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Collecting Psychological Trading Stamps
Collecting Psychological Trading Stamps

When I was a kid many stores handed out S&H Green Stamps to customers. There were no credit card rewards points in those days. When you got home you put your stamps in your S&H book and when it was filled you could cash it in for a prize, like a toaster or a beach chair. You can’t get those green stamps anymore but people are still collecting stamps and storing them for later redemption. People who feel NOT OK in their sales career will likely spend time collecting psychological stamps – a counterproductive habit that can easily torpedo one’s sales efforts.


Early in life people learn that expressing their true OK and NOT OK feelings can cause trouble, so they learn to hide those feelings and play it safe. One strategy people use is collecting psychological trading stamps. When something negative happens to a stamp collector, rather than appropriately expressing his emotions he will suppress and store the negative feelings, like stamps, for later redemption. This is known as cashing in a book and can take the form of some type of psychological reward like an emotional outburst or getting drunk. In many cases the event that appears to trigger the outburst is not in proportion to the outburst; it just happened to be the final stamp, or unexpressed feeling, needed to fill the book. Since sales and business ownership can be psychological roller coasters, we need to be careful to own our feelings and not collect stamps.


Stamp Colors. Psychological stamps come in colors, in accordance with the feelings they represent:

  • Red Stamps – Anger
  • Purple Stamps – Hurt & Abuse
  • Yellow Stamps – Fear
  • Grey Stamps – Worry about the future
  • Blue Stamps – Depression
  • Brown Stamps - Guilt


People store and cash stamps in a variety of ways.

  • Some people examine their repressed feelings when they have idle time on their hands. This can be when selling becomes too hard.
  • Some people wait until they have enough stamps to justify one enormous outburst. A salesperson can be an easy target for a prospect who has a full book ready for cashing.
  • Other people enjoy boasting about the size of their collection of feelings.


Healthy adults refuse to collect or trade stamps. They own their feelings in the moment, discuss them appropriately, and then move on. The energy they save by not storing feelings can be used to promote productive interactions with others, including prospects, salespeople, managers, and subordinates.


Identify your stamp collections by recognizing the negative feelings that you get from sales at inappropriate times. For example, you spent a whole afternoon making cold calls and got nowhere. Your frustration is building. Now your manager calls you and starts bugging you about setting more appointments. This would be the most likely time to cash in a book of anger stamps: I’m sick and tired of making call after call; and now you’re unhappy with me.  If this is what it takes to succeed here, I QUIT! Or perhaps, worry stamps: I’m a failure at this, if I don’t make a sale soon I won’t be able pay my rent.  Instead, try this discussion: I don’t seem to be getting anywhere with these calls. I’m feeling NOT OK right now. My frustration is perhaps coming through the phone. Maybe I should resume this in the morning. Would you be willing to listen to my calls then and offer some tips on what I need to change?


Our ultimate goal should be to eliminate all stamp collecting from our relationships. Leave stamp collecting to the philatelists. Or try collecting Gold (good feeling) stamps by performing your roles successfully. These stamps can be cashed in for a real reward like a treat after making a sale.


If you truly feel OK about yourself as well as about other people, you won’t have a need to collect any stamps. Gaining greater self-awareness and dealing with your feelings in an appropriate manner will help you become more aware of the games you are playing as well as the payoffs you are looking for. You can also begin to recognize the games others try to play at your expense, and refuse to play.


S&H Green Stamps was the original buyer rewards program. If you saved enough stamps and filled enough books, you could cash them in for a treat. That was a healthy program. May all your stamp collections be similarly green and healthy!



Copyright Sandler Training 2013.


Brad McDonald is the owner of Sandler Training Hampton Roads. He can be reached at or 757-227-9996.


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