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The Ninety-Nine Pence.

Items on sale for ??.99 or $??.99

Whether it's pounds, dollars, or euros, you see price-tags with .99 or .95 at the end, etc. what's that about? Well, the notion is that if an item is for sale, then somehow the potential buyer will perceive 99.99 to be somehow significantly cheaper than 100.

But is this true? Surely customers aren't as silly as that! In fact, I would have thought...

1. People are sufficiently bright to know that $99.99 is almost precisely the same price as $100, and that it doesn't fool anyone.

2. If people were sufficiently silly to be fooled by the 99 business, more than half of those caught out by the psychological trick would be dazzled by the big NINES and imagine that € 99.99 was more than €100

3. Of those who were smart enough to spot that a psychological trick was being played, some would decide it was a clue that something a bit iffy was going on and would wonder what other tricks were going on.

Now of course it's perfectly within the rights of any shop to sell products for whatever prices they want. In fact I've even heard of some products being sold for 6.66 for dramatic effect (see 666. And for the buyer, it's up to each person to decide whether they want to buy or not. But I would be interested to know whether the 99 cents / 99 pence trick actually works anymore. Perhaps someone has conducted an experiment and tested two similar shops where one is selling at whole number prices and one at penny-reduced prices and has some conclusive results that reveal the truth.

Also see the slightly dodgy loaded phrase Available from ALL good bookshops and the curious matter of the cardboard middle of toilet rolls being bigger than they were. Also, a more recent tricky by supermarkets which the price and packaging remain the same, but the weight is reduced, which is quite sneaky and fools some people!

Hello Zyra

Incidentally I heard that the origin of the 99p was that it deters theft by the till operator. If an item costs 10 the buyer will often have the correct change and the shop assistant can say thank you very much, put the item in a bag and wave goodbye to the customer - pocketing the 10. The idea of the 9.99 is purported to be that the customer is unlikely to have the exact change and that the shop assistant will have to enter it in the till in order to get the change. Ting! One less pilfer.

Hoping this finds you well


Loupou22 writes:

Completely agree that it may be the 10.00 one submitted by NIK - but strange as life is I stumbled across this page through a search engine and thought I could help you there. TAX - it's as simple as that! Tax used to be paid on the 1.00 mark only - from what I can remember from when I worked in the trade - therefore shops dealing below this mark would make a fat profit from us by lowering the price to below the 1.00 mark as you see - look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves - it's a very old practice from many years ago - it even happened when there were 240 pennies in the pound. Perhaps it's sad that I sent this email but hey I like to help out if I can.


Susannah writes:

I HATE taking one or two pence/cents change in shops and I feel really wasteful/arrogant if I tell the cashier to keep it. I have to grab and run before I get offered my change!