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Knowing I’m Being Tricked Is Barely Enough (acesounderglass.com)
80 points by luu 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments





The cheapest way to get audible is to subscribe on a per monthly basis, then immediately go and cancel - as part of the cancellation process it offers you 50% for the first three months instead. Just go and do that instead, then continue doing it every time the plan is about to go full price. I've been doing this for years and consistently getting it for £3.99/credit.

This assumes brain time is free. Most of us are too busy navigate all of the deals. Sure, just this one thing for audible is easy. But then you have to remember that other thing for Hulu ..and weird trick for Spotify ...and the spring promo for the grocery store.. Pretty soon we get lost.

But surely....everyone already does this in real life anyways? How is this different? I could go and do my weekly shop in Sainsburys...or drive 100m away and buy everything I need in Lidl for half the price. When buying a car I could say I am too busy to negotiate and take whatever is being offered, or I could do a little shop around and get a better price. Same with accepting salaries, when buying a house, when selecting phone contracts or utilities. You'd need to be super rich to just accept prices as they are and not worry about it - and if you are, then great, but for me it's like throwing money out of the window if you don't do this.

I mean, I don't know how else do you expect this to work? That all companies and individuals should be obliged to give us the lowest price they will ever accept, just because?


I buy a car once every 10 years or so, so it's not much overhead to research and negotiate that sale when you amortize it over the life of the car. For most other things, I pretty much pay the price I'm presented if I think it's acceptable.

I do my grocery shopping at one grocery store. I know I'm paying a bit more for some items (and much more for a few), but it's worth it to me because it means I don't have to make extra trips to Target and Trader Joe's, plus I don't have to remember what the prices are at all three stores so that I buy the right items at the right store. The vast majority of my spending falls into this category.

In fact, car and salary are the only two things I can think of that I actually negotiate at all. Even my house I didn't really negotiate. I made an offer slightly below asking and accepted the sellers counter in the middle.

As a non-FAANG software engineer in the bay area, I definitely don't consider myself super rich. (NB: I didn't buy a house in the bay area, but where I plan to eventually retire. For now it's just a vacation home. I'll never make enough to afford a house in the bay.)


> plus I don't have to remember what the prices are at all three [grocery] stores

I take your point that only the big things are worth sweating, but I feel like local comparison shopping is the sort of thing technology should make easy, and it still seems really hard. User uploaded systems, like GasBuddy, probably wouldn't work on so many items, unless uploading the price data could be automated somehow.

If we could kill paper receipts and instead get per-item sales data pumped to our feed of choice (Mint? Email?), then it'd be much easier to build a system on top of that that would run weekly local price comparisons. If you really wanted only one trip, maybe it could compare your total shopping list.

I know a lot of stores offer emailed receipts as an option now, it'd be a little more seamless if your payment system communicated your receipt preferences automatically, and if Mint or something like it was ready to catch that data.


I really hope you meant 100km. Even if you did, the amount of gas and wear on the car is non negligible, but still not a burden for a large run. However, most people don't want to drive that far or spend that much time being unproductive just to get a deal.

Also, all of the examples about cars, salaries, &c are no where near the frequency of groceries or monthly subscriptions and probably don't happen simultaneously.

The constant cognitive overload of doing it for everything in our lives is the issue, not that we can't do it for unique circumstances.


100m = 100 metres. 30 seconds extra driving.

That’s it how the grocery trade off happens really though. I’m not familiar with the particular stores you mention, but this market is sliced up the same way here, I expect.

First off, the stores are not fungible. Secondly, most people are trading off a convenient option for a much more inconvenient option or two, not 30s more driving. So say a extra 1/2 hour to your trip, or more.

Why aren’t they fungible? Because they don’t carry the same products. There is an overlap of commodity products (cans of coke, big name cleaners etc.) There are product a more bargain store won’t carry at all, and then there are products that are superficially commodity (cheese, meats, dairy, produce) but really aren’t.

Of course marketing makes this all more complicated if you want to think of “rational shopping” but it’s still true that the mid and high cost stores know I would probably be happier to pay more for truly commodity products there, than make a separate trip for them. For the most part, for most people, that’s true - although cf CostCo and the like for specific counter examples based on less frequent trips to “stock up”


I have some news for you. Each person sets an amount they are willing to lose for convenience, and move the extra 100m when they expect the price difference to be larger to that amount.

It would be even a nice and simple "Homo economicus" behavior if the amount was context-free. But people are partially rational beings, so they will putting a lot of effort searching for a house even if they don't wait an hour on the phone to get a $2 discount on some service.


When your time is worth enough, there are many small savings that you could get but aren't worth the time you'd spend looking for them.

Example: If you're earning enough, it might make sense to eat out every single meal. The time you'd spend doing groceries and cooking, plus their associated costs, can be lower than what you'd earn working an extra few hours per week and eating out every meal. (If you actually enjoy cooking it's of course a different story. And I do too. But people who eat out constantly are a thing.)


>But surely....everyone already does this in real life anyways?

No.

>I mean, I don't know how else do you expect this to work? That all companies and individuals should be obliged to give us the lowest price they will ever accept, just because?

Yes. Preferably with huge penalties whenever they do differently, the kind that shut down a company as opposed to slaps on the wrist.

It's called transparent pricing, and not treating your customers like shit for price differentiation reasons.


I recall one monthly service (I forget what, as it was some years ago; I think it was a language learning tool) where the way to get the cheapest option was to select monthly, click back, and be _immediately_ offered a 75% reduction.

It's not your dishonesty per se that con men look for, it's your greed, specifically active greed. I find passive greed works better. Not buying stuff at all provides an infinity percent discount. And as a bonus, there's nothing to figure out, and only one thing to remember: keep your wallet closed.

Because this directly applies to audible and their DRM bullshit:

The following one-liner converts their audiofile format to a equivalent mp4. Consider this a public service, and a way to make content you legally purchased yours.

ffmpeg -activation_bytes 1CEB00DA -i test.aax -vn -c:a copy output.mp4



"'Audible subscriber' was a nice identity to have"

If your identity is tied up with your affinity cards, you have a problem.

There's a whole industry out there trying to convince you that what brand you buy is important, beyond what value you get from the product itself. This is a promoted delusion. The classic paper is "Brands as symbolic resources for the construction of identity", out of Oxford.


I don't like being dragged into the minutiae of pricing plans like this.

It's makes me feel like a rodent in a maze responding to some twisted experiment.

And whenever I overhear people discuss the tricks they've come up with to save 2$/year on their transit pass or cable bill or whatever, I have to walk away.

I find those kinds of discussions tedious to the point that it makes me angry.


I think the real issue is that there is a trend that existing customers are being treated in a hostile manner. It used to be that long term customers are being treated well but these days long term customers are being exploited and new customers get the perks.

I think we have a deep need to be rewarded for loyalty.


I think if there is anything that is truly American, its the expectation that customers and companies are always trying to trick each other. So much of American business culture is built around this assumed adversarial relationship.

I have been in the US since 2000 and I think it has gotten worse. Most people still believe that loyalty gets rewarded but that’s not the case anymore in business and also not anymore as employees.

I think this perspective might be your own personal biases at work... this pattern of adversarial business relationships seems to be fairly evenly distributed across the globe. I would go as far as to say it is likely just a fundamental human behavioral tendency when it comes to dealing with scarce resources.

To be fair, I've lived in France and the UK and it's also the case (can't compare to the US though)

Why do you say that's American?

One thing that I learnt from e-commerce is that there’s a segment of customers who will delight in “beating you” to get a discount. It’s valuable to allow them to think they’ve won.

Tactics include: seeding “secret” coupons, discount rules that are more lenient than advertised, price matching against yourself, selling items that are more expensive but ship free, allowing them to contact customer service for better discounts, and so on.


If only there were a way to avoid reading articles about the minutiae of pricing plans and then engaging in discussions about them to avoid making yourself angry.

This always bothers me as well. Even when they say something like, they're saving $10/yr. In my mind, all the grief you go through to save that money, plus all the conversations you have about it afterward, altogether is worth more than $10/yr, so ultimately it's a net negative value.

I mean really, $10/yr over 10 years is $100. Congrats, you can now afford a fraction of a plane ticket after a decade?


I love your rodent analogy, I feel like that all the time.

Let's all realize that corporations are the best manipulators in history.

It is essentially impossible for a person to take advantage of a corporation in an ethical/non-criminal way; their structure explicitly minimizes that. So, then, realize that they have formed themselves not to be exploited, but to exploit you. This is their raison d'être.

How much time have you spent analyzing your decisions to ensure that you are never being taken advantage of? I guarantee every corporation you deal with on a daily basis has spent orders of magnitude more time thinking about it, and more, analyzing how best to take advantage of others.

If a person exhibits the traits common to corporations, they would be considered narcissistic sociopaths.

I'm not suggesting shunning corporations from your life is a practical answer to this issue, but you should certainly be aware of it.


It's not unwinnable. If a few people beat the system but most don't - that's fine from corporation's point of view.

Subscription and ownership are not compatible models.

It's an unfortunate consequence of how copyright exherts their influence: they do not want to end up like musicians on Spotify.


McDonalds gives away coupons with serious discounts. People who value their money more than time seek out the coupons. People who don't want to spend time fiddling with coupons just pay straight up. Audible is doing the same thing here.

It's basic price discrimination, like student discounts or off-peak tickets - you can't just ask each customer how much money they have and charge accordingly, but you can offer a range of prices to different demographics based on their average ability and willingness to pay.

McDonalds gave away coupons with serious discounts until January 1 2019, at which point the app stopped offering any decent deals and only let you view one coupon an hour

They were doing that some time ago. Then they went back to offering large number of deals every day. I'm not sure if it's a seasonal thing or do they really want to transitiom to such a small number of deals.

I'm seeing a lot of anti-Audible comments here. I'm not particularly pro-Amazon, but I've been an Audible subscriber since 2016, and my take is, if you don't like Audible, go elsewhere! There are so many other options, including Apple.

This isn't even the shittiest thing Audible does! It will delete audiobooks from your library and not even tell you.

Despite all that I'm a loyal audible member. I'm on the 24 credits/yr plan, and that's the best deal for audiobooks I have seen. Audible customer service is awesome, and it is easy to return any book you don't like. I don't love the credit model either, but you're basically choosing between expensive books on apple or cheap + deal w the credits on audible. To take an extreme example, I recently listened to The Path to Power which cost me $9 on audible[1]. It would have been $34.99 on itunes[2].

It seems like HN wants the best of both worlds, i.e. $9 per audiobook and no dealing with credits. But that's just not an option.

[1] https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Path-to-Power-Audiobook/B00GS...

[2] https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/the-path-to-power-the-...


Can you elaborate on "It will delete audiobooks from your library and not even tell you."? How can this be detected?

Unsure. Here's one previous discussion on reddit, there have been more https://www.reddit.com/r/audible/comments/8usqxk/anyone_have...

I'm an Audible subscriber and I listen to a lot of audio books. A nice supplement to Audible is "Libby", a free mobile app that lets you check out audio books for free using your library card. I read reviews on Audible and then check whether the book is available on Libby before purchasing on Audible.

https://meet.libbyapp.com/


It’s taking advantage of the “sunk cost” fallacy. People tend to believe that since they’ve already spent $X that they might as well continue.

This is why so many retail investors will double down on a losing stock position. Any day trader will tell you that this is a complete fallacy. Even if you don’t sell your shares that are losing money, you still have taken the loss, the only one who hasn’t admitted it is yourself.

Better to cut the cord and leave instead of trying to dump more money in and “right” an losing situation.


splice.com also has this slightly scummy business model, where you lose your credits if you cancel your subscription. I suppose it works though, since the model keeps being used everywhere.



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