the pain of paying

iPodsHave you noticed how you only get one bill from iTunes, even when you make several purchases? I suspect this isn’t just to save on administration costs, as it exemplifies a clever use of the behavioural economics theory of the pain of paying.

The pain of paying says that when we are closer to the method of payment, or in other words when the method of payment is more obvious, we feel more ‘pain’ in paying. So if we have to part with cash we notice that we’re spending (and feel the ‘pain’ of it) more than we do when paying with credit, which is why credit cards and interest free credit are so appealing to many people – we feel less guilt at putting something on a credit card and worrying (or not) about it later. Receiving one overall bill for our iTunes activity, rather than one for each purchase, means we’re not reminded as frequently that we’re spending our money – because sometimes once we become aware of our spend, we’re more likely to regulate it.

Behavioural economics is probably also why Apple deliberately only have a couple of price points (e.g. 99p and 79p for singles). It makes it easier to compare things because there’s virtually no difference in price between products, making the overall decision to buy a single (or album) easier, and therefore helping persuade you to buy. So next time you’re thinking about downloading that album, think again. Would you be as quick to buy it if you had to take the money out of your wallet rather than just clicking download?

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