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on 8 October 2015
Written in nice bite size stories, the author brings the world of research into a readable and entertaining series of 55 life lessons that help us to understand ourselves and other people. It gets under the skin of why we chose this over that, how we perceive value and how we are tricked or persuaded into our choices. The first thing that hit me about this book was the British contexts of what is largely American research. Those great writers and researchers such as Kahneman, Tversky and Thaler appear liberally throughout the book and if you enjoyed their work you will enjoy this. Of course the reverse also applies. It is to the credit of these authors that this research into human behaviour is so clearly and entertainingly explained. I for one want to make my financial decisions aware of the traps that have been laid out for me. Sadly most people are led into traps such as "easy installments" and are enticed by "free" gifts that seduce them into things that they don't need or ought to wait for. having just read the book, I realise that I am now able to dip in for a ten minute read on one of the chapters and gain deeper understanding, since the first read is entertaining but the second read will help me to analyse my decisions, as well as being fascinating and entertaining. If somebody you know is either tight or a spendthrift, there is an opportunity here to understand how that process might have occurred.
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on 24 February 2010
"'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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on 7 November 2010
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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on 18 April 2012
Two themes in this book are picked up in this book which together make it really most readable.
There is a bit of pop psychology that explains how people respond & expect different prices & appreciate the value of things depending on context. I used some of the ideas the following week in pay negotiations at work thefollowing week. It didn't get me any more money because the decisions had already been taken but it could have so maybe next year....

There was a fascinating short chapter in menu
design & layout but Unfortunatly I didn't make a good impression on my dining companion when I started explaining how the menu at the fancy restaurant we were in knew how to extract the highest prices! The book tells this in a much more engaging way than I did.

The 'get one free' part of the book goes beyond the quantified tests that back up these ideas & looks at the frankly loopy (sorry, i mean driven) characters who have developed these ideas mostly in universities & good fun it is

I suspect some people moght struggle with a whole book on either theme but putting the 2 together made it a highly palatable read & I certainly learnt some valuable (not sure priceless) lessons. A strong contender as a different business book that is not another rerun of what part of the brain is creative & what part is rational
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on 22 January 2010
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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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2011
The great value of a book like this is in sparing us the chore of obtaining and reading a huge pile of academic journal papers, many of which are useless, in order to filter out the real nuggets. That's what the author has done and brilliantly. I even quite liked the little bits of personal information about some of the better known researchers.

This is one of those rare books that I read all the way through, and took notes from.

Some of the material can be, and has been, exploited by marketing and sales people to screw more profit from customers by taking advantage of our weaknesses. However, that and other material in the book can also be used to help us defend against such exploitation. I particularly appreciated the occasional nugget directed specifically at how to overcome our weaknesses.
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on 2 July 2010
William Poundstone has been mining the weirder reaches of reality since Malcolm Gladwell was in short trousers. If you like Gladwell and you can't wait for his next, try this for a treat. It's well written, better sourced and does have some real life lessons.
Poundstone begins with the usual fare for this kind of book. A trip through modern psychology and behavioural economics. So far so interesting, but if you've heard it before... well it can get a bit repetitive. Never fear, the second half of the book takes real life cases such as internet pricing, menu design, anchoring (the best but grossly overpriced and the worst but unbelievably cheap items bracketing... you guessed it .... the thing I want you to buy.
Poundstone has a dry wit and the book is often nearly laugh out loud funny. I don't know if this is deliberate or not, but he also wrote an excellent biography of one of the fathers of the atom bomb, which I still refer to from time to time. Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb I'd recommend that as well
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on 28 January 2012
Very interesting and though provoking book. A bit repetitive in parts but full of fascinating research on the psychology of how we view values, risk and make choices. Not a practical guide to sales or marketing but a study of the underlying unconcious processes we go though and how they can be used to manipulate our buying choices. Well worth reading.
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on 8 January 2012
As a twitter buddy of mine pointed out, with a name like Bill Poundstone you'd be destined to write this book. It's an easy read with plenty of interesting anecdotes which serve to highlight Poundstone's exposition of behavioural economics as it relates to pricing. Brief histories of the personalities involved in the subject helped to sustain my interest; experimental design is important, but it can be a little dull reading about it.

I'm a money freak - history, philosophy, sociology of money - so I approached the book from this perspective. However, I think it would be of interest to the business reader, the academic or indeed the general reader. It gives the reader an insight into the techniques that can be used to set - and achieve - a price. Poundstone shows that what we think about price very much depends on context. On its own, the understanding of the power of anchoring - a bid/offer that sets context for and influences how you'll feel about a price- will repay you the cost of the book.
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on 9 February 2012
This book has really changed how I view mundane transactions such as ordering off a menu, house pricing, jury decisions and negotiating job offers. I found it a very good mix of theory and practical info, with anecdotes which are memorable and I've passed on to others. I would highly recommend the book.
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