Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ninety-nine plus one

Here’s an idea.  Over the last few days, I’ve seen various kinds of items priced at £2.99, or suchlike.  When decimalisation came in, in 1971, this was a marketing ploy to try and fool people that they were paying £2, rather than £3.  Obviously we all saw through that pretty quickly, and nobody falls for it any more, if they ever did.  But the practice has persisted; indeed, it wasn’t anything new even back then: I remember price tags such as £1/19/6d, and of course there used to be the pernicious guinea (which worked the other way).

So, instead of giving the customer the 1p change, let’s devise a system that feeds all those pennies into some kind of kitty (preferably local rather than central), which can then be fed back into the much-needed process of bottom-up economic recovery.  The vendor loses nothing, and the purchaser won’t really notice in the larger scheme of things.  Obviously I haven’t done the maths, but I bet there’s a huge amount of money involved.

And for those who want to opt out, we can always introduce a 99p coin.


  1. You could go further and extract 20% of the total of every purchase to be syphoned off to a central fund where it is redistributed to the deserving poor.

    Oh, that already happens...... :-(

  2. Or they could just put a penny on tax?

  3. I think Rog's & Z's idea misses three important points. First it's not a tax but a redistribution of wealth for the good of the community. Third it gets shot of all those annoying brown coins which are so much hassle to count.

    The flaw is that it wouldn't work for aggregated purchases (like in a shopping trolley). But if you're buying your 10 Senior Service for I dunno £1.99 (are they that much now?) then yes, you will contribute 1 penny to the Fund. I suppose you could just round up the shopping trolley bill to the next pound, bit like tipping really.

    PS There's a house advertised round here by some idiot estate agent at £499,999. No doubt hoping for offers in the region of £449,999.

    PPS I have just checked & you can pay seven shillings for ONE cigarette!

  4. Z and Rog, Soaring is right – the whole point is that it’s not a tax. Think of it as a donation, if you like.

    Soaring, so what was #2 again?

    I don’t see the shopping trolley problem. A simple initial opt-in/out by the customer (I’d make the default ‘opt-in’), then I could spec the code for the checkout very easily: in fact I will, using made-up but hopefully self-explanatory data attribute labels:
    IF item_code_price_pence = ‘99’
    THEN customer_price = item_code_price + ‘.01’
    kitty_donation = ‘.01’
    sold _price = item_code_price
    ELSE customer_price = item_code_price
    sold_price = item_code_price

    Apologies for the lack of proper nesting in the pseudocode; it was there in the Word original, but Blogger comment boxes are not very sophisticated.

  5. Well, I was only joking. But, as I seem to have been taken for a wet blanket, sorry, I didn't mean to be! And I'll reply sensibly (as you'd expect from me).

    I used to help out in my son's shop, and when there were a few pennies change, a lot of people used to put them in a charity tin. So, on the one hand, it's true that they wouldn't miss it, but on the other, charities could lose out - or the buyer might want to choose where his pennies were going.

    And an observation - if the price was a few pennies over the pounds, there was a general expectation that the shopkeeper would knock it off. But I remember only a few occasions over several years where a customer said "keep the change."

    Apparently, the original reason for the 11d ending on prices was so that a shop assistant couldn't pocket the money but had to open the till for change. As well as trying to fool the purchaser, of course.

  6. Sensible wet blanket, Z? Not the three words I'd have thought of (although of course I don't actually know you). The whole thing was meant to be a joke, actually.

  7. It's a very good idea, Tim. Let's start a petition on the No. 10 website.