I’ve always considered myself beyond mind control, commonly called Mass Marketing. Advertisers are essentially psychologists putting behavior science to work. To stay ahead of them, I’ve checked out psychology research myself. I know the tricks and the way the distractions are used. But still, I got had at benevolent Trader Joe’s, and that meant a confession to my wife.
For those of you who don’t know what Trader Joe’s is, I’ll explain.
In 1967 Joe Coulombe started a chain of wine and cheese stores in Los Angeles. The products were great and they were inexpensive. The product line grew, the chain grew and so did its integrity. You can trust the store. I trust the store. So this evening when I went shopping for food, I found my wife’s favorite flowers on sale for only $3.99 a bunch! And there were just two of those bouquets left!
That’s when the psychology clicked in: VALUE + SCARCITY = ACQUIRE NOW!
My wife and I think in different ways. I see things as they are (generally). My dear wife sees things as she wishes they would be (a perceptional mechanism I’ve always thought was an opening for marketing manipulation and/or inadequate judgment.)
Now to be fair, most people hope our world would be a better version of itself and also hope it turns out that way. Those people are called optimists.
Then there are those who see the planet as a cluster of dysfunction and presume it will stay that way unless major changes happen, in a good way. Those people I call realists, and as I said, I’m one of them.
Scientists need to be realists. Teachers and antique dealers should be optimists. My wife is an antique dealer and brings home FUBR junk. Because it IS thrift store junk (what she calls “distressed”) nobody else wants it and my wife gets it cheap. I don’t care how cheap she gets anything, my comments still come out like…
“Honey, this is way past salvage. Too many parts are missing. And look at that long scrape!”
And she says, “Wait ‘til you see what I do with it.” And then she turns it into something else, what designers call “repurposing” and she sells that Salvation Army five dollar baby cradle on the internet as a refinished liquor bar for three hundred smackers.
But then there are times the thing really is damaged beyond repair and she can’t sell it. With all her positive wanting-it-to-be a certain way or turn out a certain way, the realist (that’s me) had a better handle on reality. That leather writing box was FUBR. It would have cost more to fix it than it was worth.
At the end of the day, which approach to life works best – hoping it will get better and acting as if it already is, or seeing the situation the way it is now and making decisions accordingly? Most wealthy innovators belong to group one. They also make plenty of mistakes.
So what are you? An optimist or a realist (sometimes called a pessimist)? This is important to understand because your core beliefs, that the world is either benevolent or threatening, shapes all your assumptions and decisions. And those assumptions affect your writing and the characters you create.
If you’re an optimist, can you accurately describe a pessimist in your writing? Yes you can, if you know people like that and use them as models. And the same goes for pessimists writing about optimists.
But here’s the thing, in real life, we may not be objective enough to understand other points-of-view and to appreciate the logic, whether we agree with it or not. Most people do not think past their emotional core beliefs, nor are they aware of how their accumulated assumptions affect everything they do and believe. It’s subconscious processing.
As writers of fiction, we don’t have the luxury to solely think inside our personally decorated box. If we are not aware of our intrinsic prejudice, we will shape our characters with one basic personality without examining conflicting ideas. That’s not good for writing. That’s not good in living either, because we ARE in fact, steadily being influenced and shaped in ways that benefit people hidden behind pulled curtains.
As I said before, I think I relate to things pretty much the way they are. When food shopping, I look at the containers and weight while disregarding the New and Improved hype. Saving money doesn’t always translate into getting more for less. Many times we get less for less. And being the realist/pessimist that I am, I know that capitalism (what the market will bear) is not always in our best interest. Consequently, I steer clear of…
PERCEIVED VALUE + SCARCITY = BUY NOW!
Sometimes I get fooled though. I get distracted by that merchandizing practice of mixing great stuff with mediocre stuff and putting it on sale together. That happened tonight at Trader Joe’s and it cost me eight bucks. A few years back that same ploy cost the world trillions more. Maybe you know the story.
The big banks mixed secure AAA rated mortgages with subprime, teaser-rate, soon-to-default debt. Then they sold those investments to anyone eager enough to trust the sellers. Lots of people didn’t trust the sellers so they bought insurance on those mortgage-backed securities from the same banks that bundled the real estate investments.
The “insurance” products the investors purchased were called credit default swaps and the reason they were called swaps instead of insurance, is because those policies weren’t regulated by any outside agency, as in, the Security and Exchange Commission.
Those bogus triple “A” rated mortgage-backed securities (approved by companies that were paid to rate them that high), those investments totaling trillions, went belly up when American home owners could no longer pay their increased balloon mortgage payments.
No problem, so thought the investors (investors like Greece, Spain, Italy and a thousand pension funds). We bought insurance on our investments, those credit default swaps, and they’re guaranteed to protect the money we paid for those income generating products.
Well, there was a problem. The swaps were bogus too. There was no money to cover the insurance obligations so all those investors started suing the banks which would have taken them all down had not the US Treasury (you and me) bailed those banks out and paid off the investors. We did that to save the world economy. Unfortunately most of us did not get saved along with it.
Having watched the Great Recession unfold in this way, I figured I pretty much understood how the idea of a Great deal, get it while it lasts! can cloud human judgment, especially in Target or Walmart. So it never occurred to me that Trader Joe’s (who doesn’t trust Trader Joe?) would mix old wilted flowers with fresh new ones.
Then I got home and unwrapped the love blossoms. Damn! Most of them were FUBR and my wife would be home in an hour. I still needed to eat, tidy up, take out the garbage and vacuum the kitchen. Mr. Joe would have taken the bloomage back had I made the trip. I didn’t. Instead I scarfed down a tuna sandwich and wrote this story to deter you from buying something simply because it’s on sale and there’s not much left of it. If you do, you just might unwrap it and find it to be totally FUBR. And trusting that things will always work out doesn’t always make it so.
Maybe my wife will read this. Sorry about the flowers!
(You can now search “FUBR”)
Originally published on Curiosityquills.com.