May 17

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Boston-Gazette (May 17, 1773).

We might go … to ANDREW DEXTER’S CHEAP STORE … and get every Thing we want at our own Price!

As the summer of 1773 approached, Andrew Dexter experimented with a quirky advertisement in the May 17 edition of the Boston-Gazette.  Though brief, his notice contained a message intended to arouse the curiosity of consumers and entice them to visit his shop.  “What a needless Loss of Time and Labour it is,” Dexter proclaimed, “to go about Town, from North to South, cheapening of Goods, when we might go, with so little Trouble, to ANDREW DEXTER’S CHEAP STORE near the Mill-Bridge, and get every Thing we want at out our own Price!”  A border composed of decorative type helped draw attention to this advertisement.

Dexter encouraged consumers to dispense with haggling and comparison shopping, suggesting that they would not find any better bargains at other stores no matter how many they visited or how much time and energy they invested.  His tone suggested sage advice delivered by an experienced shopper to prospective customers, advising that “we might go” to Dexter’s “CHEAP STORE.”  Rather than thank his patrons as other advertisers often did in their notices, Dexter marketed his wares by assuming the voice of a satisfied customer speaking to other consumers.  He likely intended that this shift in perspective would imbue the advice to go directly to his store to save time, effort, and money with greater authority.  Other advertisers presented all kinds of choices to prospective customers and promised low prices for their wares, encouraging and playing on appetites to participate in the transatlantic consumer revolution.  Dexter adopted a novel strategy with an approach that offered guidance for satisfying those appetites.  Cleverly, he suggested that consumers exercised more power in his store than in any of the other shops “about Town” since they did not need to haggle or compare prices but instead “get every Thing we want at our own Price!”  Dexter’s customers, the “satisfied customer” asserted, would not experience the frustrations and disappointments that they encountered elsewhere in their endeavors to get the deals they wanted.

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