Quick, pick one: a 33% discount or 33% more for free …

According to a study at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, report in The Economist

When offered two deals on loose coffee beans: 33% extra free or 33% off the price, most shoppers considered them equivalent though he discount is by far the better proposition … it would take a 50% increase in quantity to be equivalent.

More generally, the researchers found, that shoppers prefer getting something extra for free to getting something cheaper.

For example, the researchers sold 73% more hand lotion when it was offered in a bonus pack than when it carried an equivalent discount (even after all other effects, such as a desire to stockpile, were controlled for).

The main reason is  “consumer innumeracy” … e.g. people can’t do fractions or simple math in their head.

* * * * *
How can retailers compensate for (or exploit) consumers’ math blind spots?

One way is to befuddle them with double discounting.

People are more likely to think that a product that has been reduced by 20%, and then by an additional 25%, is a better deal than one which has been subject to an equivalent, one-off, 40% reduction.

Similarly, when evaluating a car’s fuel efficiency, consumers understand the number of extra miles per gallon it gets, more so than the equivalent percentage fall in fuel consumption.

We’re not talking calculus, we’re talking fractions … ouch.

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3 Responses to “Quick, pick one: a 33% discount or 33% more for free …”

  1. You probably paid too much … especially if you’re bad at math. « The Homa Files Says:

    […] couple of weeks ago we reported a study that consumers almost invariably pick 33% more stuff than a 33% price […]

  2. Gotcha: You probably paid too much … especially if you’re bad at math. « The Homa Files Says:

    […] ago, we reported a study that consumers almost invariably pick 33% more stuff than a 33% price […]

  3. Gotcha: You probably paid too much … especially if you’re bad at math. | The Homa Files Says:

    […] ago, we reported a study that consumers almost invariably pick 33% more stuff than a 33% price […]

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