23 January 2009

Cuz I Kan't Do Math So Gud...

In yesterday's Boston Globe, in the arts and lifestyle section (which is now called "g" or, as I refer to it, "the section with the comics in it"), there was an article about how it's so difficult for people to figure out how much stuff in stores costs, because there are so many discounts on top of discounts, and coupons, and some stuff is on clearance but other stuff isn't, and so on.

Wow, I thought my life was hard. Woe to the helpless shoppers who are struggling so mightily to figure out how much money they're saving. Those poor souls! Apparently none of them ever received any sort of formal education in arithmetic. At least, that's what this retail analyst seems to think:
"You almost need to be a math major to figure it out," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics Inc., a market research firm. He provided an example of the kind of calculations confusing some consumers. "You take 40 percent off the original price, then you take 20 percent off that price, which works out to be [a discount of] roughly 52 percent, but the consumer thinks it's going to be 60 percent."
But you know, maybe he's right. Our society has certainly gotten dumber in lots of other ways. Ignorance and selfishness rule, so why should we waste our minds on crap like math? There's plenty of other stuff with which to occupy them, like keeping up with the latest antics of those heinous excuses for human beings on The Hills, updating mySpace pages, and playing video games. Math? Please. Math is for dorks and overachievers.

One enterprising young lady mentioned in the story was using the calculator in her cell phone to determine a sale item's final price. Good for her for figuring out how to avoid using her brain for that pesky math stuff. And let's not forget to give credit to the Globe for aiming high with this story. That's some hard-hitting lifestyle journalism.

I am wondering why no mention was made of the price scanners that now proliferate in most large stores, which are more likely to have multiple levels of discounts and markdowns and additional promotions. The scanners can be wrong, but most of the time they're right. I usually estimate the final sale price in my head, then find a scanner to see if there's the pleasant surprise of any additional amount off.

But seriously, have people really lost the ability to do basic arithmetic? That's just pathetic. If you can't figure out how to take an additional 40% off the price of something that's already been marked down 30%, you deserve to pay full price.

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