Have you ever noticed that the menus in nice restaurants leave the currency signs off prices, or spell them out in words rather than Arabic numerals? The intended effect is pretty much what you would assume – to remove the association between prices on the menu and actual money. Now, there’s actual academic research showing that half of this theory is true.
The study was conducted by Cornell University‘s Center for Hospitality Research at a restaurant of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Also known as “the significantly more delicious CIA.” The study had an unexpected result, in that guests spent more when presented with a menu listing numeric prices with no currency sign (“20″) than with the prices spelled out (“twenty dollars”) This was the opposite of what psychological theory predicted.
“People who tend to be more price conscious, they’ll start adding up what their part of the check is going to be,” [study co-author Sybil Yang] said. “If you make that process a little more difficult for people by not presenting a number in Arabic numerals but rather as text, it becomes so much harder to add.”
Instead, the authors figured the dollar sign and the word “dollar” reminded folks they were about to spend money. The number format with no dollar reference took away that emphasis.
Fascinating stuff if you’re in the food service industry, or if you’re interested in retail psychology. Though this phenomenon did not escape the notice of Stuff White People Like.
On menus, dollar signs matter [Myrtle Beach Sun] (via Steve)
$ or Dollars: Effects of Menu-price Formats on Restaurant Checks [Cornell University]