Same price but more expensive

I’ve noticed that the prices of things in various countries often reflect the basic unit of currency, rather than any reality of bringing them to market. When I was in London, it looked like most things were the “same” price in pounds as they were in US dollars back home. In a US restaurant chain a certain sandwich might cost $2.50, and in the same type of restaurant in London, the same sandwich would cost ?2.50, but when you convert it, that comes to about $4.80. Similarly, things that would be sold three for $5.00 in the US would be sold for the bargain price of three for ?5.00 in London, which is $9.60.

The most recent example of this I’ve seen is on the iTunes store. The same song that you download through iTunes US for $0.99 can be downloaded for ?0.99 from iTunes Germany. Numerically, the price looks the same, but ?0.99 comes to $1.30, so it costs about 24% more at the European price.

Hi Jamie,

It may be because it’s early in the morning but what are you on about? Currencies are different, aren’t they? Bear in mind also the euro symbol looks a bit like the pound symbol. Now that’s confusing to me!


Hi Jamie,

In addition to Alan’s ideas I’d like to point out that it doesn’t make much sense to compare prices in London to prices of other cities even if those are major US cities simply because prices in the British capital are much higher than in other cities in the UK. At least that’s what remember from my last stay which was a two years ago.
I’m sure Alan would be able to answer that question?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: A conversation between a dorm mother and a resident[YSaerTTEW443543]

Absolutely - because prices chase each other so that the price for a small garage in central London would buy you a substantial residence in the north of Scotland.


I completely agree… prices changes so much… I have some problems with bleeding and the doctor has prescribed me with Konakion… it’s vitamin K… the fact is at my place it charges twice the price i pay at this canadian pharmacy . I never thought about the “currency change” and all, i always assumed it was profit that was less. Your thoughts are right though, currency is a major issue. my money Rs 1 = us$ 40 ! -.-" Can anyone tell me where prices are the least?

I’m not sure what the idiom “what are you on about?” means.

I’m just pointing out that prices in various places seem to be oriented and rounded to the main currency unit, rather than the actual value of the currency or product.

To me it’s just an interesting case of the psychology of pricing.

Another one: Some hardware store had three drills of varying quality and price. The middle drill wasn’t selling as well as they’d like, so they tried cutting its price. This just made the cheapest drill sell even better. The formula that worked was to keep the price of the middle drill the same as it had been, but raise the price of the cheap drill so that it was closer to the price of the middle one. This made the middle drill seem more like a “bargain”.

And everybody knows that items priced at $2.50 each sell better if you change the price to three for $10. People’s brains are wired this way.

Hi Jamie,

Are you saying that a language expert like you is not able to understand this idiom based on the context it’s used in? Also, how about googling the idiom?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening lectures: A lecture from a science class[YSaerTTEW443543]

I thought I’d made sense of the idiom based on the context, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I also wasn’t sure of the tone, whether Alan was simply asking a question or being hostile, or being hostile in a gentlemanly way, as he occasionally is. Sometimes also, Alan feigns bewilderment when he really does know what another person is talking about. So it was the gestalt, more than the idiom itself that was confusing.

What would disturb me more than my not being sure of that idiom is that the two of you seemed to have so wildly misinterpreted what I was trying to say. You seemed to think I was complaining about prices in London, which I definitely was not doing. I was simply pointing out what, to me, was an interesting fact that prices often appear to be based on the currency unit and not on matching the value of the product with the real value of the money.

Hi Jamie,

Who defines the “real value” of a product? I doubt there is such a thing as the “real value”. By the way, you were right – I didn’t quite get what you wanted to say initially. I think I now know what you mean and I have seen this phenomenon when the Deutsch Mark was replaced by the Euro. The numbers of some prices stayed the same – “only” the currency and value changed, this means the price just doubled. I still often convert Euro prices into Deutsch Mark prices to have I have a value for comparison.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening lectures: A lecture from a social sciences class[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Jamie

If it’s any consolation, I got your point right away.

I agree that “be on about” is not something that is used in AmE, and that Americans might understand at least the general meaning in context. To me, the context here suggested “babbling incoherently or annoyingly”. The context told me the meaning was a negative one.

Funny behave, isn?t it? I mean, I myself do so quite often, too, but honestly, I think that after 6 years existence of the Euro as the official currency here in Germany many other facts influenced the prices so that a directly comparison isn?t any longer possible.

Also clear is that the incomes didn?t increase the same way as the prices did, at least here in Germany -as much as I know-.(But this doesn?t match to the initial topic). Nevertheless, I?m interested to read whether the people of some other countries of the EU could have a fortune of the Euro and what the fortune for them is?


If I latched on to what you’d said, then people would rather buy 3 items for $10 (i.e. 1 item for $3.33) than 1 item for $2.50.
Here something doesn’t add up, does it?

Yes, that’s right. I fall for it myself on occasion. If a sign says that some really huge, nice apples are two for $1.00, that means that one apple costs 50?. It’s very simple arithmetic, but the shopper may wonder, “Do I have to buy two of them to get that price?” The answer is almost certainly no, but the shopper isn’t sure, so he gets two.

Several years ago, a fast-food chain in the US wanted to take some market share away from McDonald’s. (Their food is actually better than at McDonald’s but they’re not as big or well known.) McDonald’s offers a quarter-pound hamburger, so this company decided they would advertise a third-pound hamburger for the same price. The product failed. In trying to find out why, the company’s research showed that people didn’t compare 1/4 to 1/3 and realize 1/3 is bigger. They just compared 3 to 4 and decided that 3 was smaller than 4, and that therefore the smaller McDonald’s hamburger must be bigger.

The owner of the company concluded that this was due to bad education among some people in the US (which it is), and he started a foundation for math education. But I think there’s a further issue. That is that if people actually did all the calculations necessary to get the best prices all day, they’d go crazy, so they use other, simpler, faultier means of making choices.

This is the subject of a whole field of social science, called “behavioral finance”. It shows that people do all kinds of irrational things when it comes to making buying and investment decisions.

They’ve found that if you ask a group of people to write any number between 1 and 100, their answers will range across that whole spectrum. However, if you spin a wheel, and that wheel lands on, maybe, 63, and THEN you ask them to choose a random number, most of the answers will be somewhere close to 63.

Quite amazing

Their catch phrase should’ve been like “buying our hamburgers you get 1/12 pound for free”. If someone sees “for free” they always fall for it, no matter how big this “free” is .