How Victoria’s Secret Gets You to Buy Underwear You Don’t Need

June 29, 2007

KMC is a thirty-something family man with a wife, three year old daughter and one on the way.  After graduating college with $5,000 in credit card debt and $9,000 in student loans, his new wife finally got him to shape up and get fiscally responsible.  He went a little overboard and developed a serious interest in personal finance.  He currently writes about the topic at Advanced Personal Finance, keep up on his writings with his feed


Marketing and advertising has always held a certain interest for me.  Right now I’m reading a book that discusses how people influence other people.

There’s a principle called reciprocity that says people are more apt to do something for someone who has already done them a favor.  Makes sense and I’ll bet everybody can cite an example of reciprocity in their life.  It’s how most of us moved during college.

What’s interesting is that reciprocity works with strangers and even people you don’t want to help at all.  For example, an exterminator gives your house a free inspection.  You’re much more apt to buy a treatment plan from him afterward than if he’d just tried to sell you on it without the inspection.

Odds are, reciprocity has affected you.  Victoria’s Secret uses it all the time.

Yeah, yeah, get to the part about Victoria’s Secret

Fairly regularly, they send people a certificate for a free pair of underwear – no strings attached.  When we use it, though, reciprocity tells us we should really probably buy something else.  After all, Victoria’s Secret was nice enough to give me a pair of undies for nothing.  I should really return the favor in kind and do something nice for them.

This works even when the product isn’t lingerie.  But then again, how much persuading you need to buy lingerie?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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2 Responses to How Victoria’s Secret Gets You to Buy Underwear You Don’t Need

  • MoneyNing

    Q: But then again, how much persuading you need to buy lingerie?

    A: Much persuading for me, none for my fiancee.

    I wouldn’t have an issue at all getting a complimentary product through a coupon though. Companies are doing this no-strings attached, because they are betting on that people will buy something along with the free coupon. Sometimes, they just want food traffic in the store to promote a new product. I did not what they wanted (walk in the store). I did not get anything, no big deal and the companies expect that. It’s all fair game.

  • plonkee

    Reciprocity is also how you can get complete strangers to tell you stuff about themselves without meaning to. You just tell them something first.