Recently I went a little overboard with online shopping.
Things had gotten crummy for the hubster at work and as a result our family’s income took an unexpected hit. I tried to find solace in physical activity but quickly remembered I hate exercising. Next I turned to carbs, but darn it all if I hadn’t just lost a baker’s dozen pounds and I didn’t want to mess that up. Instead I turned to the next most reliable weapon in my not-so-healthy coping skills arsenal: retail therapy.
Sure, it was counterintuitive to go on a spending spree just as money was getting tight. But in my fragile state I convinced myself that the deals I was finding absolutely justified the expense. A miniature waffle maker for only $10.99! A Butch T. Cougar bobble head for only $4.98! Fish sandals (yes, sandals shaped like fish) for only $8.75! I mean, how could I afford not to buy those?
My husband was quick to point out you save 100 percent of the money you don’t spend; he’s kind of a wet blanket like that.
In fact, he kind of reminds me of that misguided CEO who just about put JCPenney out of its misery back in 2012 with something he called Fair and Square Everyday Pricing.
The company’s previous strategy involved selling a $30 sweater with a $50 price tag and a 40 percent off coupon, bringing the price to — you guessed it — $30.
This new CEO (with no previous department store experience, mind you) came up with this brilliant new strategy — pricing transparency. We’re not going to inflate prices just to immediately discount them anymore, he said. The price you see on the tag is the actual retail value, and it’s the price you’ll pay every single day.
On paper it sounded great. In practice shoppers loathed it. No one wanted to pay full price when they were used to getting a bargain (never mind that the sweater cost $30 in both scenarios), and sales at the retail chain tanked. Turns out shopping isn’t just about snagging the sweater — it’s also about the thrill of the deal.
I think that’s where we went wrong with the COVID-19 vaccination strategy. Public health officials begged and pleaded with Americans to get the vaccine. They made it free. They made it accessible. They even tried to incentivize it.
If we had been smart, instead of throwing the vaccine out there like hard candy at a parade, we should have played hard to get.
You want the vaccine? Sorry, it’s only for the rich and famous. I did hear that the local clinic is secretly getting a case or two next week, but you have to sign up fast, and you can’t tell anyone else where you got it.
Or how about if the vaccine had been created by scientists but the government didn’t want you to know about it because that would effectively end the pandemic and we all know the government wants nothing more than for this nightmare to last forever. It just so happens, though, that I know a guy who knows a guy; meet me down by the docks after sundown and I’ll hook you up.
Heck, we even might have had more success if we’d gone multi-level marketing on this thing — if you can get three of your friends to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines, and each of them get three friends to sign up for the vaccine, then both of your shots are free! But hurry — this offer expires in 24 hours.
The life-saving, pandemic-ending vaccine should sell itself, but somehow it doesn’t and yet the fish sandals do. I don’t pretend to understand why. I just wish convincing folks to get the vaccine were as easy as convincing me I need a back-up pair of fish sandals … which, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go order right now.
Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.