Thanks to reader, Jessica J. who sent in a kind note, noting the examples in “I Love Lucy,” which we describe below.

One of the classic visuals of direct selling is the old “I Love Lucy” episode “Sales Resistance.” I find the old “I Love Lucy,” show to be fascinating because it brings up many real life issues. Not only does it capture the relationship issues, but it also captures many a business idea. A variety of business concepts are portrayed in the series, such as real-estate investing, stock market investing, direct sales, and direct response sales.

This particular comedic sketch titled, “Sales Resistance,” deals with the subject of non-store retailing. Non-store retailing is when sales happen outside of a store (whether physical or online).

Direct Response Retailing

When the episode starts, Lucy has just gotten a “Handy Dandy Potato Cutter.” She mentions, that she saw a television infomercial about it and couldn’t help but call in to purchase it.

This is an example of Direct Response Retailing. In this way, a company advertises a product through television, or print ad. The advertisement has a number to call in and purchase the product.

Let’s think about what might sell well this way. When you see an informercial on television, YouTube or other media, what types of products do they sell?

They tend to sell cheap products. A friend of mine worked on a team that invented a gadget that’s a net that hangs between the car seat and the center console. It was a way of catching loose change, or other items people drop accidentally in their car. Their infomercial ran with, “has this ever happened to you?” It showed a person losing all their important things under the seat of their car. “Call now, within the next hour, and we’ll even throw in…” is a common aspect to these commercials. They not only offer a product, they offer it under time pressure.

Direct Sales

After Lucy is forced to return the “Handy Dandy Potato Cutter,” she meets an incredible salesman. Under the comedic pretense of collecting her returned item, he attempts to upsell Lucy.

He brings in a vacuum cleaner that costs, “only $10 for the works!” After his sales pitch, Lucy forks over $10, and then finds out she only bought the engine (the works). The cover to the vacuum engine, the bag, the electrical chord… everything else is sold separately and ends up costing $400.

Direct sales happen person to person. Either someone shows up unsolicited to sell a product, or they are inquired upon about their products. My wife used to sell perfume. She did her sales at a job she worked. This is another example of direct sales.

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