Four Questions That Can Keep You from Buying What You Don’t Need

A Sucker is Born every Minute. My minute was November 15 1946.

A Sucker is Born every Minute. My minute was November 15 1946.

I’ve always been an easy mark for glitzy sales gimmicks. When I go to outdoor sporting shows, you can find me standing in a trance, handing my money to some pitch-man who does fancy demonstrations.

I bought a hand-cranked vegetable compactor/combination/food dehydrator that makes peanut butter out of recycled zucchini skins. And that pocket-fisherman thing, as seen on TV. Fished around in my pocket for years. Never caught a thing.

So the vacuum cleaner guy who appeared at our door one day must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

I sat breathless as he demonstrated how the powerful suction of his vacuum cleaner could rip a newspaper to shreds. Then he leaned closer and lowered his voice: “You won’t believe this,” he said, as he reconfigured the vacuum cleaner so that it blew air out rather than sucking it in.

He pointed the nozzle of the hose upward and placed a ping pong ball in the column of air blowing from the machine. The ball magically bounced up and down, suspended in the air flow. I couldn’t even speak. Then he whispered, “Watch this!”

From his little demonstration case he pulled a golf ball, which he released into the flow. This heavier ball dropped almost to the hose’s nozzle before it began to bounce and bob in the column of air. I barely heard the salesman who looked over his shoulder as if to tell me a secret no one else could hear. He whispered, “Other vacuum cleaners won’t do a golf ball!”

I was already reaching for my wallet. I paid over three hundred dollars for that vacuum cleaner, and to this day it won’t suck dirt.

Buyer beware!  It isn’t the glitzy demonstration or the smooth canned sales pitch that should suck the dollars from our wallet.

Here’s three questions that will help you determine what to buy and when.

1.  Do I really need it? 

I never used that vacuum except to impress me friends with the golf ball trick.

2.  Can I afford it?

Back then, 300 dollars was to me like a thousand is today.  I ate peanut butter sandwiches for months to help pay for my foolishness.

3.  What benefit will it bring me? 

This is the most important consideration of all.  It is closely related to  the first question.  I already had a vacuum cleaner that sucked just fine.  What benefit was there to one that could blow air out?  None! It wasn’t powerful enough to blow leaves only powerful enough to hold up a golf ball.  Now there was a benefit that would serve me well the rest of my life.

4.  Will I still want it tomorrow?  When I expressed a desire to buy something, my Dad would make me write it down and wait two weeks.  Somewhere in the world there are thousands of scraps of paper containing the scribbled name of something I couldn’t live without — but did live without.  Most of the time I forgot what I had written within days.

There is nothing wrong with a great sales presentation.   As a person who sells goods and services, I ask the same questions before I produce anything I expect people to buy.

1.  Do they really need it?  Will it enhance their lives?

2.  Can they afford it?  Will it be worth their time and money?

3.  What benefits will it bring to them?  There had better be plenty!

4.  Will it continue to be of value tomorrow? Will they return for more because of  the value received?

There are more questions that can be helpful, but there is a guy at the door with a machine that will knock ten strokes off my golf game in three days.  I gotta go!

Have you ever bought something worthless because of a smooth talking salesman or glitzy demo?  

What keeps you from impulse buying?

NOTE:  There was ONE benefit that did make this vacuum cleaner worth it’s weight in gold.  Watch for my next post.