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The Power of Perceived Values

I walked into one of my retail store accounts (pre-COVID) and while I was waiting for the store owner I overheard a young lady with a couple of children in tow, negotiating to purchase a refrigerator.

It was clear from the conversation that this was a replacement fridge. The old one had broken down and there was some urgency to replace. It was also obviuos that she wanted to spend as little as possible. Once it was determined which models would fit the existing fridge opening it was decided that the  basic 18 cu ft top mount for about $500 was what she wanted, and could afford.

After the usual debate about delivery costs, the deal was made and the salesperson left the showroom floor to see how quickly they could schedule the delivery.

basic top mount

While the salesperson was away the lady wandered into one of the premium kitchen displays in the showroom. Randomly opening and closing doors and drawers she came upon a gleaming stainless steel lid on the counter top. After lifting the lid you could immediately see her pause, and then look up with that expectant look of someone wanting to ask a question.

The product on display happened to be one of the brands I represented so I took the opportunity to approach and ask her.

"What is this?", she asked.

It is a built in deep fryer, specifically designed for quick heating, precise control and to separate food particles in the oil, so you don't have to change the oil all the time.

"We love to deep fry!" she exclaimed and after expressing her disappointment, and tolerance, of traditional counter top deep fryers, then launched into questions about dimensions, how it would be installed, the power requirements, and finally "how much?"


Wow, definitely more than I expected, but this would take our family deep frying to whole new level.

deep fryer

When the salesperson came back to confirm the fridge delivery you can imagine the look on his face when the customer wanted to add the deep fryer to her order and have it deliveried at the same time!

It turns out, that the negotiation on the fridge was not about money. It was about preceived values. In this customer's mind the fridge was a box to keep things cold. If it could do that, fit the hole, and she could spend as little as possible, great.

But when it came to the deep fryer, her values had a completely different lens. This was part of the family dining experience. This was about convenience and ease of cleaning. It was something she was prepared to spend more money on.

This is perhaps an extreme case, but illustrates just how different needs and wants can be for an individual, or family. Frugal on some things, and extravagant on the next. Looking to satisfy a basic need versus fulfilling a passion, interest, aspiration or dream. Not all customers need to be wealthy to "afford" a premium product. If the power of their perceived value is strong enough and the good or service meets or exceeds that expectation, they are more willing to find a way.

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