Livewire by Andy Walmsley - 16/2/2011

WED LIVE WIRE (((KEEP)))): Andy Walmsley, former Blackpool stage set designer now our Vegas correspondent

WED LIVE WIRE (((KEEP)))): Andy Walmsley, former Blackpool stage set designer now our Vegas correspondent

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In my eternal quest to see what Blackpool can learn from its big brother Las Vegas, I offer a great American skill that frequently ticks me off because I’m British, and to me it’s as subtle as a sledgehammer – that of the up-sell. In the 1960s McDonald’s had a stunning idea. If a customer ordered a burger, hit them with the phrase ‘would you like fries with that?’ and the up-sell was born.

In 2004, McDonald’s introduced the phrase ‘supersize’ and pushed a larger-sized drink and fries and a bigger profit margin.

There’s another technique in America called bait and switch. Tempt your customer through advertising a bargain item, then, when he’s in the shop about to purchase, convince him he needs the more expensive version. Now, in the recession, businesses are asking frontline workers to step up efforts to up-sell, to persuade a buyer to take an extra or two.

Of course, Vegas being the world capital of the up-sell, has the technique everywhere you go. Tickets for a show? When you arrive at the box office they will try to sell you dinner and show package (discounted meal after the show) or a VIP package, the show ticket, meal, a T-shirt or baseball cap and VIP front seating. Some packages include a personal meet and greet with the likes of Barry Manilow or Donny and Marie.

Go to buy a Martini or a vodka and orange and the bartender will likely ask you if you’d like Grey Goose or Kettle One. You feel pressure to agree, as you want to appear cool or knowledgeable about the superior brand, and the bar makes an extra few dollars.

Approaches can be modest, like offering you bottled water when you sit down at a restaurant when tapwater would be just fine, or more pushy, such as the waiter asking for the third time whether you want another glass of wine.

Of course, the up-sell is not new to the UK. Was it the mid-1970s when shoe shop assistants first virtually bent your arm up your back to make you buy suede protector if you even so much as looked at a pair of suede shoes?

Blackpool could do well to embrace the up-sell in the most subtle way possible: Fish and chips ‘would you like mushy peas with that ?’ Blackpool Rock: ‘for an extra pound you can have three sticks’, a ride on the Big One could come with discount off the waffle shop. The opportunities are endless.

In conclusion, for all my tongue-in-cheek suggestions, I think this is a lesson to learn from the States.

But I don’t think Blackpool is quite ready for the expression ‘Have a nice day’ when the customer walks off with a bag of doughnuts.