The Paper Clip Experiment

The Paper Clip Experiment

The Paper Clip Experiment

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I have been conducting an experiment with called the Paper Clip Game. The rules are simple. You are given a paper clip and the object of the game is to trade up. I decided, since I have an online business, that I would play this game on Twitter in a series of polls.

I ran each poll for a period of 10 hours. The majority of the responses came within the period of 2pm-4pm and from 7pm-9pm.

Each Poll asked a basic question; If I give you an (Object) would you trade me for an (object)? If you wish to trade me nothing, let me know why.

I gave them three options and a chance to trade nothing. I then proceeded to periodically monitor the poll and the results were interesting.

The majority found it acceptable for a paper clip to be traded for a pencil. I was also offered a New Notepad, but I was determined to barter for a pen.  I asked a participant why she would not trade me for a pen.

She stated, “I would if it was a purple pen.” I assured her that it was not only a purple cased pen but also the pen produced purple ink.

Now, in actuality, I am speaking in hypothetical products that can be changed to meet the consumer’s desire.  Nevertheless, there is a lesson here. People want variety . . . for people themselves come in a variety. They want a product that can coexist in their life. That can fit their style, this woman’s style was purple.

I actually felt bad when she wanted the pen and I explained to her that this was just an experiment. I did find her an “All things Purple” website and they did, in fact, have a similar pen, but I digress.

I took my pen and once again went to the masses.  This was an even 25% across the whole board. I deduced that pens are a hot commodity among office supplies. I decided to take the stapler with the hopes of trading for a more highly valued item.


As you can see, the pencil sharpener was the winning item. I decided to take it and try and trade it for a few electronics.


The Majority voted to give me nothing.


I did manage to barter for the chair and was successful. However, this poll got me thinking that maybe my idea of value is different than my target audience. I decided that I would not only try and trade for a larger item but that I would ask each voter why they wouldn’t trade with me.

The collective response that I was given was:

A desk or table are considered necessities for work, a chair is not.

At this point, I believe I had come to a conclusion . . . but I wanted to test my theory with one last poll.

The poll proved my theory;

The Value of an Object in trade is determined by necessity.

This is not a new concept. In fact, it makes sense even on the consumer level. If you have limited funds, why would you buy an item that is not essential?

Let us look back at when I was trading the pen for a stapler. According to the poll, the value of a pen is high. Then why was I able to convince a costumer that stapler was an acceptable trade for a pen? The answer, I asked the consumer what they were looking for, and I met their interest. They wanted the purple pen. They knew that a stapler was valued lower, but they put emotional value into the object, therefore redeemed it an acceptable trade.

There are many ways we can put value into an object, but the best way to sell, or trade, is to inquire and listen to your target audience. They want to tell you what they need. The saying “The customer is always right” has some merit.  Work at this. Life doesn’t have to be hard.

Newton’s third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We can apply this to our life. If we put a lot of effort into our goals, then we will receive that effort back.
You have to still have faith because your return reaction might not always come from the thing you put your effort into. It can also come from other contributing factors, one might be your outlook on life. Other reactions can come from someone who witnesses your effort.

Keep trying and if you Fail, Start again.


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