Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Semi-random prices

Charge or pay customers at "random"
  (+8, -4)
(+8, -4)
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There are businesses which ask customers to pay what they think something is worth, for example some restaurants. This is somewhat similar, but provides an incentive for the customer to do business.
The business provides a product, then either charges or pays the customer a random sum between -x and x+x. Therefore, the business will tend to profit from the customer but the customer stands a chance of profiting from the business, which acts as an added incentive for using the business.
To illustrate: A normal shop might sell a can of baked beans at ten bob and a loaf of bread at twenty bob. A shop with this charging scheme charges somewhere between minus ten bob and plus twenty bob for a can of beans and somewhere between minus twenty bob and plus forty bob for a loaf. Therefore, the customer has a one in three chance of profiting from "buying" something from the shop and the shop has a one in three chance of getting higher than the standard markup value from the customer.
The price is determined by a "wheel of fortune" sold by a separate retailer with no connection with the business or customers to ensure fairness, and the value arrived at is multiplied by the basic price.
It's not gambling because it wouldn't exist without a purchase.
I'm also thinking it would be useful for charging clients receiving counselling for gambling addiction.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2009

Stochastic rounding Stochastic_20rounding
My similar idea - only for small change. [Loris, Oct 29 2009]

[link]






       There is a 30% chance you will not receive a bun here. Oh great, Looks like you did + .   

       I would shop here, I like randomness. Coupons could be for 2% off house margin.
leinypoo13, Jan 25 2009
  

       I like this too [+]. You need to make sure the customer can't just walk away when the price comes up higher than average (perhaps they should already have their credit card in the slot). Also I think the math(s) needs a little work - in your example the average price for a can of beans is 5 bob, so the shop will be loosing money (assuming it bought the beans from its supplier at 6 bob)
MadnessInMyMethod, Jan 25 2009
  

       This would probably be legal in Nevada.
wagster, Jan 25 2009
  

       [+] I'm pretty sure there was a theatre that did this when they put on a stage version of 'The Dice Man'. The theatre-goers rolled dice to determine the cost of their tickets.   

       The difficulty (at least for the supermarket application of this idea, though not for the counselling fee application) would be in how to handle the situation where customers return expensive items and buy them again for a hopefully cheaper amount, or simply pretend to have forgotten their wallets if the price turns out to be high.
imaginality, Jan 25 2009
  

       In that case, it might work better for services than goods. The trouble with that is deciding what's really a good. In a sense, the price for the service in a shop is unknown because customers think of themselves as buying goods, but quite often they're paying for convenience. I don't think that's very significant.
//what happens if someone buys more than one of something?//
I thought of that, but didn't mention it. The price is a multiple of the whole bill rather than each item. Concerning how payment might be guaranteed, if the customer pays the maximum price first of all and then gets change plus extra, there's no problem. I also wonder about whether a normal distribution of probability would make any difference if the mode was at the recommended price.
[rcarty], you just said something fascinating which however i have yet to understand, so i'm going off to find an economics textbook.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2009
  

       It may provide some incentive to shop there but it provides no incentive to run such a store. Why would someone go into a business of selling goods on which there is a 33% chance of loss on every item sold? Wouldn't that average out over time to a 33% loss of profit? I know there is a 33% chance of getting double profit too but profit is profit, as a business operator, I'm concerned with what I'm losing.   

       And what is a bob?
tatterdemalion, Jan 25 2009
  

       The incentive is that there could be greater turnover. The probability of the profit peaks at the same as it would do anyway, but the advantage to the business is that it could attract people. It's like a loss leader.
A bob is a shilling, now worth five pence. I use them rather than decimal currency because i prefer the duodecimal system. Even ignoring ha'pennies and farthings, you can divide a crown (five shillings or sixty old pence) into ten different integers, but in decimal currency a crown can only be divided into one integer (in both cases ignoring one and the value itself). Pounds, shillings and pence are easier to work with than decimal currency, so i always convert to them and back again to save time.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2009
  

       A "bob" is slang for a shilling - equivalent to five new pence. Some people who know no better refer to a pound as a bob, whereas a pound should actually be referred to as a "quid", or a "half euro".
wagster, Jan 25 2009
  

       The Austrians had it right, though their Schillinge were decimal. The whole of Europe should've adopted it.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2009
  

       //"half euro"// Hah :-P
MadnessInMyMethod, Jan 26 2009
  

       This was almost baked at the Hi-Lo West-Indian restaurant in East Oxford in the late 1980s (their tag-line - "from a penny to a thousand pounds"), though it was a bit different because it depended on whether the staff liked you, so it was not truly random.
pertinax, Jan 26 2009
  

       What happens if the customer doesn't want to participate in the lottery? Great idea though! +bun
EvilPickels, Jan 26 2009
  

       The customer could have the option not to participate, in which case they pay the maximum price. [pertinax], you mean it isn't just random whether someone likes you or not?
nineteenthly, Jan 26 2009
  

       Hadn't seen that before, [Loris].
nineteenthly, Oct 29 2009
  

       There's a bar in Clerkenwell where (Thurday nights only) on ordering a round you are invited to roll dice against the barman - if you roll higher than them, the drinks are free!
zen_tom, Oct 29 2009
  

       Dust, I think it's called. Went there for my birthday once. Freakishly, every single one of my friends who bought a round that night beat the barman, and we paid nothing all night long. Loved it!
theleopard, Oct 29 2009
  
      
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