girl-sticking-out-tongueSelling … the marketing activity our economy depends on to attract new and more business is … its greatest liability. Why? Because North American buyers want as little to do with those who sell as possible. We view selling as manipulative, selfish, intrusive, greedy and a deceitful nuisance. As a result we avoid sellers with a passion. At best, North Americans grudgingly tolerate selling as a necessary evil.

Are we being unduly suspicious of, and hard on, those who sell? Major retailers can’t seem to help but remind us that our suspicions are well placed. We see it on our supermarket shelves and in virtually every retail advertisement. It’s called the 99 cent insult. Each time you see a box of cookies priced at $4.99 or a new car priced at $29,999.99 it speaks to the contempt these companies have for their customers. The message on each of 99-cent price tag you see is clear. It says ‘We think you’re stupid.’ Are you?

If customers truly see $4.00 instead of $5.00 for the box of cookies and $29,000 instead of $30,000 for the car can we blame retailers for trying to deceive us? Yes, I think we should. Here is why.

Seller deception such as the 99-cent insult causes and perpetuates the distrust we have of people who sell. Distrust reinforces our perception that those who sell are manipulative and deceitful, further justifying our national pastime of avoiding salespeople. The time we invest in avoidance is non-productive time and can never be retrieved. Our avoidance lengthens cell-cycles (the time it takes to sell a good or service). Longer sell-cycles increase seller cost, which they pass down to you the buyer. Inflated selling prices make goods and services less affordable and less competitive. This cascade of errors weakens our nation’s economy, the quality of our lifestyles and gives the profession of selling yet another black eye.

The next time you see a 99-cent insult, bring it to the seller’s attention and ask him to explain his pricing logic. Then watch the stick-handling. The trickle-down effect of 99-cent insults, and pricing like it, hurts us all.

Final thought. Do you think the 99 cent insult would work when asked to reveal your age? Try it. Instead of honestly telling people you are 40 years old, try 39.99. Will they be fooled? Many people who sell think so.