Sorry, the other guy gets first dibs …

Punch line: Few things are more attractive than those that are unavailable or in scarce supply. Tell someone that they can’t have something, and they will be much more likely to desire it.

In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini describes a trick his brother employed to sell used cars that relied on the psychological power of scarcity. 

He would place an ad in the paper, inviting people to set up a time to look at the car. 

When the first person would call, he would set up a time to meet, say, one o’clock on the following Saturday.

When the second person would call, he would set up another meeting at exactly the same  time. The first customer would arrive and start looking at the car, skeptically kicking its tires, pointing out its flaws, working hard to  ratchet down the price.

Then, inevitably, the second customer would arrive and Cialdini’s brother would tell him to “wait  just a few minutes,” the other customer had first dibs on the car. 

Cialdini’s brother had brilliantly manipulated the situation to make  the car look popular and to ramp up people’s competitive juices. 

That’s why response rates go up when  “only the first five hundred respondents …” .

Excerpted from Free Market Madness by Peter Ubel

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