Avoid Getting Swindled This Holiday Season

If you haven’t read Robert Cialdini’s masterpiece: “Influence”, you’re a tool. I can even tell you what tool you would be… You’d be a plunger, ready to dive into a toilet full of shit – My shit to be specific.

In this little story below there is a tale of how massive amounts of people get screwed, along with an opportunity for you.

Quote straight from Robert Cialdini’s “Influence” book:

So the toy manufacturers are faced with a dilemma: how to keep sales high during the peak season and, at the same time, retain a healthy demand for toys in the immediately following months. Their difficulty certainly doesn’t lie in motivating kids to want more toys after Christmas. The problem lies in motivating postholiday spent-out parents to buy another plaything for their already toy-glutted children. What could the toy companies possibly do to produce that unlikely behavior? Some have tried greatly increased advertising campaigns, others have reduced prices during the slack period, but neither of those standard sales devices has proved successful. Both tactics are costly, and have been ineffective in increasing sales to desired levels. Parents are simply not in a toy-buying mood, and the influences of advertising or reduced expense are not enough to shake that stony resistance.

Certain large toy manufacturers, however, think they have found a solution. It’s an ingenious one, involving no more than a normal advertising expense and an un-derstanding of the powerful pull of the need for consistency. My first hint of the way the toy companies’ strategy worked came after I fell for it and then, in true patsy form, fell for it again.It was January, and I was in the town’s largest toy store. After purchasing all too many gifts there for my son a month before, I had sworn not to enter that store or any like it for a long, long time. Yet there I was, not only in the diabolic place but also in the process of buying my son another expensive toy—a big, electric road-race set. In front of the road-race display I happened to meet a former neighbor who was buying his son the same toy. The odd thing was that we almost never saw each other anymore. In fact, the last time had been a year earlier in the same store when we were both buying our sons an expensive post-Christmas gift—that time a robot that walked, talked, and laid waste. We laughed about our strange pattern of seeing each other only once a year at the same time, in the same place, while doing the same thing. Later that day, I mentioned the coincidence to a friend who, it turned out, had once worked in the toy business.

“No coincidence,” he said knowingly.

“What do you mean, ‘No coincidence’?”

“Look,” he said, “let me ask you a couple of questions about the road-race set you bought this year. First, did you promise your son that he’d get one for Christmas?”

“Well, yes I did. Christopher had seen a bunch of ads for them on the Saturday morning cartoon shows and said that was what he wanted for Christmas. I saw a couple of ads myself and it looked like fun; so I said OK.”

“Strike one,” he announced. “Now for my second question. When you went to buy one, did you find all the stores sold out?”

“That’s right, I did! The stores said they’d ordered some but didn’t know when they’d get any more in. So I had to buy Christopher some other toys to make up for the road-race set. But how did you know?”

“Strike two,” he said. “Just let me ask one more question. Didn’t this same sort of thing happen the year before with the robot toy?” Wait a minute … you’re right. That’s just what happened. This is incredible. How did you know?” No psychic powers; I just happen to know how several of the big toy companies jack up their January and February sales. They start prior to Christmas with attractive TV ads for certain special toys. The kids, naturally, want what they see and extract Christmas promises for these items from their parents. Now here’s where the genius of the companies’ plan comes in: They undersupply the stores with the toys they’ve gotten the parents to promise. Most parents find those toys sold out and are forced to substitute other toys of equal value. The toy manufacturers, of course, make a point of supplying the stores with plenty of these substitutes. Then, after Christmas, the companies start running the ads again for the other, special toys. That juices up the kids to want those toys more than ever. They go running to their parents whining, ‘You promised, you promised,’ and the adults go trudging off to the store to live up dutifully to their words.”

“Where,” I said, beginning to seethe now, “they meet other parents they haven’t seen for a year, falling for the same trick, right?”

“Right. Uh, where are you going?”

“I’m going to take the road-race set right back to the store.” I was so angry I was nearly shouting.

“Wait. Think for a minute first. Why did you buy it this morning?”

“Because I didn’t want to let Christopher down and because I wanted to teach him that promises are to be lived up to.”

“Well, has any of that changed? Look, if you take his toy away now, he won’t understand why. He’ll just know that his father broke a promise to him. Is that what you want?”

“No,” I said, sighing, “I guess not. So, you’re telling me that the toy companies doubled their profits on me for the past two years, and I never even knew it; and now that I do, I’m still trapped—by my own words. So, what you’re really telling me is, ‘Strike three.’ ” He nodded, “And you’re out.”

In the years since, I have observed a variety of parental toy-buying sprees similar to the one I experienced during that particular holiday season—for Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo dolls, Furbies, etc. But, historically, the one that best fits the pattern is that of the Cabbage Patch Kids, $25 dolls that were promoted heavily during mid-1980s Christmas seasons but were woefully undersupplied to stores. Some of the consequences were a government false advertising charge against the Kids’ maker for continuing to advertise dolls that were not available; frenzied groups of adults battling at toy outlets or paying up to $700 apiece at auction for dolls they had promised their children; and an annual $150 million in sales that extended well beyond the Christmas months. During the 1998 holiday season, the least available toy that everyone wanted was the Furby, created by a division of toy giant Hasbro. When asked what frustrated, Furby-less parents should tell their kids, a Hasbro spokeswoman advised the kind of promise that has profited toy manufacturers for decades, “I’ll try, but if I can’t get it for you now, I’ll get it for you later” (Tooher, 1998).

There are a couple of things you can do with this info, other than not promising toys that will be in short supply. One of those things would be to figure out what toys will be in short supply, get there first and bank on eBay. Another would be to catch these parents looking for these toys during the holiday season and offer an alternative. Another would be to re-target these parents AFTER the holiday seasons with, say.. An Amazon affiliate link – I can already see the landing page “Remember the toy you promised? Its available NOW”…

Jesus saves, everybody else uses MasterCard.