Daily Archives: February 20, 2011

Sears and the cooperative principle

Last week I was in a Sears store in downtown Toronto. I had in mind that I needed some more socks and, lo and behold, they had SALE signs all over their socks racks. I went up to a rack of multi-packs. The sign said, buy 1, get 25% off; buy 2, get 30% off, buy 3, get 35% off. Now, their socks were not outstanding prices, but when you knocked that much off it was persuasive. I selected two packs of three socks and took them up to the cash. The girl rang them up. The price seemed a bit much. I asked her what it came to before tax (just in case my math had been wrong). She explained that the sale didn’t apply to multi-packs.

I said, “Well, I’m not buying them” and took them back to the rack, about four metres away. As I was hanging them back up, I said, “Why would you do that? Now I’m not buying the socks, and you’ve just pissed me off.” One of her co-workers came over and helpfully pointed to the line of 8-point type at the bottom of the sign saying that multi-packs and certain brands were excluded. I pointed out that the sign was on a rack that had nothing but multi-packs on it. Now, why would you put up a sale sign on a rack that did not have any items on it that were on sale? A reasonable person would simply not expect that. Effectively, the sign that proclaimed in large type that these socks were on sale had, in print you had to lean close to read, “except everything.”

Sure, sure, caveat emptor. Well, I didn’t buy, and – having heard about a similar experience my wife had – I don’t now really have any inclination to shop at Sears. So caveat vendor. That was a stupid thing for them to do.

But of course you don’t expect me just say that and leave it be, do you? That’s not what this blog is about. Naturally, I’m going to explain why it was a stupid thing for them to do and how that all works. Continue reading