Yes, it’s that time of the year when shopping isles are peppered with young people looking glassy eyed at shiny items and parents are digging deep into their bank accounts. Hints of it are everywhere. What’s that big display in the store entrance…red bells and white flakes?
No…wait…upon a closer look it’s white “Pong!” balls and red plastic beer cups because not only are these stores student-friendly, they are drinking-student-friendly! What’s more, dear students, if you can’t figure out how to drink enough on your own, the display helpfully pairs together the tools for drinking games to maximize intoxication. Conveniently, the NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Commission) is located a few doors down in the same building, and all within walking distance of thousands of university students. A very thoughtful bunch.
The message here is simple: you like beer and pong, we like beer and pong; let’s be friends. And now that we are friends, come on in and visit. Inside, the isles are packed with things to help you through the term and signs to help pick the best buys–clearly marked red “Sale” flags. SO helpful.
However, as helpful as the red tags are, if not scrutinized carefully, the bargain could be a bust. If you thought “close reading” was only for English lit, think again: figuring out the real message of the sale signs often poses challenges in both math and language. Here are some I looked at last weekend.
I noticed three basic types of sale stickers, reminiscent of sentence types (though that fascinating topic can be covered another time). The types are 1) Simple, 2) Compound, and 3) Complex.
Type 1: Simple Some sales are easy–you get a dollar off if you buy one, you get a dollar off if you buy 7. Prime and divisible numbers welcome. Just buy it.
Type 2: Compound Other sales show different prices if you buy the item in pairs or singles (hey, is this moving to discrimination territory?!). If you get five, the overall discount per item requires math, but if you get six, no calculator required. Then, if you buy two (to get the best discount) and only use one, was it really a good buy anyway?
Type 3: Complex Beware! Here the best buy is in smaller batches rather than large ones. So if you’ve been going along looking at the sale tags without reading closely, and you fill your cart up with this item, you are not getting the best discount.
Confused yet? Well, maybe it’s not all that hard to figure out if you are paying attention, but if you are not…if you are assuming that your friendly grocer or drug mart, the same one that offers you 10% off if you shop on Tuesday, and likes beer and pong, is going to look after your best interests while you shop with fuzz-brain, you might, as my mother used to say, “have another think coming.”
My message is simple: sometimes red packages are red flags.