Irrational Urge to Jump for FREE Stuffs
I went to H&M store this afternoon with my wife, and all I saw were FREE words. They’re everywhere! See the video that I took below.
Why was it so irresistible? Dan Ariely explained that in his Predictably Irrational:
What is it about FREE that’s so enticing? Why do we have an irrational urge to jump for a FREE! item, even when it’s not what we really want?
I believe the answer is this. Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is. Why? I think it’s because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of FREE! is tied to this fear. There’s no visible possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it’s free). But suppose we choose the item that’s not free. Uh-oh, now there’s a risk of having made a poor decision–the possibility of a loss. And so, given the choice, we go for what is free.
My wife and I were going to exchange my son’s trousers for different model. We could just find another model with the same price, but seeing the FREE! everywhere, my wife started to change her mind. Instead of looking for a replacement, she’s busy looking for BUY 1 GET 1 FREE items, even though she would need to pay another extra S$7.5. I reminded her several times about our initial purpose, but just like what Dan Ariely mentioned, there’s an irrational urge to jump for a FREE! item. The store was also clever to use the fallacy of supply and demand, with this huge poster:
I wonder, do we really have control over our decision?