Here are my notes from Influence:
- A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.
- By no means is my friend original in this last use of the “expensive = good” rule to snare those seeking a bargain. Culturist and author Leo Rosten gives the example of the Drubeck brothers, Sid and Harry, who owned a men’s tailor shop in Rosten’s neighborhood while he was growing up in the 1930s. Whenever the salesman, Sid, had a new customer trying on suits in front of the shop’s three-sided mirror, he would admit to a hearing problem, and, as they talked, he would repeatedly request that the man speak more loudly to him. Once the customer had found a suit he liked and had asked for the price, Sid would call to his brother, the head tailor, at the back of the room, “Harry, how much for this suit?” Looking up from his work — and greatly exaggerating the suit’s true price — Harry would call back, “For that beautiful all-wool suit, forty-two dollars.” Pretending not to have heard and cupping his hand to his ear, Sid would ask again. Once more Harry would reply, “Forty-two dollars.” At this point, Sid would turn to the customer and report, “He says twenty-two dollars.” Many a man would hurry to buy the suit and scramble out of the shop with his “expensive = good” bargain before Poor Sid discovered the “mistake.”
- A nice demonstration of perceptual contrast is sometimes employed in psychophysics laboratories to introduce students to the principle firsthand. Each student takes a turn sitting in front of three pails of water — one cold, one at room temperature, and one hot. After placing one hand in the cold water and one in the hot water, the student is told to place both in the lukewarm water simultaneously. The look of amused bewilderment that immediately registers tells the story: Even though both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that has been in the cold water feels as if it is now in hot water, while the one that was in the hot water feels as if it is now in cold water. The point is that the same thing — in this instance, room-temperature water — can be made to seem very different, depending on the nature of the event that precedes it.
- Automobile dealers use the contrast principle by waiting until the price for a new car has been negotiated before suggesting one option after another that might be added. In the wake of a fifteen-thousand-dollar deal, the hundred or so dollars required for a nicety like an FM radio seems almost trivial in comparison. The same will be true of the added expense of accessories like tinted windows, dual side-view mirrors, whitewall tires, or special trim that the salesman might suggest in sequence. The trick is to bring up the extras independently of one another, so that each small price will seem petty when compared to the already-determined much larger one. As the veteran car buyer can attest, many a budget-sized final price figure has ballooned from the addition of all those seemingly little options. While the customer stands, signed contract in hand, wondering what happened and finding no one to blame but himself, the car dealer stands smiling the knowing smile of the jujitsu master.
- The obligation to receive reduces our ability to choose whom we wish to be indebted to and puts that power in the hands of others. Let’s reexamine a pair of earlier examples to get a sense of how the process works. First, let’s return to the Regan study, where we find that the favor causing subjects to double the number of raffle tickets purchased from Joe was not one they had requested. Joe had voluntarily left the room and returned with one Coke for himself and one for the subject. There was not a single subject who refused the Coke. It is easy to see why it would have been awkward to turn down Joe’s favor: Joe had already spent his money; a soft drink was an appropriate favor in the situation, especially since Joe had one himself; it would have been considered impolite to reject Joe’s thoughtful action. Nevertheless, receipt of that Coke produced an indebtedness that manifested itself clearly when Joe announced his desire to sell some raffle tickets. Notice the important asymmetry here — all the genuinely free choices were Joe’s. He chose the form of the initial favor, and he chose the form of the return favor. Of course, one could say that the subject had the choice of saying no to both of Joe’s offers. But those would have been tough choices. To have said no at either point would have required the subject to go against the natural cultural forces favoring reciprocation arrangements that Jujitsu Joe had aligned himself with.
- People will often avoid asking for a needed favor if they will not be in a position to repay it. The psychological cost may simply outweigh the material loss.
- I was walking down the street when I was approached by an eleven- or twelve-year-old boy. He introduced himself and said that he was selling tickets to the annual Boy Scouts circus to be held on the upcoming Saturday night. He asked if I wished to buy any at five dollars apiece. Since one of the last places I wanted to spend Saturday evening was with the Boy Scouts, I declined. “Well,” he said, “if you don’t want to buy any tickets, how about buying some of our big chocolate bars? They’re only a dollar each.” I bought a couple and, right away, realized that something noteworthy had happened. I knew that to be the case because: (a) I do not like chocolate bars; (b) I do like dollars; © I was standing there with two of his chocolate bars; and (d) he was walking away with two of my dollars.
- Because the rule for reciprocation governs the compromise process, it is possible to use an initial concession as part of a highly effective compliance technique. The technique is a simple one that we can call the rejection-then-retreat technique. Suppose you want me to agree to a certain request. One way to increase your chances would be first to make a larger request of me, one that I will most likely turn down. Then, after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along. Provided that you have structured your requests skillfully, I should view your second request as a concession to me and should feel inclined to respond with a concession of my own, the only one I would have immediately open to me — compliance with your second request.
- Take the bettors in the racetrack experiment. Thirty seconds before putting down their money, they had been tentative and uncertain; thirty seconds after the deed, they were significantly more optimistic and self-assured. The act of making a final decision — in this case, of buying a ticket — had been the critical factor. Once a stand had been taken, the need for consistency pressured these people to bring what they felt and believed into line with what they had already done. They simply convinced themselves that they had made the right choice and, no doubt, felt better about it all.
- No psychic powers; I just happen to know how several of the big toy companies jack up their January and February sales. They start prior to Christmas with attractive TV ads for certain special toys. The kids, naturally, want what they see and extract Christmas promises for these items from their parents. Now here’s where the genius of the companies’ plan comes in: They undersupply the stores with the toys they’ve gotten the parents to promise. Most parents find those things sold out and are forced to substitute other toys of equal value. The toy manufacturers, of course, make a point of supplying the stores with plenty of these substitutes. Then, after Christmas, the companies start running the ads again for the other, special toys. That juices up the kids to want those toys more than ever. They go running to their parents whining, ‘You promised, you promised,’ and the adults go trudging off to the store to live up dutifully to their words.
- Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort.
- Compliance professionals have found that the friend doesn’t even have to be present to be effective; often, just the mention of the friend’s name is enough. The Shaklee Corporation, which specializes in door-to-door sales of various home-related products, advises its salespeople to use the “endless chain” method for finding new customers. Once a customer admits to liking a product, he or she can be pressed for the names of friends who would also appreciate learning about it. The individuals on that list can then be approached for sales and a list of their friends, who can serve as sources for still other potential customers, and so on in an endless chain.
The key to the success of this method is that each new prospect is visited by a salesperson armed with the name of a friend “who suggested I call on you.” Turning the salesperson away under those circumstances is difficult; it’s almost like rejecting the friend. The Shaklee sales manual insists that employees use this system without fail: “It would be impossible to overestimate its value. Phoning or calling on a prospect and being able to say that Mr. So-and-so, a friend of his, felt he would benefit by giving you a few moments of his time is virtually as good as a sale 50 percent made before you enter.”
- Richard sold cars, but not in a showroom nor on a car lot. He would buy a couple of used cars sold privately through the newspaper on one weekend and, adding nothing but soap and water, would sell them at a decided profit through the newspaper on the following weekend. To do this, he had to know three things. First, he had to know enough about cars to buy those that were offered for sale at the bottom of their blue-book price range but could be legitimately resold for a higher price. Second, once he got the car, he had to know how to write a newspaper ad that would stimulate substantial buyer interest. Third, once a buyer arrived, he had to know how to use the scarcity principle to generate more desire for the car than it perhaps deserved. Richard knew how to do all three. For our purposes, though, we need to examine his craft with just the third.
For a car he had purchased on the prior weekend, he would place an ad in the Sunday paper. Because he knew how to construct a good ad, he usually received an array of calls from potential buyers on Sunday morning. Each prospect who was interested enough to want to see the car was given an appointment time — the same appointment time. So if six people were scheduled, they were all scheduled for, say, two o’clock that afternoon. This little device of simultaneous scheduling paved the way for later compliance because it created an atmosphere of competition for a limited resource.
Typically, the first prospect to arrive would begin a studied examination of the car and would engage in standard car-buying behavior, such as pointing out any blemishes or deficiencies or asking if the price was negotiable. The psychology of the situation changed radically, however, when the second buyer drove up. The availability of the car to either prospect suddenly became limited by the presence of the other. Often the earlier arrival, inadvertently stoking the sense of rivalry, would assert his right to primary consideration. “Just a minute, now. I was here first.” If he didn’t assert that right, Richard would do it for him. Addressing the second buyer, Richard would say, “Excuse me, but this other gentleman was here before you. So can I ask you to wait on the other side of the driveway for a few minutes until he’s finished looking at the car? Then, if he decides he doesn’t want it or if he can’t make up his mind, I’ll show it to you.”
Richard claims it was possible to watch the agitation grow on the first buyer’s face. His leisurely assessment of the car’s pros and cons had suddenly become a now-or-never, limited-time-only rush to decision over a contested resource. If he didn’t decide for the car — at Richard’s asking price — in the next few minutes, he might lose it for good to that…that…lurking newcomer over there. For his part, the second buyer would be equally agitated by the combination of rivalry and restricted availability. He would pace on the periphery, visibly straining to get at this now more desirable hunk of metal. Should two-o’clock appointment number one fail to buy or even fail to decide quickly enough, two-o’clock appointment number two was ready to pounce.
If these conditions alone were not enough to secure a favorable purchase decision immediately, the trap snapped surely shut as soon as the third two-o’clock appointment arrived on the scene. According to Richard, stacked-up competition was usually too much for the first prospect to bear. He would end the pressure quickly by either agreeing to Richard’s price or by leaving abruptly. In the latter instance, the second arrival would strike at the chance to buy out of a sense of relief coupled with a new feeling of rivalry with that…that…lurking newcomer over there.
If you liked the above content, I’d definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯