staff blogger. On June 10th Allison posted "Are You an Easy-Bake-Oven Blogger?" Lucky Allison, she caught my eye with Easy-Bake-Oven and I knew I would read her blog and have a story to tell her. I hope you will take a few minutes to read Allison's post. She has some really valid ideas about blogging and e-commerce.
Here is my OP-ED...
June 10th, 2010 at 7:22 pm
I stopped by here today, as I saw the announcement the other day regarding your new position with Blog World. Then much to my surprise your title today referenced the Kenner Easy Bake Oven. I totally understand what you mean when you talk about "Why shouldn't we get something for free? We don't want to risk our hard-earned money on an item that we know nothing about. The more we enjoy the free product, the more likely we are to make a purchase."
If we step back to the days prior to e-commerce, etc, what you are suggesting is like the old days of window shopping. Do you see what I mean? The free part was being able to take yourself or your whole family to a store…like Macys or much later to a mall and walk around and touch the items, try on the items, dream a little, put something on lay-away…and maybe, just maybe be so pleased by the user experience we would eventually make a purchase.
And that brings me to my Easy Bake Oven story: In November 1968 (yes I said 1968) I was living in San Francisco and I was hired by SEARS to be what they referred to as a Christmas extra (read temporary full-time employee). This was a very large store on Geary, took up an entire city block. At the time it was one of three unionized Sears stores in the US. They hired me to be a sales clerk, I was just 19. I had no idea how to sell anything and I didn't really like sales people. So I would spend my time on the floor making things look nice and because I was unassuming the customers liked me and would ask for help. I made a lot of sales!
But, because I was a Xmas extra I was an uncommissioned sales person and therefore not only were the regular employees mad at me for my high sales, they were even more mad that they didn't earn the commission on my sales. Since I didn't really understand any of this and how it worked, I told the other sales people that I would ring my sales in on their cash register key if it would make them happy. Oh! Boy, they were happy, but HR was furious. So they moved me to the next department, office furniture. I made a $1000+ sale the first day and the next day I was transferred to baby clothes. And so it went for about a month. Keep in mind I was earning $2.25 per hour!
About week four, they put me in the toy department: A mad house of a department during the holiday season. On my first day in the toy department a man came to me and said he needed help buying toys for his four children. $700 later every regular toys' sales person was complaining about me. The next morning HR came to me and said: "We have a proposal for you. Kenner Toys needs a toy demonstrator and if you demonstrate the toys for 8 hours per day and take inventory of Kenner toys in the morning and evening to see how much has sold, KENNER will pay you a commission at the end of the season." Problem solved…or so you might think.
Here are the toys I was to demonstrate: A record player – with one record "Hey, Jude" by the Beatles; a race car track; and a Kenner Easy Bake Oven. To make matters more interesting, unlike today, back then parents would arrive at the toy department and say to their children "stay here and play while I shop!" So I became the caregiver, playing with the kids, baking cakes and listening to "Hey, Jude" for three very long weeks.
Sales…you are right, Allison, somehow you have to let your customers get to know you and "touch" your product.
Good luck with your new position.
Here is Allison's reply:
June 11th, 2010 at 12:04 am
Thanks for sharing your story, Judy (and for the well wishes)! I totally agree, what I’m suggesting in this post can be compared to window-shopping and store demos. With an information-based product, like an ebook or video course, free content is the demo, and if your free content stinks, so will your sales.
What are your thoughts? I hope you will visit often and share your story.