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The Nail Fixations

While at the nail salon I frequent, the following two thoughts kept my mind from turning to mush:

1. Sampling is just so smart. I’m sitting there like a lox getting my nails done, and one of the salon’s employees comes up behind me and starts rubbing my shoulders. Three minutes of a massage are included with every manicure. And then I have the option of adding ten minutes of additional massage for $10. I find this offer very hard to refuse.

Hey, it takes a lot of willpower to stop a massage. But then there’s also this:

"Study after study has demonstrates that when it comes to purchasing decisions, people are irrational. In one classic study, researchers asked consumers whether they would be willing to travel an additional 20 minutes to save $5 on a calculator that costs $15. Most said yes. Then they were asked the same question about a $125 jacket. Most answered no. Now, rationally, $5 is $5, whether you’re buying a calculator or a jacket. But it’s seldom that simple, according to Richard H. Thaler, a professor at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago and author of "Mental Accounting Matters," an article published in 1999 in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. "People make [purchasing] decisions piecemeal, influenced by the context of the choice," writes Thaler. "

Or so I wrote in Inc. not too long ago.

In the context that I was in at the nail salon, most people, including me apparently, are more willing to drop a small amount of money, if they’re already dropping a larger chunk of change. (Rationally, it should be the reverse –you’re spending a lot already, so you should want to preserve your cash.) So what’s $10 for a massage on top of the $40 I’m already spending? Why, it’s $10, naturally, but it feels like nothing when I’m in that chair.

2. What’s up with Essie? Every nail salon I have ever seen has a wall of Essie nail polish, in its signature rectangular bottle. There’s almost always more Essie product on hand at salons than any other single brand. (OPI being a close second.) Is this the product of some soul-less corporate beast –or, as the name seems to indicate, a division of Estee Lauder? Well, no, it turns out that it’s a rather interesting company, started by a woman named Essie, who started her company by catering to Las Vegas show girls. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

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