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Express: fashion for the sexy, sophisticated… and stupid?

November 29, 2010

I won’t lie, I’m a fan of Express.  It takes a little effort on my part, but there’s always something to be found that isn’t too douche-y while adding a hint of sophistication to my lanky, awkward frame.  Yet I’m beginning to worry I’m not the store’s target clientele.  Rather they seem to be catering to a far dumber demographic.  I’ve noticed previous sales messing with ratios, but it seems to be getting worse.

Case in point:

This is from a recent Express email.  I get the “bigger is better” mentality, but it’s a bit much when they even size the font to try and suggest $40 of $150 is the greatest deal.  Even without running the percentages, a savvy shopper would hopefully notice that if you combine this with the free shipping deal from the exact same email, buying three orders of $50 would save you $60 total ($20 off $50 times 3 is $60 off $150).  Sure this supports the economies of scale theory, but only in the most perverse way possible.

If we run the numbers quickly we get:

  • $20 of  $50 is 40% off
  • $30 off $100 is 30% off
  • $40 off $150 is 26.7% off

Buy more, save less!

If anyone knows someone at Express corporate, I’d really like to find out if this marketing tactic is actually working.  Alternatively, I may support this as a strange way of dumber shoppers subsidizing intelligent customers.

Update: Featured on Lifehacker… awesome

Update: My original point was that if you bought $150+ worth of clothing, you’d just be obtuse not to break your order into as close to $50 increments as you could.  A couple of commenters raised a good point, the one instance worth further consideration is when you buy one item that is $100 or $150.  In that case, well, it just kind of sucks that your discount is a lower percentage just because you bought more.


From → MATH, random musing

  1. Greg Patterson permalink

    They have been doing it for years so I am sure it works. It crops up mostly at Christmas. Normally during the years I get coupons for smaller discounts.

  2. John Ferin permalink

    So what are you going to do if you want to buy a $160 coat? You can’t really call them and ask them to allow you to purchase it in $50 increments. The issue isn’t of poor math, you just might not be saving proportionally in a way in which you assume at first glance.

  3. Tim permalink

    Why is the percentage the important factor? Is $30 bigger than $20? Yes. Is $40 bigger than $30? Yes.
    $20 off your purchase of $50 and $10 off each additional $50.

    There deal provides no option to take $40 off of $100 (40%), or $60 off of $150 (40%).

    Ratios are important, but they don’t decide everything.

    If you can only drink a half-gallon of milk before it spoils, would you buy a full gallon of milk for $2, or a half-gallon for $1.50? The full gallon is 33% cheaper than two half-gallons, but that ratio means nothing since it is invalid.

    • Aside from the whole diminishing returns thing, I was trying to point out that if you broke a $150 purchase into three $50 purchases you could get the $60 off. Your milk analogy is very good point, like the other comment above about buying just one item for $150. However, in many shopping experiences, when you’re getting multiple items ranging in prices, the percentages matter because you can make how you submit your order(s) work in your favor.

    • Scott permalink

      Well put

  4. Found this on lifehacker- very astute observation. Although I’m also a fan, I think Express is prone to these kind of Machiavellian promotions. And since I have noticed a comorbidity between sophisticated douches and low IQs, I’m not surprised.

  5. My ex wife fell for it all the time. Hook, line, and sinker.

    Many stores employ this, especially ones that cater to women shoppers. Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works are two that come to mind.

  6. these ads are directed at people who won’t work through the math before making the purchases.

  7. Tilly permalink

    Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body and Express were once part of the same company which is why their marketing looks so similar.

    I actually worked at Express for a few years now and I can only remember a handful of customers who understood & acknowledged the differences in the percentages.

    If you have more than one coupon, which you most likely do, just ask to split your transaction to get the better deal.

  8. The dollar amounts sound like a lot more off and isn’t so hard on the old brain than trying to work out what the percentage figures amount to…I know, I’m one of the ‘dollar amounts off’ people! Math was never a strong suit for me!

    However, having said that…who are the stores kidding! Most amp-up the prices at least 100% on the wholesale price, for profits, to cover overheads and staff salaries. 26.7% off isn’t much in the overall scheme of things, now, is it…?

  9. Scott permalink

    Thank you!!! I’ve been making fun of their coupons for years. I’m so happy to see I’m not the only one who’s noticed the stupidity.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. A Reminder To Double-Check The Maths On Sales Catalogues | Lifehacker Australia
  2. Check That Sales Price! « Daniel's Rants & Raves
  3. 2010 in review « It's just science… and other stuff

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