I dedicate this article to a person I can only describe as “the Mattress Man”.
A few weeks before graduating college, my mother and I went to a local mattress store to start shopping for something I would need for my first apartment: a bed to sleep on. We entered one of those strip mall-mattress stores and started browsing the field rows of beds. As we walked down the first aisle, my hands grazed playfully across the varied textures of the different fabrics. I occasionally pressed down to calculate the firmness of the mattress, and if I found one that was particularly appealing, I would sheepishly sit on the corner of it. I remember looking around, wondering if people ever lay down to test drive, or if they just sat down and figured that was good enough? This was an important adult decision, and I wanted to give it the care and thought it deserved; after all, a person spends approximately 1/3 of every day lying on their bed (and probably about 2/3 when you a recent college grad and do not have any other furniture).
I must have been sitting on my third or fourth mattress when the Mattress Man appeared. Mid-sized, mustached, and smiling, he offered his help and services to us. “Perhaps I can show us some of my personal favorites?” I nodded in agreement, and our journey began.
Mattress Man escorted us to the back corner of the store and engaged us with his tales of beautiful sleep and sugar plum fairies dancing in our heads on one particular mattress. And it was gorgeous: the beaded texture, the pillow-like fluffiness restrained only by designer buttons, and the delicate cording around each of its corners. He laid down on the bed while talking to us, motioning for us to do the same. I felt a bit strange, but my mother reassured me with the words “you have to sleep on it, so you might as well”. I took the plunge, lying side by side with Mattress Man, thinking of the wonderful dreams to be had and slowly allowing my inhibitions to go…until a tag caught my eye. I was horizontal at the time so I thought it was a mistake. I quickly rolled over to my belly and grabbed the price tag: $1,200.
Had I missed a step? Had our salesman not realized I was a college-grad-to-be with less than $1,200 to my entire name?
Needless to say, we left that day without a mattress. He pranced around from bed to bed, trying to find one that my eyes did not widen over, but the sticker shock from the first one never left me. He rationalized with us, detailing the health effects of my poor mattress at home, trying his best financing options and even going so far as to say that my performance at my first job out of college was guaranteed to be better as a result of sleeping on one of his star mattresses. He used peer pressure, saying that sticker shock was normal for all first-time apartment dwellers and that all the people my age “grow-up” and purchase a high quality mattress. He even brought out the “investment” word, and how buying this mattress was somehow an investment in my future.
I wonder sometimes if he is still in that strip mall selling mattresses. Even if he has moved on to something else, I know that his and others sales pressure tactics are still in use. Because of my experience with the Mattress Man, I have spent the last several years paying close attention to the sales pressure tactics out there. I’d like to outline and share them with you all below.
- Instill a Sense of Urgency: If I hear one more commercial with that music “One Day!” for another “one day” Macy’s sale, I might pull my hair out. Honestly, how many one day Macy’s sales can there be in a year? A while back when I had a quote done for granite countertops, they said we had until that Friday to go through with it because it was a special for Mother’s day. Two months later I saw an advertisement through them for the same deal!
- Instill a Sense of Rarity: A good salesman can make even a mud pie appear as if your life cannot continue without one (well I guess I could use one to mold my own bricks for that one missing in our back patio…wait, what am I saying?). Be wary of countdowns on websites and the QVC channel indicating that only a select few number of that item is left. If this is actually true, you can still most likely find another vendor who is selling the same thing or something very similar (thank goodness for the internet age).
- Pull on Your Heart Strings: How dare you not provide whatever your mother wants after she gave birth to you and raised you for all those years. Your kids aren’t going to fit in socially and this will come back to haunt you unless you purchase this item. Who wouldn’t treat their spouse to some new jewelry, especially after what you did that other day? Many ads attempt to pull at our heart strings, which can be very difficult to say no to when dispelling our guilt or adding to our good karma is simply a swipe of the credit card or a ringing of the cash register away.
- Offer a Proposition You Simply Can’t Refuse: Do you want to save the planet? How about the orphan children? I don’t take these issues lightly, but me purchasing a product is not going to make or break these issues. However, when faced with these questions, most people (me included) automatically think “yes—I do want to help”. Now you are in the salesperson’s hand; all you need to do is purchase their product and you can feel like you are part of the solution to a much larger issue.
- Recalibrate Your Definition of “Expensive”: Most of us know an approximate amount that we are willing to spend on a purchase before we start to shop for it. But a salesperson has a trick to break your price barrier: start off by showing you a top-of-the-line product that has all of the bells and whistles and is well out of your price range. You are now salivating, though politely refusing, and now the salesperson can show you a more moderately priced item (that is still above your price range). Suddenly this product seems reasonable to you.
Remember: a good salesperson does not overstep his/her boundary into your life (like interrupt your line of thinking or breathe down your neck while you are perusing). A good salesperson helps you to find what you are looking for, as well as educates you on better, or more efficient, or alternative products they think might interest you. And a good salesperson knows how to take “no” for an answer.