What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“His utmost Abilities will be exerted to give Satisfaction to his Customers.”
In August 1772, George Deblois alerted readers of the Essex Gazette that he “has received, in the last Ships from LONDON, and has now for SALE … A Good and general Assortment of Hard-Ware and ENGLISH GOODS” at his shop in Salem. The merchant boasted that he purchased this merchandise “in England on the best Terms.” As a result, he “is enabled, and is determined to sell them, by Wholesale and Retail, at the very lowest Advance.” Deblois hoped to hook “his Customers and others” with lots of choices and low prices.
He did not, however, catalog his inventory in an attempt to demonstrate the many choices he made available to consumers, a popular strategy among eighteenth-century advertisers. Instead, he suggested that doing so “would be only tedious” because “his Assortment consists of a great Variety.” Rather than publish a dense list of his wares, he encouraged prospective customers to visit his shop, browse his merchandise, and see for themselves that they would “find almost every Article usually enquired for, and on as low terms as can be purchased in the Province.” He pledged that “those who please to call and look” at his imported goods would not be disappointed. Deblois also emphasized customer service in his efforts to encourage colonizers into his shop, declaring that “His utmost Abilities will be exerted to give Satisfaction to his Customers, and to use them in such a Manner as to encourage them to call again, or to recommend any of their Friends.” In addition, he added a nota bene to underscore that “Constant Attendance will be given, and the Favours of his Customers gratefully acknowledged.”
Many merchants and shopkeepers focused primarily on their merchandise when they advertised in colonial newspapers. Deblois took a different approach, treating shopping as an experience to be enjoyed by consumers in Salem and nearby towns. He invited colonizers to browse in his shop, encountering items they wanted or needed on their own instead of finding them in a list in the public prints. That experience included customer service as well as the “Hard-Ware and ENGLISH GOODS” offered for sale. Deblois seemed to understand that cultivating relationships with “his Customers and others” who had not yet visited his shop would likely yield subsequent sales over time. Accordingly, he emphasized more than moving merchandise in his advertisement.