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99p Stores vs Poundland
June 14, 2012 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Why 99p is sometimes worth more than £1
posted by mippy (40 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
The US needs to require retailers to incorporate sales taxes into labeled prices.

The price on the sticker should be the price you pay at the register. No exceptions.

You'd think the free-market/anti-tax folks would be all over this.
posted by schmod at 8:25 AM on June 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wouldn't it be great if they also included service, at a reasonable rate? I really can't understand why the medieval practice of tipping has such a hold in the supposedly democratic and egalitarian US. In Britain, I can kind of understand it. There's the class thing, obviously, but Brits really like being anxious and tipping raises all kinds of opportunities for upsetting or insulting people or being embarrassed or humiliated yourself. But why in the US? Make it stop, people! Just make sure serving staff are paid a living wage and don't have to rely on abasing themselves in front of customers to survive.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's precisely the anti-tax folks who like the current system, because it makes the consumer more conscious that they are paying a tax, and thus more uncomfortable about it.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:33 AM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


The US needs to require retailers to incorporate sales taxes into labeled prices.

OH HO! Do I have a story about this.

So around 2007 (I think) NYC elimitated clothing tax on items under $200. I was working at the punk rock store around then -- I remember distinctly that the only item we had over $200 was a floor-length, pink plaid bondage dress by Lip Service that no one would ever, ever buy -- so this changed all of our prices (at least for the customers.)

Our biggest seller was t-shirts, which previously cost $19, or $20.64 after taxes. My boss had the brilliant idea that, now that we could charge a flat price, we should have a permanent "sale": all t-shirts would now be $20, flat!
posted by griphus at 8:34 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was in Sweden, they had a supermarket with electronic price tags on the shelves (which I never have seen elsewhere) and they just rounded prices up, so my 390krona bottle of cleanser cost 400. It was really confusing until I worked out what was going on. (I was confused as well when I went to California, got to the till with my change in hand and found out it wasn't enough. Our VAT - 20 fricking percent - is included in everything.)

It's extremely common to tip in restaurants in Britain, but the servers will be paid a minimum wage if everything is legal. We tip taxi drivers and hairdressers (maybe manicurists too, I've never had one of those), it's getting more common in coffee shops and the like, but tipping barstaff is unusual. You do hear people ordering drinks and adding 'and have one for yourself' which is a weird way of saying 'take a couple of quid for yourself'.

I used to live in an area that had a 99p store, and then Poundland opened down the road. The 99p store started advertising heavily that all those pennies add up.
posted by mippy at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2012


You do hear people ordering drinks and adding 'and have one for yourself' which is a weird way of saying 'take a couple of quid for yourself'.

A couple of quid? Blimey. My father goes apoplectic if "and your own" results in the retention of more then 30 pence.
posted by robself at 8:56 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where is he drinking that you can get a drink for 30p? Ljubljana?
posted by mippy at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ha! Alas no. I don't know if this applies all over the UK, but he is utilising the doubly arcane social rule which enshrines that 'and have one yourself', a) means 'please take a tip for your service in this transaction', but also b) 'do not in any way take an amount which would enable you to actually have one for yourself, as this would be impolite'.
posted by robself at 9:13 AM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Possibly "one" refers to a sip of the drink, or perhaps a single M&M.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:15 AM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nines pricing "fools" exactly enough people to make up for the lost penny of revenue. In other words, shoppers respond rationally to the price decrease. Various unrealistic, short-term studies sometimes say otherwise but in practice it's a small price decrease to create a small increase in demand.

There can be a small boost in sales for changing prices, but this happens whether they are increased or decreased. Also, sales can change drastically if a product is rebranded into a new category of prices. 99 vs 00 is about incremental changes.

It's precisely the anti-tax folks who like the current system, because it makes the consumer more conscious that they are paying a tax, and thus more uncomfortable about it.

It makes sense to want to provide information about a bad practice to the people who can change it.
posted by michaelh at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2012


I'v got 99 pence and a pound ain't one
posted by Renoroc at 9:31 AM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


he is utilising the doubly arcane social rule which enshrines that 'and have one yourself', a) means 'please take a tip for your service in this transaction', but also b) 'do not in any way take an amount which would enable you to actually have one for yourself, as this would be impolite'.

So it means "don't do what I'm telling you to do"? ... Oh, you British.

has The Telegraph spotted a non-existent trend?

Yes. The left-hand digit effect still applies. I've always wondered what would happen to those stores (probably nothing) if the penny was killed. What does Canada have: 99-cent or dollar stores? In the US, it seems about 50-50, though "dollar stores" have probably advanced in market share in the past few decades.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:35 AM on June 14, 2012


mippy: It's extremely common to tip in restaurants in Britain, but the servers will be paid a minimum wage if everything is legal. We tip taxi drivers and hairdressers (maybe manicurists too, I've never had one of those), it's getting more common in coffee shops and the like, but tipping barstaff is unusual.
This is the reason I find the British tipping culture so hard to navigate. I come from a vehemently anti-tipping country and this has been one of the hardest things to adjust to. Why do I have to tip if servers are already getting paid at least minimum wage? Why can't the owners just add the cost of service onto the prices quoted and save everyone the bother of all that carrying-lots-of-change, doing-mental-arithmetic, hoping-you-haven't-insulted-anyone palaver? I'm sure tipping adds lots of hassle for the serving staff when it comes to cashing up and calculating till transactions too.

And why do I have to tip my hairdresser? (Though of course I do.) What on earth is the rationale for that? He owns the salon; it's not like he needs me to hand him two pounds so he can catch the bus home, or feed his starving children or something. I'm showing my gratitude to him by being a repeat customer, surely; he doesn't need to be tipped in that way. Why not just add service onto the bill? It's all such a deeply indirect and passive-aggressive way of conducting business. I hate it.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:35 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do I have to tip if servers are already getting paid at least minimum wage?

Hint. You don't have to tip ANYONE (well, mostly), but you will not be very well received in some situations. I'm not *totally* sure what you're even asking here (other than railing against the vagaries of social customs).

(IMO), the point of tipping is that you are: 1) rewarding someone for good service or just thanking them in general; 2) providing them with needed income if they are working for tips; 3) redistributing money from the rich (yes, you, healthy consumer) to the poor. I tip almost EVERYONE a dollar for every transaction under $10. My $2 bagel? $1 tip. $5 sandwich. $1 tip. Any sort of service anywhere? $1 tip (at minimum, depending on the service, of course).

And I love to tip excessively as well. It's great to give a $10 tip on a $13 pitcher of beer. Things like that make some servers very happy. That is their job, after all, satisfying customers. And tipping is the best way to show that satisfaction.

I am nowhere near the 1%, but I make a reasonably good income and eat lunch out occasionally and am able to take a yearly vacation with my kids, etc. etc. Sure, there's a good point about saving money for a rainy day or my kids' education, but I do that (fairly OK) too.

I've gone through skinflint times of my life (unemployed, in debt) when I didn't really have the choice, but then other skinflint times when I did have that choice and didn't tip much (or give money to panhandlers). It feels much, much better for me to give when I can.

How much does all this tipping cost me? Probably $500-1,000 a year? Certainly not insignificant, but hell, cable TV costs something like $800-1,000 per year. Tipping well makes me feel much better than cable TV does.

And why do I have to tip my hairdresser? (Though of course I do.) What on earth is the rationale for that? He owns the salon; it's not like he needs me to hand him two pounds so he can catch the bus home, or feed his starving children or something.

When I grew up, if the barber owned the barbershop, you didn't have to tip him. I'm pretty sure it's still acceptable in most of the U.S. not to tip a hairstylist if they own the salon they work in. I'm not sure how the fancy places work.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:51 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


So it means "don't do what I'm telling you to do"?

Just like "have a nice day."
posted by yoink at 9:52 AM on June 14, 2012


It's precisely the anti-tax folks who like the current system, because it makes the consumer more conscious that they are paying a tax, and thus more uncomfortable about it.

There's also the practical problem of how you advertise products at the national/regional level when different sales taxes are levied by the state, the county and the city. The way that commercial zones frequently spill across city-limits and county lines means that you can literally walk across the street and be paying a different tax rate.
posted by rh at 9:55 AM on June 14, 2012


What does Canada have: 99-cent or dollar stores?

The penny hasn't gone away yet, but my experience (Ontario/Quebec) is that dollar stores vastly outnumber 99 cent stores. Possibly because the 'Loonie' puns are irresistable.
posted by frimble at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The service sector is very low paid, and if there's someone who can ignore that to be happy and friendly and helpful, then I'm more than happy to tip. Maybe it#s a class thing - I'm from a fairly working-class background and people waiting on me still feels a bit weird (and I can't fathom people who are rude to waitstaff, or pretend they don't exist - really puts me off a person). However, it's not the done thing to tip a shop assistant, even one who goes out of their way to find the item in your size or track down a product in the stockroom so you can make the recipe you want to make - and most chainstores pay the minimum wage or little above. It's weird how these distinctions come about.
posted by mippy at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really have known a couple of people who will look at something priced at $9.99 and say, "Oh look, it's only nine dollars."
posted by orange swan at 10:06 AM on June 14, 2012


However, it's not the done thing to tip a shop assistant, even one who goes out of their way to find the item in your size or track down a product in the stockroom so you can make the recipe you want to make - and most chainstores pay the minimum wage or little above.

See, I think in America those folks do get tips. Not often, but occasional good tips. I have done it (admittedly once, I think). If you really do get extra special or extra excellent service, I think it's totally acceptable and not uncommon, especially if the customer is buying something expensive and/or the salesperson saves the customer significant money or time.

I do admit it is a bit daunting to offer someone a tip who's not a server, etc. but I'd be very surprised if anyone is ever offended by a tip for service. (I can't think of any time when a tip was rejected ... must have happened, but I can't think of it now.)

What really pisses me off are the food places that pay service people shit but don't allow tip jars. I've actually had to explain and insist to some of those people that "yes, this is for you and you are allowed to keep it." It's enough to make me not want to tip ... but that's what those fuckers want. ;)

I can't fathom people who are rude to waitstaff, or pretend they don't exist - really puts me off a person

Yes, there is a weird set of people (with no other seemingly shared characteristics) who care deeply about "good service" and treat their servers very poorly. I have no idea what spawns it. Of course it's a total turnoff. I have at least 1 friend that I do not want to go out to dinner with because she always gets into arguments with servers.

Jeez, that was a Power Derail, Sonny Jim. :)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:21 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


We tip taxi drivers and hairdressers...

Wait, tipping your hairdresser is the norm in the UK? I've lived here all my life and I didn't realise that (come to think of it, that's just because no-one's ever told me and I didn't think to ask). Fortunately I generally get my hair done by the guy who owns the barbershop, and in any case they've raised their prices 20% in the last couple of years, so I don't feel too bad about it...
posted by ZsigE at 10:28 AM on June 14, 2012


Maybe it#s a class thing - I'm from a fairly working-class background and people waiting on me still feels a bit weird (and I can't fathom people who are rude to waitstaff, or pretend they don't exist - really puts me off a person).
I'm rarely in the situation where tipping might be appropriate, but I don't know if I could really do it properly because of class issues. I'm the same as the people who are serving, and tipping raises me above them in a way which isn't right. The one time I have ever tipped in the UK was when I was in the presence of two other people whose situations I didn't know (that is, I didn't know their class), and so did it nervously. The one time I got a tip at work (many years ago) it was from a middle-class woman, and I felt really insulted. I don't know what she thought I was, like I'm some kind of waif which needs her £1?
posted by Jehan at 10:41 AM on June 14, 2012


So it means "don't do what I'm telling you to do"?

Just like "have a nice day."


Sometimes I really think there are two sorts of people in the world ...

I'm the same as the people who are serving, and tipping raises me above them in a way which isn't right.

That just seems weird to me. All the servers I know tip very generously when they are served. Ah, UK. Carry on. Class is a weird thing.

The one time I got a tip at work (many years ago) it was from a middle-class woman, and I felt really insulted. I don't know what she thought I was, like I'm some kind of waif which needs her £1?

Can I ask what you do? I always loved getting tips.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2012


I really have known a couple of people who will look at something priced at $9.99 and say, "Oh look, it's only nine dollars."

Yes, but would they have bought it at 9.99 or 10.00? People will say anything.
posted by michaelh at 11:34 AM on June 14, 2012


I don't tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I'll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it's for the birds
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:40 AM on June 14, 2012


Two words: Gas stations.

It fooled a lot of people when it was 29.9 cents per gallon, even when it was 99.9 cents. At $3.99.9, it just looks insulting.

And going back to the original topic of the article, at American supermarkets (and my area has chains belonging to Kroger, SuperValu and Safeway, leading a few local under 10-store chains), the only time the advertised price doesn't end in 9 cents is when it's doing a "2 for $3", "3 for $5" or "10 for $10" manipulation. (I recently assured a 29-year-old bachelor neighbor that he COULD buy only one of a '2 for $3' offer!)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:17 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tip, regardless of service, because if I don't I'm scared someone will get angry at me. That is literally the only reason.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only time I don't tip is when the service has been so bad that I feel the server should be docked pay – the only one that comes to mind is when a waitress just flat-out forgot that my date had ordered a meal, and didn't bother even asking whether she really wanted to just sit there and watch me eat. Outside those "worst restaurant ever" experiences, 15% is a baseline for acceptable service and if we lived in a sane world it would already be incorporated into the menu prices.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:34 PM on June 14, 2012


oneswellfoop: " (I recently assured a 29-year-old bachelor neighbor that he COULD buy only one of a '2 for $3' offer!)"

Depending on the store, this is only true some of the time.
posted by schmod at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2012


In another tipping thread, someone pointed out that because running a restaurant at even a modest profit is so difficult, tipping is a subsidy of that restaurant. When you tip a server, you are endorsing and supporting the restaurant as well as that particular server. Since it is also supposed to be performance based, I'm even more in favour of this system.

in America those [retail staff] folks do get tips

Evidently in Baltimore they do.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2012


I kinda divide restaurants into those that do add a service charge into the bill and those that don't as the awkwardness over how much to tip at the end of the meal sends my British head into cartwheels.

I also consciously avoid most high street cafes in the UK due to some appalling practises regarding gratuities
posted by brilliantmistake at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2012


oneswellfoop: " (I recently assured a 29-year-old bachelor neighbor that he COULD buy only one of a '2 for $3' offer!)"

Depending on the store, this is only true some of the time.


I was just going to ask about that, because I tell people that all the time, and (AFAIK) it's always true. Is it a California consumer protection law?

One thing I have learned is that the law does not give you the right to rip egg cartons in two and pay half price. ... but I still try it! :D
posted by mrgrimm at 12:54 PM on June 14, 2012


the awkwardness over how much to tip at the end of the meal sends my British head into cartwheels.

It's not hard at all. Double the cost of the meal, then divide by 10. (PROTIP: For even faster calculation, just divide the cost of the meal by 5!)

I also consciously avoid most high street cafes in the UK due to some appalling practises regarding gratuities

So weird, but employers screwing over employees is nothing new. I always tip in cash, and none of the servers (U.S.) really even seem to care (though they should!)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:58 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "I recently assured a 29-year-old bachelor neighbor that he COULD buy only one of a '2 for $3' offer!"

This is definitely not always true, and it might be a Canada vs. US difference? In a lot of the stores I shopped at when I was in Canada, if you only bought one item, you would emphatically not get the sale price. If there was a deal of 2 items for $3 and the regular price was $1.79, I would be paying $1.79 unless I grabbed another item. This is especially frustrating if it's a luxury food (junk food) that is on sale for super cheap, like 2 for $4 when the regular price is $2.99 or something, then I feel totally dumb passing up that second item at $1.01 when I really don't need it. This applies for food, household items like shampoo and cleaning products, and sometimes clothes.

But since I've moved to the US, my boyfriend has had to remind me again and again that the "10 for $6" deal on yogurt doesn't mean we actually need to get 10 things of yogurt, and a "3 for $5" deal doesn't mean that we need to carefully price our purchase out into multiples of 3. I wonder if that is a consumer protection laws thing - where the exact same item can't be charged a different price based purely on the volume of your purchase, perhaps?
posted by Phire at 1:47 PM on June 14, 2012


In Virginia and Delaware, I've seen it work both ways - sometimes "5 for $10" means each one costs $2, and sometimes you have to buy the five items to get the discount. When you have to buy the full amount, though, it always says "Must buy X" in small print on the ad.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:49 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, re: tipping - in Canada I was always taught that the standard tip is 10-15%. I must be really pleased with the service to tip more than 15%, especially since I was usually a poor student and didn't make much more than the waitstaff (Ontario minimum wage is $10.25, $8.90 if you server liquor). In the US I've been told that 20-25% is about what's expected, which is understandable given the ridiculously low wages allotted to waitstaff in some areas and which I don't begrudge them at all, but which still kinda sucks.
posted by Phire at 1:51 PM on June 14, 2012


But since I've moved to the US, my boyfriend has had to remind me again and again that the "10 for $6" deal on yogurt doesn't mean we actually need to get 10 things of yogurt, and a "3 for $5" deal doesn't mean that we need to carefully price our purchase out into multiples of 3. I wonder if that is a consumer protection laws thing - where the exact same item can't be charged a different price based purely on the volume of your purchase, perhaps?

I think they figured out that they get more sales if the tag merely suggests that you buy more. If you buy 7 yogurts a week, and there is a 8 for $8 sale, you will probably just buy that eighth one because of suggestion, even if it doesn't change your marginal cost. But if it's just $1.00 instead of $1.19, you will just buy your 7.

And I think you ARE right about there being some kind of law.
posted by gjc at 2:58 PM on June 14, 2012


Phire - definitely a US/Can difference. After having spent 4 years for undergrad in the States, I *still* get anxious about that back here in Canada, as a graduate student - "I may only want one, but it's less than half to get another!" - kind of angst.

And, yes, if it's 2 for $3, it'll typically be $1.89 or something for a single unit.

I really really want tipping reform in the US since a bastardized etiquette (and public shaming) seeps across the border. Aside from about a year or so, I've never made more money per hour than the local minimum wage (grants/salary divided by hours per year) and I've had restaurant server friends (usually attractive young females) who routinely make 1.5 - 2.5x minimum wage, plus tips which can be upwards of several hundred dollars a night.

I'll tip generously and willingly when the service warrants, but I hate being guilted about rounding down from 15% because that ended being a more convenient number where the converse would be overtipping by a large amount - especially if the service was crap and (if paying by cash) the change returned was chosen to be inconvenient to leave 15%, but not 23% or something..
posted by porpoise at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2012


Sorry, that should be that I really really want pay practices enforced by law reform in the US.

My former social circle in Vancouver insisted on 15% as the minimum, like after counting the collected cash for the tab would go, "Ok, so who didn't throw in for the tip?" - that's 15% on top of taxes. Liquor taxes (and markups) here are astronomical. All this despite knowing that that server was making much more than minimum wage.

But yeah, I know, even here there are servers working for minimum wage at a place with few customers and where a table might only spend $40 all night instead of $400.

I do tip willingly and enthusiastically at places where the staff own the place or if it's run by a family or something and the food is great but the margins might not be.
posted by porpoise at 8:46 PM on June 14, 2012


I hate being guilted about rounding down from 15% because that ended being a more convenient number where the converse would be overtipping by a large amount

Who does the guilting? I encourage generous tipping but it's none of my business what anyone actually does.

Ah, a group meal with friends who make more than you? And they want you to pony up more? Well, I'd say it's not a problem with "bastardized etiquette" but with your friends' insensitivity.

That is a problem I had when I was unemployed (which was easier--just don't go out) or didn't have much money, and it definitely did discourage me for joining friends for dinners.

(More than the tip, though, it's the splitting of the bill that usually hoses the poor folks. We order one entree with water and have to share the cost of apps or drinks, etc.)

Really, though, the difference between 15-20% for a reasonable meal is $.50 for $10. When I was poorer, I would just suck it up, chip in an equal share of the bill, and walk home instead of taking the bus.

I just don't see this aggressive tipping enforcement argument (again, in the U.S.), and yeah, I'm suggesting it's in your head (like everything ;). There are a *lot* of bad, bad tippers out there. *shrug*

I usually tip well, but I will also tip 10% or less for just really horrible service (like ignoring me for 30 minutes or making numerous mistakes with no apologies) for restaurant servers or nothing for non-waiters. I've never gotten any serious gruff for it from anyone ever.

My favorite tipping activity is overtipping delivery drivers b/c I don't think those folks normally get good tips. My wife and I have two young kids so we don't get adult restaurant food much, so when we got our first night off in a loong time, I ordered Indian food and tipped the delivery guy $10 on a $25 order. It's a fleeting joy, but most faces do light up. Mine would. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 AM on June 15, 2012


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