FREAK Shots: If They're Paying Me to Take Them …

Reader Erik Johnson sent us this photo of a rather unusual pricing scheme. “I only wanted one bag of chips,” Johnson wrote, “but if they’re paying me to take the second…”

Sure, it was probably a mistake. But if not, what does it say about the quality of the product?

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: Erik Johnson


I remember a comedian - can't remember who - doing a routine about the 64 oz thirst guzzler Coke at a quickie mart being only $0.29... when the 12 oz was $0.69.

This was years ago...

Richard, UK

This happens all the time. The other day I bought two bottles of Lynx shower gel for ?2 on offer, and it was originally marked at ?2.25 each.

I interpret it as a shameless marketting ploy where the real price of the good is ?1 and the only relevance of the supposed 'individual' price is to make you think you're 'making money' by buying another.


Might be expiring soon so they are trying to get rid of everything ASAP.

Fred Vincy

I've been wondering about Marco's pizza, which almost always has a "special" deal where the medium (or occasionally the large) pizza is cheaper than the small. They must have a reason, but I can't figure out what it is.


Maybe they just have excess inventory which is very close to its labeled expiry date and needs to be sold quickly.


This reminds me of a pet peeve at certain restaurants (the Applebee's next to the University of Minnesota is an example) where the "meal" prices total more than the components. At breakfast, you'd pay less for two eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast (all individually) than for the breakfast meal that is exactly those items. Perhaps it is an innumeracy tax.


Reminds me of an old joke:

"First prize is a week long vacation in North Dakota! Second prize is a two week long vacation in North Dakota!"

(To make it relevant around the world change North Dakota with some region that is not appealing for a vacation.)


@joe - there is a barbecue joint where I regularly get the 1/4 chicken and side salad. They always suggest, "Why not get the lunch chicken combo with a side?" Well, because that's thirty cents more.

The pizza thing above may just be marketing - like you're getting some deal.

As far as this particular entry, it is probably a mistake. Probably was supposed to be "$1 each if you buy 2"


Hey! I live in North Dakota!

This state is much better than most I have lived in.


At my old store, they sold a particular type of bread in single and double packages. The double was approx. 10 cent cheaper than the single during the whole three years I lived there. Always made me wonder...


I assume that the word "each" is either implicit or intended after the "2 for $1", which would make this perfectly sensible.

Mr. Shiny & New

I once saw 2L bottles of pop on sale at my grocery store for $0.75 each or 4/$0.25. Naturally I bought 4. My friend bought 1. I said "it's cheaper if you buy 4", he said "I only want one." I suggested he leave the other ones on the counter at the checkout but he didn't want to.

Peter Stinson

I'll take that two week vacation in North Dakota, please.

Yesterday, went to Walmart to buy a ball cap for my bald head. Found a cheap ball cap marked $7 (branded with the University of Kentucky logo)... at check out, it rang up for $1. I thought about going back and buying six more... ;-)


Yeah, in the discount store where I work p/t:

-you can buy a four-pack of Reese's cups for $1.35, or an eight-pack for $1.

-you can buy a 20oz bottle of pop (soda? cola?) for $1.25 ($1.33 after tax), or you can buy a 2-liter for anywhere from $0.85 to the same amount, depending on the brand and whether there's a sale going on.

People still frequently opt to pay more for less, and at least a few definitely do so on purpose. My guess is that either

1. They feel that having less to carry around and less packaging/extra product to throw away--or in the case of pop, a drink fresh out of the cooler--is a convenience they are willing to pay for;

2. They use it as a way of curbing their intake of unhealthy foods--a form of self-punishment, even; or

3. They perceive the more expensive item--even if it is the exact same product as the less expensive one--as being of better quality.


This makes me think of a related question I put to friends: at what point is the benefit of the deal outweighed by the negatives? Generally speaking, there are few or no benefits.

But what if a pizza place said $1 for 1 slice, or 1000 slices for $5. Clearly the latter is better, but if you had to somehow transport those 1000 slices out of the store, the deal is suddenly less appealing. What is the tipping point for this?


I'll buy more for less upon occasion. I'm a single guy; I usually am shopping only for myself. Why buy a larger quantity that will most likely go bad? I don't like to be wasteful (I realize that you could argue that I'm being wasteful of my money, but I'd rather be wasteful of that than of something non-renewable).

George Tenet Fangirl

You could always invite some friends over to share the excess. Or give it away to the homeless.

Perhaps this is really a tax on antisocial misers.


I could add a few more examples, but the interesting thing about this post is what it says about whoever wrote it. Do you seriously think this is unusual or likely to be a mistake?


It doesn't have to be a mistake. Playing off of customer's greed can work. If the customer thinks they are getting away with something they are not supposed to, they may likely buy an item they wouldn't normally want. I could also equate this to the person who displays a "free couch" on their front lawn. No one picks it up because they assume it's a crappy couch. But, if you change the sign to "$50 couch", it will likely be taken sometime during the night by someone thinking it has value.


meow. go erik johnson. meow.