April 23, 2008

Can I offer you something else instead?

Ever notice that big discounts, like the ones buried in the 7th page of one of the massive circulars stuffed inside the Sunday paper, are actually just dirty tricks to get customers into the store? I have. Twice. The first time was when I found out about a mini-DVD video camera at, let us say, “Sam’s Mart” for $400 off the original price of $599.99. I brought the ad with me, walked right up to a clerk, pointed right to the picture, and said, “I want that. Where can I get it?”

To my utter amazement, he said, “Oh, those. Yeah, we’re out of stock.”

“But,” I said, “the sale just started today, and the store only opened ½ an hour ago.”

“Yeah, I know. We only had 2 in stock, and someone just came in and bought them both.”

“Why did you only have 2 in stock, when this is a brand new video camera? It’s not like you guys were trying to get rid of it to bring in something new. This is the new thing.”

“Well, it wasn’t my decision, but can I show you our other video cameras?”

BINGO! This sale really was too good to be true. I thought that maybe something was weird at that particular store, so I called another “Sam’s Mart” from my cell phone right away. Sure enough, they were sold out of the video camera too. It seemed that they only had one in stock to begin with. This has become another reason that I don’t shop at “Sam’s Mart” anymore, but that is beside the point. (A similar situation happened to me at “Circuit Buy” with a laptop computer about a year ago.)

The point is that “Sam’s Mart” is a huge company with a lot of people getting paid to sit around and figure out how to get more people to walk through those doors. One way to do this is to offer an unbelievable sale that really is, well, unbelievable, because they have no intention of actually selling the product that is so deeply discounted. They want customers who normally were not interested in buying a video recorder to start thinking about how great it would be to have one, and now would be a great time to buy one, because they are so cheap. Once they get to the store, they have their hearts set on finally recording little Jimmy’s tee ball games and little Suzy’s tea parties. So once they find out that the video recorder they came there to buy isn’t there, they buy another one, even though 4 hours ago, they would not even have considered buying the thing.

Even if they don’t buy another video recorder, they can probably think of other things they need at the store, like food, clothes, batteries, etc., since “Sam’s Mart” sells just about everything. Shoppers who haven’t stepped foot in a “Sam’s Mart” in years were lured there by a false sale and ended up helping to pay the salaries of those people getting paid to sit around all day trying to figure out how to get them back into the store in a few months.


EdwinHLee said...

It's like the joke among Economists.

Econ prof 1 says "Hey...there's $20 on the ground."

Econ prof 2 says "I don't see anything...if there's $20 on the ground it would have already been snatched by someone else"

Alan C. Earing said...

I say develop a strong Constitution! If you are there to buy a specific item at a specific price, stick to your intention!

This is probably already a point of contention for most economics-minded people...

For me, though, I would simply pick up the $20 and bask in my new fortune!

Perhaps economists have an unfair advantage... perhaps they should be taxed at higher rates... somebody better call Obama!