Monday, November 23, 2015

Amazon Price Matching and the Angry Beaver (Tradecraft)

We don't price match with Amazon. We don't do this because we like the finer things in life, like food and shelter. Also, our investors would like us to one day make a consistent profit, unlike Amazon. I'm the primary investor and I can vouch for that. I understand some customers would like us to price match Amazon. It's the season when they come in and get angry that we don't. This getting angry I find interesting. What is that about?

I'm going to apply a little Buddhist psychology here. If you don't want a dose of Buddhist psychology,  you should move on. Buddhism is all about human suffering: coming up with causes and conditions, defining your particular type, and prescribing some spiritual medicine. It's all in your head, but there's so much of it. I just want to know what this Amazon anger is all about. What is the psychology of getting angry in this bizarre way?

It's a stew of ego of course (what isn't?). Primarily it's the category of being separated from what you desire. You really want this box of cardboard, or more accurately, you yearn for the experience that the board game promises. As I explain to staff, don't sell a colorful box, sell the experience the box promises. Sell the sizzle, not the steak. A board game promises connection with friends and family, intellectual stimulation, and the ego boost of victory, shared or by yourself. As you get older, most of us don't get too many victories in life. How wonderful you can buy that in a box.

I will not price match, so they can't have it, which causes suffering, even though they could theoretically buy it right now. This is the easier part to understand. Their desire for the game is in conflict with their desire to keep more money in their pocket. But we deal with thwarted desire all the time and we simply move on. If gas is too high, we go to another gas station, we don't yell at the gas station owner. Rational people don't do that. That brings us to the second part of our stew.

The second type of suffering is being forced to be with what you don't like. This is where it gets interesting. The price on the box is full emm ess arr pee! Outrageous! Have these Luddites not heard of the Internet? Are they unaware of Amazon's lasting testament of the slow-burn model of sustaining a business? We are clearly infuriating because, and this is a big thing, they want to support us from a gut level, but their head won't let them. We are convenient, we're polite, we're reasonably knowledgeable. In fact, the nicer we are, the angrier they get.

Nobody is forcing them to be in the store. Nobody is forcing them to buy from us. We don't sell diapers and cigarettes, we sell a luxury product. Why don't they go to another store? It's because they greatly desire the store to work within their parameters and it is refusing to do so. Their ego vision of the store is not matching the reality of the store. It's promises, well beyond colorful boxes, appear unattainable in its current configuration. This is a frustrating thing. If only the world were not like it is, things would be great. The store angers them, yet the desire for the game forces them to be there. Being there makes them angry. The circle goes around and around.

There are other types of suffering that play into this equation, the usual stuff like the crushing baseline dissatisfaction of being alive, old age, sickness, and impending doom. Insert Monty Python quote about people not wearing enough hats. So with all this suffering, how do we provide a solution? How do we come to a cathartic conclusion that brings happiness to our deeply conflicted customer, wracked with an endless loop of suffering?

We demonstrate what we provide has value connected with their life. We bridge the gap of their desired price and their perceived value. Although it may appear we sell the same thing as Amazon, we sell something different; more. We show them buying from us supports the local community where they live, not just the community of like minded gamers, but by supporting us, they help provide for the roads, schools, police and services that sustain them every day.

We demonstrate that the convenience they find maddeningly attractive is not without its costs and it's worth paying a little extra for that. The tables and chairs that allow for the community to grow and provide enjoyment has a cost. The extra rent on that open space has value, even if we don't expect them to pay for it like every other entertainment venue in their lives. We explain that right now, they can take that game home or in the back and satisfy their game related desires.

We make them realize that we are real people, living among them in their community, not NPCs or cogs in their machine, or as Amazon employs, hapless location tagged warehouse runners, timed and measured in their ability to find your discounted item in a sweltering warehouse while being short changed on their pay. We are real people.

In reality, we'll never end suffering by selling boxes of things, but we can turn an angry situation into a pleasant one, and hopefully win over a new customer.

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