My dad, who passed away in 2020, was a real comedian. The guy seemed to have a story or a joke for every occasion and I’m pretty sure I heard ’em all. That never stopped Dad from sharing his repertoire over and over again anyway.
What I really loved about Dad is that even when he was repeating a particular joke that I had heard 76 times before, he told it with all the verve and gusto of somebody reciting it for the very first time.
For example, I probably played 500 rounds of golf with him over the years. And it was no coincidence that was also the same number of times I heard him repeat the joke about the duffer who was so cheap that, instead of yelling “fore” after each errant golf drive, he insisted on shouting $3.99!
Dad usually told that one right after a member of our foursome finishes slicing a long shot into an opposing fairway.
Here’s something else that’s kind of funny: I read this article in Psychology Today pointing to research confirming that establishments should always price their products with a 9 at the end, rather than so-called ’round’ numbers that end in zero. Why? Well … because the number nine actually “sounds” cheap. No, really.
In fact, the article goes on to explain that:
Sounds pronounced with the front of the mouth (for example, long a, e, and i; or fricatives like f, s, and z) trigger associations with smallness. (Think of words like tiny and wee.) The vowels pronounced at the back of the mouth, like the ‘oo’ in foot or goose, are linked to largeness. (Think of huge crowds ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing.’)
Of course, after reading that, I know exactly what you’re thinking: What the heck is a fricative?
The important thing to note is that, ironically, if the theory is correct, prices ending in 9 subconsciously signal to buyers that they’re looking at a great deal, while prices ending in 0, 1, and 2 are perceived to be more expensive.
I think that’s a complete crock. I don’t need a PhD in psychology to know that, when it comes to closing a deal, consumers are influenced much more by sight than sound.
Let’s face facts: Merchants price items at $3.99 instead of $4.00 simply because most people, naturally, tend to focus on the most significant numeral. That is, the ones farthest to the left, closest to the dollar sign.
Take gasoline prices, for example: Almost every gas station advertises their prices to the nearest nine-tenths of a cent. Why? Because $4.999 per gallon looks a whole lot cheaper than $5.00 per gallon. Sound has absolutely nothing to do with it.
That’s my story anyway — and I’m sticking to it.
By the way, if my dad was still here I’d give him a call right now — just to see if he had any old jokes about fricatives he’d like to share.
Photo Credit: Violette79