Retail education: Fighting free

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by Kelly Kramer

Call me partial or call me prejudiced. Most of all, call me happy and proud to live in the greatest free country in the world. My wife and I enjoy many of the luxuries that America has to offer. We have clean water right out of the tap. We drive on roads that are well maintained. We have a nice home with two nice vehicles, five TVs, two computers and two fat cats. We never wonder where our next meal will come from and can afford to travel as we please. This is just a short list of the material items that people in our country can have.

First and foremost, I think we need to realize just how small our few problems are. I’ve traveled to a few other countries, and that’s where you really get a chance to compare. Our system—though flawed and complained about—is leaps and bounds above the rest.

Part of this wonder system includes the freedom of speech. That means we can stand up and shout some pretty smart ideas or we can stand up and shout plain lies. In either case, it’s up to the listener to discern the truth.

As a student of human psychology and a sales trainer/ retail sales advisor, I understand that the word free has two very different meanings. One is political and the other is a form of deception and lies.

When I hear the word “free” in an ad I hear, “If it’s free, it’s not for me.” I’m a trained marketer and competitor in the flooring game but only 50% of my buyers understand the real meaning of free in retail. The reason half the country believes what they hear and read is they all still think you can get something for nothing. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that our installers don’t work for free. Even our lowest-end pads cost us money and someone has to pay for credit cards and finance programs.

As a friend always reminds me, “It is what it is.” We need to stop complaining and learn to deal with it. So, let’s look at ways to explain this deception that leads 50% of our buyers to think that you can get some- thing for nothing.


You’ll find I have a sarcastic yet humorous style of explaining the practices of my competitors. For example, “If you want free labor, you should have bought at their last 60% off sale—because free labor on a carpet purchase is less than 20% of a complete installed purchase.”

Or what about: “You’re really smart to take advantage of the 60% off sale because the people that shopped last week paid 60% more.”

Another come-back: “We lost our best installers when they heard they could work for the other guys for free.”

Keeping it real

After I explain the tricks to my buyers I explain what real, full pricing with a quality deal means. I explain that a real deal is honest, up-front pricing by a company that can advise the buyer on a good choice for the given situation. Our store offers better than competitive prices with the best installation out there. Most importantly, we care and will be here if there is ever a problem. We rely on the fact that a positive experience will lead to referrals because we don’t do deceptive advertising.

As wonderful as our country is I wish free only had one meaning.

Thanks for reading.

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