Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pseudo-Science and the "Faux" Sale

*My education is in the fields of anthropology and public health; back in college I even took psychology 101. However, I completely made up the theory outlined below. I'm not qualified to distill scholarly articles on the topic or give lectures, but I sure can write this fun blog post! Kids, if you find my blog on Google please don't use this as a source in your term papers. 

I am almost certain that a sale sign or sticker triggers some kind of primal response in my brain... it releases dopamine and makes me happy the same way chocolate can. And I'm pretty sure this phenomenon stems back to antiquity. Our ancestors didn't have Groupon or the ubiquitous candy-colored sale signs of today, but I'm positive they could appreciate a bargain nonetheless. 

Imagine you're in a hunter-gatherer society during Prehistoric times. You're out to kill tonight's dinner while I'm sitting on my derriere eating dried cranberries from Trader Joe's (Hey, leave me alone I'm a vegetarian). Back to you... You see your prey, aim for it and happen to kill not one, but two bison with the same spear. The receptors in your brain light up in sheer pleasure because you just scored your very first buy-one-get-one-free sale. It was such a pleasurable experience that the genetic response was passed down from generation to generation. And this, my friends, is how our ancestors preconditioned us to appreciate a sale (Natural selection weeded out most people who like to pay full price). 

Yesterday, I went window shopping in mid-Manhattan. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, just perusing the racks because I had some free time. I stopped by discount department store T.J. Maxx where I automatically gravitated to the women's sale section (thanks australopithecus afarensis and company). I found nothing lust-worthy, but something did catch my eye...

A pair of last season's khaki pants originally priced at $19.99 hung gingerly from the clearance rack. They were marked UP to $20.00. "That can't be right... My eyes must be playing tricks on me," I thought. So I looked again, made sure my contact lenses were still in my eyes and then laughed to myself at the absurdity of the situation.This isn't the first time I have seen this faux sale happen, but usually retailers do a better job of covering the original price. As a savvy consumer, I'm always weary of stores that play tricks and mislead consumers. Are they trying to take advantage of their customers hoping they will buy a product solely because it is "on sale." 

What motivates retailers to do this? Is it a simple mistake? Or a deliberately deceptive practice? I'd love to know your thoughts on this issue so please chime in via the comment section below or email

xX Helene


  1. This is so funny!!! seriously a warped brain would consider this a bargain and assume that the $19.99 was marked erroneously and without a doubt they're the one that's getting a steal on the deal! I'm amazed you found this!!! This store should be embarrassed! lol

  2. Hahaaa thanks. I'm sure somebody will buy it!


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