Life Lesson #8: Marketing and pricing bundle tactics
We have all answered the alluring call of the Siren. Sometimes it’s an inexpensive combo meal at a favorite restaurant chain. Other times, a big-ticket electronics bundle: spend $500 on XYZ brand audio speakers and get a free subwoofer. All of these bundle strategies are designed to do one thing: get you to spend more money than you otherwise would. And they work!
The Story: A few years ago, while on a hike with my peace-loving dog, Sawyer, he was attacked by a much larger dog its owner was unable to control. Sawyer and I were both traumatized, but otherwise unscathed. It wasn’t until he was attacked months later that I vowed to find an effective, non-lethal countermeasure.
After a little online research, I ultimately settled on the Nightstick Stun Baton: a 13-inch long, 5.5-million volt stun gun with rubberized armor coating. I pictured myself walking Sawyer around the neighborhood wielding the power of my Nightstick with its durable nylon holster, just waiting for the next dog to jump out at us.
As I was checking out, I noticed something enticing – a bundle special: Spend at least $100 and get a FREE keychain pepper spray and FREE shipping.
I only needed one stun gun, but quickly found myself thinking, “You can’t have too much personal protection nowadays.” So after adding two compact, 6-million volt keychain-style stun guns to my cart, I topped the $100 mark.
My family would finally be safe. One of the smaller stun guns would be perfect for the car glovebox. The other, perhaps a stocking stuffer come Christmas.
Fast forward a year to the summer of 2013. My family and I were on a road trip to Whistler, B.C., to enjoy a relaxing vacation. As we pulled up to the US/Canada border crossing, we were greeted by a pleasant border agent. Upon discovery of our little personal protection device in the glovebox, the family vacation took a serious detour.
The Breakdown: It’s probably fair to say I generally don’t perform at my best in stressful situations while under the microscope of authority. In my wife’s words, “I sang like a bird.”
As these devices are illegal in Canada, we ultimately ended up forfeiting the ‘weapon’ and over 3-hours of our time. My wife was quick to highlight that police interrogation is not the best way to begin a relaxing vacation.
I never did purchase a replacement stun gun for the car. Did I really need it in the first place?
As this story illustrates, even the most vigilant among us can be seduced by these marketing bundle strategies that create the illusion of value. There is a tendency to rationalize the extra purchase by over-indexing on the savings unlocked by the free add-on, free shipping, etc.
In reality, I only needed a single stun gun. That stun gun would have cost $36.95 plus $7.95 shipping. I ended up spending 225% more than initially intended just to get a few things I never even needed. By the way, the free pepper spray, a $4.95 value, has yet to be removed from its packaging.
A good trick I learned is always remember to ask yourself this question when faced with a tempting bundle: would I repurchase it if it were confiscated by a customs border agent?