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If you’ve been looking for cheap office supplies online or discount stationery in your town, then right now you are probably feeling like you’ve stumbled onto the set of Carry On At The Circus. It’s difficult to get a read on what’s the right price to pay for pens, paper, printer ink or biscuits – specially when you’re ordering in big amounts. Whomever your supplier is, you’re likely to achieve massive savings over high-street prices.

On the other hand, you can still end up paying 2 to 3 times within the odds. A reduction promotion or buy-one-get-one-free offer is a warning signal, and almost definitely forms a part of a pricing strategy which will look at you paying more for stationery and office supplies.

If you’re a monetary director or office administrator, you might already be clued into the big secret – but for the rest individuals, here’s the main one secret that’s going to wipe off as much as half your business supplies expenses in a single swift movement:

Stop looking for discounted office supplies – It’s not really a call to arms over quality control – for many situations, it may even be appropriate to go for the cost option instead of the high-end one. Nor will it be about wastage and logistical planning, although proper cost analysis is a vital component of managing your office budget. Rather, it’s a question of Bayesian signalling; Gricean logic; and, ultimately, fundamental principles of pricing. Even though there are complicated concepts at work, it boils down to simple human nature.

We’re hard-wired to travel after the option using the big shiny ‘discount’ sticker on the front – even when it’s higher priced. It’s a bizarre little quirk in the brain, and one that’s difficult to shut down – as US retailer JC Penney discovered for their ongoing regret.

Back in 2012, the supermarket giant announced they were putting a conclusion to their promotional pricing strategy, which saw everyday staples at a permanent discount. Like most supermarkets, JC Penney was artificially inflating their shelf prices before giving them an arbitrary discount. Sometimes, a 50% discount was really a 10% increase on the recommended list price.

The incoming CEO Ron Johnson announced a shift to an alternative, ‘honest’ system of pricing without any fake discounts; two-for-one deals; coupons; prices ending in 9 or 7; or any other shifty tactics. The new system was intended not only to lower prices, but to help consumers make informed decisions with regards to their groceries and budgets. The truth that Honourable Ron became Jobless Johnson within under a year probably tells you how successful that strategy worked.

Customers abandoned JC Penney in hordes, some with feelings of anger over the things they perceived as a betrayal; revenue and share price went into freefall; as well as the company quickly returned for their previous technique of artificial markdowns. When offered the same products having a lower pricetag, customers still preferred to pay for the greater price – as long since it had a discount sticker on it.

Actually, JC Penney customers were so offended by the disastrous strategy that brand loyalty not only went down, with perceived trustworthiness falling as prices decreased; but stayed down too. The company actually issued an apology to jilted shoppers, however the customer base stayed away until prices were raised – in some cases greater than they originally were. An industry commentator had this to express:

“The bargain-hunting website dealnews has since commenced tracking prices at JC Penney. What it really has discovered would be that the prices of certain items-designer furniture, in particular-have risen by 60% or even more at JC Penney almost overnight. 1 week, a side table was listed at $150; a couple of days later, the “everyday” price for the same item was up to $245.”

Discount pricing strategies are basically par for your course on the high-street – and, since the BBC uncovered, a lot of them are as arbitrary and misleading as JC Penney’s. And, in most cases, they create sense from a B2C perspective. The Chartered Institute of advertising claims that attention spans are restricted to 8 seconds, as opposed to the 12 seconds that they were in early 2000s.

We live inside the information age: a realm of multitasking; 140 characters; ‘top 10 everything’; truncation and enumeration and fast food; where consumers need to make decisions quickly based upon limited information. Discounting is surely an immediate recognisable signal that the wise purchasing decision is being made, (whether true or not).

* For a person involved in B2B procurement, however, discount pricing needs to be public enemy number 1.

* Unfortunately, every workplace from the local chip shop towards the state of the latest York has at the same time or some other fallen victim for the same ruses that operate in the supermarket.

* Promotional pricing strategies in the workplace

* It’s often said disparagingly of politicians which they don’t know the price of a pint of milk, (or in the case of the mayor of brand new York, the price of a pen and paper).

In all honesty, however, none people do. Milk, bread, along with other staples are usually far cheaper than they ought to be – for numerous reasons:

They could be used being a loss leader, to attract in customers who’ll then pay more for other considerations.

They might be inferior-quality versions employed to undercut competitors.

They might be bundled with some other items included in an up-sell; sandwich-drink-and-snack deals at lunchtime are a good example, but there are invisible examples like coffee strainers and coffee (or printer ink and printers).

They could be used to build trust or complacency inside the shopper, who will often judge all of the prices of the retailer based on the first or most frequent items which they purchase from them.

They could use tricks of human perception – including charm pricing (like.9 or.7); pricing under benchmarks (such as £1, £5, £10 and so forth); or even just including information that appears relevant but isn’t. A thing that is advertised as “Only £1.99 once you buy 2!” may look like a price reduction, however if the single unit costs £0.99 then it’s actually more expensive.

Each of the tricks outlined above, utilized for milk and bread, apply equally well to equivalent office basics like pens and paper. You can verify that yourself with just a short while of searching – or checking your most recent receipt.

In day-to-day life there’s not a whole lot we can do relating to this kind of obfuscation. Very few folks have the time, resources or inclination to investigate and compare grocery prices upon an item-by-item level – and the opportunity costs of rushing from supermarket to supermarket in the search for the most affordable potatoes by gross weight in reality probably reeydf the advantages. That’s why JC Penney’s consumers are slowly returning as the charges are rising.

A company facing similar purchasing options, however, has the advantage of an economic director to safeguard its decision-making process.

There’s still scope, even or maybe especially in the age of information, to have someone on staff who can perform considered, researched procurement. Somebody that can take time to conduct a proper cost analysis; take part in slow thinking; and are available to a conclusion based upon facts instead of on sound and fury.

While honesty didn’t work out so well for Ron Johnson, we at CP Office still think that it’s both worthwhile and worth a try. So, unlike many other stationers and vendors of office supplies, we choose to provide an impartial cost analysis to our prospective customers, as well as the advantage of our genuinely competitive prices. With CP Office, there’s no fuss and no tricks – just an honest discussion about what’s most effective for you and your office.

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