A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

$7.95 or $8.00 for a glass of wine?

   Who’s being fooled by wine and food prices that end in .95, as in, for example, $7.95? (I noticed this most recently on the Crave restaurant menu.) http://www.craveamerica.com/
The practice of ending prices for virtually anything from refrigerators, cars, and gallons of petrol to, well, glasses of wine, has been around for a long time, at least a century, as a matter of fact. There is actually some market research that shows that sales of a given commodity will be greater when the price ends in .95 or .99. So much for any naïve conceptualizations of the consumer as rational. But it seems to depend on the particular commodity. Are consumers and people in general really that easily manipulated? When I survey politics, as I have as a political scientist for about 40 years, part of me says, “Oh, yes. Humans are in fact stunningly and terminally ignorant and malleable.” Another part, though, says, yes, but more so when it comes to the important things such as taxation, war, and such; not so much when it comes to seeing $7.95 on a menu instead of an even eight bucks and something in their brains conveys the thought that, “Damn! That is a great price for that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; a steal! I thought this wine would set me back a cool eight dollars. I’ll be back to this restaurant once or twice a week because the wine is sooooooo cheap.” As jaundiced a view of human nature (a weasel-concept, I know, but I don’t want to get into the “nature” of our species), I have difficulty thinking this kind of pricing for wine and other menu items has the intended effect. Many menus simply list wine prices, by the glass and bottle, as well as food items, by nice, clean round numbers. Some even dispense with cents entirely, as in Pasta Puttanesca - $12. Yet others dispense with the dollar sigh: Pasta Puttanesca – 12. Admittedly, there is a bit of pretension associated with this latter trend, but I have no trouble with it. After all, if you’re in a restaurant in the US, you’re not likely to turn to your table mate and say, "Uh, Fred, is that number in Iraqi dinar or Norwegian kronor or what?" You pretty much know the number 12 refers to dollars.
   So there’s a sort of vertical scale in restaurant pricing, from silly, unnecessary, and duplicitous - whether it “works” or not – ($7.95) up to perfectly plain and understandable (8). I’m not arguing that retailers should eschew cents entirely, as in $5.50; that would have serious economic implications - just those prices that end in .95 to .99. Think of the savings in ink if everyone changed up to the round number.

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