lowball technique

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A technique for eliciting compliance that is most often used in commercial transactions. A customer is first induced to agree to purchase an item by being quoted an unrealistically low price. Before the deal is completed, the salesperson claims to have discovered a mistake and tells the customer that the sale can go ahead only at a much higher price. Having made a commitment, the customer is more likely to agree than if the true price were revealed at the outset. The technique was named and first studied experimentally in 1978 by the US social psychologist Robert B(eno) Cialdini (born 1945), who discovered it while being trained as a car salesman. Cialdini and several colleagues performed a field experiment in which they first tried to persuade students to agree to volunteer to serve as experimental participants, and 56 per cent agreed. They then told the volunteers that the study was scheduled for 7 a.m., and the volunteers were given the opportunity to withdraw, but none did so, and 95 per cent of them actually turned up at the appointed time. However, when a control group were asked to participate and were told the unsocial timing of the experiment up front, only 24 per cent agreed to participate. See also door-in-the-face technique, foot-in-the-door technique. lowballing vb. Using the lowball technique. [From lowball in baseball, a ball pitched to pass over the plate below the level of the batter's knees, alluding to a quoted price or estimate that is deceptively or misleadingly low]

Subjects: Psychology.

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