Anchors Aweigh

When was the last time you took advantage of someone you love? I don’t mean a simple oversight or a “little white lie” to get something you want. I’m talking about a deliberate, carefully planned, all-out deception that had the sole intention of screwing over that person you claim to care about.

In your personal life, I’m assuming your answer is never. But what about your professional life? Does your value system come with a sliding scale?

One of the things that doesn’t surprise me anymore is how often a company or organization says one thing in their mission statement, but creates strategies and policies that are in complete contradiction. They will tell me how much they value their customers and employees and how important loyalty is to them. Then I take a look at what they actually do, and wonder if I’m in the right place. The disconnect between what they claim and how they act is astounding.

What’s worse is they don’t often even see it.

Here’s an example. Anchoring is a psychological term that describes our human tendency to rely on certain pieces of information when making decisions. It’s a cognitive bias that happens inside our brain and influences the choices we make. It’s also one of the most common, manipulative business practices employed by nearly every industry around the world. When a real estate agent shows you a more expensive house before showing the less expensive, comparable one, they are trying to anchor your brain. When Hermes or Louis Vuitton place their larger, more luxurious items costing several thousand dollars next to their smaller, more modest items costing a few hundred dollars, they are doing the same thing. Your brain thinks the less expensive items are a great deal because it is (incorrectly) comparing the two. You have been manipulated without even knowing it.

Perhaps the worst culprits in this manipulative process are banks and credit card companies. They utilize anchoring in an even more unseemly manner than most by setting a “minimum payment required” on their monthly statements. They set this minimum payment intentionally low to basically keep their customers in debt and charge them compounding interest. Even though numerous studies have shown that when a credit card statement does not identify a “minimum payment,” the cardholder will typically pay down a larger percentage of what they owe, the banks and credit card companies leave it on there. They are anchoring. They are manipulating. While at the same time, professing to care about their customers and wanting to be their trusted financial advisors.

So I will ask again. When was the last time you took advantage of someone you claimed to love?