Today Only, Also Tomorrow, and the Day After That Too

There is a thing about marketing, or advertising if you will, to get people excited and get them to act (by which most of us mean give money in some way) when you want them to, typically right now. And then there is a thing about telling the truth, being genuine and being trustworthy. The two elements don’t always converge the way you might hope, and maybe it’s intentional or maybe it’s just a failure to think ahead but just like the boy who cried wolf if you don’t actually mean it when you say it eventually people will stop believing you and you don’t get what you want, or you might even get something really bad (remember the little boy gets eaten in the end).

Perhaps you too are receiving a barrage of emails announcing sales that are ‘one day only,’ ‘limited time,’ ‘just for today,’ or the like. We get these all year of course but now that the gift giving holidays loom we get even more, with greater urgency and better sales and only for just this one second if you act right now and then never again will it be so good. Until tomorrow. I have one store, that I happen to like quite a bit, who emails and texts me (boy was it ever a mistake to give them my cell number in exchange for that 40% off) at least 4 times every single day with limited offers that can never be had again, except of course they can because the emails and the texts only increase in volume.

Also, lets just consider the math here for a second: if you start by offering me 30% off, then 40, 50, 60 and the coveted 75% on top of already discounted prices I know that I am never going to get to a point where you are paying me to take those designer shoes off your hands, but I also know that when you start at 30% we are engaged in an e-negotiation wherein if I ignore you for long enough the discount offer will get bigger and bigger and bigger. Until it stops and then when move on to another fabulous offer for only this second of this minute on this day.

The thing is that it truly has become nothing but noise because the time rarely runs out for most of these company offers and as consumers we have all been trained to not believe you because you have not told the truth about how long I can actually get the offer for. Or how big the eventual discount will be. If you tell me 40% is the best you can do but tomorrow you say ‘okay 50%’ then next time I know to ignore you to start, and I am also cautious about jumping in at 50, what if you are willing to go to 60, so what happens then? What I am learning to do is not to buy, which is ostensibly the opposite of what retailers want, unless this is a vast buddhist conspiracy to train everyone to let go of desire. Wouldn’t that be a cool conspiracy!

The point of all this of course is that it is important to tell the truth in whatever we are doing. People are fundamentally people whether they are acting as consumers, or employees, or spouses or whatever combination of roles you find yourself in at any given moment of the day. Our brains get trained to believe certain things, and react to certain triggers, and though you may want someone to do something right now if you don’t tell the truth to get them to do it, they won’t trust you the next time. The boy wanted company, he asked for what he wanted the wrong way and in the end it didn’t work out so well. Early numbers are down for black Friday sales, and cyber Monday e-tailing, and the holiday shopping season reports say are bleak. But maybe we just don’t trust those stores anymore, since Christmas starts in September and the sales are daily and the discounts steepen – maybe everyone is just calling a retail bluff and waiting? Maybe now would be a good time to take stock of who we are, and what we say and think about what it might be like if we genuinely meant something and then stuck with it – that might be a nice thing to get used to!

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