insult me….ok, I’ll buy it.

That is what we are saying every time we purchase something at the 99 cent price level.  It’s the biggest marketing scam,…ploy,….subversive tactic we’ve ever employed as a society.  It’s also the reason we have not been able to get rid of pennies for decades and won’t be able to for a long while to come.  If we didn’t have the penny in circulation, how could we use the 99 cent price bluff?

For some reason, I find it such a turnoff, even to hear it as a commercial.  “For a limited time you can buy this brand new car for $29,999.99.”  It’s a huge joke that we buy into.  “Honey, I bought a new car for only $29,999.”  Response from spouse: “Oh sweetie, how wonderful.  What a great find at under 30 grand.”  We buy into it, then re-sell it.

I’m not a very good customer.  When I’m in a store, even if I do know the price, I’ll ask the sales person to say the price.  For example, me: “How much is this shirt?”  Salesperson: “$49.99.”  Me: “So, fifty dollars., right?”  Salesperson:  Either shakes head in agreement or repeats the words “yes, fifty dollars.”  I like to get them to admit the rounded up figure.  Many times, I’ll keep asking for a price check, repeating this exercise, until they start giving me the rounded number.  It’s my own futile battle against silly pricing.

Of course, there are stores or brands who have decided not to insult.  The huge Nike store in New York doesn’t insult.   Clothes on their racks are rounded to the dollar, $10 or $20, and so on.  It’s so refreshing.  No smoke screens or foolery.  But most retailers are way too scared to do this.  They are afraid that if they don’t insult, they loose.  They are not bold enough.

In some countries it is the law to display all prices with the amount that needs to come out of your pocket, including all taxes.  That means stores, restaurants, and dealerships.  When you receive the receipt, you see the true item’s cost along with the amount of taxes you’ve paid.

Almost never is the stated price in the US what we pay.  There is always taxes over and above, except if we are buying certain food products or gasoline, and the price of gasoline always ends in a 9 and even to a .9 (tenth of a penny).

In some states, certain food products are taxed.  Last month I bought fresh fish for $20 (it was $17.99/lb) and a bottle water for $.99.  There was no tax on the food but there was tax on the water.  Some grocery store food gets taxed, other doesn’t.  Regardless, most all items are priced to the 9.

In the paper this morning there was an advertisement for a beautiful (and tiny) NYC loft for $499,000.  Incredible how they got the price under a half million.  Are they serious?

GV and I shop almost daily at Whole Foods.  Mainly because it’s so close and the stuff is relatively good.  Of the thousands of products they carry, only a hand-full don’t end in a 9.  The vast majority end in double 9.  In most chain stores, it’s hard to find products that are not priced in some form of 99 cent pricing.

The point is, even if there were no extra fees or taxes on things we buy, getting a penny back, or a dollar back, is a ruse.  But most of the time, it’s more than the 9 price, allowing us to be shammed.  And we don’t feel so bad about it especially if we need to re-sham.  But it really is silly.

I’m kind of glad the surgeon didn’t tell me he’d cut me up for $29,999.  (it was actually $34,371 — must have been the tax).

When buy/sell transactions are human to human, we drop the silliness.  Street vendors sell sunglasses and hats for $5, silk ties, $3, women’s purse, $30.  All rounded to the dollar.  It’s more real, to the buck.  Whether flea or green markets or other personal transactions, when we barter with each other, we don’t stoop to the insult level.  Brother P had a produce market in his early days.  He sold fresh fruits and vegetables to locals in his area.  He didn’t insult them by listing the prices ending in 9.  We only do that when it’s organization to human.

We should revolt against the 99 cent pricing scheme.  Save those syllables.  Stop with all the nines.  Banish the pennies.  Get more efficient.

What’s that?  I can get a new iPhone 5 for $199 (as long as I’m tied to a 2-year contract)?  Wow, that’s a steal at just under $200.  OK, I’ll buy it.

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