Give Me a Reason. . .ANY Reason

Photocopier -- Ellen Langer
Posted In:

Photocopier -- Ellen LangerBack in the 1970s, a classic study by Ellen Langer and colleagues showed that people using a photocopier were just as likely to let someone cut in line who said they “needed to make copies” as they were other, more reasonable excuses such as “I’m in a hurry”.

They interpreted their finding as showing that as soon as we hear the word “because”, we assume the excuse that follows is justified and respond accordingly.

Several others have duplicated the study with the same results.

What’s that mean for business owners?

When offering a sale, a discount or something “unusual”, always give a reason why you’re doing it.  For example:

  • birthday sale
  • clearing out inventory
  • a holiday celebration
  • birth of a child
  • moving
  • donating partial proceeds to charity

It almost doesn’t matter what the reason is, as long as there is one.  That said, from an integrity perspective, you want whatever your reason is to be true.  And you want to follow-through on any commitments made (such as donating $X proceeds to charity).