How to shop for effect

“According to Hsee (1998) – in a paper entitled “Less is better: When low-value options are valued more highly than high-value options” – if you buy someone a $45 scarf, you are more likely to be seen as generous than if you buy them a $55 coat.”


“If you have a fixed amount of money to spend – and your goal is to be seen as generous, rather than to actually help the recipient – you’ll be better off deliberately not shopping for value. Decide how much money you want to spend on impressing the recipient, then find the most worthless object which costs exactly that amount. The cheaper the class of objects, the more expensive a particular object will appear, given that you spend a fixed amount. Which is more memorable, a $25 skirt or a $25 candle?

“Gives a whole new meaning to the Japanese custom of buying $50 melons, doesn’t it? You look at that and shake your head and say “What is it with the Japanese?”. And yet they get to be perceived as incredibly generous, spendthrift even, while spending only $50. You could spend $200 on a fancy dinner and not appear as wealthy as you can by spending $50 on a melon. If only there was a custom of gifting $25 toothpicks or $10 dust specks; they could get away with spending even less.”
Evaluability (And Cheap Holiday Shopping), Overcoming Bias, November 27, 2007

Humans are weird.

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