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Daze of My Life: Bought But Not Paid For

Daze of My Life
Bought But Not Paid For

Add Ace Hardware stores to the list of retailers who have now laminated themselves into plastic, key ring-sized and wallet-sized discount cards. Last week, when I finally bought a replacement air filter for my upstairs central air conditioning unit the "pleated" filter cost me only $2.99, since I was a club member, instead of $3.99 for non-club members, a 25% discount. Now that's savings enough even for yours truly to actually look through Ace's advertising circular the next time I see it. It's still unlikely I'll make the hardware store one of my regular stops but, nor will I continue to ignore them as I usually have.
What this purchase/experience means to me, and the advertiser as well is, apparently, I can be bought, or rather motivated to buy when I see an item discounted by 25%. (Similar off-the-couch activity resulted when a department store and a restaurant, two of my last favorite payees, offered the identical 25% savings.) It seems my spur-of-the-moment and disinclination to comparison shop tendencies can be had, if the price, make that discount, is right.
Now this is not to say that even deeper discounts will have me primed and ready to pump more money into the local retailer/economy on day one of an advertised sale or to arrive a six a.m. or 12 midnight, depending on the promotion.
Hardly. It just means that, and this is as much about me as it is about the advertiser, bigger/deeper may not always be better. For me, it seems the floor matters more than the ceiling.
When I see a 25% savings advertised, as a minimum, I interpret that to mean that there's still sufficient quantities of multiple varieties and/or that inventories of in-house merchandise may be unreasonably high but not dangerously low, availability-wise, if you know what I mean. On the contrary, when I see 50 to 75 percent savings, I get less motivated. Why? Because at such a deep discount I presume that there are insufficient quantities of multiple varieties and that in-house merchandise is in fact dangerously low, relative to their seasonableness and buyability. And that these products must be moved (put on sale) not because of their quality but because of their quantity, as in no one wanted them (size, style, color, etc.) before at retail so they better offer them at wholesale, or a reasonable facsimile there of or else. So I'm less likely to buy, literally or figuratively, the deeper discounts.
Now I'm sure I can be proved wrong, as has happened many times before, and be shown that there is indeed gold in them thar hills but, what I am discussing is motivation: what exactly causes an individual to spend money on products or services that generally do not interest him?
I would imagine that there are plenty of shoppers out there who are not buyers. And I would also bet that lots of marketing meetings are held to determine how best to attract this hoi polloi and motivate them-us--to buy without being totally aware.
For both the buyer/consumer and the seller/advertiser, there is truth in numbers (maybe not in advertising, but that's another story, literally). From my buyer's perspective however, the numbers advertised can make a totally different impression than the sellers intended. And though it may be unintentional, sometimes, first impressions are difficult to overcome.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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