My colleague recently shared with me a slightly disturbing story. She was grocery shopping with her 15-year-old son. The boy took the cart up and down each aisle, and when the sign said "10 for $10," he automatically put ten of the item in the cart.
She finally noticed what he was doing. "Honey, you don't have to buy all ten." "Yes I do, Mom. It says ten for ten." "No you don't, you can buy as few as you want and still get the deal."
At the checkout, they confirmed that Mom was right. But is this always the case? A quick call to my local Jewel confirmed that indeed, a "ten for ten" can also be nine for nine or three for three. It just means the items are a dollar each.
My friend's son was confused. On the drive home, he asked his mom, "Why don't they just say 'A dollar each'?" She told him, "Because then you might only buy one or two. They want you to buy all ten." And then he said, "I see. So they are training us to buy more than we need."
Wise words, young shopper. I wonder how many people this fools. Did you know that "five for $8.00" means that the items are really just $1.60 each? Would you have bought all five? I always buy two orange juices when the deal is 2 for $5. I don't really need two cartons of OJ, but somehow the lure of a deal, a special promotion, is too good to pass up. I'm too impatient to do the math in my head, and sometimes I see a twofer and just assume it's cheaper. That can't be smart.
Pricing is a fascinating science. Why do you think everything is $19.99 instead of $20.00? Because $19 is still in the teens, it feels like a lot less than $20. Um, it's a penny less. But that "price point" theory prevails in almost every type of retailer there is.
What's most fascinating to me is how easily manipulated we are. How many times we are seduced by the "buy one, get the second one half off" deal. That second one is still costing you money! You are not literally saving any money - more is leaving your wallet! And rationally, you know this. But shopping is never fully rational, whether we admit it or not. In a desire to break the monotony of picking up milk and bread, we get excited by a deal. We feel we are "beating the system" when we discover ten for $10. We get emotional, and we grab ten items. Then we rationalize it later by masking our extra purchases with the word "savings."
And stores are definitely complicit in this process. By simply omitting information, such as "You do not have to buy ten of this item to receive the discount," they are tricking at least some people. They aren't conveying lies, and no one would win a court case against them, but they are only selling half the story.
You can't blame a store for trying to sell more product. It's their raison d'etre. But sometimes you have to keep that in mind when shopping. You may like the store, and want to support them, but buying more than you need usually means a waste of money, product, or both.
My colleague's son is still young - plenty of time to un-learn these strange habits that retailers have trained us all to have. But unless stores start owning up to their items' true prices, and practicing a little more honesty, he too will grow up having to watch out for ten for ten.