes

Pyramid schemes, MLMs, whatever you call them- are often just a tool to prey on people, often women, who are desperate for a better life.

A Redditor wrote a very succinct description, “Pyramid schemes are fraudulent investment schemes in which participants are promised returns for recruiting new members into the scheme. They are often disguised as legitimate business opportunities, and participants are often encouraged to buy into the scheme in order to receive commissions for recruiting others. However, as the scheme relies on recruiting an ever-increasing number of participants, it is ultimately unsustainable and the majority of participants will end up losing money.

Pyramid schemes are illegal in many countries, but they can be difficult to identify and prosecute. They often rely on social networks and word-of-mouth advertising to spread, and they can be normalized by society as they are often promoted by people that we know and trust. It is important to be aware of this type of scam and to thoroughly research any business opportunity before investing money or time.”

14. Credit Scores and Tax Preparation

Your credit score is a very important number, but why?

“This made up number will affect your entire financial life. Oh, you made a payment? Good job, your score will go up 2 points. You missed a payment? How dare you? That’ll lower your score by 400!

The IRS knows exactly what you owe, or what’s due back to you, but you have to navigate through tax software or pay someone else to do it. Thanks for all your lobbying, H & R Block.”

That being said, you SHOULD check your credit score so you can make sure this made-up number doesn’t mess up your life- sometimes, with things you didn’t even know was a problem!

15. Diamonds

Diamonds are gorgeous but are they a scam?

” De Beers ran the most successful marketing campaign of modern history. Save yourself the trouble (and money) and just go with a lab-made stone (if you really want a diamond) or go with moissanite,” one person wrote.


I hope you enjoyed this Reddit list of things that are a scam but normalized by society. You can also check out these Gen-Z Trends that will make you feel old!


This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved

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Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.