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Avoid High-Pressure Sales Tactics

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Avoid High-Pressure Sales Tactics - It's All Psychology

Published September 26, 2022

It’s possible this is the most unique column I’ve written in the thirty years since Ask the Builder came to be. I think it’s important for you to know why I switched careers from being a full-time builder, remodeler, and master plumber to a syndicated newspaper columnist and then video personality.

It was always about money. I started Ask the Builder to save you tens of thousands of dollars. Right now you need this help more than ever because black financial storm clouds are racing towards you and everyone here in the USA. It’s time for you to preserve every penny you have. It’s time for you to avoid all those who would prey on you using deep psychology to pry your money from your banking accounts.

I’m sure you realize inflation is raging in the USA. It’s doing the same on a world-wide basis. Layered on top of that, in my opinion, is an impending deep recession. It’s a perfect storm that can put you and millions of other homeowners under severe stress. I’m going to try to relieve some of that stress now.

It was my wife’s idea to create Ask the Builder. She said one day after I was selected as one of the top 50 remodelers in the USA, “Tim, why don’t you take your book idea and write a syndicated newspaper column?” You see, I had always wanted to write a book about how you were played and taken advantage of by many contractors.

Not only did many do sub-standard work, but some others also used psychological tricks on you to persuade you to sign a contract. It infuriated me when I discovered one of these cunning contractors beat me out of a job. In some cases, I was called in a year or two later by the homeowner to fix all the mistakes that could have been avoided had they realized they were being manipulated.

You're Being Manipulated Everyday

This psychology is used by businesses and people in power on you and me each day. The one that seems the most innocuous, yet is quite powerful, is the psychological trick of reciprocity. You might have fallen victim to this easy one in the grocery store. Have you ever put one of those small sample pieces of cheese or summer sausages on the end of a toothpick into your mouth? If you did, and walked away without buying the cheese or sausage you probably felt guilty. If you did buy the product, they got you.


How do home improvement sales people use reciprocity? Simple. They tell you that if you agree to their offer they’re going to throw in for FREE this or that. The free item or service they say might be worth hundreds of dollars. How many times have you whipped out your credit card for a BOGO offer?

Social Proof

Another very powerful psychological trick that’s pulled on you is called social proof. You see this one all the time on TV commercials where four or five paid actors in most instances tell you how the product took away their pain, fixed this or that problem, or made them lose weight.

After you see about four of these people praising the product, your brain screams at you, “Hey, they know something we don’t! Look it must be true. If it worked for them surely it’s going to work for us!!!” That roofing contractor sitting in your living room invokes social proof by showing you photos of all the recent jobs he’s done in your neighborhood. Social proof is extremely powerful and you need to be darned careful. Get the names and phone numbers of the people who own the homes in the photos. Call them to get the facts. See if they’d hire the roofer again.

Scarcity - The Most Powerful One of All

All that said, the most powerful of all psychological tricks being played on you is scarcity. When a person makes something scarce, you might sing like a canary telling all you know or sign a contract faster than you’d race your pregnant wife to the hospital like I did just before the birth of our first child. I must have been doing 85 mph down the expressway that night!

How is scarcity used on you by the roofer, the remodeling contractor, the vinyl siding salesman, or the gutter guard company? It’s so easy. How many times have you heard one say, “This offer is only good tonight. Once I leave the house, the offer expires.” You see they’re making the special lower price SCARCE.

Scarcity is also invoked if you hear a salesman say that this or that damage will happen to your home if you don’t sign the contract. For example, overflowing gutters may cause massive foundation failure, you may get deathly ill from mold, you might die from a virus no more harmful than the common flu, or a myriad of other scary things.

To behold the power of scarcity, look at this photo.

mass grave

Mass grave outside of NYC. Fair Use Doctrine usage. (C)2020 New York Times

Would this scare you? It's a mass grave. You might expect this in a war zone, right?

Mass grave are repulsive. Mass graves immediately create an image in your mind of a gristly death.

But what would you think if the photo was taken in the USA just a little over two years ago within miles of Manhattan?

Are you telling me we don't have enough ground available to bury a person in their own MARKED grave in the USA?

You know, a dignified burial in a Potters Field 30 miles west of NYC with a humble headstone?

SHAME on the NYC leaders for burying those people in a mass grave.

That mass grave was created to SCARE YOU into thinking you were going to DIE from a virus no more lethal than the common flu. You were being played when you saw this photo.

Death is the ultimate scarcity play.


You're being played like a cheap fiddle by contractors, your leaders, and people you should NOT be listening to.

If you really want to prevent being taken to the cleaners by sly salespeople or other people in power who want to control you, I urge you to read this fascinating book. Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion. I discovered it about twenty years ago and it was life changing for me. Go here to get a copy.

influence psychology book

Column 1475


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