OCT 1 — Last weekend, my wife and I stopped by the market for some groceries.
“Five eggs, please.”
“Take six lah, RM2.”
“No, just five, thank you,” replied my wife.
As we walked away after making our purchase, I asked my wife how much the eggs cost. Her answer? 30 sen each. And that left me amusedly curious as to why the lady, seemingly trying to cajole us into buying more for a small discount, was actually charging us a little extra if we bought six eggs instead of five; was it calculated or simply a mathematical blunder?
Maybe she did miscalculate. Maybe she meant to say seven for RM2.00. But if she meant to say six for RM2, that leaves us with the question of why. Why would she presume that we would not be able to do such simple arithmetic?
Perhaps it isn’t so much mathematical prowess (or lack thereof) as playing on the common perception that many of us grew up with: buying in bulk is cheaper. By extension, a bigger packaging of the same product gives more value for your money.
And to some extent this perception is true. For example, at a hypermarket recently I noted that a 350ml bottle of a shampoo costs RM18.50 and its 700ml bottle costs RM35.90. So buying the bigger bottle saves RM1.10 in the long run since it’s something we’ll keep buying anyway. This holds true for most products sold in supermarkets, pharmacies and other places with nett prices.
But when it comes to products where bargaining is possible, buying more doesn’t always mean cheaper. Of course sometimes it does — for example, when buying a hijab priced at RM10 in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, we can get a second item for slightly less, maybe two hijabs for RM18 instead of RM20.
Yet these days we would more often hear something like one kuih for 40 sen and if we buy five, it’s RM2. Yes, 40 sen multiplied by five is indeed RM2, so why would sellers state the obvious? Most of the time, such follow-up statements after answers to price queries usually result in discounts or other benefits if we buy more, so in all honesty it amuses me to no end whenever I hear it without anything to entice the buyer.
Sometimes, buying more just means we pay correspondingly more.
I especially recall once when we were at the Kerinchi night market buying chicken wings: when asked the price, the seller said it was RM1.80 each and for five it was RM9. We stared blankly — was the additional statement meant to persuade us to buy five when we only wanted three? If yes, what’s the attraction in buying more than we needed apart from having the maths already done for us?
Alas, perhaps it would be overly cynical to say that some unscrupulous sellers are indeed trying to prey on knee-jerk reactions to these follow-up statements. Maybe some just want to entice people to pay in even numbers so there need not be any hassle with small change for both the seller and the buyer.
But regardless, it would be a good idea to double-check the seller’s maths next time you hear an “offer”.