As we start the great spending season, I’d like to get a message out to all of the salespeople who want my dollars…
By Annabel Monaghan
As we start the great spending season, I’d like to get a message out to all of the salespeople who want my dollars: It’s in our mutual best interests that you make me feel good. I tend to spend more money when I feel good. I relax. I start to believe that the world is a good place and that I, in fact, deserve a little something wonderful, as do all of the people on my list.
There is a recent a study that shows that the exact opposite is true. The study established a direct correlation between how rude the salespeople of luxury goods are and how much people spend. They call it the Pretty Woman Effect (don’t ever get me started on that movie), and the idea is that rude salespeople bring back that high school feeling where you desperately want to fit in. The result is a purchase that proves to the salespeople that you belong in the inner circle. I call it the “You were so rude that I just spent $800 on a pair of shoes that hurt” effect. Take that, person who I will never see again!
I am completely immune to this effect, and I believe it’s because I’m over 40. That longing to fit in, to win the acceptance of the cool kids, is a feeling I can no longer access. When I am stopped in the mall by a guy who says, “Can I show you a cream to help with those awful bags under your eyes?” I have an instinctual urge to kick him in the shins and flee. I don’t want to stand there for one more second and talk to someone who thinks I look terrible. If just one of these guys would say, “You’re 44? You look 34! And here’s a cream to make you look 24!” I’d hand over my wallet and the deed to my house.
The negative sales technique is designed to make us feel off balance so that we are desperate to grab whatever they’re selling in the hopes that it will make us feel better. But magazines that make me feel old and like I’ve got all the wrong stuff don’t make me want to shop. They just make me feel like I want to stop reading magazines.
Once, I agreed to have a young man come to my house to sell me his wares. He’s putting himself through college and gets sales credit for just having made his pitch, I’m told. Would I mind letting him come by to talk with me? You might be familiar with the situation, and I admit that I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. Helping him out would make me feel good, so, feeling good, I was bound to spend a little money.
As he laid out his wares, he asked me, “Do you know Susie Crabgrass? She bought $3,000 worth of these.” I was still feeling happy, happy for Susie and her purchase, but told him I didn’t need that item. “Her husband is Executive Director of Moneymaking Corporation,” he went on. “He has a BIG job. What does your husband do?” I believe I was supposed to feel a bit envious of Susie and her prosperous husband. They were clearly the cool kids. He showed me one of his priciest items, which happened to be an item I’d never need mainly because I don’t gut fish. I told him as much, and he countered with, “Susie Crabgrass bought four.” By then I knew what he was looking for: Wait.
What?! Susie has four and I have zero! How can I be so behind in the gutting department? I’ll take five.
My best experiences with salespeople are when they’ve made me feel good and leave me with the sense that whether I purchase something or not is my choice. Maybe they compliment something I’m already wearing, which boosts my confidence in my own taste. I feel empowered rather than insecure, like I’m already part of the inner circle anyway. This may be my favorite thing about being over 40.