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(The Atlantic)   Eleven ways bad math skills are hurting consumers   (theatlantic.com) divider line 125
    More: PSA, Williams-Sonoma, Megan McArdle, cup of coffee, maths, Dan Ariely  
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7028 clicks; posted to Business » on 07 Jul 2012 at 4:31 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-07 07:53:14 PM

Flint Ironstag: The thing TFA didn't mention, similar to your comment, was a handwritten sale sign is far more "genuine" than a official printed sale sign. Customers assume the hand written one is genuine because a manager has actually changed the price from the "official" price while a head office printed sale sign is less of a deal.


Whole Foods Market has this down to an art. Head office sends out printed sale signs designed to look like hand written chalk, precisely to create the false impression that it's "genuine".

In fact, that entire store is a carefully crafted Disneyfied fiction designed to tell a story about shopping at a European outdoor market: the rustic touches, the ice tubs, the fruit in fake crates as if some earthy, tanned farmer just this minute unloaded it from his battered old truck... The whole experience is designed to fake authenticity.
 
2012-07-07 07:54:28 PM

czetie: Balchinian: The societal value we place on laziness is in many ways greater than that which we place on intelligence.

Probably true. Going beyond this article, I've noticed that the easier it gets to verify something online -- whether it's a ridiculous claim quickly debunked at Snopes or a questionable fact easily verified at Wikipedia -- the less likely most people are to do so. We have the most amazing information tool ever created literally at our fingertips, but for most people anything more than clicking the "Share" button is too much effort.

OK, so much for my efforts to maintain a positive attitude toward mankind. Now I thoroughly depressed myself. Unhealthy amounts of alcohol beckon.


To this day I know about 4 or 5 people who continue to pass along those fake emails about, well you know the ones, and every time I reply back with the snopes article debunking them. They simply refuse to look these things up for themselves beforehand.

One of them even got onto me about how I was always trying to prove him wrong. He thought that even if the email forward was false, that many times it was still good information to pass along, as he put it, "it doesn't hurt anyone to forward them on."

Some people just don't get it.
 
2012-07-07 08:28:09 PM

ReapTheChaos: buzzcut73: ReapTheChaos: OneCrazyIvan: Galileo's Daughter: Payday loan stores should all be shut down. Seriously, it'd probably be easier and cheaper doing business with the Mafia.

I disagree. Payday loans and advances are better for people who cannot deal with credit or checks and should stick to cash.

Have you seen bank overdraft fees? You write a $30 check and get hit with a $35 overdraft fee. That's ridiculous. If you are racking up $300 in bank fees a month, perhaps it's time to shut down the account and stick to payday loans.

Can you even bounce a check anymore? most places scan them right at the register these days, like a debit card, kinda hard to write a bad one anymore.

Most of those systems are checking if you're in the database of bad check writers, not whether there is money in the account to cover it, at least as far as I understand. Even so, I'd be suspicious of anybody under 65 writing a check, I'd just assume it was probably bad.

Have you written a check in the last few years? Its processed instantly like a debit card, most places will even hand the check back to you after they scan it because as far as they're concerned their done with it. There might be some local mom and pop type stores who still deposit checks the old fashioned way, but any newer/more modern place does it automatically.


I know they scan them and convert them to an ACH debit, but does it clear right away, or does it wait to post until the end of the day? I really have no idea, because as you'd suspected, I haven't written a check to a merchant in years. Daycare, and until very recently, rent. Storage is a check too, but that's one of those auto-pay checks the bank mails to a merchant that isn't in the ACH system.
 
2012-07-07 09:47:23 PM

cirby: (10) We're obsessed with the number 9. Up to 65 percent of all retail prices end in the number 9.

Habit, mostly. The original intent was forcing a "this is cheap" idea on consumers, but most consumers now expect the "9" at the end of a price.

I read something a while back (can't find it right now) that suggested that people trigger on other numbers now - an ending "5" or an extra penny. Instead of $3.99 being the "cheap price," people see things like $3.95 or $4.01 as "oh, they discounted that sucker as much as possible."

There's also the single-digit price plan. Instead of listing "$3.99" above an item, stores just put "$4" on the sign. It's two digits cheaper! Oddly enough, I see this in both high and and low end restaurants.


I have often thought about if I were to open a restaurant, I would price things so that when the total came due with tax, the amount would be a whole dollar amount.

example: a state with 6% sales tax. Medium pizza with two toppings, $7.55. Total comes to $8. I wonder if such a pricing scheme would work or even save money in having CSR people and delivery drivers not having to worry about change.
 
2012-07-07 09:59:28 PM
I used to work for a retailer who used the price to denote the commission paid to the sales staff. Anything ending in 99 was 1/4 %, 98 was 1/2%, 97 was 1% and so on. Customers rarely noticed or asked the reason.

/I loved selling things for 999.92....
//91 strangely meant no commission.
 
2012-07-07 10:10:30 PM

czetie: Whole Foods Market has this down to an art. Head office sends out printed sale signs designed to look like hand written chalk, precisely to create the false impression that it's "genuine".


The thing I don't get about America is the pathological dishonesty in marketing. I get wanting to keep costs low. I get wanting to hide those cut corners. But for the amount of labor required to grow monocropped groceries from Mexico, spray them with chemicals, truck them across the country, unpack them, throw away anything that doesn't look consistent and re-arrange them on-site for a "genuine" look. . . you could probably buy local and offer better quality for the same price and it'd look exactly the same. No "art" needed; the damn crops would arrive fresh in those same damned crates. I know the owner of Whole Foods is a liberal-hating nutbag but he's not saving money because the presentation is a domestic (read: expensive), labor-intensive process. . . it's almost like they're trying harder just for the smug satisfaction of deceiving customers.

I have been around managers and marketers enough to know that many have some creepy, psychopathic disdain for their own customers. They think customers should be ripped off out of principle. An MBA is almost a badge saying, "I am a crazy who hates all life, is incapable of trust and will bankrupt myself to avoid giving people a fair deal."
 
2012-07-07 10:11:01 PM

Chevello: wee: As an aside, and this might be middle age talking, putting on a pair of fresh cotton socks is farking magical, man...

I thought I was the only one who felt that way about socks. People look at me weird when it comes up.

As for the boots, NEVER cheap boots. Redwing used to be the shiznit until the last pair I bought.


socks are very important. when I find a brand/type of sock I like, I buy about 3-5 bags of them. I am also lazy and if I have a drawer full of 20 socks where they are all the same, I don't have to worry about matching them up when I do laundry. I just throw them all in the same drawer and I know when I go to get two of them in the dark, I will have a matching pair.

Someone else who is a big proponent of socks:

1.bp.blogspot.com
 
2012-07-07 10:36:49 PM

downstairs: Enormous-Schwanstucker: Absolutely, that's a big part of it which is why I learned very early on to buy based on the unit cost and think to myself; do I need that skid of potato chips or 55 gallon drum of Olive Oil? I have noticed a few stores refuse to give the unit cost so when my brain doesn't feel like doing the math I use the calculator on my phone for a proper basis. My dad swears by Costco but he entertains quite a bit. I cannot justify the cost of membership for the time I purchase that 200 count pack of TP :)

Isn't that illegal? Maybe its a state by state thing. I believe in Illinois you have to give a unit cost. I worked in a grocery store in IL for 6 years and that was what I was told (and, of course, our tags always did.)



I've noticed sometimes stores would change units of measurement on the unit cost for the same product when it is available in different sizes. I've seen Kroger use Units as the unit of measurement on labels and have even seen them use a measurement that was equal to two of the product it is for.
 
2012-07-07 10:36:56 PM

Hyjamon: I just throw them all in the same drawer and I know when I go to get two of them in the dark, I will have a matching pair.


I know what you mean. Sometimes I turn out the lights and put my socks in the dark for no reason other than the sheer pleasure of knowing they will match.
 
2012-07-07 11:28:25 PM

downstairs: Enormous-Schwanstucker: Absolutely, that's a big part of it which is why I learned very early on to buy based on the unit cost and think to myself; do I need that skid of potato chips or 55 gallon drum of Olive Oil? I have noticed a few stores refuse to give the unit cost so when my brain doesn't feel like doing the math I use the calculator on my phone for a proper basis. My dad swears by Costco but he entertains quite a bit. I cannot justify the cost of membership for the time I purchase that 200 count pack of TP :)

Isn't that illegal? Maybe its a state by state thing. I believe in Illinois you have to give a unit cost. I worked in a grocery store in IL for 6 years and that was what I was told (and, of course, our tags always did.)


Good Q. I know the Target's in the Northern Va does not have unit cost listed on the price tags. I'll look for it.
 
2012-07-07 11:33:46 PM

czetie: Flint Ironstag: The thing TFA didn't mention, similar to your comment, was a handwritten sale sign is far more "genuine" than a official printed sale sign. Customers assume the hand written one is genuine because a manager has actually changed the price from the "official" price while a head office printed sale sign is less of a deal.

Whole Foods Market has this down to an art. Head office sends out printed sale signs designed to look like hand written chalk, precisely to create the false impression that it's "genuine".

In fact, that entire store is a carefully crafted Disneyfied fiction designed to tell a story about shopping at a European outdoor market: the rustic touches, the ice tubs, the fruit in fake crates as if some earthy, tanned farmer just this minute unloaded it from his battered old truck... The whole experience is designed to fake authenticity.


Having been in the business for much longer than I'd like to admit, I can safely say that sometimes the crates are real (it can depend on the product). Often times, the stores will get a hold of some crates that food actually comes in, and then re-use them as props. The signs are actually done in store for the most part. Every store has at least one sign artist. This is true for Wegmans as well. Probably for Trader Joe's and Fresh Market too.

/the secret to the high-end grocers is to stick to the staple items as much as possible. Prepared foods are where they generally hit you hardest. This is especially true with Wegmans, but you can even find good prices on some things at Whole Foods Market.
 
2012-07-07 11:36:34 PM

Flint Ironstag:

My local supermarket ASDA (the UK arm of Wal Mart) has the price per 100g or 100ml for everything printed on the price ticket. So you can look at all the different packet sizes and work out which is the best deal.

Of course they sometimes do a "2 for £4" type deal which then works out a different price.


Right, our WM's here all have the unit cost tags and I have also noticed the 'bargains' aren't always bargains if you factor the cost per unit. Of course they count on you not noticing that.

I'm too tired to do a search for whether Virginia requires unit pricing on the tags but I guess it's not a requirement. I'll check in the AM to satisfy my curiosity.
 
2012-07-08 03:21:01 AM

buzzcut73: ReapTheChaos: buzzcut73: ReapTheChaos: OneCrazyIvan: Galileo's Daughter: Payday loan stores should all be shut down. Seriously, it'd probably be easier and cheaper doing business with the Mafia.

I disagree. Payday loans and advances are better for people who cannot deal with credit or checks and should stick to cash.

Have you seen bank overdraft fees? You write a $30 check and get hit with a $35 overdraft fee. That's ridiculous. If you are racking up $300 in bank fees a month, perhaps it's time to shut down the account and stick to payday loans.

Can you even bounce a check anymore? most places scan them right at the register these days, like a debit card, kinda hard to write a bad one anymore.

Most of those systems are checking if you're in the database of bad check writers, not whether there is money in the account to cover it, at least as far as I understand. Even so, I'd be suspicious of anybody under 65 writing a check, I'd just assume it was probably bad.

Have you written a check in the last few years? Its processed instantly like a debit card, most places will even hand the check back to you after they scan it because as far as they're concerned their done with it. There might be some local mom and pop type stores who still deposit checks the old fashioned way, but any newer/more modern place does it automatically.

I know they scan them and convert them to an ACH debit, but does it clear right away, or does it wait to post until the end of the day? I really have no idea, because as you'd suspected, I haven't written a check to a merchant in years. Daycare, and until very recently, rent. Storage is a check too, but that's one of those auto-pay checks the bank mails to a merchant that isn't in the ACH system.


I don't write many checks either, usually just my house pmt. But I know the last time I wrote a check at walmart, when I checked online later it was listed as a pending debit. It subtracts it from your balance, or pending balance I should say (at least at my bank) but it shows up as a pending debit and gets cleared around midnight. It works that way with my Visa debit card as well.
 
2012-07-08 04:28:19 AM
Hyjamon
I have often thought about if I were to open a restaurant, I would price things so that when the total came due with tax, the amount would be a whole dollar amount.

example: a state with 6% sales tax. Medium pizza with two toppings, $7.55. Total comes to $8. I wonder if such a pricing scheme would work or even save money in having CSR people and delivery drivers not having to worry about change.


I recall hearing somewhere that the reason things don't come to nice round numbers is to make sure the cash registers actually have to be opened to make change, otherwise it's tempting for the register drone to simply pocket the cash.

Dunno how true that is.
 
2012-07-08 04:31:45 AM

adenosine: FTFA: If you're buying a $400 item, for the overwhelming number of consumers that level of spending is not a risk you need to insure under any circumstances.

Tell that to all the people who buy $400 smartphones for next to nothing because of the subsidy and then act surprised when you tell them the replacement costs after they drop them and crack the screen. Add to that the idiots who do pay for insurance then never file a claim because of the deductible; it makes me want there to be a law banning phone subsidies so people know the actual cost of their equipment.


This. I got the warranty on my smartphone because it would be almost $600 out of pocket or using some crap phone for a while. I plan on dropping it shortly after my first year of the contract because if something happens to it then I can pay the penalty and renew the contract for less than the warranty payments.
 
2012-07-08 04:45:21 AM

DanInKansas: I fix appliances for a living. Take it from someone who does this for a living: If you buy a $1,200 dishwasher or a $2,000 refrigerator, get the extended warranty.

Seriously. I know all the "experts" who don't actually have to get on people's floors for a living think these are rip-offs, but your chance of needing one of these is fairly high. I work on 40 appliances a week and 32 to 36 of these will be warranty jobs. The chances of a dishwasher or refrigerator or frontload washer coughing up a hairball are fairly large and they are not cheap to fix.

And every now and then you get a true turd. There are units I know on a first name basis because I see them every six months.

TL;DR: Get the frickin' warranty on the expensive stuff.


On durable goods I used to never get the warranty but sadly the build quality has dropped to the point where getting the warranty is cheap insurance. Except Zojirushi and to a lesser extent Panasonic, their shait lasts forEVER. I just wish they made a larger variety of appliances.

/Don't buy DeLonghi
 
2012-07-08 04:47:54 AM

beango12: In college I once got a mailer from the local pizza place - and I really wish I would have saved it - that advertised a medium one topping pizza for $9.99, then right next it to a medium one topping pizza and FREE BREADSTICKS for $10.99. Oh those restaurants and their tricky maths.


I once stopped at a road side stand to buy some fresh corn. They had bags of 7 ears for $5. I told the lady I didn't need 7 ears and could I just buy 4. So she puts 4 ears in a bag and charges me $2.
 
2012-07-08 10:48:47 AM

downstairs: illegal


yeh, I thought it was illegal too

it's sad that 50% or more of society is so stupid to need them... and still probably don't even use them.
 
2012-07-08 11:17:11 AM

dragonchild: czetie: Whole Foods Market has this down to an art. Head office sends out printed sale signs designed to look like hand written chalk, precisely to create the false impression that it's "genuine".

The thing I don't get about America is the pathological dishonesty in marketing. I get wanting to keep costs low. I get wanting to hide those cut corners. But for the amount of labor required to grow monocropped groceries from Mexico, spray them with chemicals, truck them across the country, unpack them, throw away anything that doesn't look consistent and re-arrange them on-site for a "genuine" look. . . you could probably buy local and offer better quality for the same price and it'd look exactly the same. No "art" needed; the damn crops would arrive fresh in those same damned crates. I know the owner of Whole Foods is a liberal-hating nutbag but he's not saving money because the presentation is a domestic (read: expensive), labor-intensive process. . . it's almost like they're trying harder just for the smug satisfaction of deceiving customers.

I have been around managers and marketers enough to know that many have some creepy, psychopathic disdain for their own customers. They think customers should be ripped off out of principle. An MBA is almost a badge saying, "I am a crazy who hates all life, is incapable of trust and will bankrupt myself to avoid giving people a fair deal."



American business operates from one credo.

"It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money" - W.C. Fields
 
2012-07-08 11:42:10 AM
Asda price ticket.
img542.imageshack.us

Note the "32.7p per 100g" bit. That's how to compare different pack sizes at different prices.

Note also that this item costs 49p but is on offer at "2 for £1", bit of a cock up there. I've seen this a few times but never actually rung anything through the till and seen if it actually does charge the extra price.
 
2012-07-08 11:57:32 AM

Aar1012: Couldn't you keep it out of their reach, teach them to not touch it, bout a removable screen protector?


You mean, be a parent??? Never!!!
 
2012-07-08 01:20:58 PM

Enormous-Schwanstucker: When I troll the Mac and Cheese lane at the grocery store (daughter loves her M&C) they had a 12 ounce box for, say $2.10. They also had the "family" size 24 ounce box for $4.25. Say what? The family size boxes were selling out yet the regular size boxes were not.

A box exactly double the size is more than double the price and people don't know enough to do basic math so the stores count on this.

Phineas and Ferb Mac and Cheese FTW.

We're doomed...


I've seen more obvious than that. One (some random exotic fruit) for $1.99, or two for $4. It wasn't just on the tag below the product on the shelf; it was posted in big signage right above for all to see.
 
2012-07-08 02:23:20 PM

Bondith: Hyjamon
I have often thought about if I were to open a restaurant, I would price things so that when the total came due with tax, the amount would be a whole dollar amount.

example: a state with 6% sales tax. Medium pizza with two toppings, $7.55. Total comes to $8. I wonder if such a pricing scheme would work or even save money in having CSR people and delivery drivers not having to worry about change.

I recall hearing somewhere that the reason things don't come to nice round numbers is to make sure the cash registers actually have to be opened to make change, otherwise it's tempting for the register drone to simply pocket the cash.

Dunno how true that is.


That has to be a myth. Once sales tax is figured, its *very* rare for someone's final total to have .00 after the decimal.
 
2012-07-08 04:58:44 PM
downstairs
Bondith: Hyjamon
I have often thought about if I were to open a restaurant, I would price things so that when the total came due with tax, the amount would be a whole dollar amount.

example: a state with 6% sales tax. Medium pizza with two toppings, $7.55. Total comes to $8. I wonder if such a pricing scheme would work or even save money in having CSR people and delivery drivers not having to worry about change.

I recall hearing somewhere that the reason things don't come to nice round numbers is to make sure the cash registers actually have to be opened to make change, otherwise it's tempting for the register drone to simply pocket the cash.

Dunno how true that is.

That has to be a myth. Once sales tax is figured, its *very* rare for someone's final total to have .00 after the decimal.


Now that I think about it, I think my original source for that was Dad speculating about it. However, the point I was responding to was "why don't retailers masage the pre-tax price so that the final price comes out to a nice round number?". My response to that was, I admit, rather suspect (especially since the cash register opens automatically no matter what). Other explanations could be the psychological reasons mentioned in TFA, that much math on that many products is annoying, or possibly even because the register jockeys enjoy handling piles of coinage with every transaction.
 
2012-07-08 06:08:21 PM

Bondith: downstairs
Bondith: Hyjamon
I have often thought about if I were to open a restaurant, I would price things so that when the total came due with tax, the amount would be a whole dollar amount.

example: a state with 6% sales tax. Medium pizza with two toppings, $7.55. Total comes to $8. I wonder if such a pricing scheme would work or even save money in having CSR people and delivery drivers not having to worry about change.

I recall hearing somewhere that the reason things don't come to nice round numbers is to make sure the cash registers actually have to be opened to make change, otherwise it's tempting for the register drone to simply pocket the cash.

Dunno how true that is.

That has to be a myth. Once sales tax is figured, its *very* rare for someone's final total to have .00 after the decimal.

Now that I think about it, I think my original source for that was Dad speculating about it. However, the point I was responding to was "why don't retailers masage the pre-tax price so that the final price comes out to a nice round number?". My response to that was, I admit, rather suspect (especially since the cash register opens automatically no matter what). Other explanations could be the psychological reasons mentioned in TFA, that much math on that many products is annoying, or possibly even because the register jockeys enjoy handling piles of coinage with every transaction.


That "myth" may have come from places like the UK where the ticket price includes tax and is what you pay. From my POV it is the US that has the weird system where they have a sticker price and then say "Yeah, that'll be another 6% on top"
 
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