The Tragedy of the “Unli”

How do businesses choose to make money these days? More than a few focus solely on attracting customers, the greater the number, the better. They gleefully drop their prices to unbelievably low levels or they retain their rates but add a whole bunch of new-looking extras. The most aggressive enterprises stretch to their farthest limit and beyond. They actually blast the lid and trumpet unlimited access to their product or service. It’s called the “Unli” deal.

Are There Takers to Limitless Deals?

One can supposedly get unlimited space from online domains, unlimited online gaming, international calls, SMS messages, park rides, karaoke turns, (oh no!) use of otherwise exclusive airport lounges, country club swimming pools, saunas, spas, and the extremely popular hotel open bar. The concept of limitless drinks has universal appeal, and that leads us to the other versions of the unlimited approach. Food and beverage sales may move fast when it is bottomless and you can eat all you can.



Do people buy into these unlimited deals? Businesses continue to use this marketing approach so apparently there are sufficient takers.

There seems to be a growing perception that unlimited, bottomless, and eat all you can is good.

Limits are Good for Business

Credentials on Psychology, Sociology, Marketing or a minor in Merchandising are not necessary for any observant adult, concerned parent, or informed consumer to understand the value of limits.

  • Limits add the perception of scarcity to a product. When a shop window attractively displays just a few pieces of a product – say watches or handbags – it gives an immediate impression of rarity. A shopper’s initial interest can transform to a sale due to the perceived risk of losing the merchandise to another buyer. This can apply to theater tickets, club memberships, or any product in limited supply.
  • Limits in market share strongly encourage businesses to put real value in their products and services and to employ effective (read meaningfully relevant) ways to reach customers. Shoppers who buy on the basis of conscious choice are willing to pay high for quality.
  • Limits in customer numbers allow a business to maintain quality standards and keep their customers satisfied.

Positive word of mouth from an existing customer is the one advertisement that almost always results in a sale.  It’s also free.



Going Without is Not the End of the World

Moving from the confines of commerce to life at large, it is grounding to realize that limits are vital for building character especially in children and the youth.   Adults too, are benefited by the understanding of less is more.

If we have access to everything we want in unlimited quantities, we are sadly robbed of that pivotal situation of “not having.”  The experience of lack pushes an individual to adjust, innovate, strive, and achieve.

Restrictions teach children about choice and consequence, about delayed gratification and going without.

  • Children who do not get many toys find ways to improvise. Their imagination is harnessed when they make their own toys with everyday stuff. They grow up curious and resourceful.
  • Children, whose parents cannot afford gadgets (or smartly don’t buy and limit gadgets,) occupy their time inventing games or rearranging toy shelves that are far from full. Having just a few toys means these are taken good care of. They grow up appreciative and respectful of property.
  • Children who do not always get to hang out with friends at the mall may learn a craft in art or a skill in writing. They will hopefully develop a lifelong love of reading. They grow up comfortable on their own and have healthy friendships but with no strong need to hang out all the time with peers.

Who Pushes the Buy Button?

Children look to adults for examples. Businesses look to consumers for cues. As adults, parents, and consumers, we have the power and the responsibility to exercise options and make informed decisions.  Remember;  advertisements and marketing deals, no matter how pervasive, are only suggestions. We decide; not the media, not our children’s friends, not our neighbors or colleagues.   We can choose a simpler life instead of allowing consumerism to run our world and ruin the environment.



The intent is not to slow down the wheels of commerce. On the contrary, we want businesses to come up with relevant products and services that truly improve people’s lives;  protect the environment and animals, and offer solutions to problems. Guess what? If businesses really put their minds to it, the possibilities may be close to Unli.

6 comments on “The Tragedy of the “Unli”

  1. Quality is often more important than quantity … The unli buffets are too tempting that you end up overeating and suffer consequences later 🙂 While malling can be a stress-buster, sometimes it’s also enjoyable just staying home – esp on a rainy day like today 🙂

    • Maybe a good business then would be related to meaningful city/town planning and zoning that allows many to have a sanctuary of a home, no matter how small, with little shops, restos, parks, museums nearby – like the old fashioned small town where everyone interacts, even in large cities – so, “de-cityfying” and re-introducing meaningful community life.

  2. I completely share the author´s viewpoint. It´s time to take a critical look at our own consumption patterns and identify the areas where we can cut back in a conscious effort to be more informed and responsible consumers. It won´t be easy as most of us like bargains but it´s a first step is getting our life back. It´s a sad reality of modern life that we spend so much time in shopping malls or at the computer browsing through online shops looking for good buys instead of investing more in our relationships, health and environment.

  3. It’s ironic that we all want to live simply but somehow we got so conditioned to the comforts of 21st century living that it’s really hard to let go of a lot of things. But I’m hopeful because I’m seeing signs that people are stopping a moment and are getting more and more attracted to simple living. Backyard organic farming seems to be a growing trend among families (even “pot” farming… no, it’s not “that” pot LOL). There is an inner discontent somehow, somewhere… I hope this is also true with these businesses 🙂

    • So true. I believe that as more people stop a moment as you put it, they will realize that living simply and being comfortable in the 21st century are not be mutually exclusive. When people meaningful ways to occupying their time – backyard organic farming, a hobby, a craft, reading, or volunteering – they will not feel the need to always go to the mall where they inevitably end up buying stuff.

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