So I Slammed The Door In His Face

Today a Salesman came to my door, trying to sell a knife set. My thought process went something like this:

Ok. I’m going to get stabbed.
This is how I die.
I’m going to die with greasy hair.
Do I have time to shower before Hannah comes over tonight?
Oh, wait, those knives are actually really cute.
Is it weird to call a knife cute?
I do hate that all of our knives are different colours though. Plus they’d match our pans.
It says $99 on the sticker on the box, I’m not paying that much for my knives to be the same colour.
Oh he’s selling them for £10 a box!? What a bargain.
Dammit. I don’t have any cash.
He’ll definitely stab me for wasting his time now. Great.

Source: https://gph.is/2S9ms9f

Within the space of a couple of minutes I went from being terrified of this man to disappointed that I didn’t have any cash. This left me wondering how on Earth did he manage that? So I sat and had a think about things I’ve learned throughout my degree, perused Google Scholar and this is what I found …

First he used the foot in the door technique, introducing himself and asked about my day.  Foot in the door works by asking for a small thing, then later asking for something bigger. He was friendly and chatty, asking for ten minutes of my time. Once I’d agreed to let him talk to me I felt like I had to listen to everything he had to say, even though I didn’t want to buy anything. This technique can be really effective in convincing people to buy things they wouldn’t otherwise want – I had been complaining to my other half only an hour before that I spend too much money yet if I had the cash would have bought this set – clearly it works!

Ok so he’s got me, I’m listening and don’t feel like I can just tell him to go away at this point – what does he do next? He creates a psychological anchor of the price being more expensive by pointing out the sticker on the box that says $99. This creates a cognitive bias that the knives are worth $99, whether I would have paid that for them or not doesn’t matter as now I feel as though that’s what they’re worth. This means that when he hit me with the ‘They’re only £10 if you buy today’ I felt like I was getting an amazing deal and they were really cheap – making me more likely to want to purchase. This then goes hand and hand with the law of reciprocity, once he had offered to be a favour by selling them cheaper he made it harder for me to say so and societal norms dictate its only polite to return a favour. By this point he’s got me good, hook line and sinker – I want to buy his stupid knives.

Source: https://gph.is/16wxfle

Another technique I suspect he was using was the door in the face technique, which involves making an unreasonably large request so when that is turned down a smaller one is more likely complied with. After saying the knives are $99 he didn’t immediately say he’s willing to sell them for less today, he explained why they’re worth that and gave me the chance to say they’re too expensive. Research shows consumers are more likely to agree to a request if a much larger one was just made, so really it wasn’t even my fault that I wanted to say yes when he suddenly reduced the price to £10 – it was my brain’s!

All in all, I’m actually still disappointed that I didn’t have any cash to buy the knives – but not as disappointed as I am with myself for falling for these basic sales tricks …

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PS. I didn’t actually slam the door in his face, but didn’t it make a much better title than ‘A guy knocked on my door and tried to sell me knives’ or ‘How do people sell things when they cold call?’ ????

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187 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Funny post! So you were a ‘victim’ of the Foot-in-the-door technique? Guaranteed to work every time, it is a compliance technique that persuades people into performing big tasks or requests, by starting with small ones. It was a very effective technique when we had door-to-door salesmen. Kind of like your knife guy!! Lol!! And they literally put their foot in the door, preventing you from slamming it in their face!
    Now we have (mostly) moved away from the era of the door-to-door salesmen, this technique is still effective in other areas. In the business world, in everyday life. You ask for help with one little thing and someone is happy to oblige, feeling very helpful and kind. Then you hit ‘em up with your real intention! By then they’re feeling too altruistic to say no. While it feels manipulative – highly – there’s no denying its effectiveness. Look at you…you’d have bought the knives you really didn’t need!
    Seriously, though, it is a technique that is utilized all the time and is a lot less low-brow than it sounds. People are invited to a fund raising dinner. They take the time to get dressed up and attend. At the dinner, they are invited to donate some amount of money to the cause. They would be more amenable to donating then, than if they had received a letter asking for money outright.
    According to psychologists, when a person responds to the initial small request, their self-image receives a boost and they are more willing to respond equally positively to a second, larger request, reinforcing their enhanced self-image.
    Here’s an interesting article about how online marketing could benefit from this technique. https://www.jeremysaid.com/blog/the-foot-in-the-door-technique-online/ I’ve seen it being used already especially the request for email addresses.
    Thanks for a fun read, Becky Lou.

  2. Carmela Iannotta

    Love this post, I know for sure my reaction would have been something really similar to yours! I actually really want a salesman to come to my door, I was having this conversation with my other half just recently, I didn’t think door-to-door salesmen were still around, and I couldn’t figure out why! Maybe I’ve just been living in all the wrong places. Although, with a little research, I did find that they are lot less common nowadays. Apparently, this is due to lack of trust, the shrinking of the education gap, the lack of guarantee/long term customer care, and, well.. technology. I guess the amazing delivery men are about as close to door-to-door salesmen we want to get these days, confirmed by your initial reaction!

    I for one would love to see the return of the day-to-day salesman, I found this paper too which talks about the use of positive mental attitude among d-2-d salespeople https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/4121000.pdf?casa_token=od8fskFKJdEAAAAA:ktC7y8KHNTwMMEF-TBnocMHykzMgD_DwXBrOoJzn-x94pmoo2tcV6rcXZOZELCFn6cXFv2NA1DwSPI9jYWr4xVJvDm9t3Az4BY2z91OlTwJ7H5uH, I think you’d find it interesting too! 🙂

    Also, I love your use of attention grabbing title, no need to justify it 😉

    Keep the great content coming xx

  3. Katie

    Hi! I really enjoy how nicely you’ve applied these concepts to actual real-life dilemmas. I’m a sucker for giving up my time (and money) for similar things as I just can’t say no, especially to a deal like that.
    I think one thing he could have improved on would be saying the knifes were originally £100. After listening to Gareth’s lecture having the price as £100 would mean that people characterise the worth in a higher bracket e.g. 100-200 bracket, then being offered the knifes for £10 is a massive steal! However, if the price is viewed as too high it’s plausibility will be questioned but precision can solve this. Adding a more precise number e.g. 102 indicates some sort of expertise about the product.

    Loschelder, D. D., Stuppi, J., & Trötschel, R. (2014). “€ 14,875?!”: Precision boosts the anchoring potency of first offers. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(4), 491-499.

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