Have you ever wondered why collectibles are so expensive?
Or why do you get to pay so much in auctions for objects of much lower value?
The cause of this way of acting has its origin in the so-called scarcity principle. In this article I will explain what this principle of influence consists of, examples of it and how to avoid its negative effects.
What is the scarcity principle?
The scarcity principle is the tendency that makes us more willing to try to purchase products or services with limited availability. This limitation can be both in the available quantity of products or services and in the time we will have to access them.
The main cause of the effectiveness of the scarcity principle is that we tend to think that the things that are harder to get are more valuable, so we tend to give them a higher value even if in reality they do not have it.
The scarcity principle is one of the 6 principles of influence enunciated by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: Science and practice.
Examples of the scarcity principle
An example of the principle of scarcity, which may even be absurd, is the so-called "precious defects" within collecting. This makes, for example, stamps that present some type of manufacturing defect are much more valuable than those that do not have any defect.
The shortage effect is also used by auction companies, both physical like Sotheby's or online like eBay. When several people compete for a product in an auction, each of them gives a greater value to the product than if they could buy it at a fixed price because of this principle, since it is their last chance to acquire this product. This means that in the auctions in many occasions more is paid for the products than they are really worth.
The scarcity principle is often used by financial scammers when they want to sell a product to their “clients”. This technique is used by telling them that there are great opportunities to buy a certain financial asset with which they can have stratospheric returns, but that they have to make the decision on the spot. Influenced by the scarcity principle, "customers" often fall into the trap and end up losing all their money. Movies like "