Online buying and rational decisions August 30, 2010 cliffski I went to buy something online today, for about £90. I did a google search and found the cheapest one, and went to the shopping basket to buy…. and then hit a warning saying that the security certificate was issued by an unknown company. I then stopped. The site didn’t look dodgy, it was still an https connection, it was a boat chandlery store (I was buying an ecofan), it wasn’t selling viagra or heroin. I suspect it was fine, and safe, and the certificate thingy just expired or somesuch. In the end, I paid an extra £5, and bought it on ebay. I therefore can state, that in my mind, a warning-free buy page from a vendor I have already purchased from, is worth at least £5 to me. (or is it 5% of the purchase?) We all make decisions like this a lot, and I find the process to be fascinating. I often catch myself making irrational purchasing decisions. Here’s a famous example of what people do: You go to buy a TV for £200. Just before you hand over your money, someone tells you the same TV is £195 in a store thats a 2 minute drive away. Do you drive to the other store? Most people say no. You go to buy a book for £6. Just before you hand over your money, someone tells you the book is only £1 in a store thats a 2 minute drive away. Do you drive to the other store? Most people say yes. Which is bullshit. It’s either worth £5 to you to drive for 2 minutes or it isn’t. This makes no rational economic sense. We are easily tricked into spending money on stuff that makes no sense. The phrase 90% OFF! will trigger a completely irrational number of sales. The phrase “90% OFF ONLY TODAY!” sells even more. Logically, we should not give a damn what the original price is, or what it will be tomorrow. We should just look at what the product is, and what it is worth to us. But almost all the time, we are manipulated into making irrational purchase decisions. The worst, most emotional, most irrational purchasing decision I made, was to buy a high spec sony vaio metallic finish laptop which I’m typing this on. It is an overpriced, over-heating and over-specced luxury toy that cost me too much money. I bought it out of pure lust, totally irrationally, about 2 years ago. What’s the most irrational purchase you have made?