Remove customer purchasing fear with the shoe-burning method

IsraelNews and Views

A customer has walked into your store or has arrived at your web site. This person is interested in your product and plans to buy, whether from you or your competitor. Your price is reasonable and the quality of the product is good. But the person ends up leaving your store/site and buying the product elsewhere. Aaargh!

So where did you go wrong? It’s not always possible to say, but an important part of making a sale is erasing all your customer’s fears and insecurities about buying your product from you. How do you do that? Use the shoe-burning method!

Burn the Shoes

One summer I needed sandals, and I headed to Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem. Jaffa St. is lined with shoe stores whose claim to fame are their low prices. Every store owner wants to make the sale, and will search high and low in their stocks to find you the perfect style and fit, and if you are a good negotiator, you can even get a lower price.

I was not having luck finding that perfect pair of sandals. Either the styles weren’t suitable, or the shoes didn’t fit. Finally I entered one store, and found sandals that I really liked, and that fit too! But the price seemed too steep, and I hesitated.

“What’s wrong?” asked the shopkeeper.

“The price seems a bit high,” I answered.

“But the price is really reasonable for these leather sandals,” he replied.

“Leather?” I asked with a look that screamed “Yeah right!”

“Of course. You don’t believe me?” he asked.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to be rude.

At this point he pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit it.

“Look,” he said, “I’m going to burn the sandal. If it is leather, nothing will happen. If it is synthetic, it will melt.” And he burned the sandal. It didn’t melt. I made the purchase.

This technique may seem drastic, but it’s one that’s also used by a slightly bigger furniture business called Ikea. Ikea displays certain pieces of furniture in a special display case where it is repeatedly punched or its doors are open and shut all day long. This is to demonstrate to potential, interested clients that with Ikea, they need not fear – their furniture will stand up to all manners of use and abuse for an extended period of time. Ikea customers are therefore fearless.

Brick and Mortar

How do you dispel the fears of customers in your store?

  • Offer friendly, attentive service
  • Discuss prices and quality
  • Listen to the customer and guide them to a product that will make them happy. Don’t try to sell them something they don’t want.
  • Do you see a hint of hesitation? Guarantee that if they are still hesitant in a week/month, they will receive all their money back
  • Provide testimonials – talk about how happy others were with this product


Websites are even trickier because shoppers have little face-to-face contact with a real human being. If you have a site, try to provide answers to every conceivable question that a customer may have about your product. Here are some examples of things you might wish to clarify:

  • Your price is reasonable – show comparisons
  • Your product is high quality – provide testimonials from happy shoppers
  • You provide good service and are reliable – offer a money-back guarantee if the customer is not happy
  • If you are selling software, provide a trial version. If you are selling a book, offer sample chapters.
  • Provide complete contact information so everything is transparent and you look legitimate. No one wants to buy from some fly-by-night seller.
  • FAQs – As teachers always say, if you have a question then chances are others do as well. So keep track of questions that customers ask about your product and service, and provide an easy to find FAQ list that addresses all of these issues.