Do 3 for 2s work?

Being a small independent bookshop with a range of new and secondhand books, price promotions are beyond us. We buy our books from a variety of sources and sell them out at a variety of discounts, some books though we can’t afford to discount, new releases and new books from specalist publishers and we can’t afford to do this because we can’t buy them in bulk and therefore get bulk discount. So it’s with some envy that I wander around Waterstones looking at their piled high tables groaning with 3 for 2 offers until I noticed that I almost never buy any of these books. Chatting to Steve I discovered that he didn’t either, in fact the only time we have ever done this was as a family when we all managed to find books that we wanted within the promotion.

I decided to scrutenize my buying decisions or lack of them to see what was happening. When I see a 3 for 2 I almost invariably immediately see a book that I have been meaning to buy, great, first book grabbed. I then wander around looking at the others and notice a title by an author I sometimes read so I pick that up thinking I’ll swap it if something else pops up. Book Two in hand I have now been circling these tables for several minutes and am getting frustrated. I wander off in search of hidden 3 for 2 titles in the main body of the shop. Now I find a book that really grabs my attention, I pick it up but it’s not a 3 for 2. I grab it anyway. I’ve now spent 15 minutes wandering around trying to find a third applicable book and I’m fed up. It’s at this point that the rot sets in. I now look at my books and my mind starts to do wierd calculations. If I buy the three books in my hand I will have to buy them all at full price and ouch I can’t afford that. I was only tempted to buy 3 books if they were cheap. So I’m not going to buy book 2 at full price, I only picked that up to make up the bundle so I put that down. Now I look at book 1 and start to doubt myself, did I really want it that badly? Maybe I only picked it up in the first place because it was on offer? I put down book 1. Book 3, the book I was keen on, this is full price, but what if it gets added to the 3 for 2s next week?

Now I make a variety of decisions, depending on various factors. Steve will turn up asking if I found 2 books in the 3 for 2 as he has only found one we both give up in disgust and walk out leaving book 3 behind, Or the children want to be moving on, they hate being indoors and they’ve waited patiently for ages. I’m feeling hassled so grab the children put down book 3 and leave the shop Or I think this is a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages and join the queue Or I think I bet it’s half price on Amazon and leave the shop without book 3.

There’s a bit of a golden rule in marketing that says that if you can get a customer to pick a product up it converts to a sale 60% of the time (or somesuch), here I am though having picked up several items only converting to a sale 25% of the time. Even worse I was almost a definite customer when I walked in – I LOVE bookshops, I LOVE buying books, I can shop forever, finding interesting books and I don’t mind paying full price. But as soon as I am offered an offer some part of my book buying brain goes into meltdown and my savvy shopper brain kicks in. More often than not I go home fed up that I don’t have a book and wondering why the hell I didn’t buy it there and then.

So we don’t do 3 for 2 in our shop because we can’t but if we could I wonder if we would?