Perils of Pressure in Door-to-Door Marketing:
Evidence from a Field Experiment in India

Methods for distributing products in the developing world rest on the notion that purchase stimulates usage through a sunk-cost effect. As such, entities devote substantial energy to pressuring individuals to purchase products door-to-door. This method is perilous if pressure screens in individuals who are willing to pay for a product they do not plan to use, only to alleviate pressure. We develop a methodology to ease the pressure in the sales environment and test this in the context of chlorine tablets for water purification via a field experiment in Hyderabad, India. We find that increased pressure screens in individuals who purchase but do not use the product, and that this can be mitigated by offering a “trivial good” alongside the main product to ease the pressure in the sales environment. We conclude that the presence of this trivial good can be used in many settings to improve the welfare efficiency of door-to-door marketing in developing countries.

Anita Mukherjee joined the Risk and Insurance Department at the Wisconsin School of Business after completing her Ph.D. in Applied Economics at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include public finance, insurance, and economic development. Much of Anita’s work is based in India and she has completed fieldwork for randomized controlled trials on rainfall indexed insurance in Gujarat and on micropensions in Uttar Pradesh.