« AnteriorContinuar »
may not wish to buy; hence from the point of view of the would be seller, the spender is fair game.
The first stage in this progressive campaign of the shop-keeper is that of advertising. His agents erect billboards, and men who might become reputable artists devise for him bizarre signs to attract the attention of travelers and wayfarers. He commands as allies the newspaper and the periodical, and the gifts of men and women who might win a name in literature are placed at his service. Schools are established to train the writers of advertisements, and books are written on the psychology of advertising. Every device is employed to attract, while still at a distance, the attention of possible purchasers.
The second stage is the preparation of the shop window. Plate glass, electric lights, wax figures, and the professionally trained window-trimmer are all brought into requisition. These may be called “the constants;" but the shopkeeper adds a continually changing succession of novelties to attract the passer-by, and he installs in his front windows a rug-weaver, a hat-maker, a lightning artist, a troup of trained mice, a collection of Easter chickens or Easter rabbits, or the models of a famous bridge or building. He exhibits a young woman with long hair grown by a new hair tonic, a man who inhales an infallible remedy for catarrh, a chef who bakes griddle cakes made with a superior baking-powder. He invites the passerby to guess the number of beans in a jar, the number of seeds in a watermelon, the weight of a mammoth pumpkin, or the capacity of a huge tea-kettle-human ingenuity seems well nigh exhausted in the effort to induce the busy man or the idle woman to linger for a time before the shop window. But he who tarries too long is not a purchaser, and the third stage is reached when the lingerer is enticed within the door. Here the shopkeeper arranges for him a special art exhibit; an historical exhibit; a single rare pa nting, or statue, or piece of tapestry; or he displayes the fac-similes of the crowns of the European monarchs. An orchestra furnishes popular selections; while piano solos, violin solos, operatic airs, and coonsongs are offered to please the varying musical tastes of the public. Attention is given to physical comfort through the provision of restrooms and free telephone service; babies are checked and cared for by attendants; merry-go-rounds are provided in basements for the entertainment of children; the services of a palmist are provided; five o'clock tea is served on opening day and anniversary day; free
demonstrations of new perfumes, chocolate, coffee, and custard powders are given periodically.
But physical enjoyment may be too prolonged, and the fourth stage is reached when the still reluctant spender is taken in hand by the clerk behind the counter. He understands well his tradehe has been trained in a school specially opened to teach him the intricate art of selling. He studies his customer, and quickly discovers the heel of Achilles. He cajoles one with flattery—“this suit is specially becoming to you;" he baits one hook with exclusiveness—“this is the only pattern we have;" and another with social ambition—"Mrs. Van Astorbilt always buys this particular make;" to the fourth he offers the attractions of a job-lot; to another that of "the latest thing out;" to still another that of "the prevailing fashion;" and he at times praises the excellent quality of the goods on the counter.
The fifth stage is often rendered necessary by the still obdurate spender, and special enticements are held out in the form of prizes of every conceivable device. Not only are the customary trading stamps and cash-rebates offered, but with purchases of a certain amount the dry-goods merchant holds out the inducement of crayon enlargements of photographs, and prizes of lace handkerchiefs, fans, aprons, or balloons for the children; the tea store presents household articles; the grocer gives peanuts and apples; the boot and shoe dealer offers silver dollars; the druggist dispenses free soda; the crockery merchant offers a water-set to anyone drinking two large glasses of water within five minutes; on New Year's day the marketman sends a basket of meat with his compliments, and the florist a pot of flowers; the newspaper offers free excursions in return for coupon votes for the most popular young lady, or policeman, or trolley-conductor-all of these and many others are the subtle refinements of the free-lunch counter spread by the saloon.
And if the shopkeeper at previous stages has been quick to discern the weak spots in the armor of the customer, he is at this stage careful to conceal the weak spots in his own armor. Moreover, the customer is blinded by the attraction of getting something for nothing and does not see that the free crayon enlargement with a fifty cent purchase involves a $2.49 gilt frame; that the saucepan given with the fifty cent can of baking-powder is found on the counters of the five and ten cent store, and the baking powder itself sold elsewhere for twenty cents; that the balloon habit in children is easily acquired, and ten purchased balloons follow quickly in the wake of one free one; that the market man by his brace of ducks has put the housekeeper under obligations to him and therefore commanded her patronage for the year to come; and that the money spent by friends on coupon votes to secure the free excursion offered by the newspaper has been enough to provide trips for the entire family.
The fifth stage of prizes held before the customer is sometimes followed by a sixth still more questionable one. Here the merchant calls to his help other customers to whom he offers commissions on articles sold through their influence, and to whom he sells costly goods at a moderate or a low price and adds the difference to articles purchased by wealthy patrons secured through them.
The seventh stage follows the customer to his home. All goods, from a paper of pins to a piano, are delivered at the house; expressage is paid for out of town customers; mail orders receive prompt attention; all marketing may be done by telephone; goods are exchanged; and money is refunded if goods are not satisfactory. Special trolley and railroad excursions are planned for the country trade, and car-fare is returned to out of town purchasers.
And when the final day of reckoning comes the eighth stage has been reached, and the customer is practically pledged to "call again.” His purchases are charged and he is encouraged to run up bills, or he has bought his goods on the installment plan. In either case he is held fast in the ever-tightening hand of the seller.
In all of these efforts on the part of the seller to secure customers, it is evident that he appeals to a few crude instincts found in the patron rather than to any scientific knowledge of the principles of buying; and his own methods are therefore correspondingly crude.
The first of these instincts is the love of a bargain. The merchant takes his cue and announces that he has bought at a low rate the entire stock of Messrs. Blank & Company, and he will dispose of it at greatly reduced prices. He arranges bargain sales, bargain days, bargain weeks, and bargain months. He has bargain hours, and advertises a sale of gloves at eight, notions at nine, handkerchiefs at ten, shirtwaists at eleven, and suits at twelve. He gives a flat rate discount of ten per cent on everything on Monday and an ad valorem discount of ten per cent on Tuesday. He puts in his window a piano or a set of parlor furniture, marks it $300, and takes off a dollar a day until sold. He attaches to every article in the shop window a card bearing a "was" price and a "now" price. He sells articles for 99 cents, $2.98, and $14.75, because the buyer believes he is getting large reductions. From the convenient five and ten cent store has been developed the three, nine, and nineteen cent store. Out of the all but universal desire to get something for nothing and to drive a bargain the merchant coins dollars.
A second instinct to which the seller appeals is the desire to have what is conventional. Hence the department store puts in a stock of cut glass, mission furniture, and Smyrna rugs. In the art department Barye lions, Sistine Madonnas, and Gibson girls jostle the art noveau. The “six best sellers” are found on every reading table. Every house has its den and its cosy corner, and every lawn its blue cedars and beds of cannas. A third instinct is the antithesis of this
the desire to have what is unusual and what others do not or cannot have.
Hence the producer spends infinite time, patience, effort, and money to make the seasons do our bidding. We buy asparagus in January, strawberries in February, green peas in March, melons in April, raspberries in May, peaches in June, pears in July, and grapes in August.
The September bride carries lilies of the valley, sweet peas bloom for the October reception, nasturtiums deck the Thanksgiving dinner table, and Easter lilies come at Christmas time. The florist decorates our rooms with dwarf orange trees, we trim our dinner tables with scarfs of satin and rare lace, the confectioner serves our ices in fantastic forms, and we present our guests with costly souvenirs. The efforts of narket-gardener and florist, and of others who do our bidding, are not directed towards making two blades of grass grow where one grew before, but towards making grass grow upside down. and they continue these efforts because through them they appeal to what we consider the expression of individual taste.
Yet it must be seen that these various instincts are the accompaniments of a stage of crudeness and immaturity. The instinct of bargaining belongs to an age of exchange by barter rather than to one of fixed standards of measurements. A distinguished essayist has recently pointed out that one of the compensations of age is freedom from convention, and it may perhaps be said that one of the evidences of a stable social position is a desire for what is normal rather than for the abnormal.
The questions of expenditure that have been thus far considered have involved the mutual relations of buyer and seller. But another class of expenditures concern those where the spender is in the forground—he acts on his own initiative rather than yields to the temptations held out to him by the would-be seller. This class of expenditures include those of men and women of independent income, generous inclination, and honest intention to spend their means for the benefit of others as well as for their own. But the spenders. often spend with reference to an immediate and personal economic benefit rather than with reference to an ultimate and social advantage, and without consideration of the moral question at stake. "I bought it just to help the man along" is the explanation often given for purchases that fill a house with worthless gift books, countless nick-nacks, and useless patented cooking utensils. A volume on this form of spending is summed up in an anecdote told by Mr. John Graham Brooks of a woman of wealth who was appealed to, to purchase a piece of embroidery crude in color, defective in drawing, and unskillful in workmanship. The purchase was urged on the ground that a sister supported herself by making these embroideries. The woman of wealth looked at it and then said, “If I buy this, your sister will make another.” One large class of wasteful expenditures would be quickly eliminated could we but realize the axiomatic truth of the statement "we make the thing we buy."
But the converse application is equally true. "We buy the thing we make," and thus have it in our power to encourage fine workmanship, to show appreciation of artistic production, to promote employments that add to the sum total of human comfort and well being. It is through wise expenditures of this class that large opportunities are presented to persons of wealth and even of moderate means to make permanent contributions to the welfare of society as well as to give merited encouragement to individual members of it.
Akin to the principle at the basis of this method of spending money is that of making money contributions, especially in times of financial stringency. At such time a woman is prone to begin to do her own sewing in order to save money to give to the poor. But her neighbor in the rear who supports herself by sewing is unable to get work and applies to the Charity Organization Society for relief. The net results may be that the ten dollars saved and given to the poor has passed through various hands and has become eight when it reaches its destination, that one woman has become