I would never advocate or condone any form of dishonesty in selling, but the following story did make me laugh very much when I first heard it and the success of the sales technique was, in fairness, partly due to the customer’s dishonesty as well as the salesperson’s.
Macys is a very large department store in New York with a massive suit department for men. The Discount Suit Store which was just around the corner from Macys would have fitted in to one little corner of Macys’ suit department. In spite of that, the two brothers who ran the store reputedly sold more suits every week than Macys. Here is how they achieved that…
The brothers were George and Fred Morrissey. George worked the shop floor which was packed with rails of suits from floor to ceiling. There were ‘cut price’ and ‘sale’ notices everywhere but none of the suits had a price tag on them; so a customer would have to ask how much an item was. George pretended to be rather deaf. This is how the sales process went…
Customer: “How much is this blue serge suit?”
George: “I’m sorry I’m a bit deaf. Can you repeat that please?”
Customer (a little louder this time): “How much is this blue serge suit?”
George: “It’s in the Sale. I’ll have to ask the Boss.”
Then, in a loud voice, George would call out to Fred in the back office:
“Fred. How much is the Blue serge suit?”
Fred: “One hundred and seventy five dollars”
George would then turn to the customer and say “The blue serge is seventy five dollars sir” which of course was the real price anyway.
Most customers, thinking they would be getting a real bargain, would try it on to see if it fitted, pay for it as quickly as possible and leave the store.
Sometimes, although not that often, other customers would point out George’s mistake to him. He would then thank them graciously for their honesty and ask them to wait just a moment while he had a quick word with Fred. The customer would see them whispering to each other and then George would return with a big smile on his face and say – “The boss is so grateful for your honesty, he has told me to tell you that in return for that great kindness, you can have two suits for one hundred and seventy five dollars!”