Which is better: A 33% discount on price or 33% more for the same cost?

At least I’m good enough at math to recognize this for the awesome deal that it is.

The answer to that question seems counter-intuitive to me, but then I’m not great at math. A problem that is shared by many other people it seems:

Beware of Discounts: How Being Bad at Math Costs Consumers | Moneyland | TIME.com.

The Economist sums up the results of a new study published in the Journal of Marketing, which reveals that most consumers view these options as essentially the same proposition. But they’re not. The discount is by far the better deal. As the Economist puts it, because most shoppers are “useless at fractions,” they don’t realize that, for instance, a “50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price.”

In one part of the study, Akshay Rao, the General Mills Chair in Marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, asked undergraduate students to evaluate two deals on loose coffee beans — one with 33% more beans for free, the other at 33% off the price. The students viewed the offers as six of one, half a dozen of the other.

But let’s do the math, using some easy round numbers for the sake of simplicity. Say the initial price is $10 for 10 oz. of coffee beans. Hopefully, it’s obvious that the unit price is therefore $1 per oz. An extra 33% more “free” beans would bring the total up to 13.3 oz. for $10. That $10 divided by 13.3 oz. give us a unit price of $0.75 per oz. With a 33% discount off the initial offer, though, the proposition becomes $6.67 for 10 oz., for a unit price of $0.67 per oz.

Once it’s spelled out the difference becomes obvious. According to the article it’s not just that most of us are bad at math, but also the allure of the word “free” that leads us towards bad decision making. In my case, it certainly doesn’t help having things expressed as percentages which I’ve always had a hard time figuring out unless it’s multiples of 10, and even then I don’t tend to trust my calculative abilities.

Of course the marketers all know this which is why more often than not you’ll see products touted as offering some percentage more “for free!” than some sort of discount. In fact I can’t think of a single example of a product being offered either for X% discount or the same price with X% more at the same time. So I guess it’s a moot point. If you really only have one offer to consider then getting a bit more at the same price is still better than no deal at all.

Amazon.com’s 25 Days of Free Christmas songs.

Just a quick note to let folks know that Amazon.com is giving away free MP3s of Christmas music every day until December 25th. So far they’ve put up “Joy to the World,” by Casting Crowns and “Snow Angel,” by Tori Amos. Both totally free as in beer. Don’t worry if you weren’t there on December 1st as each one will be available up until the 26th of December.

They have an advent calendar style page set up where you can see each day’s release. Check it out at the Amazon.com 25 Days of Free in December. It does require that you install the Amazon.com MP3 downloader software to grab the files, but they have no DRM and the downloader should work on all platforms.

The results are in: “American Gods” now readable on the web for free.

Neil put up the announcement on his blog just recently:

Kids! Free! Book!
The good news is the link to the free online American Gods is up on the front page of the neilgaiman.com website. The bad news is that the link is wrong.

For the next month, your free copy of American Gods is waiting for you at

Feel free to spread the link as widely as possible around the web. If it works, and people read it, then a) we may be able to put up another book and b) sooner or later they’ll simply let us give away the book in electronic form….

It’s an excellent book and I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already. I got my copy through my mother who’s also a big Gaiman fan.

Valve gives all nVidia owners a free taste of the excellent “Portal.”

I got The Orange Box for Krismas and the first game I played in it was Portal as I’d been lusting after it ever since I saw the first teaser trailer for it. It’s really is as awesome as all the hype around it says it is, but maybe you’re not convinced. Maybe you’re not sure you want to fork out the $50 for The Orange Box or the $20 for Portal by itself. Maybe you’d like a little… taste… before you plunk your money down.

Well if you own an nVidia Geforce graphics card then you’re in luck:

The most recent Steam Hardware Survey shows more Steam gamers play on NVIDIA GeForce hardware than any other graphics platform. In an effort to further support this popular PC gaming configuration – Steam games plus NVIDIA hardware – Valve and NVIDIA have entered into an agreement to collaborate on development, distribution, events, and more.

Effective immediately, all NVIDIA gamers may receive a free copy of PortalTM: First Slice, a special version of the award-winning new game from Valve, by visiting www.steamgames.com/nvidia1 and “Taking the Test.” Steam will then auto-detect the presence of NVIDIA hardware and make Portal: First Slice available immediately, free of charge. To make it easy for all NVIDIA customers to redeem this offer, a link to the Steam offer will also be included in all NVIDIA drivers.

“More Steam gamers, including myself, play on NVIDIA hardware than any other GPU,” said Doug Lombardi, vice president of marketing at Valve. “That’s a testament to the company’s long history of innovation and quality. By working together with NVIDIA to expand our development, distribution, and marketing efforts, we’re increasing our ability to serve the millions of NVIDIA customers logging onto Steam and help us prepare for our next generation of content.”

Nothing like using the same tactics as crack dealers to get people hooked on your game. Works for me anyway. If you’re an ATI graphics card owner then just trust me that the game is awesome and worth the money.

Want a “free” copy of Windows Vista Ultimate?

The folks at Notebook Review have an entry up about a way you can score a “free” copy of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition or one of five additional packages including Office Ultimate 2007. So what’s the catch? The catch is it’ll cost you some of your privacy for a few months:

Need a free copy of Windows Vista Ultimate? Are you incredibly trusting of big corporations? Well I have the deal for you, with a new program through Microsoft called the Windows Feedback Program. For the small price of privacy and perhaps some dignity, you can let Microsoft watch your every move for 3 months, in return for some software of your choice. Surveys are also required, one at the start, and then another in 2 week intervals, but compared to the bigger issue those are pretty painless. Some might find this to be an excellent deal, with software prices high, and cost of your free time to be almost nothing at all.

Through the following link http://wfp.microsoft.com/ you can sign up for this program, which has the following rules:

  • Participation is currently limited to US residents of 18 years and older.
  • You are the owner of the computer you use for this program.
  • The automated feedback program is offered to Windows Vista and Windows XP customers only.
  • The survey feedback program applies to all versions of Windows.
  • Microsoft, comScore, and MarketTools employees are not eligible to participate.

You can choose to sign up for just the surveys or just the automated data collection, but to get the free copy of Vista (or any of the other programs offered) you have to agree to both. Vista already has a Windows Feedback Program built into it and when you first start using Vista it asks you if you would like to sign up to provide said feedback. I believe this is the same application that they’re talking about in the offer above and the big question is: ?

Ok, tell me more about the automated feedback program – how does it work?
If you agree to join the program, a small amount of data will be collected using the Windows Feedback Program software. That data will be sent to Microsoft so we can monitor how your computer is working and better understand how you are using Windows and Office. This data is collected every time you use Windows and Office. We use this data to help make future versions of the software better and more useful for you and other users.

What types of information will you collect and why?
We are looking for information that will help us understand problems you encounter with Windows, how you have configured your computer and Windows, what hardware you are using, and general information about how you are using Windows and Microsoft Office products on your computer. You can see a list of examples of the data we collect in our

How often will Microsoft collect data?
How often you will share data depends on how actively you use your computer and how often your computer is connected to the internet. In general, the data is shared once per day.

The FAQ goes into a fairly general overview of the data collected and it’s broken down into three parts: Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP), Office Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP), and Additional data collection which consists of the following:

The following list describes some examples of additional data collection our software performs:

  • Windows settings and usage, such as the number of user accounts on the computer and the view settings for Control Panel (that is, if you use the default Category view or the Classic view to display Control Panel).
  • Details about your computer hardware, such as processor type and speed (as well as the number of processors), system memory, video memory, and other hardware configuration information.
  • File and folder information, such as the number of files and folders located in common places (for example, in Documents).
  • Which programs you open (for example, which application you use to read your e-mail).
  • Changes you make to your hardware or software.
  • Problems you encounter, such as application crashes.

This type of data collection can provide Microsoft with useful data, such as:

  • Identification of top user problems; for example, how often does a computer crash or stop? How often do customers update Windows? How often are problems reported?
  • How customers use their computers; for example, how often do customers use their computers? How often do they connect to the Internet? How long do they stay connected?
  • How users store files on computers; for example, how much storage space do customers have on their computers? How much storage space is used? Where do customers store their files?

We do not intentionally collect sensitive information, such as the passwords on the user accounts, the contents of any of your personal files, the name or HTTP address of any of the websites you mark as Favorites, or what websites you visit.

It sounds like pretty standard stuff and not much more than would be shared if you ever participated in any of the Windows Improvement programs in the past. If you’re willing to give up that kind of info then you can score a legit copy of Vista Ultimate. Personally I’m pretty sure I’ve participated in two of the three improvement programs in the past so I’ve probably already revealed all my dirty secrets to MS and thusly have nothing to lose and a free copy of Vista Ultimate to gain.

Play “Command & Conquer” for free.

To celebrate 12 years of C&C the folks at EA are giving away the original game for free:

Thanks largely to the efforts of our loyal fans whom continue to sustain and grow the Command & Conquer community, Command & Conquer has become a legendary franchise and it’s time to celebrate its birth once again.

In order to give back to the fans for over 12 years of devotion we are putting together a 12th Anniversary celebration during the month of September. However, as any Command & Conquer fan knows, the true party starts today, August 31st, which marks 12 years since Command & Conquer Gold launched way back in 1995.

To kick the celebration off, today we have a special surprise which we are certain new and old Command & Conquer fans will enjoy. We are providing the original Command & Conquer Gold as a free download, compatible for Windows XP! This is the same version included with the collectors pack Command & Conquer: The First Decade, and is now available for you to download for free!


We are providing the ISO image of C&C GOLD for both the GDI and Nod discs. In order for C&C GOLD to run on Windows XP, you will need to burn the ISO image onto a CD with a CD Burner and any “CD Burning Software” such as Nero, Alcohol, etc. There are also a few extra steps in order to make C&C GOLD run on Windows XP after you burn it to CD. Please click the link below for the exact instructions after you download both files!




Can’t beat free. Sure, it’s over a decade old at this point, but we just had a blast playing it at my 40th birthday party so it’s stood the test of time fairly well.