What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A Discount of 5 per Cent. at least.”
In the summer of 1770, David Baty and Company advertised a variety of liquors available at their store in Charleston. Their notice in the supplement to the June 19 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal listed “RUM of different Qualities,” brandy, Madeira, claret, port, and “a Variety of other WINES.” Customers could select the quantity they desired. For rum and brandy, that meant by the hogshead, quarter cask, or “smaller Quantity,” but not less than three gallons. For the wines, they could select among pipes, casks, and bottles.
Baty and Company encouraged customers to make larger purchases. To that end, they offered “a Discount of 5 per Cent. at least” for buying “any considerable Amount,” suggesting that they applied even more significant discounts as customers increased their orders. The partners did not list any prices to capture the attention of prospective customers; instead, they asked them to imagine a different kind of bargain available at their store.
They also provided a discount to customers who paid cash rather than made their purchases on credit. The same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal included several notices calling on customers and others to settle overdue accounts. Some of those advertisements included threats to place delinquent “Accounts in the Hands of a Lawyer.” Baty and Company sought to avoid the hassle and expense of chasing down customers for payment at a later date, so they offered an incentive for paying with “Ready Money” at the time of sale.
Purveyors of goods and services frequently trumpeted their low prices in eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements. Baty and Company took a different approach. The partners asked prospective customers to consider how they could play a role in bringing down prices by ordering “any considerable Amount” or paying in cash, actions that provided even greater benefits to Baty and Company than simply making a sale.