You Can Blame Fast Food

You Can Blame Fast Food

One advertisement I heard recently really, really caught my attention. The upshot of the commercial was this: Whatever auto repair services you want, you tell us how much you want to pay, we’ll try to match the price.

I may be an advertiser’s dream. When commercials come on, whether on TV or radio, I pay attention, maybe more so than most people. And I deconstruct what they say to try to figure out what they really mean. One advertisement I heard recently really, really caught my attention.

The upshot of the commercial was this: Whatever auto repair services you want, you tell us how much you want to pay, we’ll try to match the price. They’re not saying we’ll put the best parts on your vehicle for your situation or your safety. To me, this is like those emails we’ve all gotten saying there’s someone who needs to move $10 million and they’ll give us a cut if we fork over our bank information. You’re being lured in with a promise that becomes something else once you are firmly inside the door.

If it’s a brake job, I realize what they’re doing is matching the consumer’s expectations of price with good, better or best.

Some auto insurance companies have have told consumers for the past several years that, “you tell us what you want to pay for insurance, we’ll match it.” It can’t be true. Offer them $5 a year and see what they say.

Now, I realize this is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. But it’s a very dangerous one. It’s setting expectations in a consumer’s head that no business can really meet. The gimmick is being used just to get people in the door then level-set them with the actual price of the job.

There’s another word, other than gimmick, to describe this. It’s “lie.”

You may ask, what does this have to do with parts?

A lot, eventually.

If you’ve gone to a sit-down restaurant promising lunch in 10 minutes or less, it’s the fault of fast food. Fast food restaurants have conditioned people to expect that the time they drive up to order to the time they get their food should be well under five minutes.

The fast food mentality permeates all aspects of modern personal and business life. This is why the “name your price” message is so dangerous. No, you’re not really going to name your price, but somewhere inside a consumer’s brain, that message is going to stick. I think consumers still like this message because it’s kind of empowering even if it’s not really true.

Ten-minute lunch becomes 10-minute oil change. Name-your-price repair services become name-your-price parts. And the race to the bottom continues. 

The right message pounded into peoples’ heads over years can’t stand a chance against the wrong message uttered only a few times. The fast food mentality has cross-pollinated several industries that have nothing to do with food. That’s worrisome in and of itself. “Name your price” has come to the automotive industry.

The next time someone tells me to name my price, I’ll say, “just tell me what it costs. We’ll work from there.”

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