WOW Word-Of-the-Week #377: Scarcity

October 26, 2011 by · Comments Off on WOW Word-Of-the-Week #377: Scarcity 

Scarcity – of limited availability; rare.

Do you value things that are difficult to obtain? Have you made purchasing decisions based on how much you could lose by not buying? Do you sometimes feel pressured to buy something because it is a limited time offer?

This is the final WOW from the book “INFLUENCE: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdina, Ph.D. These WOW’s will hopefully help you influence your customers, guests, clients or members to increase sales and repeat business, as well as, how to not be swayed by someone trying to sell you something you may not want.

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”– G.K. Chesterton

Rare Grey Island Fox

“The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. For instance, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save. Similar results have been obtained by health researchers: Pamphlets urging young women to check for breast cancer through self-examination are significantly more successful if they state their case in terms of what stands to be lost.”

“Collectors of everything from baseball cards to antiques are keenly aware of the influence of the scarcity principle in determining the worth of an item As a rule, if it is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable.” Auctions of celebrity items are a perfect example of this.

“Probably the most straightforward use of the scarcity principle occurs in the ‘limited number’ tactic, when the customer is informed that a certain product is in short supply that cannot be guaranteed to last long. Another very successful way to sell something is to keep the prospects from taking the time to think the deal over by scaring them into believing they can’t have it later, which makes them want it now.”

This week’s focus is on scarcity. Have you ever bought something because there was only one left?  Are you familiar with Groupon and other “daily deals?” Have you ever been to a time-share presentation? Did you buy it and do you use it? Do you ever run specials that are a “limited time offer?”

Reader Responses

“As I have mentioned a few times in previous posts, many salesmen will use the fear of scarcity, of the possibility of it not being around tomorrow, as the basis for getting someone to buy something. I get immediately turned off by that prospect. Especially when it comes to items like cars. There will always be good deals on cars; that will never change. So, when a salesman attempts the hard sell, I just politely walk away. As I have grown older, though, I have come to appreciate mortality and opportunity. If there is a chance for me to see a performer, who could very well never return, I will pay the extra dollars and make the time to see that performer. A number of years ago, jazz and R&B singer Phyllis Hyman was booked to play at a club in Chicago called George’s. I had always enjoyed her singing and decided to go. Afterward, she sat at a table in the club and answered questions from fans like me. It was a lot of fun. She happened to be leaving the club just after I was. As I crossed the street she called out to me: “Goodnight, Joe.” I waved goodbye, and that was the last time I saw Phyllis. Fortunately, she had signed a few copies of her albums I brought with me. A few years later, I learned that Phyllis had committed suicide. While I was heartbroken, I was so glad that I did not have a regret. I took advantage of a chance, and I am so glad that I did. I have done the same with athletes. During his heyday with the Chicago Bears, I knew that Walter Payton was going to be at a club in suburban Chicago. I brought a football with me, in the hope that he would sign it. He came out to the parking lot that evening, and he quickly signed the ball. He is gone now, but I have the ball and the moment. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have met Mike Ditka, Michael Jordan, Stan Musial, Harry Caray, Jack Brickhouse, Lou Boudreau, Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and many other Hall of Famers. I made sure to have them sign balls or memorabilia. As time goes on and these people pass from this world, obviously the value of what they signed will be valuable. But for me, these items will be passed down to family and friends. While I understand the value that scarcity brings to these type of items, just to sell them for money reduces the sentimental value of them. I have to laugh sometimes when my wife has coupons or discounts for sales and she bemoans the fact that she missed the sale. I told her, there will always be another sale. That is never going to change. But taking advantage of the fleeting opportunities in life helps us not have regrets later in our lives. If we can live without regrets, we can live peacefully. Great word, Susan.” – “Warrior” Joe