On Sales Resistance
Throughout recent years, a vast amount of money and time and brains has been
employed in overcoming sales resistance, i.e. in inducing unoffending persons
to waste their money in purchasing objects which they had no desire to possess.
It is characteristic of our age that this sort of thing is considered
meritorious: lectures are given on salesmanship, and those who possess the art
are highly rewarded. Yet, if a moment's consideration is given to the matter,
it is clear that the activity is a noxious one which does more harm than good.
Some hard-working professional man, for example, who has been saving up with a
view to giving his family a pleasant summer holiday, is beset in a weak moment
by a highly trained bandit who wants to sell him a grand piano. He points out
that that he has no room large enough to house it, but the bandit shows that,
by knocking down a bit of wall, the tail of the piano can be made to project
from the living room into the best bedroom. Paterfamilias says that he and his
wife do not play the piano and his oldest daughter has only just begun to learn
scales. "The very reason why you should buy my piano" says the
bandit. "On ordinary pianos scales may be tiresome, but on mine they have
all the depth of the most exquisite melody." The harassed householder
mentions that he has an engagement and cannot stay any longer. The bandit
threatens to come again next day; so, in despair, the victim gives way and his
children have to forgo their seaside holiday, while his wife's complaints are a
sauce to every meal throughout the summer.
In return for all this misery, the salesman has a mere commission and the man
whose piano is being sold obtains whatever percentage of the price presents his
profits. Yet, both are thought to have deserved well of their country since
their enterprise is supposed to be good for business.
All this topsy-turvydom is due to the fact that everything economic is looked
upon from the standpoint of the producer rather than of the consumer. In former
times, it was thought that bread is baked in order to be eaten; nowadays we
think that it is eaten in order to be baked. When we spend money, we are
expected to do so not with a view to our enjoyment of what we purchase but to
enrich those who have manufactured it. Since the greatest of virtues is
business skill and since skill is shown in making people buy what they don't
want rather than what they do, the man who is most respected is the one who has
caused the most pain to purchasers. All this is connected with a quite
elementary mistake, namely, failure to realise that what a man spends in one
direction he has to save in another so that bullying is not likely to increase
his total expenditure. But partly also it is connected with the notion that a
man's working hours are the only important part of his life and that what he
does with the rest of his time is unimportant unless it affects other men's
working hours. A few clergymen, it is true, speak of the American home and the
joys of family life, but that is regarded merely as their professional
talk, against which a very considerable sales resistance has grown up.
And so everything is done for the sake of something else. We make money not in
order to enjoy what it provides but in order that in spending it we may enable
others to make money which they will spend in enabling yet others to make money
which.. But the end of this is bedlam.