film developing company thrived on the Law of Obligation. They
would send a roll of film
in the mail along with a letter explaining that the film was a
free gift. The letter then outlined how the recipient could send
the film in to their company to be processed. Even though there
were a number of stores that could process the film at a far lower
price, most ended up sending in it to the original company anyway.
The tactic worked because their “pre-giving” incurred
a sense of obligation to repay the favor. We often see this method
at work when companies give out complimentary calendars, business
pens, T-shirts, mugs, etc.
The same principle applies
when you go to the grocery store and you see all those alluring
sample tables. It is hard to go to the
supermarket, see the free samples, take one, and then walk away
without at least pretending to be interested in the product. Some
individuals, as a means of assuaging their indebtedness, have learned
to take the sample and walk off without making eye contact. Some
have taken so many samples, they aren’t even phased by the
guilt anymore. They seem to no longer feel an obligation to buy
or even pretend they’re interested in the products anymore.
Still, the technique works, so much so that it has been expanded
to furniture and audio/video stores. On Saturdays, such establishments
offer free pizza, hot dogs, and soft drinks to get you in the store
and create instant obligation.
is effective because it makes us feel like we have to return
the favor. Greenburg said this feeling of discomfort
is created because the favor threatens our independence. The
more indebted we feel, the more motivated we are to eliminate the
debt. An interesting report from the Disabled American Veterans
Organization revealed that their usual 18% donation response rate
nearly doubled when the mailing included a small, free gift!
In a local
suit store, the salesmen are trained to ask customers if they
want to have their suit jackets pressed at no charge while
they are shopping. Of course, hardly anyone ever refuses. While
they wait on their jackets, they naturally have to spend more time
in the store, whereby they occupy themselves by checking out all
the merchandise. While the nice salesmen press their jackets,
the customers feel more indebted to buy! Moreover, when they do
decide to buy something, they are more likely to buy it from the
salesman who pressed their jacket.
found that survey takers could increase physician response to
a long questionnaire if they paid the physicians first.
When a $20 check was sent along with the questionnaire, 78% of
the physicians filled it out and sent it back. When the $20 check
was promised to arrive after the questionnaire was completed and
sent in, only 66% followed through. The pre-giving incentive increased
the sense of obligation. Another extremely interesting result stemming
from the study was this: of the physicians who received the $20
check upfront but did not fill out the questionnaire, only 26%
cashed the check. Of the physicians receiving the $20 check who
did fill out the questionnaire, 95% cashed the check! This demonstrates
that the Law of Obligation works conversely, as well. The fact
that many of the physicians who did not fill out the questionnaire
also did not cash their checks may be interpreted as a sign of
their psychological and emotional discomfort at accepting a favor
that they were not going to return. If they cashed the checks,
they would have to cope with their indebtedness by complying and
filling out the questionnaire. Rather than take on that uncomfortable
sense of obligation or indebtedness, it was easier to sacrifice
the benefit of gaining $20 altogether.
Another common example
of our indebtedness is how we feel obligated to tip when we eat
out just because someone brought our food and
kept our glass full. We tip our hairdressers, cab drivers, the
skycaps who get our luggage on the plane… Why do we do that?
In a large sense, it is our psychological and emotional need to
reciprocate. The act of tipping, however, may also be labeled “conformity,” since
doing otherwise in our culture would be considered rude or inconsiderate.
The Law of Obligation also presents itself in the following situations:
- Taking a potential
client out to dinner or to a golf game
free tire rotation or fluid fill up between services
- Paying those
unwanted car window washers who perform the task at the stoplight whether
you want them to or not
- Free car
washes that generate more money by asking for a donation after
the service is rendered
- Carpet cleaners
offering to go ahead and clean your couch for free
taken from Magnetic Persuasion by Kurt Mortensen
Mortensen, author of Exponential Success Skills and Weapons
of Influence, is one of American’s leading authorities
on Persuasion, Motivation and Influence. After receiving a
Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelors of Arts,
he began many successful entrepreneurial ventures, through
which he has acquired many years of both experience and success.
In addition to his extensive entrepreneurial and sales experiences,
Kurt is a sales and persuasion coach helping thousands of people
reach higher levels of success, income and persuasion mastery.
Currently, he is a speaker, consultant, and a Trainer for Mark
Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen Protégés.