I have a friend that recently bought a wristwatch online. It was on “offer” from an (indicated) original price of Ksh.15 000 to Ksh. 4 500 – an eye-watering discount by any standards if it were true. He was excited to tell me about it and encouraged me to “check it out” before the price changed. In the course of 2 weeks or so, several things happened.
1. I looked up the watch on a price-tracking website to discover that the said discount was a hoax. The watch had never cost Ksh. 15 000.
2. My friend got his watch delivered and it was disgust at first sight. It was uglier than tolerable and at the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality.
3. My friend’s fears of the price changing came true. Only, in the opposite direction as the watch was now available for Ksh.3 500.
This happened during the Black Friday week when apparently everybody leaves the part of their brain at home. Black Friday is immediately followed by Cyber Monday, which is slowly gaining traction even here in Kenya. A few weeks after comes the Christmas shopping mania. We have not even mentioned Singles day which will surely make its way to these shores once the heavy hitters are convinced that our disposable incomes have expanded enough to warrant their capitalistic attention for an extra day.
Between the Black Friday week and Christmas, you will have seen the word “sale” (in caps, bold letters, and probably in red) several thousand times, whether be it online, in malls, in boutiques, on the TV, on billboards etc.
Sellers know you love deals. They also know you like to be told you are getting deals, even when you are not. Businesspeople are not bad people, it’s just business. You are happy to get a “discount”, they are happy to make a sale. Everybody is happy – unless, of course, you find out that the sale was a hoax. As most are.
Many sales and discounts are smoke screens. Even in cases where the previous price was higher, the sale price often turns out to be the permanent price henceforth. The truth is that the item had been previously mispriced and instead of the seller adjusting the price quietly, they opt to do it more publicly via a faux sale. I don’t blame them. Adjusting prices downwards quietly would not be as profitable an idea.
So why do we swallow the bait? You go to the supermarket and there is a rug on sale. You have not seen the rug before or if you did, cared to know how much it costs because you did not have any remotely pressing need for a rug. But you look at the big yellow tag now attached reading, “Save 70%!! “ and you suddenly realize that you desperately need a rug – that rug! And because you are somehow jealous of other people getting nice things for cheap, you buy not one piece, but three of them. All this despite the fact that you had initially set out to buy a packet of milk and bread.
We swallow the bait of dishonest bargains because we buy on emotion and justify with logic. Businesspeople with stuff to sell this Christmas are more concerned with how you feel than with what you need.
As long as a seller can convince you that you are getting something for less than its worth, you are done. Whether or not you need, or even want the item in question is of peripheral importance to the seller. We love to feel we are getting something for nothing. This is how we continue to throw away money while telling ourselves that we are saving it.
This Christmas season, everything is going to be on offer. You will be bombarded with a multitude of tantalizing “offers”, imploring you to buy something and save money. Spend money to save money?
When someone tells you to save 500 shillings by buying an item priced at 1000 shillings for half the price, you have not saved 500 shillings. You have spent 500 shillings.