Who hasn’t been pestered to sign up to 30 days of absolutely free LoveFilm access? But now on top of that, they are even throwing in a free £15 Amazon gift certificate! It sounds like the perfect freebie and they assure you that “you can cancel at any time”. However, to actually receive the voucher you must make the first monthly payment which therefore means you have to make a commitment to LoveFilm after the 30 days.
Paying the cheapest subscription of £5.99 for the following month still justifies getting 30 days free and the free gift certificate. And we are more likely to buy a product if we have received a free gift first. This was shown by Packard (1957) who found that offering free cheese dramatically increased cheese sales. This is playing on reciprocity, where we feel indebted to repay favours (Cialdini, 2001). Here, they are giving you two things absolutely free, with the bow emphasising that this is a gift from them to us. And so, when we find out the clause for actually attaining the gift certificate, we feel that we owe them at least that. This need for reciprocity occurs whether or not we wanted the initial gift (Regan, 1971).
Having already decided this is a good offer, people are more likely to continue as they feel committed to it. Knox and Inkster (1968) found that people at a racetrack had more confidence in their horse winning after placing their bet, as having made a decision we have more faith in it. We like to see ourselves as consistent and thus stick to our commitments. Thus by signing up and paying for the first monthly payment in order to get the £15 voucher, people are much less likely to cancel their subscription. This is because we assure ourselves that we have made the right decision (Fazio, Blascovich & Driscoll, 1992). Also, cancelling the subscription may mean we view ourselves as unable to keep a commitment. This can cause cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1962) and create discomfort by threatening our self-view which makes us more likely to fulfill the commitment to feel consistent. Especially because we have freely chosen this gift, we are more likely to get caught in the ‘commitment trap’ (Pratkanis, 2007).
Being an “exclusive offer” indicates how special it is, playing on the role of scarcity (Cialdini, 2001). Although the 30 days free trial is an on-going offer, getting a £15 amazon voucher with it is not so people are more likely to sign up now in fear of losing out. We don’t like to feel this as it can negatively affect our self-regard (Pratkanis, 2007).
And so, for 30 days free and a free Amazon voucher we end up making a commitment which we don’t particularly want but feel we have to and tend to convince ourselves that it’s worth it. Guess the free gift came with a hefty price.
By Sanaa Kadir
- Cialdini, R.B. (2001). Influence. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- Fazio, R. H., Blascovich, J., & Driscoll, D. M. (1992). On the functional value of attitudes: the influence of accessible attitudes on the ease and quality of decision making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 388-401.
- Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive Dissonance. Scientific American, 207, 93-107.
- Knox, R. E., & Inkster, J. A. (1968). Postdecision dissonance at post time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 319-323.
- Packard, V. O. (1957). The Hidden Persuaders. New York: D. McKay Company.
- Pratkanis, A. (2007). The science of social influence: advances and future progress. In A. R. Pratkanis (Ed.), social influence analysis: an index of tactics (pp. 17-82). New York: Psychology Press.
- Regan (1971). Effects of a favour and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 627-639.