Today I had a positive buying experience. A local church was doing a “gas buydown” for two hours. Gas was reduced by .25 per gallon. As I pulled into the station and got in line, a member of the church explained what was going on. We talked about this “event”.
It was more than an exchange of money for goods and services. It was an uplifting experience. It had all the components of humor: belonging, connection, innovation, positive feelings, hopefulness that I carried into the rest of my day.
I even got a free book! Sure, I still paid $33.02 for gas. Yes, gas is still ridiculously priced. But as I drove away from the station, I didn’t feel so bad about the price of gas, the political leanings behind the pricing, the unjust oil companies. Instead, I felt good, almost holy!
It was the same pattern that we used to “sell” our service of humor at the O’Hare Airport during last year’s Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Conference. Our light environment changed the faces of the passengers in International Arrivals. Did they feel less concerned about spending so much money on plane tickets? Did they worry less about the cost of taking a cab? Were they less stressed about the high cost of hotels?
I think, probably, most certainly: Yes! We had created a positive experience that not only lingered, but that resounded to future decision-making—in both ourselves as well as those whose emotions we had altered.
Therapeutic clowning influences patients’ attitudes and decision-making about their care. In a similar way, the attitude-shift of humor can create positive undertones that make the buyer look past the price of a product.
For example, I have absolutely no buyer’s remorse about paying $495.30 for a VIP ticket to see Alice Cooper. That there was only a $ .30 processing fee made me feel better. There were no $43 in extra charges like you’d pay for a big ticket item like a plane ticket or a concert ticket. That was only the beginning…
My buying sentiments went way beyond the well-worn-out, “value-added” mantra. There was something MORE going on in my purchasing decisions. There was a big influence that humor described, proscribed, and reinforced.
In my research, change happened when my participants felt in control of their lives and their choices. One way they felt in control is when they were part of a unified group with shared values and respect. When they felt connected, they regained a sense of fun. This led to hopefulness and feelings that they could handle whatever their transition dished out.
Those of us in the V.I.P. line to meet Alice after the show knew we were getting a good product. Solid quality. A piece of history, even. To complain would make me seem an outcast in this tight community of believers. We were connected—to each other, as well as to our common focus, Alice Cooper.
I hoped the price wouldn’t be so high, but now I understand why it was. Anything cheaper wouldn’t compel people to share their hard-earned photos everywhere and tell everyone about this experience. The high price only increased the excitement of the V.I.P. event.
But without the sense of connection I felt at the concert, I would have regret when the discover bill came due. Without the happy, positive environment of the gas station buydown, I would recall the usual negativity of high gas prices. With no clowning at International Arrivals, travelers would focus on the losses of their buying decisions.
Even in a down economy, businesses do not have to compete on price alone. There are powerful processes that operate when people separate from their money. We need to dissect the buying experience, build it back up with laughter and lightness and create a chain of positive experience AND positive profits.
Living Between the Extremes is the research study Dr. Trina Hess conducted at Penn State University. Subtitled, “How do single, mid-life women reconstruct their identity after a work transition,” the study highlights those tools that describe and inform the process of change. Find out about the change programs offered by Dr. Trina Hess at www.HumorAcademy.com