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Making expensive stuff seam cheap: Playing with price perception

A few days ago we twitted a link to Dark Patterns, a site that collects examples of interfaces designed to take users to perform actions that they might not otherwise do:

Today we want to dive a little more on this topic based on a fresh example: On Tiendamia, a Latin-American ecommerce, prices are shown lower on the product page. To validate it, we tried to buy a Chromebook:


The first impression leads us to believe that it costs AR$32.290 (around US$246). But when we try to buy the product, it shows that the product actually costs AR$39.190, or US$299. That’s a US$53 increase.

These sorts of tactics are exactly what Dark Patters all are about. You can read more about this specific pattern here.

Photo by Sanmeet Chahil on Unsplash

Human beings perceive prices according to the context in which they are presented.

In this example, we could assume that the price is cheap and that the amount indicated corresponds to the price of the whole product. Presenting prices by not showing unknown delivery fees (it’s difficult to calculate the price of shipping if you’re on a rush) is quite shady.

A slightly simpler example: It is not the same to say that a service costs $365 per year than to say it costs $1 per day.

Knowing this leads us to take great care of the way we communicate our prices. Many times things don’t relate to their quality or real price, they depend on the frame of reference which our client evaluates us with, and the alternatives which he’s comparing us with.