How a FREE Raffle Cost Me $70

by Mike on February 5, 2010

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So there I was on Christmas eve with a few gifts left to pick up. My day and route was already planned because I don’t really like shopping. I prefer to go into a store and pick up what I need and get out. I had 4 gifts left to purchase, a Palm Pre for my significant other, a Trac phone for my undergrad sister, and I knew I wanted to get my mother and God-mother some type of jewelry. I already called Radio Shack and confirmed they had the Palm Pre in stock. I intentionally waited until the last minute because I didn’t want any confusion with activation the new phone and disabling the current phone. I did enough intel to know he wouldn’t mind extending the contract with Sprint. My plan was rock solid….

*Ring* —

Me: Good morning
Mr. A.: Good morning….my sister got me a Palm Pre for Christmas!
Me: (trying to contain my disappointment as my beautiful plan is falling apart before my eyes): That’s great…
(I’m sure there was more to the conversation but it’s highly irrelevant so I’ll spare you all the details)

I get off the phone and call one of my girlfriends…“His sister got him a Palm Pre for Christmas….AHHH!!!”

After some laughter and brainstorming, I remembered I had a plan B…a watch & his favorite cologne. We reasoned that I can get the best deal on the military base exchange (BX). They also have Tracfones and a selection of jewelry. The plan is back on….crisis averted.

I make my way to the BX, it’s crowded, but nothing like the major department stores would have been. I pick out the Tracfone and gift set in record time, I spend some time viewing the different men’s watch’s before settling on one I think he’ll like. Meanwhile, I keep hearing this announcement on the loud speaker: Free jewelry raffle in 5 minutes….pick up your ticket in the electronics department. You must be present to win.

“Hey….I’m buying jewelry today” I thought to myself. I dismissed it as I calculated my chances of winning were slim and headed towards the door. That is when I crossed paths with the sales representative giving away raffle tickets and making her PA announcement. Only 1 minute left…pick up your raffle ticket for your chance to win!

Well, I’m already here…so why not. I took a ticket and gathered with the other participants around a small vendor booth covered with a black sheet. I looked around…there were no more than 20 participants…my chances of winning were pretty good.

The sales representative comes over and introduces herself as a marketing research specialist for some company I have since forgotten the name for. She states that before we get to the raffle, she is going to show us some pieces of jewelry and we get to decide if we like them or not simply by raising our hands. She’ll record our responses and essentially we (the customers) decide rather the item makes it to the retail shelf next quarter.

She shows about 7-8 different pieces of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. She describes each piece in a matter-of-fact tone…she does not sound like a sales woman. She holds up each piece after her description and asks if we like it or not. She counts the raised hands and notates the responses on her clipboard.

After she shows us all the pieces, she proceeds to tell us the retail value, booth value, and today’s promotional value. She adds a piece of the jewelry we just voted on to a little pouch….one by one thus increasing the retail value of the “package” deal. By the time she was done, there were 5 pieces of jewelry in the pouch…a retail value of over $300. She goes on to tell us that she has been “authorized” to release a limited amount of these packages for only $70. Based on the side of the crowd, she can only give away 3 at this price. The only fair way to do this is take the first 3 people that raise their hands on the count of 3.

Wait…I need time to think….$70 for 5 pieces of jewelry? I raised my hand for most of them…I like them….I am buying jewelry today….this could be my last stop….. Whoa….the count is starting….

1…..2….

As she hits 3 my hand is up in the air….how did that get there? I’m in front so surely she sees me. She points to 3 other people. Oh well….I’m disappointed and kind of relived. She then leans and tells me…don’t worry, you’ll be the 4th…as if I was getting an exclusive deal! I got out my debit card while she waited patiently with her wireless card reader. I made my purchase and went on my way.

I thought about her sales tactic and why it worked. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Timing: It was Christmas eve…I’m sure she knew most shoppers where looking for gifts and ready to spend money

2. Location: She was strategically located in a high traffic area in the store

3. Frequency of announcements: The announcements were broadcast every 2-3 minutes and started 30 minutes out.

4. Involved the customer: Telling the customer their feedback determines if a product is discontinued or not shifts a perception of power to the customer

5. Getting the customer to acknowledge they like the product: This could have backfired. But asking the customers to show their approval by raising their hands gets the customer to publicly acknowledge they like the jewelry.

6. Delayed sales pitch: If she started with a sales pitch, I probably would have walked away.

7. Created exclusivity: Everyone likes to feel special! Our jewelry packet contained more pieces than her normal booth and were sold at a lower price because we’re military….oohhh…ahhhh

8. Limited supply: Only 3 packages available…in a crowd of 20 competition starts to kick in

9. Sense of urgency: By only making the packages available to the first 3 that raised their hands you had to act fast!

10. Continuous affirmations: Throughout her presentation she would say things like “isn’t this great?”, “isn’t this lovely?” while smiling and nodding her head. Most of the crowd was nodding their head and agreeing.

So was this a Deal or a Frill?

I called my girlfriend back after a left the BX, she has purchased from them before and thought it was a great deal. I was satisfied with my purchase but only because I was going to buy jewelry that day anyway and it was within my budget set for that day. But I can’t help but wonder how many people purchased jewelry because of the opportunity?

The final outcome:

Well, I didn’t win the raffle. Which was done after the purchases….another tactic.

Everyone loved their gifts!

What about you?

Do you think this was a deal or frill? Have you ever been tempted by a vendor or sales pitch? Share your story!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason @ Redeeming Riches February 5, 2010 at 6:37 am

Great story and a great point that we always have to be on guard! This is why info-mercials work – people love getting a good deal, feeling like they are included in something others aren’t and when there is a sense of urgency we tend to act fast.
.-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..Confessions of a “Receiving” Addict =-.

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Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think February 5, 2010 at 6:43 am

I purchased a $1,500 course from one of the leaders of a real estate investors group. Those places are filled with people pitching info products. I think I was sold by the money back guarantee and the limited quantity of the product. I feel like I was ripped off, but I can’t really say the information in the course wasn’t useful because I didn’t try it. Now I realize I have to be fully committed to doing something before I invest in it. I’m also extremely skeptical of people who try to get you to act immediately by playing on your natural fear of losing out. It works in private industry and in government.
.-= Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think´s last blog ..How NOT to Lose Your FSA Money =-.

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PF Journey February 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

@Jason – Great analogy…this was a live infomercial! I couldn’t grab the remote and turn her off :)

@Shawanda – Ouch! An expensive lesson! Buyer beware indeed. She weathered the perfect storm with her jewelry pitch.

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