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There were never any "good old days" — they are today, they are tomorrow
not so illogical after all 
12th-Sep-2008 01:23 pm
I stopped by Walgreens on the way home the other day to pick up some new mascara. There was a buy-one-get-one-for-half-off sale on the brand I was getting — spiff!

Only they only have one tube of the right shade of the mascara I use — foo!

So I left without buying any.

On the way home, I started thinking about how this is an example of the kind of irrationality that makes economists crazy. Compare the situations:

Situation A: The store is not having a sale. I walk in, give them $7.99, and walk out with a new tube of mascara.

Situation B: The store is having a buy-one-get-one-for-half-off sale, but only has one tube of the mascara I want. I walk in, give them $7.99, and walk out with a new tube of mascara.

Those are functionally the same situation, right? I give them $7.99 and get one tube of mascara. But knowing that there could be a Situation C (the store is having a sale; I give them $11.99 and walk out with two new tubes of mascara) made me cranky.

Yesterday I went to RiteAid. They were having a buy-one-get-one-free sale on my brand. Result, Situation D: I walk in, give them $7.99, and walk out with two new tubes of mascara.

Hah. The ghosts of my Yankee forebears are giving each other high fives in the background. Or they would be, if Yankee Puritan sorts did that kind of thing.
12th-Sep-2008 08:58 pm (UTC)

I always laugh when I go to Safeway and buy things that are on sale and the cashier says, "You saved $11.33." I always respond (though usually only in my head), "No, I didn't, because the price I paid was the price I was willing to pay. Had these items been any more, I would not have purchased them."

My grandmother used to come home with a new dress and brag, "I saved 50%." My grandfather would reply, "If you hadn't bought it, you'd have saved 100%." Twenty-one years after my grandfather's death, I still smile every time I think about this.

I get very annoyed at how the price advertised is rarely the price you pay. At best, you have to add state and county sales tax. At worst, you have to add things like "concession recovery fee" (because it's expensive for a car rental company to rent a desk at the airport). That's one thing I enjoyed about Europe: Prices were outrageous, but the price on the tag was the price you paid. The only exceptions: city tax on hotel rooms in Amsterdam and Eindhoven, a fairly trivial sum (under €4/night), and various bullshit fees on the Hertz rental car pretty much like you would expect in the US (vehicle license fee, concession recovery fee, some weird fee that you can only understand if you read Dutch, and maybe not even then, etc.). In the case of Hertz, these ran to fully 50% of the quoted per-day price. Someone should investigate the car rental industry.

If I ran the universe, the price of everything would be clearly marked, and that would be, to the penny, the amount of money you would have to lay down on the counter in order to walk out with the merchandise and not have the merchant call the cops.

12th-Sep-2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
If I were Dictator of the Universe, I think "no added surcharges" might be one of the rules I impose. It's ridiculous to pay a "fuel surcharge" on top of FedEx's usual rates. If your usual rates aren't enough to cover the costs of doing business, raise your rates!

It would also be nice if we paid waiters a living wage so the whole tipping thing were unnecessary, and the menu price would thus actually reflect the price one is going to pay.

12th-Sep-2008 09:42 pm (UTC)

I agree wholeheartedly. Since when did I become the waitperson's parent or employer? The problem is that changing the system is like the UK switching from left-hand to right-hand driving. Both ways work (more or less), but changing from one to the other would create widespread chaos. Restaurants that raised their prices 15-20%, paid servers a wage that reflected that increase, and promoted a strict "no tipping" policy would fail because people would see the higher prices and not eat there. If people stopped tipping in general, restaurant staff would starve.

The only answer for the numerate is to mentally add 25-30% (for tax and tip) to menu prices before making the decision about where to eat and what to order. It's very unsatisfying because it's so economically irrational. The idea of voluntarily paying more than the agreed-upon amount grates me, not because of the extra expense, but because it doesn't make any sense. Of course, it's become so culturally ingrained that it's not really optional in the pure sense of the word...

Edited at 2008-09-12 09:44 pm (UTC)

12th-Sep-2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
Vote merle_ in 2008! No surcharges, no hidden fees.

I'm annoyed working in SF with the merchants pulling an "oh, let's pass the 4% health insurance tax onto the backs of consumers" and only noting it in really fine print. Several times I've estimated exact change only to find the total quite different.

Sometimes -- sometimes -- if a store is have a buy one get one free sale you can talk them into selling you just one at half price. It works that way at many grocery stores, at least.
12th-Sep-2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Sweet! Your crankiness worked for you.
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