Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Maximizers and Satisfisers

Our friends Cung and Alice introduced us to this Maximizer/Satisfiser concept. I've since expanded on it so it's probably unrecognizable to them at this point. Thank goodness for creative license. I guess one person's creative license is another person's bastardized brainchild.

Maximizers price shop. They compare. They check out floor samples. They do lots of research on the internet before making a purchase. They're not necessarily cheap- they often like and want good stuff. They figure out what to buy based on the vectoring of such factors as features, quality, price, looks and cachet. I'm not quite sure how to graph that -there aren't enough axes if your feeble mind, like mine, is unable to conceptualize beyond three dimensions- but you get the point. They always want it at the lowest possible price. Well, the lowest price from a reputable vendor that doesn't sell their wares out of the trunk of an '82 Buick. Sometimes the cost in time and effort exceeds the actual dollar savings or the added utility of getting the best features in an item, but they go through the exercise anyway. For some, finding the best deal becomes a bit of sport. It's not like they always need to get the best deal for something- it's just that they can't sleep at night unless they know they did. Maximizers can also sometimes fall into the grip of analysis paralysis, in which case they just don't buy anything for a while to give them time to consider even more details that range in importance from earth shattering (well, maybe not quite earth shattering but somewhat important) to insignificant. Maximizers I bet are often insomniacs (Me).

I bet a lot of "maximizers" hail from middle or upper-middle class backgrounds. Pat's friend from med school, Justin (he is an Australian heterosexual guy who wears cosmetics- go figure), once told us about his summer selling shoes at a department store. The kids from lower income families would save up for a new pair of sneakers, and when they finally had enough money they would walk into the shoe department, point to the pair they want, and wear them out of the store with the tags still attached. Easy sale. The rich customers would go in, usually without much of a clue, ask the clerk which one or two styles they recommend, take a quick look, and make a choice pretty quickly. Price is not terribly important to them, and they just buy what seems to look good and feels comfortable. Again, easy sale.

The middle class customers, however (especially the educated, working professional types) would go into the store and examine every little aspect of each style they were considering, to the most minute detail. They would compare and contrast the material, the price, the stitching (memo to shoe shoppers: it doesn't matter if it's American or European, Nike or Addidas- they're all manufactured in the same shoe factory in China by some lady who used to be a farmer but now lives in one of the factory dorms, eats in the factory cafeteria, sends her two kids to the factory school, and now spends 12 hours of her day stitching your Nike running shoes that you just discarded last week after you accidentally stepped in a big steaming pile of dog poo). Definitely not an easy sale.

Satisfisers are the store clerk's wet dream. The rich shopper example from the shoe store is a classic satisfiser. They know what they want ("Honey...I stepped in some dog poo...I'm going to get a new pair of shoes!"). They drive to the mall to get it. They ask the clerk which one looks good. They might try one on to be sure the thing's not a foot death-trap. They go "hmmm...I like the little bright red flap on the back of the shoe...let's see...$250...sounds good!" Then they whip out the credit card, and are quickly on their way.

Satisfisers don't do endless amounts of research. At most they'll ask one of their maximizer friends what to get and where to get it. If their maximizer friend starts to expound too much on the pros and cons of the different choices, the satisfiser's brain automatically switches to thinking about something totally different- this is a highly evolved defense mechanism designed to keep the satisfiser brain from being overloaded with seemingly useless details. Satisfisers I bet fall asleep before their heads hit the pillow (Pat).

Ok so I called myself an insomniac and classified myself a maximizer. That's not entirely true. I often have trouble sleeping, but I am not really a maximizer. I am a cheapskate. Cheapskates are cheap for cheap's sake. They revel in being cheap, and they don't care too much about quality. They just want it to do the job, and most importantly they want it cheap.

If Neutrogena Shampoo is considered good and reasonably priced (Pat), the cheapskate buys Suave anyway because it's cheap and besides, it'll take at least 15 years of continued use before it makes you permanently bald (me). In those 15 years, the cheapskate would have saved $2,343.53 in inflation-adjusted dollars by using Suave instead of Neutrogena. If that's not more valuable than personal scalp-follicle longevity, I don't know what is.

Cheapskates don't throw anything away, because that AC/DC adapter for the cheapskate's now-damaged, discarded calculator may come in handy someday in the future. Who knows, maybe one day they'll make an iPod that needs the same voltage, wattage and plug size as that Canon calculator from 1988. Or that broken cordless phone. The one with so much static buzzing that you can't actually hear any discernible sounds, and on the other end the person talking to you thinks you're calling from Alpha Centauri. That thing's still in the linen closet, with the power adapter neatly taped to it. Just in case McGyver shows up with some bad guys on his tail and needs to construct a morse code communicator with the parts.

Mind you this is all relative. Some people can afford a luxury car but still drive a Civic. They are cheap. If they drive a Lexus, they are likely maximizers (lowest maintenance luxury car). If they drive a BMW, they are likely satisfisers (fun to drive, but they didn't quite consider the high maintenance costs when they bought it). Some people can only afford a 1985 Civic but drive a brand new Acura. They are headed for personal bankruptcy at worst, or a lifetime of renting their home at best.

Ok so now you know what I am. Which one are you?

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