18The impressive thing about the lowball tactic is its ability to make aperson feel pleased with a poor choice. Those who have only poorchoices to offer us, then, are especially fond of the technique. We canfind them throwing lowballs in business, social, and personal situations.For instance, there’s my neighbor Tim, a true lowball aficionado. Recallthat he’s the one who, by promising to change his ways, got his girl-friend, Sara, to cancel her impending marriage to another and to takehim back. Since her decision for Tim, Sara has become more devotedto him than ever, even though he has not fulfilled his promises. Sheexplains this by saying that she has allowed herself to see all sorts ofpositive qualities in Tim she had never recognized before.76 / Influence
I know full well that Sara is a lowball victim. Just as sure as I hadwatched buyers fall for the give-it-and-take-it-away-later strategy inthe car showroom, I watched her fall for the same trick with Tim. Forhis part, Tim remains the guy he has always been. But because the newattractions Sara has discovered (or created) in him are quite real for her,she now seems satisfied with the same arrangement that was unaccept-able before her enormous commitment. The decision to choose Tim,poor as it may have been objectively, has grown its own supports andappears to have made Sara genuinely happy. I have never mentionedto Sara what I know about lowballing. The reason for my silence is notthat I think her better off in the dark on the issue. As a general guidingprinciple, more information is always better than less information. It’sjust that, if I said a word, I am confident she would hate me for it.Depending on the motives of the person wishing to use them, any ofthe compliance techniques discussed in this book can be employed forgood or for ill. It should not be surprising, then, that the lowball tacticcan be used for more socially beneficial purposes than selling new carsor reestablishing relationships with former lovers. One research projectdone in Iowa, for example, shows how the lowball procedure can influ-ence homeowners to conserve energy.19The project, headed by Dr.Michael Pallak, began at the start of the Iowa winter when residentswho heated their homes with natural gas were contacted by an inter-viewer. The interviewer gave them some energy-conservation tips andasked them to try to save fuel in the future. Although they all agreedto try, when the researchers examined the utility records of these fam-ilies after a month and again at winter’s end, it was clear that no realsavings had occurred. The residents who had promised to make aconservation attempt used just as much natural gas as a random sampleof their neighbors who had not been contacted by an interviewer. Justgood intentions coupled with information about saving fuel, then, werenot enough to change habits.