Behavioral Science is Bullshit

Pete Weishaupt
2 min readSep 4

Back in the day I had an e-commerce business, and I devoured nearly everything marketing/behavioral science. I came across a story about Carlucci’s, an at-the-time thriving restaurant business. According to the story, they had a $22 salad on the menu. The famous author posited the restaurant put a $2,500 Vespa scooter on the menu as well. And this is why people would pay $22 for a salad — they were contrasting it against the scooter. There was even a Carlucci’s near my home in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. I witnessed the menu first-hand. And I drank the kool aid. Except it’s bullshit.

I’d read other stories about the behavioral science contrast principle. One story was along the lines of a haberdasher selling a $500 suit first, because then selling the $50 tie is a piece of cake. Except it’s bullshit.

Tactical to Practical

As I mentioned, I had an e-commerce business. I sold beard oil and beard care products online through Shopify and Amazon FBA under a brand I created called ‘Valhalla’. (How the brand came about and my exit are a post for another time.)

With this new knowledge about the power of behavioral science, I set about putting a $1,500 Viking sword for sale at the top of my website. Now contrast the sword with a $20 bottle of beard oil. My sales should go through the roof, right? Ok. Maybe not through the roof, but it should move the needle, no? Except it didn’t. Because it’s bullshit.

Yet somehow, I still want to believe. Oh and by the way, not only was my experiment an epic failure, the Carlucci’s near me closed. The entire chain was put ‘under administration’ — which I think is British for declaring bankruptcy. 30 of the 71 original restaurants remain open according to press reports. The restaurant group that bought them out plans to open 500 more over five years. Maybe price the salad well and skip the scooter?