Category Archives: holiday shopping

Black-Friday leaks those 40% savings ads before they run in print

Shopaholics, rejoice! gives you a sneak peak at those savory newspaper ads touting GIANT SAVINGS that run the Friday after Thanksgiving. This naughty site leaks the ads far in advance, allowing you to search by retailer to find just what X% off will be tempting you after turkey day.

NPR reports that Black-Friday gets the ads early either from major retailers, such as Walmart, who want to build buzz or from impish printers who scan the ads as they head for the press. With U.S. retailers forecasting a cold Christmas, the sales could be gigantic. This also points out another failing of traditional newsprint in communicating information; why wait for the ad next Friday when you can download it today? Happy shopping.

Retail strategy for holiday shoppers: Minimize the burden of choice

Retailers get a splash of icy water today with Bloomberg reporting U.S. retail sales fell 4.4% in the week ending Dec. 1 vs. a year ago. With all the rumblings of housing crisis and looming recession, consumer confidence may be waning.

Which brings us to our favorite article on how to get shoppers to buy from you instead of your competitor. Researchers at MIT dug in to the psychology of shopping, running a series of tests to see how to get consumers to spend more or less than usual. In general, they found that influencing consumers early in their decision process is critical — because shoppers tend to start out with fuzzy goals and then get specific when they are about to make a choice.

For instance, consumers like to shop in huge malls with many stores, because when they begin to shop, they have a vague desire to purchase something but don’t know exactly what. When they arrive inside a mall or large retail store, they then must enter a second mode to grapple with the complexity of choice. Because managing complexity is difficult, consumers put blinders on — narrowing their vision to a subset of manageable options. Thus, you may be drawn to Wal-Mart because you like the huge selection, but once inside, you grab for a few specific items and then escape.

The researchers suggest the way to get consumers to buy more requires two steps: (1) Use some highly visible incentive to get consumers to come to your store vs. others, while their initial shopping mode is vague, and then (2) once a shopper is inside your store, seek to streamline and minimize the burden of choice. For example, a coupon is a good incentive to get a shopper to cross your doorway; but giving a consumer a coupon after they walk into the store complicates the decision process, and might actually depress sales. If you offer fewer options once the consumer is inside, he or she is likely to spend more.

Now we finally understand why we get a headache in Wal-Mart.

Our holiday gift to you: 1-800-201-7575

That’s the secret number for customer service. Write it down. You won’t find it on their web site no matter how hard you look. Because Amazon doesn’t want you to find it.

Search for “customer service” at and you get books on customer service, not helpful phone numbers. Click on “help,” and you get web pages that tantalize you with “contact us by email or phone” … but click there, and you get a screen saying you need to give Amazon your phone number and THEY will call you. So what if your order at Amazon goes wrong, and you want to talk to a live human being?

Slate tracked down the phone number by going to Amazon’s home page, then investor relations, then SEC filings, and then the last quarterly filing. The number has been working since 2003, just hidden very, very well. We’re sure that call center consultants from McKinsey, Bain, or BCG informed Amazon it could save $312.56 million (consultants always use precise forecasts) each year in service costs by hiding its phone number. You can’t fight the math.

But just in case you need it, it’s 1-800-201-7575.