People are not stupid

P. T. Barnum reportedly said there is a sucker born every minute. Best known as a showman and founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus he was also known for the hoaxes he presented such as the Fiji Mermaid and Tom Thumb. While there remains some truth to Barnum’s statement, in today’s world it is much more difficult to fool people than in Barnum’s time.

Like many people, I sometimes buy items on Ebay, and sometimes I sell on there as well. Something I’ve noticed more and more recently is the number of sellers who have greatly inflated their shipping charges. I’ve shipped enough items on Ebay to have a good sense of what these charges should be, and in many cases items I’ve been interested in buying have had shipping charges listed as least twice the actual cost. Although the cost of the item might be reasonable, when the shipping charges are added to the cost of the item it becomes much too expensive.

Sometimes the item will be offered at “Best Price.” When this occurs, and the shipping charges are much too high I will sometimes make a low ball offer. If the seller counteroffers I stick to my offer and explain that my offer is fair due to the excessive shipping charges they have on the item. Once in a awhile the seller lets me have it at my price because they know they are making extra money on what they are charging for shipping. And if they don’t…there are probably a thousand other sellers on Ebay selling the same item.

People today are not stupid. They have access to the information they need to make informed purchases. There are too many sites and apps that can provide the information people need to make wise decisions. The last several vehicles I’ve bought I went to the dealer knowing what the vehicle I was interested in should cost me. I only bought it if the dealer could come within $100.00 of my price, and if not, I walked away. Car salesmen, like many retailers, used to hold all the cards in the car-buying experience. That is no longer true because today it’s possible for the consumer to have just as much information as the salesman. If a person gets ripped off today, it’s their fault for not taking the time to gather the information available to them.

A few years ago my daughter was having a house built in another state. She called one day saying she was to meet with the HVAC company to select which system she wanted for their new house. The company offered two brands, one of which we sold through the HVAC company we owned. I told her specifically which system to buy and some things she should insist on during the installation. When she met with the company the salesman offered her three choices among the other brand they sold. She explained the system she wanted to such detail the salesman asked who she knew in the business. When she told him I owned a HVAC company he offered to let me buy the equipment at my discounted price and have it shipped to him for installation. Because she was knowledgeable she got an outstanding system at a reduced cost.

For long term success it’s important for businesses to understand the knowledge many of their customers have. Trying to fool the customer is a good way to lose that customer and the business of everyone they tell of how you tried to rip them off. Honesty is the best policy not only because it is the ethical way to do business but also because dishonesty will soon be found out in today’s world and put you out of business.

You will get an occasional customer who hasn’t done his or her homework. What should you do them? Some businesses will take advantage of this person to make a few extra dollars on the products or service they provide, but smart businesses will take the time to educate the customer so they can make a sound decision. Why take the time to educate someone? Because eventually someone else will, and they will realize you took advantage of them. That is not a reputation you want.

Assume everyone who walks into your place of business is knowledgeable and informed about the products or service you provide. If there are gaps in their information take the time to educate them. Treat them with respect and honesty. People are not stupid, and when they realize how well you have served them they will become lifetime customers.

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