What’s a Thing Worth?


I adore wandering among the cosmetics kiosks and booths at upscale department stores. They are always teeming with elegant sales ladies—who double as expert make up artists—coddling women young and old.

These are happy places with mirrors, bright lights, quiet chatter and the faint aroma of expensive perfumes. It’s not only a sales venue, but also backstage on a movie set. This is make up.

For this old-time direct marketer, the draw is what’s known in this trade as GWP—Gifts With Purchase. They all do it—L’OrĂ©al, EstĂ©e Lauder, LancĂ´me, Elizabeth Arden and Clinique.

Brilliant Merchandising
Imagine going to the EstĂ©e Lauder boutique at Dillard’s and being fussed over by a world-class beautician. Whereupon you get a great offer.

The deal: the cosmetic makeover is free. Spend just $35 on top-of-the-line Estée Lauder cosmetics and receive the handsome Lily Pulitzer travel cosmetic case with six goodies worth $100. Included:

  • Advanced night repair-PM
  • Fragrance body lotion
  • Moisturizer
  • Eye shadow
  • Mascara
  • Lipstick

I do envy these shopping opportunities for women. They get made up, spend $35 on EstĂ©e Lauder products, and walk out with $135 worth of the world’s finest cosmetics and are feeling like a million bucks. It doesn’t get any better than that.

For Guys, Shopping Is Not the Same
The only equivalent shopping experience I can think of is the endless ads on television for Jos. A. Bank menswear. They yammer at you with deals like “BUY 1 GET 3 FREE!”

Here’s a typical Bank offer on its website—a $596 wool suit with pleated trousers for $127. That’s a 79 percent discount. In the book business, this would be the equivalent of what you’d pay on the remainder table—the last shot before sending books to the landfill. Put another way, it’s like this: BUY 1 SUIT, GET 4 FREE SUITS PLUS A FREE DRESS SHIRT AND FREE TIE!

OK, these prices are to die for. But will a $127 suit keep its press? How many wearings before it starts to look perpetually rumpled and begins to fall apart? I smell a rat.

My One Experience With Jos. A. Bank
A number of years ago, I needed a sports jacket and went to Jos. A. Bank in Philadelphia’s Liberty Place. I have a weird size and Bank did not have it. Never mind, the sales kid told me. Here’s one you can try on, and if you like it, we’ll alter it for you. He shoehorned me into this thing and it looked awful. I said no.

Peggy and I went to Boyd’s—Philadelphia’s premier men’s clothier, where a beautiful tweed jacket in my strange size was produced. A few minor alterations were made. Eight years later, it looks as good as when we bought it. Yeah, we paid top dollar. But you amortize that over a dozen years and it’s a real for-sure bargain.

Takeaways to Consider
“We learn that cheapness is not a strong appeal. Americans are extravagant. They want bargains, but not cheapness. They want to feel that they can afford to eat and have and wear the best. Treat them as if they could not and they resent your attitude.” —Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising, 1924

• “We learn that people judge largely by price. They are not experts. In the British National Gallery is a painting, which is announced in a catalog to have cost $750,000. Most people at first pass it by at a glance. Then later they get farther on in the catalog and learn what the painting cost. They return then and surround it.” —Claude Hopkins

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.