Monday, October 01, 2007

Thinking About Numbers

The statistics offered up each day at Numeric Life are always interesting and entertaining, but I keep waiting for some statistics that address one of the great mysteries of life: why Agnes and I look at numbers so differently. We've been married for just over 25 years now, and I'm always amazed at how much alike we think on most topics. The big difference, though, comes in how we view numbers... prices, in particular.

I noticed this again yesterday when we were shopping in our local Costco store. For those of you unfamiliar with this chain, Costco is a wholesale store which offers very good prices on items bought in large quantities...if you need a metric ton of flour or a pallet of tissues, this is your store. We buy things like books, paper towels, toilet paper, and meat there at prices much better than other stores. The problem is that while the prices of individual items are very good, those small individual prices add up to very large totals very quickly as you load up the ol' cart.

The number issue is this: we round numbers differently. Agnes sees an item priced at $19.99 and sees $19.00. I look at the same item and see the price as $20.00. She consistently rounds down, where I round up. This isn't much of an issue at the level of single items, but when you have a cart piled high with things, those rounded dollars add up quickly. When the total shows up on the register, Agnes's first thought is that there's been a mistake - it can't possibly be that much, and we're either being cheated or the checker has screwed up; she'll carefully review the register receipt line-by-line, generally - grudgingly - accepting that it's right. My estimate of the total is generally more realistic. The exception to this is restaurant checks - Agnes invariably knows to within a dollar exactly what the check should be, while I tend not to look carefully at restaurant prices the way I look at prices in stores.

Now why is that?

I guess it will just remain one of those little differences that keep us interested in each other as we get older and grumpier. Whatever else happens, she'll always be my Number 1 ... and that's tough to round up!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I'm a round upper myself.

Amanda said...

Seems like the day to talk about rounding. I had a similar conversation with my mother because she rounds the time. If she is trying to get me to do something, she always rounds UP to the nearest hour, even if its only 25 mins past the current hour. If she's loitering around, she rounds DOWN.

La Chanson de Phoenix said...

I round up as well, especially on taxable items. If you ever see me shopping, you might even hear me say "10 and a half..." for something that is $10.35 to myself. I talk to myself a lot. I am nearly always right in my estimations, except when Josh is with me, because he puts things in the cart without telling me and if I don't know they were there, I don't add them in. Silly man.

Btw, you are Fabulous!

John said...

I've never even tried to figure out what Chris does with numbers. She's a word person!

Bilbo said...

Wow! Thanks, Sue! Can I have Agnes call you for a reference next time she gets upset with me??


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Prices ALWAYS end in .99!

Serina Hope said...

I ussually come within three dollars when I guess at the grocery store. I too am ussually surprised by the check when eatuing out, though. I wonder what is up with that?