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Making expensive stuff seam cheap: Playing with price perception

A few days ago we twitted a link to Dark Patterns, a site that collects examples of interfaces designed to take users to perform actions that they might not otherwise do:

Today we want to dive a little more on this topic based on a fresh example: On its site, Fibertel offers to put together “combos”, combining TV and Internet services. See the following screenshot of the “Classic Cablevision” + “Fibertel 12 Megas” combo:


According to the image: What is the price of this combo?


The first impression leads us to believe that it costs $237. But if we read correctly, it actually says that $237 is what we "save", so the price of the service is actually $440.

Human beings perceive prices according to the context in which they are presented.

In this example, we could assume that the price is cheap, and that the amount indicated corresponds to the price of the service and not the amount we save, because we are used to it. Presenting prices by contrasting a previous price and a new one or, a list price and a discounted price, is very common. This is why when we see $237, we tend to believe that this is the final price instead of the discount.

A slightly simpler example: It is not the same to say that a service costs $365 per year than to say it costs $1 per day.

Knowing this leads us to take great care of the way we communicate our prices. Many times things don't relate to their quality or real price, they depend on the frame of reference which our client evaluates us with, and the alternatives which he's comparing us with.