What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“He has of late stamped his name on his brushes.”
John Hanna made and sold all sorts of brushes “At the corner of Chestnut and Second-streets” in Philadelphia in the late 1760s. He produced brushes intended for every sort of purpose, from “sweeping, scrubbing, hearth and white-wash brushes” to “weavers, tanners, hatters, painters and furniture brushes of all kinds.” In his advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette he emphasized price and, especially, customer satisfaction. In making an appeal to price, the brushmaker proclaimed that he “sells by wholesale or retail, as low, if not lower, than any in this city.”
He expended much more effort on convincing potential customers that they would be satisfied if they purchased their brushes from him. He began with standardized language about quality, noting that he made brushes “in the neatest and best manner.” Hanna then backed up this pronouncement by offering a return policy should any of his brushes not meet the expectations of his customers. To that end, he asserted “that if the bristles come out in any reasonable time, with fair usage, he will give new ones for nothing.” This guarantee depended in part on the honesty of customers, but it did offer some sort of recourse should any of Hanna’s brushes fall short of the quality he promised.
The return policy likely extended to consumers who obtained Hanna’s brushes from other retailers. In a nota bene he explained that he “has of late stamped his name on his brushes, so that if they should fail, people may know where to bring them to be exchanged.” This removed retailers from having to address potential complaints about customer satisfaction. Instead, they could point out Hanna’s name on the brushes at the time of sale and instruct their own customers to contact the manufacturer directly with any concerns, anticipating a policy widely adopted in the twenty-first century.
Like many other artisans and shopkeepers, Hanna pledged that “Those who are pleased to favour him with their custom, may depend on being supplied to their satisfaction.” He enhanced his advertisement, however, with a mechanism for following through on those assurances. Stamping his name on his brushes not only branded them to encourage additional sales; it also marked them as eligible for the return policy he devised to cultivate customer satisfaction.