I really enjoy visiting my local Sprint storefront, but it isn’t usually a philosophically challenging experience. Today was a little different.
My main reason for going there today was that the connector card that I use for mobile internet access on my laptop stopped working. This took more than an hour to straighten out, during which I waited around, doing as much work as I could with the help of my Samsung Galaxy smart phone and a portable Bluetooth keyboard.
The store associate who was helping me had good news: my connector card was covered by insurance, and a free replacement will be available. He also went over my service plan with me, eliminating a monthly $10.00 fee for an option I never use. He then offered me a free tablet, if I added another phone line to my account, which would probably cost me $12.00 a month. I explained that I didn’t need one. He apparently found this not only baffling but mildly upsetting. How could I not want a new device? Didn’t I deserve a treat? Wasn’t I tired of the small screen of my smart phone?
In fact, I like the size of my smart phone very much. I also dislike making snap decisions. I also wasn’t feeling like there was any gap in my life that a tablet could fill. He appealed to me, to his colleagues, and then to me again to explain the mystery. I jokingly invoked Occam’s razor: “non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate“ (i.e., “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”).
He then asked what I did for a living, I explained that I was a technology strategist for nonprofits and philanthropies, and that shiny object syndrome is a known hazard in the world of nptech. This had roughly the explanatory power of Occam’s razor – which is to say that it had none at all. By this time, I was laughing at the absurdity of being pressured to take an electronic device that I wasn’t sure that I wanted or needed, and he begged me to explain this. “Help me to understand, so I can grow.”
I did my best to explain that sometimes more is not better, that simplicity can be a philosophical choice, that impulsive purchases did not necessarily lead to happiness. He excused himself, and retired to a back room. He returned with a tablet model that he had not previously shown me, a white Samsung Galaxy that looks a great deal like my Samsung Galaxy smartphone but larger. (In other words, very appealing.) Unboxing it, he told me that not only was it free, but if I added another line and took the tablet today, they’d give me a $50.00 credit. In other words, he was prepared to give me money to take an electronic device that he was convinced that I needed.
I ended up thanking him and saying that I’d think about it, and perhaps come back in a couple of days for it. He protested that the $50.00 credit was only on offer if I took it today. I explained that I didn’t need a $50.00 credit badly enough to justify an impulse purchase, and thanked him again.
For me, it raises two sets of questions:
1) How do sales commissions work at Sprint stores? Would the $50.00 credit have come out of this associate’s commission? In fact, was it worth it to him forgo the commission he might have received in order resolve the cognitive dissonance he was experiencing at the thought that a customer would not take a free (and very appealing) tablet?
2) What is WRONG with me? I’m not such a disciple of simplicity that I never fall into the delusion that buying a specific object will make my life complete. So what made me so stubborn about committing to a new electronic device? Is my geek cred forever destroyed?
Obviously, this Samsung Galaxy tablet is not just a mobile device – it’s a learning experience. I suspect that what I’m about to learn is that in the next 48 hours, I will start craving the tablet, and having waited a decent interval to satisfy my self-respect as a judicious consumer, I’ll go back to the Sprint store and get it. Cognitive dissonance is not merely something that happens to other people.