Enthusiasm, Theater, 'Free' Have Buyers In The Bag

Amazon Go promises to revolutionize grocery shopping with its cashier-free, sensor-driven store that lets you just grab and go, charging everything to your Prime account. 

I was reminded, however, of the power of the personal sale recently on a trip to the local Shop-Rite, where my intention was very much to grab two items, find the shortest cash register line, and then go! 

I’m not usually in the store mid-morning on a weekday, which is when people seem to have the time to stop what they’re doing and watch a 10-minute sales theater that left the spectators climbing over each other to snag the product. 

It started with an announcement over the PA system of a free gift for all shoppers who collected in the designated aisle. Once there, we were treated to a demo of the Forever Sharp™ “surgical steel” Paring-Pro knife, which retails for $5, but was free for all shoppers. This is one of those knives so sharp you need to keep it in a safe place in the drawer to prevent yourself from accidentally slicing off a finger. It comes with a protective sleeve.



Here was the catch. The knife was absolutely free, but no one would get one until watching a demo for a full array of compact lightweight food processing and grating tools. 

The salesperson was masterful. She talked and chopped and grated and diced and reminded everyone that the holidays are right around the corner and what a thoughtful hostess gift this would be! 

By the time the demo was completed, at least five different tools had been “thrown in” for “free” making a $100+ package available for $29.95 for one day only.

A strategically smaller number of boxes was piled on the table than customers who had gathered for the demo. This illusion of scarcity seemed to fuel some pushing and shoving as shoppers scooped up one, two and three of the packages — getting a free Paring-Pro with each one. 

Having shed all my cooking equipment and needing to replenish the basics, I took the bait. Since the purchase, I’ve used the original free Paring-Pro on numerous occasions. 

I’ve not touched the “unbelievably valued” package upgrade and because I threw out the box I can’t even properly regift it! 

What’s the lesson for other retailers? 

1. The enthusiasm of the “crowd” is contagious. No one in that store entered it with the plan to buy a new knife and food processing equipment.

2. Good theater sells. This was not your everyday food demo. The delivery was fast, well-rehearsed and made it seem like anyone could do it — while carefully pointing out there’s a series of training videos on YouTube. 

3. The word “free” still works. Each time another item went into the mix, it felt more irresistible a deal.

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