Everyone loves a deal. Just showing a sign with “50% off!” can get shoppers racing to the store to rack up credit card points. But is that perceived ‘deal’ really a deal? Or is it a ploy? And, do shoppers always make the right choices when comparing pricing options? Oftentimes, shoppers do not make the lowest-cost choice, but instead fall prey to their own mathematical errors.
Answer this: Which is a better deal for a $6, 6-ounce product:
- Option (a): 33% off the regular price, or
- Option (b) 33% more product for the regular price?
At a quick glance, it appears the two deals are equivalent. But are they? No.
- Option (a) $6 – 33% discount ($1.98) = $4.02, divided by 6 ounces = $0.67/ounce.
- Option (b) 6 ounces plus 33% more volume (1.98 ounce) = 7.98 ounces, divided by $6 = $1.33/ounce.
In order for the two options to be truly equivalent, the price discount of 33% must be countered by a quantity increase of 50%.
This is a common scene for product discounts in stores. Generally, consumers prefer product bonuses instead of price discounts, even though these do not offer the same benefit.
Go ahead and try to make these calculations in your head! Then, carefully examine the promotions offered by retailers before making your final decision.
Which promotion would you use?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- This activity is a good time to set students loose in stores on a field trip.
- Divide students into teams. Have each team walk through a local store to determine how prices are advertised and shown in stores. They can compare the shelf price with prices found in sales flyers (usually at store entrances).
- As they wander the store, have students find examples of products that are offering a discount, or offering an extra portion in the package. (They can use smart phones to take photos of the examples.)
- What pricing strategies are being use?
- Do they always make the lower-cost choice?
- Debrief the exercise.
Source: McGinty, J. (3 August 2018). 50% off: Why that deal isn’t as good as you think. Wall Street Journal.