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International Socialist Review, Fall 1958


You Gotta Buy More


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.4, Fall 1958, p.122.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In his bestseller, The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard declares:

“As a nation we are already so rich that consumers are under no pressure of immediate necessity to buy a very large share – perhaps as much as 40% – of what is produced, and the pressure will get progressively less in the years ahead. But if consumers exercise their option not to buy a large share of what is produced, a great depression is not far behind.”

However, utilizing American advertising know-how, marketers are rallying in heroic fashion to save the economy. Here are some instances, mentioned by Packard, of the ingenious thinking that has gone into solving the pressing problem:

“An Indiana supermarket operator nationally recognized for his advanced psychological techniques told me he once sold a half ton of cheese in a few hours, just by getting an enormous half-ton wheel of cheese and inviting customers to nibble slivers and cut off their own chunks for purchase. They could have their chunk free if they could guess its weight within an ounce. The mere massiveness of the cheese, he believes, was a powerful influence in making the sales ...

“Supermarket operators are pretty well agreed that men are easy marks for all sorts of impulse items and cite cases they’ve seen of husbands who are sent to the store for a loaf of bread and depart with both their arms loaded with their favorite snack items. Shrewd operators have put the superior impulsiveness of little children to work in promoting sales. The Indiana supermarket operator I mentioned has a dozen little wire carts that small children can push about the store while their mothers are shopping with big carts. People think these tiny carts are very cute; and the operator thinks they are very profitable. The small children go zipping up and down the aisles imitating their mothers in impulse buying, only more so. They reach out, hypnotically I assume, and grab boxes of cookies, candies, dog food, and everything else that delights or interests them. Complications arise, of course, when mother and child come out of their trances and together reach the check-out counter. The store operator related thus what happens: There is usually a wrangle when the mother sees all the things the child has in his basket and she tries to make him take the stuff back. The child will take back items he doesn’t particularly care about such as coffee but will usually bawl and kick before surrendering cookies, candy, ice cream, or soft drinks, so they usually stay for the family.”

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