In this episode of the Motley Fool Answers podcast, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp bring you a December warning at least as important as the one given by Jacob Marley: Beware!
Advertising gurus and marketing maestros have peered into your psyche, and they know how to make you buy. And buy. And buy more. And every year, when shopping season arrives, they pull out every tool in their arsenal. But knowing how you're being manipulated at least gives you a fighting chance.
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A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Dec. 5, 2017.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal-finance expert here at The Motley Fool, now with 100% more whisky than he's had in previous episodes.
Robert Brokamp: This is the truth. Happy holidays to you, Alison!
Southwick: Would you like to tell them why you have whisky?
Brokamp: I just did some wacky podcast thing with Chris Hill and Bill Barker that they, I guess, occasionally do, and it involves whisky. I, of course, if everyone else is doing it, I do it, too, so I had a little bit of whisky. I don't understand how anyone can drink it, but I drank it anyhow.
Southwick: This studio, right now. You can't experience the smell-a-vision of podcasts right now, but I can tell you it smells like a bar in the studio.
Brokamp: It was like a quarter of a glass and I had to force it down.
Southwick: You do sound a little slurry to me.
Brokamp: Not true!
Southwick: In today's episode, I will be the expert because you need to sit down. I will be sharing 10 sneaky ways that marketers try to get you to spend as much as much as possible around the holidays, and Bro is also going to answer your question about underperforming variable annuities. All that, and more, on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.
It's time for "Answers Answers," and today's question comes from Sarah. Sarah writes, "I'm 37 years old and have saved almost $500,000 for retirement." Good for you!
Brokamp: Very good for you!
Southwick: "My parents opened a variable annuity for me in 1990, thinking it was a way to save for college, but it didn't grow as fast as they'd hoped, and they didn't realize that there would be a penalty for pulling the money out before I'm 59 1/2. I'm debating between a few options. Move it into a different fund within the same annuity, roll it into a new annuity, or pull it out, take the penalty and income tax it in order to invest it into non-retirement funds. I'd appreciate your thoughts. I've tried to research variable annuities and I'm still kind of fuzzy on them."
Brokamp: Well, you're not alone. Variable annuities can be very complicated. In their essence, they're sort of like traditional 401(k)s in that once you put the money in, it grows tax-deferred. You don't pay the taxes until you take the money out, and you have limited investment choices. Usually just a few mutual funds in there.
The problem is it's an investment account but also has an insurance element to it, which makes them more expensive. The investments tend to be pretty mediocre. I'm going to guess that your parents were actually sold this annuity by an insurance agent who said, "Yeah, this is a great way to save for college," because they generate huge commissions for insurance sales. I'm sure it wasn't your parents' fault, but they are right to find out that eventually, yes, like a 401(k), if you take the money out early, you're going to pay a 10% penalty on top of taxes on the money.
Southwick: But if you can't even take the money out until you're 59 1/2, how can they even tell you it's good for college?
Brokamp: They shouldn't have. It's 1990, so you probably can't...
Southwick: The people just lied.
Brokamp: ...go back and find that agent. I bet, I'm guessing, that if it was sold by an agent, that they said things they shouldn't have said.
Southwick: Just flat-out lied.
Brokamp: Yes, exactly. So, here are your choices, and you'll recognize them. You could look at better investments within the annuity, but chances are if it hasn't grown very well, it's just a bad annuity. Many of them have extraordinarily high expenses. My recommendation would be to look at your other option, which is to transfer it to another annuity. It's something called a "1035 exchange." You don't owe any taxes as long as it goes from one annuity to another. Look for a low-cost provider from folks like Vanguard and Fidelity and people like that. They have low-cost annuities that are available.
I wouldn't recommend taking the money out because, as I said, you'll pay the penalties and the taxes. You are doing pretty well for saving for your retirement, so if push came to shove and you needed that money, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to cash it in. I know people who have done stuff like that to maybe start a business or something like that. Because you're doing well for your savings and retirement, I wouldn't say it's the worst thing in the world, but you don't want to pay those penalties, so better off to save it for retirement, transfer it to a lower cost annuity, and then if you ever need cash in the future, just pull back on the amount you contribute to your 401(k).
Southwick: Mistletoe, garland, eggnog, and "Silent Night." Chestnuts by the fire and the manipulations of marketers controlling our every move. Oh, the holidays!
Brokamp: It is the most wonderful time of the year.
Southwick: Today I'm going to share the deepest, darkest secrets of holiday marketers and how they get you! Because they get you in a number of different ways. Bro, you love the holidays.
Brokamp: I do.
Southwick: And when I was telling Chris Hill about this episode he said, "I want to know how Bro shops for the holidays."
Brokamp: I'm actually a horrible shopper, because the shopping part is not my favorite part of the holidays. I try to find obscure websites, like ThinkGeek or Etsy, where people are doing things that are different. Occasionally I'll look at the gift ideas from Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), but I try to find offbeat websites to find something a little different. At this point my kids are teenagers and it's much less exciting to buy presents for them. It's not as fun as it used to be.
Southwick: Oh! How about you, Rick? How do you do your holiday shopping?
Rick Engdahl: Amazon, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.
Southwick: All online?
Engdahl: Etsy, yes. All online until like the night before, and then I'm like, "Oh, no! I forgot X," and it's always a mistake. Always, always, always a mistake to go somewhere.
Southwick: And just grab the first thing you see, and it's like, "Oh, this will do! Everyone loves socks!"
Engdahl: Always a mistake.
Southwick: Well, the next time you are going shopping, these are some fun things that you can look out for. I really enjoyed researching this episode. Now, I'm no Grinch, and I think that you should spend with wild abandon this holiday season, particularly at the companies I own stock in.
So, if you're shopping at the mall or online, you can be aware of these marketing tactics that take advantage of our most primal instincts. And my hope is that after this episode you and our listeners will be out shopping. You'll notice these tactics and you'll say, "Oh, I see what you're doing there, Macy's. I'm onto you." You'll be better prepared to make a more rational decision -- or not. I don't care. You don't have to make rational decisions if you don't want to.
Brokamp: It's Christmas!
Southwick: It's fine. It's kind of fun to just be a little wild. Are you ready for the first one?
Brokamp: I am so ready.
Southwick: The first one is scarcity and urgency.
Brokamp: These sound like a couple of Robert Cialdini things.
Southwick: Yes, there is some Cialdini, here. You're going to get some Cialdini. You're going to get some Kahneman. You're going to get some Ariely. Just start naming behavioral finance experts, because it's all here.
So, the thought of missing out on something. The scarcity of something really triggers something primal in us, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just a perfect storm of marketers preying on our fears of missing out. The rarer the item, the more valuable it must be. When we're talking about scarcity, we're talking about supply and demand, so let me tell you about some science around scarcity.
The classic cookie jar study. In 1975 some researchers asked -- I don't know why they did this -- 200 female undergrads to rate the value of some cookies that were in some jars. I'm probably going to mess up the finer points of this, but one jar had 10 cookies in it, and one jar had two cookies in it, and then the women were told some stories around why there was scarcity or abundance of cookies -- two versus 10.
The cookies were exactly the same, but the cookies that were presented as scarce were rated twice as attractive, and the cookies that went from abundant to scarce -- because they also changed the number -- were rated as more desirable.
So, scarcity also can create urgency and marketers love to use that against us. For example, limited time only offers. Limited numbers of TVs available. A countdown clock on websites. Just the other day Adrian, a co-worker, turns to me frantically on Cyber Monday. She goes, "Alison! When does Cyber Monday end?"
And I was like, "What are you talking about?"
Brokamp: It's going to end on Tuesday.
Southwick: What are you talking about? And she said, "Well, does it end at 5:00?" She said, "I don't know. My husband is Slacking me and he's telling me I've got to go buy a TV or I'm going to miss out." She was seriously frantic and upset about it.
Some other examples that I've seen this holiday season is I went to Etsy, where I like to shop to get my mother-in-law a present. And it said, "There's only one left of this item." And I'm like, "Of course there's only one left of this item. It's Etsy. They hand make stuff."
But then the next line said, "And two people have it in their shopping cart."
I was like, "I've got to get on this!" That's another example that I've at least noticed this time of year. Other ways that marketers use this is not necessarily around the holidays. It's when you see signs that say, "Maximum." You go to the grocery store, and the soup's on sale, and it might say, "Maximum! Eight cans per customer." That's another attempt for you to be like, "Oh, man! I've got to get all the soup cans."
Brokamp: I've often thought, "What if I got 10? Is the checkout person going to say anything to me?"
Southwick: Right. Sorry, sir. Amazon is so good at this. They'll tell you how many of an item are left in stock. They'll say, "Only 12 left in stock." They'll also create urgency by telling you that if you order an item within the next X amount of hours, you'll get it tomorrow or you'll get it in a certain amount of time. That one has gotten me before, as well.
A lot of these ideas around Cyber Monday and Black Friday are trying to build up this sense of there's only so many TVs. You've got to race in there and get yours before someone else does. And then we end up literally trampling people to death. That's how crazy we get when we think something is scarce.
The next one is the decoy effect. Have you heard about this?
Southwick: It turns out -- and this is going to be a theme that's going to pop up a lot -- that we, as humans, have a hard time telling how much something is worth unless we have some sort of reference point or context. I'm looking at this microphone. I have no idea how much this microphone in front of me is worth. I have no experience with microphones. I just talk through one. I've never bought one. And marketers take advantage of this in a number of different ways.
The classic example. Let's say we're at the theater watching The Last Jedi because all three of us are going to be doing that next week.
Brokamp: By the way. When I put my ticket in the checkout, I got the timer. I had six minutes to buy that ticket.
Southwick: You had six minutes and you got half off because you bought it on On Cyber Monday.
Brokamp: On Cyber Monday. We're not sure I got an actual ticket, but I hope so. I only had six minutes to decide! I had to buy it!
Southwick: There we are. Your ticket does work. There we are waiting, and you decide you want some popcorn. They only offer two sizes. The small is $2.00 and the large is $7.00. And you're like, "Ugh! You know what? A small is enough. I'm just going to get the $2.00 one, because you're Bro." Well, it's a pretty big price difference, so you're just going to be like, "Well, whatever."
Let's say, though, that they offer a small for $2.00, a medium for $7.00, and then a large for $8.00. You're going to look at the prices, now, and you're going to be like, "Well, for just a dollar more, I can have a large popcorn."
This is like a classic example. Another example comes from Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM) and the bread maker. Bread makers were a pretty big deal in the '90s.
Brokamp: Huge deal.
Southwick: But before they were a big deal, Williams-Sonoma were the first ones to create the bread maker. They put it on the market for the first time. They decided to price it at $275, but no one bought it, even though we all love bread. Who doesn't love fresh baked bread?
A research firm told them, "You should make a slightly better, bigger bread maker and retail it at twice the price." And sales took off for the original bread maker. For the lower-priced bread makers because people saw the more expensive bread maker, and it gave them a reference point for how much a bread maker should be worth, and they were like, "Well, we'll just go for the cheaper one."
Another example of this is the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. The Christmas book. Neiman Marcus has pretty expensive stuff, whether you're aware of that or not. Like $300 rabbit fur earmuffs.
See who's saying "oh, my goodness" to that. Well, an aspect of the Neiman Marcus catalog every year is its fantasy gift section. One example is a private New Year's Eve party for 300 people in the Knickerbocker Hotel for $1.6 million.
Brokamp: They put it in a catalog?
Southwick: Yeah, they put it in a catalog, so it's like crazy stuff. I also have a side note, here. Do you think I can say "FU" in our podcast, because I don't think I have ever said FU to a catalog? So, there's all these extravagant gifts -- less than a dozen of them. They describe the gift and then in the catalog they say, "Here's the feel-good factor." You're supposed to think, "Here's the charitable aspect of it."
One of the things for sale is a pair of Rolls-Royces for $900,000. The feel-good factor is that a whopping $1,000 of your purchase is going to go to a Neiman-Marcus foundation. If making a donation of $1,000 after buying $900,000 worth of Rolls-Royces makes you feel good, you're a horrible person. If you want to buy a nice car, fine. Buy a Rolls-Royce. But don't put yourself on Santa's good list because $1,000 of your purchase went to a charity -- 0.001%. That's how the math works out. Ugh! That's a side note but I thought it was worth mentioning.
The psychology at work, here, is that it does provide PR. It's like, "Oh, I can't believe all these amazing" -- that's crazy. That's outrageous. There's a PR reason why they do this, but if you're flipping the pages of the Neiman-Marcus catalog, after you've considered spending $1.3 million on a New Year's Eve party, suddenly the $300 [rabbit] fur earmuff doesn't seem so extravagant. They seem much more reasonable.
Another common use of the decoy effect is the upsell. For just a little bit more, you can have... the decoy effect is everywhere. You're going to see it a lot in pricing. Let's move on and talk more about pricing, shall we?
Brokamp: Let's do it.
Southwick: Particularly sales and anchoring. And anchoring is going to come up again, because anchoring also plays into the decoy effect and some other things. It's all interwoven.
Pricing and sales -- we love a good deal. And I don't think any retailer learned that lesson harder than J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) did. Do you remember back in 2012 when the flailing retailer hired Apple's chief marketing officer as their CEO, Ron Johnson?
Brokamp: I remember that part, yes.
Southwick: And then do you remember Ron Johnson's great idea?
Brokamp: No. Was it a club or that was Sears?
Southwick: Storytime. At the time, J. C. Penney, like many retailers, would artificially inflate their prices and then knock them down. They were called fake prices for items. [They would be happy to sell] a t-shirt at $10, so they price it at $20 and then say it's 50% off. Less than 1% of J. C. Penney's revenues came from items bought at full price. And, by contrast, nearly three-quarters of the merchandise sold by the department store chain was discounted by at least 50%, so they really relied on this fake pricing to bring people in. Coupons, big sales, and flash sales which also plays on urgency and scarcity.
The new CEO, Ron, from Apple comes in and he's like, "Let's just stop playing this game, people. If a t-shirt says it's originally $14 but we want to sell it for $6, let's just price it at $7. Let's offer everyday low prices." They called it "fair and square." If you remember, the logo redesign was like a square. I think he thought consumers would appreciate it and be like, "That's where I go to get solid, good deals."
Do you think it worked out, Bro?
Brokamp: I don't think it did.
Southwick: It did not work out. Sales plummeted, and for a few reasons. One of those is price anchoring, and price anchoring is very similar to the decoy effect in that we don't know how much something is worth unless we have context. So, if you price an item as high -- higher than it actually is -- you anchor to that and you think, "Oh, well this is how much it's really worth. I'm getting such a great deal."
Then there is also a lack of urgency. This is another reason why marketing experts said it failed, is that there's no hurry to get into J.C. Penney for a sale to get a good deal. Your coupon isn't going to expire. If you can go to J.C. Penney whenever to get a t-shirt, you're never going to go to J.C. Penney.
As Ron Johnson later admitted, he said coupons were a drug that really drove traffic. He's not actually that wrong about it being some sort of chemical reaction in our head to coupons. Scientists believe that our frenzied reactions to sales is the result of our hunter-gatherer past and the need to hoard items while we can. If there's berries out on the bush, we are going to get all the berries we can off the bush. If there are T-shirts on sale at J.C. Penney, we've got to get some for us. Sales also play into the pleasure principle, which says that humans would rather seek pleasure and avoid pain, and getting a great deal is pleasure. Missing out is pain.
But wait! There's more! Let's talk a bit about pricing. This is like something that everyone knows. The idea that you price something as $0.99 or $0.97 rather than bump it up to what the whole number would be. It's called charm pricing. We might think we would never fall for a stupid, such obvious trick, but studies show that we absolutely fall for it all the time.
Also, sometimes stores will leave the dollar sign off so you won't think of this as money. This is something I see at restaurants. If you look on a menu at what the chicken is, it will say 12.00 dollars. It won't have a dollar sign. I don't know if that really works. Also, people are more likely to buy stuff if they can easily do the math on the discount. For example, if something was $10 marked down to $8, we're more likely to buy that than if it's $10 marked down to $7.97, because our brain stops wanting to do the math.
So, it would be like, "Ugh, math." There is a caveat for charm pricing, and that is if you are selling luxury items. If you're selling a luxury item and you're pricing it at $399, that's going to make people think, "Oh, this has been discounted?" Maybe it's a little cheaper than just pricing it at like $400.
There's other ways that math will trip us up when it comes to pricing. People prefer to get 50% more of the same product than to see a 33% decrease in price, which is equal. Also, people like it better when you give them a 25% discount on top of a 20% discount instead of just a single 45% discount. I noticed that on Amazon the other day. It said like original price. Then it said discounted price. Then it said sale price. And then below it, it even did the math for me to see how much total I was saving. They were trying to get me on all points, there. Those are a few ways that marketers use pricing and sales to get us.
Engdahl: Restaurants don't even often put the decimal anymore. It's just like seven, or nine. Well, no. It's more like 17 or 19.
Southwick: Yes, it's got to be a nice restaurant. Like you're not going to go to a Potbelly and see a $7 sandwich.
The fourth way that marketers will try to get you at the holidays is through sounds and smells. This is the most Manchurian Candidate of the ones that I've seen. It's also super fascinating. Your sense of smell is very closely tied to your memories and ultimately your emotions; perhaps more so than any of your other five senses. Have you noticed that?
Brokamp: I have noticed that.
Southwick: Sometimes I'll smell a cup of coffee and it will make me think of my dad, or you'll smell laundry and it makes you think of home. Fresh cut grass. Things like that. It's largely a matter of location -- spatial location in your noggin. Incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain. It has direct connections to the parts of the brain that hit emotion and memory, the amygdala and the hippocampus. We all remember that from our anatomy classes, right?
Southwick: Smells evoke memories and they hopefully are evoking good memories. Retailers try very hard to elicit these memories and they use smells to do that, such as at the Westin, where we have our annual FoolFest. Have you ever noticed how relaxing the Westin smells? I have. If Dayana is listening, she knows what I'm talking about.
A lot of retailers, hotels, and airlines have their own signature scent. At the Westin it's called White Tea, and any Westin that you go to is going to smell like this smell. You can even Pro Tip by the way. If you go to the bathrooms closest to the conference rooms, they'll have little sample bottles of their lotion, and you can just put them in your purse. That's a Dayana and Alison Pro Tip that you can take to the Westin.
Brokamp: I definitely noticed this when I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond. And what's the other one? Bath & Body Works? I never go until the holidays. They always smell the same to me, and so now I associate that smell with Christmas.
Southwick: Oh, do you?
Southwick: Other stores like Bloomingdale's, Jimmy Choo, Samsung. They have signature smells. Hugo Boss spent two months tweaking the formula of its signature scent to get it right. The guy who helped design it described it this way."Light accents of fruit and citrus with a hint of cocoa filling the top note before a green floral heart of gardenia, jasmine and" -- some word I can't pronounce -- "muguet over a foundation of vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood, and amber." So, you can see these retailers take this very seriously.
Brokamp: I'll just take the muguet, please.
Southwick: What is that? Muguet. I'll google it later.
Southwick: Don't email me. I'll just google it later. The logic, here, is the store smells good, good smells make you happy, happy makes you stick around, sticking around makes you buy more, and there are numerous studies to back this up. You're just going to have to take my word for it, because I'm not going to bother telling you about it.
Engdahl: It's why you can smell a McDonald's all the way down the street.
Southwick: Or like a bakery. Every time we walk past a Panera, it smells like toast, and my husband just loses his mind. He's like, "Oh, that smells so good."
Southwick: Toast! It's true. Smells can backfire on you, though, of course, because we all have our own emotions attached to different smells. So, tea rose to you might smell like your dear Aunt Ruth, Bro; but to me it smells like this girl I went to high school with and it was so overpowering in science class. It was the worst! So, you've got to be careful.
Around the holidays, of course, they want to make their places smell festive, although one expert I read said that around the holidays you want your store to smell familial instead of like Christmas. I don't know what that means.
Brokamp: It smells like Grandma.
Southwick: I don't what that means. "Grandma smells like tomacco." Anyway, I butchered that quote. Tomacco smells like Grant, right? He says, "It smells like grandma. Tomacco."
Brokamp: That's a Simpsons quote.
Southwick: Thank you. So, the next time you're in a store, give it a good sniff and see how it makes you feel. Do you feel familial? Do you feel...? I don't know. Anyway, that's something to look out for and to be conscious of it.
Brokamp: If it makes you feel good and if it makes you spend money. That's a really interesting question. As opposed to other stores, and I won't name any. But there are stores that do not smell all that good, or at least don't have a pleasant smell.
Southwick: Why would you say something weird, like I'm not going to name any.
Brokamp: Well, Wal-Mart.
Southwick: Oh, really? Wal-Mart doesn't smell good?
Brokamp: I don't think so.
Southwick: I don't have any thoughts about that.
Brokamp: Maybe it's just the Wal-Mart by my house, but it does not smell good.
Southwick: Eventually you get used to it, but it probably doesn't make you want to stick around, or it doesn't make you think... A lot of these stores are going to be high-end luxury stores that want you to then associate these smells with high-end luxury things, whereas maybe Wal-Mart is like, "Yeah, we sell stuff. Come get it."
Brokamp: As opposed to the Target, at least the Target by me. You go in and there's their little cafeteria where they're making popcorn. That's the smell I notice when I go in there.
Southwick: And they want you to have some popcorn. A lot of these tactics, at least when it comes to store design and actually going to physical stores, is to try to get you to stay in the store as long as possible. We'll talk about that more later.
Brokamp: I wonder if that's why increasingly to me it seems like more grocery stores are offering... There's the little Starbucks there, on the side. First of all, that smells good, but also that's a reason to stay in the store.
Southwick: If you're like, "Oh, I'm so tired. Let's just go to the Starbucks right there and get a cup of coffee. We'll recharge. We'll go back out there."
Engdahl: There's a cupholder in your shopping cart.
Brokamp: That's true.
Southwick: There is a cupholder in your shopping cart. So, smells. Also, music. Of course, when you go to the stores around the holidays, they're all playing Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas is You.
Brokamp: Oh, my gosh.
Southwick: You don't like that song?
Brokamp: No, I do like it, but they are all playing it. And I particularly love it when she did it with the Roots and Jimmy Fallon, but they all play that song.
Southwick: That one's really good. So according to a study, the majority of U.S. consumers think music makes the shopping experience more enjoyable. It improves their mood and it makes them feel like it's a brand that they relate or connect to.
Here's some fun ways that music has influenced people. A 1993 study found that classical music induced wine buyers to spend more money. It's not that the shoppers bought more wine. They weren't like, "More. Let's buy all the wine. I'm drunk."
Brokamp: Bach! Beethoven! Wine!
Southwick: Wine! It was the idea that, "Oh, here's this classic music floating through the room. I am a refined individual, who deserves a $40 bottle of wine. Now you know what an expensive bottle of wine means to me."
Brokamp: And it's not in a box.
Southwick: And it's not in a box. It's fancy. Fancy music makes you feel fancy. Slow music supposedly makes you move slower through a store and buy more. The bottom line is I feel like these are the sneakiest, creepy ways that stores try to manipulate us through sounds and smells. But take notice. The next time you're at a store, what are they trying to tell you by how they smell? What are they trying to tell you by the music they're playing? Because also with the Christmas music they want you to get nostalgic. They want you to get in the giving mood and just go crazy.
And the fifth and final one that we're going to tackle today is Treat yo' self. Retailers know that while you're out there and have your wallet open, anyway, you're also more inclined to buy something for yourself. About 64% of people -- which I think is low -- are expected to buy a little something for themselves when they're supposed to be out there shopping for their loved ones.
It's gotten to be so much of a moneymaker that Digiday predicted Amazon and self-gifting would lead Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. That was their headline.
Amazon and self-gifting. Knowing this, advertisers will flat-out tell you to treat yourself with a little bit of a wink. J.Crew ads have included messages like "To: You, From: You." Buy one, get one free offers are also an example of retailers trying to get you to self-gift. And it's not only just about treating ourselves to a little something special. Best Buy and other retailers will also advertise, "Black Friday prices now on major appliances," as if that's something you're going to buy someone like a washers, dryers, and vacuums.
Brokamp: Here, Mom. Have a fridge.
Southwick: This is an actual email that I got on Cyber Monday. "Save up to 88%. Cyber Monday sale going on now." From everyone's favorite retailer, Harbor Freight Tools. Here's this whole ad about quantities limited. Shop early. Some of the deals include a nine-piece wobble socket extension set.
Brokamp: I got one of those last year.
Southwick: A 1,000-pound capacity swing-back trailer jack. They actually have really done their research on this. They have actually been reading some marketing handbooks because the pricing is done quite clearly. They're trying to make it seem scarce and urgent. Way to go Harbor Freight Tools. You almost got me. You almost got me, but I was able to resist treating myself to one of your 1,000-pound capacity 9" steel loading ramps, set of two.
Brokamp: A set of two.
Southwick: A set of two. Well, you're going to need two because it's like loading a four-wheeler up onto the back of your truck. I don't know. So, The Washington Post says that some retail experts call this gift conversion. It's this little dance that you do in your head when you wind up buying for yourself after you're supposed to be out for someone else.
Economics -- this is also from the Washington Post article -- demographic, and general changes have had a Pavlovian effect. Americans hear Christmas and they think massive bargain shopping for all the stuff I didn't get during the year. So, the next time you're in TJ Maxx, as a shareholder, myself, I encourage you to check out the checkout experience. It's a long line.
It's a gauntlet of impulse shopping nirvana where all you're doing is just looking at a number of different things you didn't know you needed all priced under $10. You're like, "Yes, I need new headphones. Yes, I need a travel mug."
Brokamp: It's like exiting through the gift store. Like you have to do that.
Southwick: It is, and it's all one line, so everyone is just funneled through. It's genius. Like I said, I'm a shareholder, so please go.
Brokamp: Please. Give into those impulses.
Southwick: Please go for it. I'm totally done with that. So that was five ways that marketers will try to get you this holiday season. I actually have five more ways if you want to hear about more of them next week.
Brokamp: Oh, and I do.
Southwick: Is this boring you?
Brokamp: No, not at all.
Southwick: Is this ridiculously fascinating, Rick, and you want to make it a two-parter?
Engdahl: You know, Amazon always tells me, "How about something from your wish list?" Now I know why.
Southwick: Oh, yeah. That's another great example of self-gifting. Oh! Amazon. I mean, they practically write the textbook about how to get you to buy stuff. They take advantage of everything. Well, that's the show for now, but we'll come back and we'll cover five more next week?
Southwick: I want to thank DJ and Kathy for sending us a postcard from their amazing vacation in France and Italy. The Wild Thing sent a card from California. Steve is eating tapas in Spain and Scott send us our first card from Nepal. It was very cool. FrugFool sent a card from Switzerland and Alison sent a card from Malta.
Brokamp: She's one of my favorite listeners.
Southwick: That's me!
Brokamp: And what did you point out on the back of that card?
Southwick: What did I write? Let's see what I wrote. "Huge fan of the podcast and you two are the best part. Alison is so-so."
Brokamp: And someone made it into The Motley Fool Hall of Fame.
Southwick: It was me.
Southwick: It was me.
Brokamp: Yes, ladies and gentlemen. We're very proud to announce that Alison has been inducted into the Motley Fool Hall of Fame.
Southwick: Yes, we had Foolapalooza a couple of weeks ago...
Brokamp: And very well deserved.
Engdahl: It's about time she joined us, Bro.
Brokamp: That's true.
Southwick: I know. They did a video and Bro said some really nice things about me in the video. It was very sweet. It was very sweet. I'm lucky to be a part of this Foolish family.
Also regarding me going to Malta, I want to thank Ralph who sent an amazing amount of advice for what to do in Malta. He even offered a friend's phone number for me to reach out to if I needed any help. Our members are the best. They are the best. That's the show. It's been edited manipu-li-tively by Rick Engdahl.
Brokamp: That's exactly what I was thinking.
Southwick: Was it really?
Brokamp: It was, yeah.
Engdahl: I made you think that.
Brokamp: That's true.
Southwick: He's so good. He's so good. Our email is Answers@Fool.com. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish everybody!
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Williams-Sonoma. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.