Monday, August 18, 2014

Can I Live Without This?

But Wait! Order Today and . . .

This is a simple question I ask myself every time I go into Costco, Walmart, Kohl's and other stores I patronize. I ask the same question as I read all the product "newsletters" I receive from Rakuten (, New Egg, Sweetwater, B&H Photo, BSW (Broadcast Supply Warehouse), Kohl's, Ben's Bargains, etc. that I receive on line. The same question applies as I glance through numerous magazines and other periodicals from my various areas of interest. And, of course, there is the incessant pounding from the TV home shopping networks and the commercials and infomercials on most TV channels and even Sirius satellite radio channels.

"But, wait! Order today and we'll double your order and send you two chartreuse, endlessly expandable, unbreakable, lifetime warranty muffler bearings for your Formula Go Cart Racer just pay separate shipping and handling of $495.00 each.

Blah! Blah! Blah! It never stops. It's called sales. It's the action part of marketing. Yes! They are actually separate functions. You are being sold something constantly - even those, ever more, frequent pleading and begging pledge drives for public television and public radio is simply another form of selling.

One has to wonder how the entire world, at least in the U.S. and some of the other developed First World countries aren't all blithering idiots. Then again . . . maybe they are. If they weren't our houses, apartments, businesses, caves, whatever, wouldn't be full of so much stuff we need to keep looking for larger places to live. Well, more accurately we should say more accurate places to "warehouse."

The Jolly German Elf

Over this past weekend I watched (walking through the living room of my friend's home) a jolly, stout, German man, with a cute German accent, sell upwards of $5,000,000 + of his namesake, Wolfgang Puck, stainless steel cookware and pressure cookers in two days by incessantly jabbering, along with the host of the various time slots, about his cookware while performing a sort of cooking vaudeville act. Please understand, I didn't watch him all day. I would have ended up sitting in a corner with my eyes rolling in my sockets, twiddling my thumbs and drooling all over myself. I only caught him in small increments as I passed by the TV. And, (thank God) he wasn't actually on continuously, just for an hour or two at a time, multiple times throughout the two days.

There was a counter at the bottom of the screen keeping a tally of the number of these items sold and it just kept going up and up. The supposed retail price of this set of cookware is $412.00, but it sold on Saturday for $199.99 and on Sunday for $249.99. The pressure cooker was $99.99 but was probably close to a $200.00 retail price. Now, it's not that this cookware isn't good. I know first hand that it is. My friend bought a set of it several months ago and I've used it.

The point is more than 15,000 people bought this through the incessant pounding away at their "reptilian" brains. But, you say, 15,000 is only a tiny number with respect to the fact that perhaps, millions of viewers will be tuned in at any given time during the day. My question is simply this, were these 15,000+ people not cooking before they saw this cookware on TV? Again, I know for a fact that my friend has at least (that I've seen) three sets of cookware - two before she bought Wolfgang's. 

Can I Live Without This?

That is a question I started asking myself about ten years ago. You see, I have been involved in both the marketing process and the sales process most of my life, even when I was a newspaper boy at age 12. While I'm far from the greatest marketing guru or salesman, I have read and studied the fields, attended seminars and workshops and have learned from the best.

But, let me tell you that I am no better than anyone else. I have bought so much stuff during my lifetime that I could have lived without very well, thank you very much. But, I, like the people who watch the home shopping networks or fill up their shopping carts with thing that aren't on their shopping list of needs, have been there. I've succumbed to the sales pitch - whether live, print, TV, radio, whatever.

I was living in a house including a partial basement, a two car garage and a small storage area in a small barn totaling about 3,000 square feet. I was single, basically occupying a single room, the master bedroom that I had turned into a sort of "studio apartment" and the house was FULL. Believe it or not, I was getting claustrophobic. When I'm traveling now, I have my 50 square feet of living space (with all the storage I need included in that area) and I never feel claustrophobic.

I finally learned, as I noted, about 10 years ago that I really didn't need all the stuff I had, yet I kept accumulating more. Yes! Our capitalistic society is based on consumers consuming stuff. But, consuming means using it up. We just keep getting more, never using up much of what we already have and adding to it.

I finally began asking myself the simple five word sentence, "Can I live without this?" Invariably, when I took the time to ask that question and was honest with myself, I realized I could live without whatever it is.

It took a while to make that a habit. Now, that question is the first thing that crosses my mind when I see something that catches my eye. It's very easy to just grab things or order things because at the moment, it seems the right thing to do. But, I've found that maybe I began rationalizing a "supposed need" for a particular item because it was on sale. Now I'll say, let me think about it for a couple days. Well, the days come and go and the real need never materializes.

Some people buy things they don't need just because they are a bargain. So, I say to that, you see a size 4 bathing suit at a super bargain price, but you wear a size 12, so you'll buy the size 4 bathing suit just because it's a bargain? Or you see a dump truck for sale and it's a real bargain, but you're not in the dump truck business. So, you'll buy the dump truck anyway, because it's a bargain? Believe it or not, I've heard people attempt to rationalize that kind of mentality.

Will the economy crash because you don't buy everything some fancy salesperson or ad campaign waves in front of you? Absolutely not because you will be in the minority of people thinking straight and the other 14,999 people will buy that Wolfgang Puck cookware.

Two Go Out For Every One Brought In

Here's another idea for you. I know people who do this very well. Before they bring any new item into their home, business or life they must divest themselves of two items they are no longer using, are worn out, depleted or are surplus to their needs.

I've even heard of people who have parties and tell their guests they have to take two items home with them from a selection of "stuff" the host has set out for the guests to select from. What a great idea. The host gets to downsize and get rid of stuff and the guests, who still crave having more stuff get it at no cost.

Everyone wins, more or less (well, actually the host wins).

The Ultimate Snow er, Sales Job

Let me make a couple final points.

Think about this. I read an interview with one of the former "hosts" for HSN or QVC, the two main TV shopping networks. He said when he went to audition for the job, a producer handed him a regular, yellow, No. 2 pencil with an eraser at one end and said, "Tell me about this pencil for ten minutes." If you never have, tune into one of the TV shopping networks sometime and just imagine the host blathering on and on about that No. 2 pencil, because that's exactly what he or she is doing.

Here's my second point and it's another thing to ponder regarding the power of sales and marketing. After you read this, regardless of where you stand, honestly ask yourself - Why?

Imagine placing a person into a very high level and extremely powerful position. This person has a sketchy background, some of which doesn't seem to make sense. The person came from a somewhat strange heritage, also. The person is supposedly highly educated, yet you can't examine his or her educational credentials. The person never held a real job based on his or her profession as most people define jobs but dabbled in a few areas including teaching. The person managed to get him or her self into one position of power and authority, but never did anything truly remarkable, memorable or all that effective and left before completing the third term of that assignment. The person left the first assignment incomplete to take on another position of even higher power and authority where he or she also did nothing remarkable, memorable or effective and left the position early to take on the ultimate position of power and authority. This person, by many people's estimation, has either been ineffective or possibly made things worse during his or her tenure.

I am, of course, talking of the current President of the United States. Now, to be sure, he is not the first and only POTUS of questionable credentials (in my personal opinion) to attain this position of, arguably, the most powerful head of state in the world. But, consider that few knew much about him (and still don't) before he was elected to the office. Also, consider that he has associated at various times with people of very questionable character. Additionally, he never served in any manner in any military capacity (not that every past president has), yet he's the Commander-in-Chief of the largest, most powerful and expensive military force in the world with control over massive numbers of weapons of mass destruction.

How did he achieve this?

This is the power of Sales and Marketing. Whether orchestrated by himself or someone behind him, there was a massive power of defining the market and it's several facets, then focusing extremely targeted sales pitches designed to persuade and to sell to those who were persuaded, if you will, the product named Barrack Obama to a large enough part of the market to take home the prize.

It's really not all that different from selling Wolfgang Puck's stainless steel cookware to people who already had some kind of cookware and then taking home his prize - the profits. In both cases, they pitched it and made us believe we couldn't live without the product.

Any questions? Can you live without (whatever) it (is)? I've learned to and I'm happier and freer because I did. 


John Abert said...

we recently have been going to YouTube for much of our movie entertainment, since most shows are in hiatus during the summer. We came upon one I hadn't seen before, "Meet John Doe" (1941) (Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, and a relatively young Walter Brennan). Without revealing the plot, it has to do with many of the things wrong with this country that remain timeless. The premise is just as relevant now as it was back then, and shows how corporate greed tries to rule everything, right up to the highest positions of government, even to the point of stamping out the real values of the people and this country. Unfortunately, such things do not always end with happy endings. The reason they don't is because of public apathy. Too many people don't take the time to vote, and yet complain about the way things are. Like a herd of sheep, we tend to follow along with what ever gets drilled into our heads from endless advertising, even to the point of driving both us and our country into endless debt...all because we don't bother to think for ourselves, or to follow the basic philosophy of every religion on the planet, which can be boiled down to one single Bad habits of all kinds have driven us into positions where we don't even love ourselves, let alone the people around us, and t shows everywhere in society, even to those who claim a connection to religion of one kind or another. We continue to spend on things we don't need, then hate our jobs because the pay can't keep up with our spending, when in reality, we need to say "NO" more often to advertisers and learn to live within our budgets. That would relieve a lot of the stress, and we would feel better about ourselves, be happier in general, and could learn to at least tolerate (if not love) the people both in our lives and the strangers we encounter every day. Unfortunately, the philosophy of love is being removed farther and farther from our lives because our very freedom of religion is also being removed...and the sad part, it is being forced upon us by the minority of people! It has been said that 86% of us are in the minority, and yet 14% are allowed to make the rules that the rest of us live by! And that boils down to public apathy regarding voting the crooks out of office and seeing to it that the laws get changed back into the favor of the majority, where it belongs! This country was based on democracy, and the majority rules. It's a shame that we have become so complacent as to let that freedom to choose slip away from us! And we have no one to blame but ourselves! We won't have to lose a war to lose our country. We're giving it away, one piece at a time! We can only hope that the public wakes up before it is too late!

Kathy Hedegard said...

Hi Ed, I'm so glad I've found your blog. I really needed to read this post and a few others you've recently done.

I'm a wannabe full-timer, currently bogged down in the 'what to do with this house and everything in it...???' situation. The dream is to downsize drastically, put my want-to-keep things in storage, sell the rest and see the continent.

Canada (my home) in the summer, the US in the winter. Bird-watching and seeing everything possible the whole time. Anyway, I was feeling mentally stuck and you've just helped to get my energy flowing again.

So thanks.