Playing with the physiological human instinct of choosing between what is perceived as a great deal, versus what is not a great deal, seems to be taken to new heights from the retailers I work with. I am talking about everything from packaging, to pricing, the slick art of getting customers to buy your product thinking that they are getting the best bang for their dollar. It has become a science from which companies, such as the one I work for, who are paying huge sums for “investments/marketing” and following new pricing scheme like “religious text” to get the consumers buying at the new market prices, according to our sales repetitive. It seems that nothing is forbidden in sales, advertising and packaging, as loopholes have been found, and marketing is being pushed to new frontiers.
Every once in a while I am asked to go on a buying spree to load up on goods that we use/need around here in the office. (I’m secretly writing this from my desk – don’t tell my boss…) We are also a “quasi” retail company, or wholesaler; it is hard to pin down a proper definition or description of what we do, but that is beside the point. We shop by catalogues and use price lists, unlike consumers who walk into a store and shop for what they need. I use the word “shop” as someone who sees something that they need, and then they physically take the item and pay for it. We do not shop, we order, and we order in bulk. And because we order like this, the advertising is slightly different from that of a shopper in a retail store. We do not get a photograph of the item. We rely on our good judgement of what we need and what we want, so the vendors that supply us now seem to be using crafty means of playing on our wants and needs. Here are some examples that I am faced with.
Item descriptions are either very vague, or verbose, now. I am noticing that items such as pens are becoming of lower quality, or the packaging is larger than the volume of what is inside, or the pens got smaller? All project a sense of a bargain, while the truth is, you are paying for more–for less.
Not long ago the description would have included how much ink, weight and dimensions, and the size of the ball-point was, and there was also a scale that you could use to determine the type of pen that you wanted so you could compare each of them. So, if I like a particular pen, and it sold for, say $10.00 a package, I could compare that item with others to help with my decision. Now, when I looked for that same item, the price is now $14.99, but the description is lacking the details that that item number once had from before are missing.
Not only did the packaging change, but so have the amounts, or mete. Last time we could buy the pens in lots of 100, 200, and 500. Now they come in lots of 144, 475 and 720? Why? A clever sales trick?
So I dug up our old invoice sheets from last year, and from 2009, so that I could compare costs. This was very difficult because the items and their descriptions changed; skew numbers are totally reformatted, and price scales no longer work, or they are all in a different order on the price sheet now. Basically, I took a pen of a certain style and specification, and compared it from what we had in the last two years, from memory. Memory is not the best tool to work with, but who would have thought this would happen with all of the vendors at once?
What I noticed with the one type of pen that I liked, was that the price increased by 72.8 percent. So, a pen with the value of $0.25, was now almost worth almost $0.45 per unit, and that price changed based on package type, model, and quantities that the packing came in. I was getting less pen per stock, at a higher price. Clever, as I was almost fooled into thinking I was getting a better deal of buying one case-lot.
So, buying has become even more difficult with retail and manufactures going in several directions to make their product appear to be more competitive, yet masking the increases you pay in the end. Buyer beware “Caveat emptor.”
Addendum: I did manage to find a source for our office supplies needs. Surprisingly it came from a company in Richmond, BC, who sold Canadian made products, at some very reasonable prices too. Bonus!