Because we infer things that aren’t

A reader wrote to Dan Ariely about a panhandler who asked him for 75 cents. His question was

Do you think the 75-cent request could be a “market-tested” amount, one that yields a higher overall level of “donations” than asking outright for a buck or more?

Now before any Forbes bloggers jump to write , “What can panhandlers teach us about pricing”, let us reade Ariely’s answer.

The panhandler could be trying to make a unique request in order to separate himself from the competition. But my guess is that you were more willing to give him money because you inferred things from the specificity of his request.

Yes, we infer things like he was using market-tested pricing just like gurus infer business wisdom from any thing they run into.

And if you are asking, “what about being different?” – it only works if it is not a gimmick that anyone can copy. If one person wears stilts in a stadium he can see better but if everyone else does that it does not work.

So next time you see a business with its unique pricing beware of what you infer over what it really is.

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