I received e-mail today from supermarket Giant Eagle advertising current specials. Among the specials were 4 cartons of a dozen eggs for $5, 2 packages of bacon for $6, and a free package of English muffins when one is purchased at the usual price. It is also common these days to see ads for 10 of whatever for $10. Happily, though not invariably, one need not purchase all the items advertised to get the sale price. How often, after all, does one need 4 dozen eggs? Presumably the marketers think that people believe that 4 for $5 seems cheaper than $1.25 each. Probably, some people, uncertain of whether the price applies to a single unit and not wanting to be embarrassed at checkout, will actually buy 4 cartons of eggs, even if so many eggs aren’t immediately needed.
The buy-one-get-one-free English muffins is probably a good deal. All too often, however, one sees buy-one-get-one-half-off offers. The inattentive shopper sees such an offer and thinks 50% off. Of course, the actual discount is 25%, which is only half as impressive.
I find all this complex pricing very irritating. The unit price for a 10-for-$10 item is easy to calculate, but that of the buy-one-get-one-half-off item or the 3-for-$2.50 item is less perspicuous. Carry your calculator with you when you go shopping (or plan to use the calculator on your cell phone).