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Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value Paperback – 2 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (2 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851688293
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851688296
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Pricing is a richer subject than you might imagine. The smile that creeps onto your face when a shameless marketing gambit reminds you of something you read in Poundstone's book? Priceless. (Business Week)

"Bright analysis of the psychology of pricing … readable and revealing." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Switched-on consumers may think that they are wise to the marketing strategies thrown at them, but they should think again. Poundstone is your savvy, witty guide to saving the pound in your purse." (The Times)

"All about the hidden psychology of value, it is a truly eye-opening account of how the pricing of products affects how we think of them." (The Big Issue)

"[The book's] remarkably engaging prose style kept me glued to the page. Fascinating and fun, and I definitely think you should buy it. 5/5" (BBC Focus)


"An instructive and entertaining romp, which will leave you amused, smarter, and wondering about what money and prices really mean." (Daniel Kahneman - Professor Emeritus, Princeton University, and Nobel Laureate in Economics)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By DigiTAL on 5 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the latest in a long line of excellent popular science books by William Poundstone. Its topic is "behavioural decision theory", the study of how individuals make systematically irrational decisions in choice situations, risky gambles (where the probabilities are known), and uncertain gambles (where probabilities are unknown).

A lot of this field has focused on the latter two segments: decision making under risk and uncertainty. This was in some ways due to a methodological quirk, as these two scenarios were much easier to test with experiments, questionnaires, and real-life data.

Poundstone covers both these areas, but he also looks at how some companies are beginning to exploit consumers' common irrationalities. For instance, a fundamental axiom of rational choice theory is the "independence of irrelevant alternatives". Say you are choosing between good A and good B. Adding a third good to the choice menu -- good C -- shouldn't affect your original choice between good A and good B. Say you initially chose good A from the set {A,B}; then, the independence of irrelevant alternatives states that you shouldn't then choose good B from the set {A,B,C} (although you could choose C).

This axiom frequently gets violated in the real world, and clever marketers are wising up to this. Say you are choosing from two vacuum cleaners: a very cheap cleaner (A), and a more expensive model (B). In this case many people would choose A. However, the company can alter your choice by adding a third vacuum cleaner: an incredibly expensive state of the art model costing thousands of pounds (C).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Graham Jones on 7 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
If you run a business you need this book. Simple as that. It is, as the title says, priceless. The reason is not that the book tells you how to calculate your prices. Rather it challenges your very thinking about pricing and the strategies and models you might use. Far too many businesses either use guesswork or fancy calculations on pricing that merely dress up that guesswork. This book unravels that methodology and with the help of some fascinating studies shows you what people really are prepared to pay for - and how much. The book goes beyond pricing, as such, and looks at the whole notion of value.

In addition to the great content of this book - all backed up with solid research and references - it is also immensely readable. Indeed, it is broken down into 55 short chapters, so you can read it in bit-sized chunks.

Priceless does not provide you with practical pricing advice, but it certainly makes you think and will definitely help you re-think your pricing models so you can gain more profit. That alone is priceless advice - yet you only have to pay £12.99 for it...!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bert on 22 Jan 2010
Format: Hardcover
As someone who works in pricing, a book on what constitutes 'fair' value got my immediate attention. The main message is that there is no such thing in absolute terms. What is considered fair will depend on the context, and this context can be manipulated to increase the perception of fairness. While the book does contain some ideas you could implement, it is not a pricing handbook.

The book gives an overview of the field of behavioural economics in so far as it relates to pricing/valuation. If you've read a bit on the work of Kahneman, Tversky, Ariely, Thaler, ... you'll already be familiar with most of its contents. The book's merit lies in the selection it makes within this broad area of knowledge and the author's own observations.

It is set up as a series of short chapters that deal with a specific concept (priming, anchoring, ...), a specific application (99 cent pricing, Free!, ...) or an exploration of influencing factors (intelligence, race, gender, ...).

It's written in an entertaining anecdotal style that doesn't require any previous knowledge on the part of the reader. Anyone interested in understanding how humans can be influenced to find certain prices more attractive will benefit from reading this book. Once you've read this book you'll never look at a restaurant menu in the same way again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Stephen Hendry on 24 Feb 2010
Format: Hardcover
"'Menus,' he said, 'are supposed to be the classic example of free choice, but menu designers have found that there're many ways of getting you to order what the restaurant wants you to order' -- the most profitable dishes, presumably. The techniques he laid out are fascinating: a box drawn around certain items, for instance, always draws the eyes -- and attention -- there. This might mean these dishes best highlight the kitchen's skills, or, more likely, they make the restaurant the most money: The ingredient cost is low, or maybe they take the least staff time to prepare. But, more subtly, the box might not simply be encouraging you to order whatever's in it. 'There are places where there's a $150 hamburger,' Poundstone said. "The first thing everyone does is shake their head. But then you go down the menu, suddenly the $50 steak doesn't seem so outrageous." Our sense of value is always relative, and a technique like this, which gets you over your sticker shock early, can skew that sense just enough for you to find yourself saying, 'I'll have the steak medium rare, please.'"
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