If you’ve been trying to find inexpensive office supplies online or discount stationery in your town, then at this point you are probably feeling like you have stumbled onto the set of Maintain At The Circus. It’s tough to get a read on what’s an appropriate price to pay for pens, paper, printer ink or biscuits – specially when you’re ordering in bulk. Whomever your dealer is, you are prone to achieve massive savings over high-street prices.

On the contrary, it is possible to still end up paying 2 to 3 times over the odds. A discount promotion or buy-one-get-one-free offer is a warning signal, and almost certainly forms a part of a pricing strategy which will view you paying more for stationery and office supplies.

If you’re an economic director or office administrator, you might be clued into the big secret – but for the remainder of us, here’s usually the one secret that’s going to wipe off around half your workplace supplies expenses in just one swift movement:

Stop looking for Bulk Office Supplies

It’s not a call to arms over quality control – for some situations, it may even be appropriate to get the budget option instead of the high-end one. Nor could it be about wastage and logistical planning, although proper cost analysis is an important part of controlling your office budget. Rather, it’s a question of Bayesian signalling; Gricean logic; and, ultimately, basic principles of pricing. Though there are complicated concepts at the office, it comes down to simple human nature.

We’re hard-wired to travel right after the option with all the big shiny ‘discount’ sticker on the front – even if it’s more costly. It’s a bizarre little quirk in the human brain, then one that’s difficult to switch off – as US retailer JC Penney discovered to their ongoing regret.

Back in 2012, the supermarket giant announced they were putting a conclusion with their promotional pricing strategy, which saw everyday staples at a permanent discount. Similar to most supermarkets, JC Penney was artificially inflating their shelf prices before offering them an arbitrary discount. At times, a 50% discount was really a 10% increase on the recommended retail price.

The incoming CEO Ron Johnson announced a shift to a new, ‘honest’ system of pricing with no fake discounts; two-for-one deals; coupons; prices ending in 9 or 7; or other shifty tactics. The newest system was intended not only to affordable prices, but to help consumers make informed decisions regarding their groceries and budgets. The reality that Honourable Ron pxuovj Jobless Johnson within under a year probably tells you how successful that strategy worked.

Customers abandoned JC Penney in hordes, some with a feeling of anger over the things they regarded as a betrayal; revenue and share price went into freefall; and the company quickly returned to their previous strategy of artificial markdowns. When offered the identical products having a lower pricetag, customers still preferred to pay for the higher price – provided that it had a discount sticker on it.

Actually, JC Penney customers were so offended by the disastrous strategy that brand loyalty not only went down, with perceived trustworthiness falling as prices decreased; but stayed down too. The business actually issued an apology to jilted shoppers, however the subscriber base stayed away until prices were raised – in some instances greater than they originally were. A business commentator had this to state:

“The bargain-hunting website dealnews has since commenced tracking prices at JC Penney. What it really has discovered would be that the prices of certain items-designer furniture, in particular-have risen by 60% or even more at JC Penney almost overnight. 1 week, a side table was listed at $150; several days later, the “everyday” price for the similar item was up to $245.”

Discount pricing strategies are basically par for your course on the high-street – and, because the BBC uncovered, a lot of them are as arbitrary and misleading as JC Penney’s. And, typically, they create sense from a B2C perspective. The Chartered Institute of promoting claims that attention spans are restricted to 8 seconds, rather than the 12 seconds they were during the early 2000s.

We are now living in the data age: a realm of multitasking; 140 characters; ‘top 10 everything’; truncation and enumeration and fast food; where consumers need to make decisions quickly according to limited information. Discounting is definitely an immediate recognisable signal that the wise purchasing decision is being made, (whether true or not).

For someone involved with B2B procurement, however, discount pricing ought to be public enemy number one. Unfortunately, every workplace from your local chip shop to the condition of New York has at the same time or any other fallen victim towards the same ruses that operate in the supermarket.

Promotional pricing strategies in the workplace. It’s often said disparagingly of politicians which they don’t know the price of a pint of milk, (or when it comes to the mayor of brand new York, the cost of a pen and paper). In most honesty, however, none individuals do.

Milk, bread, as well as other staples are usually far less expensive than they should be – for a variety of reasons:

They might be used as a loss leader, to draw in in customers who’ll then pay more for other things. They might be inferior-quality versions employed to undercut competitors. They may be bundled with some other items as an element of an up-sell; sandwich-drink-and-snack deals at lunchtime are a good example, but there are invisible examples like coffee strainers and coffee (or printer and printers). They may be used to build trust or complacency within the shopper, who will often judge all of the prices of any retailer based on the first or most frequent items which they buy from them.

They could use secrets to human perception – such as charm pricing (like.9 or.7); pricing under benchmarks (such as £1, £5, £10 etc); or perhaps just including information that appears relevant but isn’t. Something which is advertised as “Only £1.99 once you buy 2!” may appear to be a discount, but if the single unit costs £0.99 then it’s actually higher priced.

All of the tricks outlined above, employed for milk and bread, apply equally well to equivalent office basics like pens and paper. It is possible to verify that for yourself with only a few minutes of searching – or checking your most recent receipt.

In day-to-day life there’s not a whole lot we could do about this sort of obfuscation. Only a few individuals have the time, resources or inclination to research and compare grocery prices on an item-by-item level – and also the opportunity costs of rushing from supermarket to supermarket in the quest for the cheapest potatoes by gross weight in fact probably outweigh the rewards. That’s why JC Penney’s clients are slowly returning as the costs are rising.

A company facing similar purchasing options, however, has the benefit of an economic director to protect its decision-making process.

There’s still scope, even or maybe specifically in the age of information, to have someone on staff who can perform considered, researched procurement. Someone who can spend some time to perform a proper cost analysis; take part in slow thinking; and come to some conclusion according to facts as opposed to on sound and fury.

While honesty didn’t exercise so well for Ron Johnson, we at CP Office still believe that it’s both worthwhile and worth a try. So, unlike a number of other stationers and vendors of office supplies, we choose to provide an impartial cost analysis to the prospective customers, as well as the benefit of our genuinely competitive prices. With CP Office, there’s no fuss without any tricks – just a genuine discussion about what’s right for you and your office.