Bad Math

I really dislike (bordering on zealous detestation) of things that don't make sense, are obviously wrong or, worse yet, deceptive (except as humour).

That great provider of comedy, satire and parody - AOL - recently ran a consumer piece comparing prices between warehouse retailer Costco and normal retailer Giant and showing where you got better savings. What struck me was the way the savings were expressed - they were nonsensical.

If I say you can save 50%, you would expect (at least I would hope you would expect) to pay 1/2 the price for it.

If I tell you that you can save 100%, you would expect the item to be free (zero cost).

That it not how AOL does math. In fact, on some products you can save as much as 267%!


I don't see how you can save more than 100% and I would expect any person to look at that and go, "That is just plain wrong."

For your consideration two examples pulled from the AOL piece claiming 100% and 267% savings. (The real savings is 50% and 72.8% respectively.)

Screen captures and cropping by me, images and bad math copyright AOL.


KayMac said…
Wow! This is surprising...267% I think someone needs to change the batteries on the calculater!
Barbara said…
Most people have little understanding of what the actual number means. They simply want to think they are saving something by buying whatever the product is.
b said…
The sad thing is that many people probably feel self assured when they convince themselves that they have saved 267%. Bad math, indeed.
mattbg said…
I thought the same thing when I was repeatedly asked to provide project cost estimates +/- 300%.
Richard said…
kaymac: I think it is the writer and editor that need changing.

barbara: yeah, I know. People expect that a bigger number means they save more. It just seems so alien to me that people would so egregiously misunderstand something I consider to be quite basic.

breal: oh, wow. Two comments in two days. Tha towuld be a good topic of discussion: the basis of confidence.

mattbg: he he. It makes you wonder how those people got to be in charge of the money.
What do they mean? 100% off the regular price? What's that? Do they mean after it's been marked up 267%. It's so easy to confuse % with actual dollar value amt.
Go take them on, Richard! I'd be interested in how they explain it!
Richard said…
MOI: they have it inverted. It is not a savings of 267% but rather it will cost 267% more if you go to the other store.

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