People Aren’t This Stupid, Are They?

by Darwin on March 21, 2011

I witnessed another very annoying “deal” being offered last week from a major retailer that I couldn’t ignore. Sears sent me an email touting a great spring deal on lawn and garden with the following terms:

“Online only. Buy More Save More on Lawn & Garden. $10 off orders of $100-$149, $15 off orders of $150-$249, $25 off orders over $250. Discount reflected in cart. Excludes: Clearance, Kmart products, Great Price Items, generators and snow removal equipment. Offer good thru March 11th, 2011.”

OK, so this is kind of moronic to have tiered pricing discounts where the higher tiers requiring a consumer to part with more money don’t actually result in any greater benefit to the consumer. In fact, it’s even WORSE to spend more money in certain cases depending on how much you spend – more on that below.

First off, the tiered pricing principle is simple. I used to negotiate this with contract manufacturers in a prior role. If we spend $1-5 Million in services this year, we get a 2% discount. If we spend $5-8 Million, we get a 3% discount and so on up to maybe a peak 5% discount for a huge spending year. This is a win-win for both parties. We end up saving more money if we needed increased spending while the manufacturer can benefit from economies of scale and efficiencies and make out even better, net of the discounts offered to us. This is the same with Sears. To cover overhead, salaries and fixed costs, they would be way better off offering say, a 15% discount on $1000 than a 10% discount on $100. So, they try to trick consumers into thinking they’re getting a “deal” in saving $25 on spending over $250, which it’s really kind of…weak.  Whether selling products online or in person, this is just insulting our intelligence.

Here’s the other rub. In the tiers quoted, if you spend $100, you get $10 off which is a 10% discount. However, if you $225, you get $15 off, which is only a 6.7% discount. Wait a minute!


This is playing to people’s stupidity, impulsiveness and the inability to pass up a “deal”, even when the joke’s on the consumer.

In order to really get savings anywhere you shop, I like to STACK MY DISCOUNTS. Here’s how:

  • Step 2 – Have Discount Gift Cards On Hand – I save 10% or more on common stores like Starbucks, Lowes, Gap, etc. by buying cards others don’t want. See this full review of various retailer discounts and how it works.


With an offer this dumb, do you actually feel enticed to spend MORE money for a Smaller % Discount?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Centavos March 24, 2011 at 6:44 am

I guess people that can’t figure out a proper tip at restaurants might also thing that this is a great deal…


Jenny March 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I think the stupidest advice I’ve gotten on how to get a better deal on a coupon was from a cashier at a grocery store. I had a coupon for buy one get one free on a bag of frozen veggies. Normally they are 2$ or so each, but I waited until they were on sale for 1$ each (so I would be getting 2 for 1$). The cashier told me that I would be better off waiting until they were 2$ so I would be getting a free 2$ item instead of a 1$ item.

Really she was telling me to spend 2$ for my two bags of veggies instead of 1$ for them.


No Debt MBA May 13, 2011 at 11:18 am

My dad uses these a lot when he already has a purchase in mind but, like you, he will stack a coupon from the newspaper or other discount with it, buy only things already on sale and then very, very carefully make sure his purchase totals as close as possible to the highest discount ($100, $150 or $250 in this case). These discounts don’t influence what he buys so much as where he buys it if the discounts make a purchase cheaper at, say, Lowes instead of Home Depot.

Personally, I completely ignore these discounts as I rarely shop often enough or spend enough for them to apply to me. If I do go shopping I’ll do some quick research to see what discounts are available though.


james July 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm

To jenny,
You should have asked the cashier to give you more Buy 1 get 1 coupon while the veggies were @ $1.
I wonder if the cashier would let you buy the veggies for $1 and return them when they’re selling for $2. That way you would make $1 per item.


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