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Be brave. Pain is a part or payment.  

“It’s a beautiful restaurant. They let you pre-pay first and then at the end they gave you back the remaining money. I mean – I ate and received money? Such a deal! A bargain!”

Are you this silly? Continue reading.

This article is inspired by The Choice Factory. A book written by Richard Shotton about cognitive biases in marketing and everyday life. Read another article from this series.


You have finally finished your work. Boss has been nagging you the whole day. And I won’t even mention the powerpoint presentation malfunction in from of the whole board. What were you thinking? Adding gifs… 

You’re exhausted. You were craving a walk in the nearby park the whole day. That was going to be your reward. Maybe sitting on the bench also. Reading a book. Oh. Stop. let’s not be greedy. 

Too late. Gods of weather punished you for your silly dreams. It started raining five minutes after you finished your work. “#$#–!:” you moan. I know. Let it out.

Nothing is lost. You decide to go to your favorite diner instead. You still have your book. And you have a head start. You’ll be there first before wet people from the park manage to steal every stool.

You enter the café. What a miracle. Your favorite table is empty. You’re so smug that you decide to treat yourself with coffee and dinner. 

After a lovely time the waiter brings you the receipt. You pay. 

On your way home you’re getting angry. How dare they! Last week you got exactly the same order and it was cheaper! by how much? You don’t know… by £3,50 or so… you feel.

At home, still furious, you dig up the receipt from last week and you compare them. And you’re speechless. Both receipts are for exactly £25. How is that possible?

  1. Your accountant is an alien from the planet Gaslight.

  2. Last night you entered a parallel universe. Everything costs £25 now.

  3. Last time you paid by card. But today you paid by cash.

Ah. You think I’m having a concussion? Okay. I understand. Let’s wait with the correct answer till the end of the article. 

Let them pay by card

Many bar, club, café or restaurant owners still refuse to like the card payment. I get that. They have to pay a little fee to the card issuer for their services every time you decide to get a matcha latté.

But what you lose at the beginning, might be a gain in the long run. 

Richard Shotton with Gabrielle Hobday stood at the door of many London cafés. They asked leaving customers three questions:

– how much did you spend?

– how have you paid?

– can we see the receipts, honey?

After the customer's response, Shotton looked at their receipt and spilled the tea. People who paid by (debit) card thought they spent 5% less than they actually did.


On the other hand, people paying by cash felt like they spent 14% more than they did.

If the receipt shows £25. (As it does in our story.) People feel they paid £3,5 more if they paid by cash compared to the card payment.

What does that mean? If you let people pay by card, they will perceive your place as cheaper compared to competitors forcing them to pay by cash. They will keep coming back. And you’ll gain more loyal customers sitting at their favorite tables. 

Playing games doesn’t hurt

Here’s the secret. People hate losing stuff. And they are most sensitive when it comes to money. Even if we spend cash for something nice, we still hate it. It hurts. Paying hurts. So what can we do as retailers?

General rule says: “drag them as far from real money as you can.” Paying hurts less if it’s not real money in your hand. That’s why debit cards work. But they are not the only means you can use. 

Casino uses chips to make players think it’s not a big deal to bet half your salary. Those are just pieces of plastics. Monopoly money!

Another example you can use is gift cards. Or you can omit the currency sign next to the price.

Sybil Yang, Sheryl Kimes and Mauro Sessarego from Cornell Center for Hospitality Research proved that menus showing prices without the dollar sign ($) made customers spend 8% more. 

The logic of trade is given. You give something to get something else. In modern world you give money in exchange for goods. Nothing to feel bad about. However…

According to the Daniel Kahneman’s prospect theory we feel the pain of loosing something twice as much as we feel the joy of gaining something. For example, if we loose £5, we would have to gain £10 for the negative and positive emotions to even out. 

That’s probably one of the reasons why we feel pain during payment.

The value of goods we receive would have to be twice as high compared to the actual price. And that’s not a fair trade. That’s stealing.

But our emotions are still trying to persuade us that life is not fair if we get only exactly what we have paid for. Such hurt! How many of us become thieves just to avoid the pain, I wonder. 

Correct answer: C: Last time you paid by card. But today you paid by cash.

Source: Richard Shotton | The Choice Factory 

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