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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Okay, tell me if you think this is weird.

On Monday, I was 28 years old.  But by Tuesday, just 24 hours later, I was 30.

Pretty strange, right?

I did some research and as it turns out, 29 is no longer an age that a person is allowed to be.  The number 29 continues to exist — still between 28 and 30! — and it is theoretically possible for a person to have been alive for 10,592ish days (for example: me), and there are not now nor have there ever been any known rips in the space-time continuum, yet it is somehow no longer possible to be thought of as a 29 year old.

Why is that?

Why is anything?

Marketing, of course.

In 1997, a paper called (what else?) “The Widespread Use Of Odd Pricing In The Retail Sector” was published in everyone’s favorite marketing bulletin, Marketing Bulletin.  The study concluded that a full 60% of advertised prices ended in a 9.

This technique is called psychological pricing.

Instinctively, we understand that this is done because consumers, in the aggregate, are idiots.  We assume that Average Joe and his wife Mean Jeanie are more likely to purchase an item for $2.99 than that same item priced at $3.00 than the actual price difference (one measly penny) suggests.

We assume correctly.

If Joe and Mean Jeanie were completely rational, the emotional difference between $2.99 and $3.00 should be about the same as the difference between $2.99 and $2.98, but as it turns out that is not true at all.  Researchers have concluded that consumers pay special attention to the left-most figure of a price, in part because we read left-to-right.  Apparently, our brains get bored after reading one single digit.  This is good for business, but bad for anyone who needs to buy anything, ever.

So it’s true, Average Joe and Mean Jeanie are not perfectly rational.

Savvy consumers (like us!) recognize that a price ending in 9 is nothing more than a parlor trick.  We know better, and constantly remind ourselves that $0.99 is “really” $1.00, $4.99 is actually $5.00, and so on… We are the smart ones!  We cannot be fooled!  We are the ones we have been waiting for!

Unfortunately, we have become so proficient at rounding our 9’s up to the nearest easily-digestible number that as we begin to see $29 as $30, we also develop the ability to view a doe-eyed 29 year-old as a member of the Big 3-0 club.

Perhaps this also explains why it is so difficult once you hit 30 in earnest to convince folks you are 29 (especially if you attempt this feat for several consecutive years).  There is no marketing tool, psychological study, nor slight-0f-hand maneuver available to you, unless of course the “maneuver” involves 1.21 gigawatts and a DeLorean DMC-12 going 88 miles per hour.

The weirdest part of all of this is that despite my being temporarily obsessed with pinpoint age accuracy, I have rounded myself to 30 in completely unnecessary situations.  While “discussing” life decisions with my mom, I made sure to note that “I am 30 years old.”  While I listened to a friend lament how weird it is that “we’re 30 now,” I made no effort to correct her (obviously quite serious) error.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve always made a point to be well-rounded.  But after turning 29, I was disappointed to find out that I’m just, well, rounded to 30.

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