Discount Diatribe

My little car had a trip out today, for the first time since February!  Whilst the weather was more than good enough to cycle, arriving at the car repairers with my bike would not have been entirely helpful, so I had to drive.  Luckily, I still seem to remember how to do it – I could even work the clutch – so hopefully the very minor damage to the front bumper inflicted by a reversing French family will soon be restored to its original, pristine state.

Whilst on my way to the wilds of northern Cambridge, I passed an advertisement which I presume its makers believe indicates bargains ahoy, but which is of a form that always irritates me.  On previous occasions, I have been forced to seethe quietly to myself – but now I have an outlet for my annoyance.  Yes, dear reader, it’s you.

The sign today had the text “Always up to 60% off” inscribed upon its surface, but very similar slogans have been used for years by many retailers.  What this sign does is to place a limit on the amount of discount available from the retailer in question, i.e. it says that nothing in their emporium ever has a discount of greater than 60% (and that is all it says).  If no sign existed, then prices could have any amount of discount – 70%, 90% even 100%.  The sign does not preclude some or all items being for sale at many times their normal price.

Given that such advertisements actually limit the bargains which a shopper might find, I am forced to conclude that either they are an attempt to discourage business or that the slogan writers do not understand what they are saying.  A far more compelling offering would be “Always at least 60% off” – though this may adversely affect the viability of the store over time.  However, given the long-term use of such slogans it may be that they work.  Perhaps I should open a store and suggest that it “always has up to 100% off” (which provides no more information that a blank sheet of paper, unless you consider that negative prices are possible) and then charge double the normal price for everything. They (not sure who “they” are) do say you will never lose money betting on human stupidity, so perhaps my scheme will lead me to untold riches – though, to be honest I really have no idea what I would do with untold riches.  Nor did we cover in degree level Mathematics what magnitude of riches “untold” represents – perhaps it is related to the measurement problem in quantum physics, as soon as you look at your bank statement and are thus “told” the level of your riches, then you no longer have untold riches?  Should I aim for, the equally ill-defined, riches beyond the dreams of avarice instead?

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