How Sid Sold So Many Suits

Sid and Harry run a tailor shop in New York City.

If you can picture it, Sid is the salesman working the floor, while Harry works over the inventory in the back.

A customer comes in.

“Excuse me sir,” he says to Sid, “how much for this suit?

“Let me ask Harry,” says Sid. “Hey Harry, how much for the black three-button suit?”

“For that beautiful suit?” shouts Harry from the back, “$42.”

Sid, hand cupped to his ear, looks confused for just a second. Then he turns to the customer and say, “Harry says this one is $22.”

The customer, eager to capitalize on the ‘mistake,’ plunks down his money and make a quick exit with his new purchase.

Now, I don’t know if Sid can really hear well or not. There’s even a good chance — let’s say “high likelihood” — that Sid and Harry meant to sell the suit for $22 all along.

But you get the idea.

The story comes our way from master copywriter and multi-millionaire businessman, Michael Masterson, who credits it in turn to persuasion expert Robert Cialdini.

Simply put, Sid’s story demonstrates the “law of contrasts” at work. The law of contrasts is where you underscore the greatness of a product, and offer, something… by comparing it to something else.

In Sid’s case, the $22 price of the suit sure seemed like a deal when compared to the $42 it seemed SUPPOSED to cost.

Suddenly, without really offering a discount or changing any of the details of the original offer… the contrast with a higher price alone makes $22 seem like a great bargain.

Now, of course, Sid and Harry’s story is an old one (who would wear a $22 suit today?). But consider, in the next offer you write, is there a way you could make the simple power of contrasts work for you?



  1. I recall hearing about this story on another blog. Anyway, I would be interested to hear how we can put this into practice, as it looks not easy to me, since we cannot show the regular price then discount it, as you’ve well said. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Codrut… any ideas? Yep, dozens of ’em! The main principle here, mentioned above as the “law of contrasts,” is only that you show comparative pricing. This only happens to be a funny example of that very flexible principle.

    For instance, a sales close in print that names the price and then slashes through the number in red with a lower number scribbled in next to it is the same thing. It one price and now, by comparison, it’s offered for a better deal.

    Likewise, if you name the price in your sales copy and then, a couple paragraphs later — after almost closing the sale at that higher price — you deliver even more of a surprise by giving a discount too, that’s also a comparative special deal.

    Comparing your price to the higher prices of other services also works. Suppose, for instance, you sell an investment research product. You could show what it would cost to get the advice by the hour from an accountant or financial advisor, vs. the cheaper cost of what you’re proposing.

    It’s that simple.

    We could probably come up with the many other ways, but you get the picture.

    Thanks for the note!

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