Prices Send Signals to Customers: The Jewelry Store Version

August 20, 2018

Published in 1984, Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a classic, appearing on most lists you’ll find of all-time best business books you’ll find.

Near the beginning of his book, Cialdini relates a story on influence and pricing:


I got a phone call one day from a friend who had recently opened an Indian jewelry store in Arizona. She was giddy with a curious piece of news. Something fascinating had just happened, and she thought that, as a psychologist, I might be able to explain it to her. The story involved a certain allotment of turquoise jewelry she had been having trouble selling. It was the peak of the tourist season, the store was unusually full of customers, the turquoise pieces were of good quality for the prices she was asking; yet they had not sold. My friend had attempted a couple of standard sales tricks to get them moving. She tried calling attention to them by shifting their location to a more central display area; no luck. She even told her sales staff to “push” the items hard, again without success. Finally, the night before leaving on an out-of-town buying trip, she scribbled an exasperated note to her head saleswoman, “Everything in this display case, price × ½,” hoping just to be rid of the offending pieces, even if at a loss. When she returned a few days later, she was not surprised to find that every article had been sold. She was shocked, though, to discover that, because the employee had read the “½” in her scrawled message as a “2,” the entire allotment had sold out at twice the original price!

This story is the jewelry store version of the wood craftsman’s tale. Customers receive cues from your prices, whether you intend them or not. You can signal inferiority and repel, or you can indicate quality and attract your ideal customer.

Yes, price persuades.

If you haven’t read Cialdini’s book, you’re cheating yourself by not putting it at the top of your reading list.

(Photo by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski)

©Ray Business Advisors, LLC and John Ray


About me:  I’m enthusiastic about how changes in pricing strategy can significantly change profitability for a business and enhance life choices for business owners. I live this passion through Ray Business Advisors, my outside CFO and business advisory practice, in which my pricing is exclusively value-based, not hourly. I work with business owners on how they can change their pricing not just to increase their profits, but better serve the wants of their customers. Click here to learn more or call me at 404-287-2627.

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