Quick Roundup 465

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Illusion of Control

While taking a look around Lifehacker this morning, I ran across a link to a very interesting look inside the manipulative world of car salesmanship.

"Good. Now you drive."


"Yeah. You be Mr. Customer. You get behind the wheel. See, you got to be in control on the demo. Because when you get back to the lot, you got to get them in the box and make a deal."
I will note that, yes, car sales is a legitimate occupation, and that, yes, there are plenty of honest car salesmen out there.

But we also live in a corrupt culture, where people have been trained from an early age not to put two and two together, and people are more often than not in the habit of allowing emotions to guide their lives. Unsurprisingly, many of the techniques car salesmen use turn out to be designed to take advantage of these facts.

For example, many people are not in the habit of integrating what they know, making them easy to distract by the "four-square" method of describing a car deal:
The opening numbers were now in place on the 4-square. At a glance, Michael said, you could see the significant numbers of this deal -- purchase price of the car, trade-in, down payment and the monthly payments. As you negotiated you could move from box to box, making progress as you went. It allowed you to sell a car in different ways. For example, if the customer was determined to get full value for his trade-in, you could take extra profit elsewhere -- in the purchase price or maybe even in financing.
Add to this various ways to distract or pressure the customer ("The car is still available!" Like they didn't make more than one.), and you have numerous opportunities to prevent him from negotiating a lower price. (And this is all on top of the fact that even without all the manipulation, most customers simply do not know about all aspects of a car deal, while the salesmen make such deals on a daily basis.)

Fascinating stuff. The essential goal of the dishonest tactics (including a rare few that are borderline criminal) appears to me to be to prevent the customer from seeing the deal clearly and, in doing so, to get him to cede control of the sale to the car dealer. This is aided greatly by the salesman's crafting the illusion that the customer has actually maintained control of the situation.

Note to Self

And speaking of Lifehacker, I might want to try tip number 9 from this list for boosting my wireless signal. No. We don't have a patio, but the router that worked perfectly throughout our much bigger house in Houston gives rather dodgy signal strength to the room adjacent to the office where the router lives here.

So... That's still going on.

There's an article at Pajamas Media about a speech tic I remember from my days in grad school.
So .. here's a question: Have you noticed that tech workers start a lot of their sentences with the word, "So…?"

Is it just me? Because I started to notice this around 1997 or so, when dot com companies started gaining in stature, importance, and wealth.

Tech veterans, recent hires, even people who left other careers to jump on the tech bandwagon would answer questions starting with the word "so." As in, "So, what we do is strictly B-to-B," or, "So .. I can't tell you much about our upcoming release, except that it will radically change the way business is done."
Our program included a seminar series where each of us would take turns, on successive weeks, describing our research progress to our peers. Since this was meant to help us improve our presentation skills, we had to write critiques of our peers, for their eyes, when it wasn't our turn to present.

This "so" problem was so bad that I started tallying how many times a sentence would start with "so" and include the total with some of my critiques. I once logged more than seventy before I quit counting during one hour-long lecture.

At the time, I attributed the problem to people in one wing of a research building being influenced due to frequently interacting with a favorite investigator who had the habit, and I haven't heard much of it since, but apparently, my sample size was too small!

So ... perhaps I was wrong!

Good Fences (and Good Walls, and Good Curtains) Make Good Neighbors

I haven't thought much about the narcissistic aspect brought up by the article, but I would certainly expect that part of "How Facebook Ruins Friendships" is by eroding healthy psychological boundaries.

I don't have a Facebook account, but I found this interesting nonetheless.


On a recent visit to 3 Ring Binder, I discovered that I'd forgotten all about Ted Kennedy's recent expiry.

Upon driving by a highway sign in Massachusetts that read, "THANKS TED (next screen) THE PEOPLE OF MASS," LB notes that, "I have been not only included without my consent, but also made to pay the bill for the public display."

Well put!

And that pretty much nails it -- good and shut -- as far as I'm concerned, too.

Objectivist Roundup

LB also reminded me that I forgot to link to the latest installment. I'm nearly a week late, but I'm not letting that stop me!

-- CAV


RE said...

I remember in public speaking classes that "So..." was trained INTO us in order to overcome "Um" and "Uhhh..." vocalizations. "So," however overused it might be, sounds an order of magnitude more professional than "uhhhh." People often have a socially-ingrained need to fill blank spaces in conversation, and it takes training before a person can eliminate that habit for delivery of speech to an audience. You'll notice the most polished speakers don't use either affectation, and speak slowly and clearly while still letting their passion carry through.

I once worked at a car dealership with two friends. I had prior finance experience, so they put me on the "back end" at a finance desk and put my buddies on the sales floor. I can tell you right off the bat that those linked articles are accurate -- but they barely scratch the surface of how the whole hustle really works.

Realist Theorist said...

One good book on sales tactics is "Influence" by Cialdini. I think that book or any other one similar book is essential reading. It helps builds awareness of areas where one might slip up and let emotions, habit or pattern "decide" something that one may later regret.

Gus Van Horn said...

RE: That's very interesting, and even despite the fact that "so" makes my teeth curl, I have to admit that it does sound better than other verbal pauses.

Also, I have no such experience, but what I read there meshed very well with other reading about the topic that I'd done.

RT: Thanks for that recommendation. I'm swamped at the moment, but this topic interests me, so I'll peobably get around to it at some point.