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BOGO; The Allure of Free

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Did you know you can get a free donut from Dunkin Donuts if you complete their quick questionnaire on customer experience? I didn’t realize this but when I learned about it, it made me laugh. Somehow a free donut doesn’t seem as calorie laden or as decadent as the one that you decided to buy. Certainly it’s something to ponder.  My sister Janis loves their coffee, she has so much will power though, she can go to one without getting nary a donut hole, not even a free one!

Then I started thinking about the allure of “free”, discounts and if we value something more because it is free.

My mom is enthralled with her Publix supermarket’s BOGO (Buy One, Get One) deals. She’ll make a special trip for these weekly offers. She’s living on their fresh fruit bowls this week simply because they were a BOGO. She can feed an army on spaghetti sauce and canned soups she’s purchased as BOGOs. And don’t even mention toilet paper! It’s the appeal of a bargain and that Publix is giving her something for free that attracts her.

A BOGO seems to have greater appeal than a store’s incentive to buy one and get the second for 50% off. This never seems to work out or seem as much of a bargain as free. It’s harder to find two pairs of shoes or eyeglasses, when all you want is a new pair.  

There is a science behind the BOGO and consumer’s purchasing decisions. The next time you go to the supermarket or department store, you may want to consider that retailers are focusing on how you shop and really aren’t benevolent.

* You’ll see certain products displayed together in the store. Peanut butter is next to the bread and this helps shoppers remember how well these products go together.   At my grocery, the chips are right next to the dips and salsa. If you can’t find something, this works too. Just think of what the product may go with for a clue to where it’s located.  

* A successful sales person offers add-on purchases. They are trained to ask a shopper to purchase an umbrella to go with their new raincoat and socks to go with their new shoes.

* Free samples and special deals make the customer feel good. Personal attention creates positive feelings. Guess that’s why department store and those mall kiosks are always offering a free spritz of cologne.

* Easy to use websites with automatic one-click buying gives a customer less time to think about their purchase and it’s easier to buy. This explains why so many people shop on Amazon.

* And, of course, those promotional sales and discounts. Buy one, get one free offers, or buy 2 for $5.00, causes the consumer to think the products are on sale, when they may not be, and lowers their ability to think about the consequences (and if they really need that fifth jar of spaghetti sauce).


So what is the takeaway of all of this? Discounts really do have a big effect on purchasing behavior.   Guess I’ll take my coupons to Pay Less and Macy’s to score some bargains and stop at Dunkin for my free donut today!

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