August 13, 2019


Sent by Jonathan Stark on August 15th, 2019

Long time reader Rebekah Yoder wrote in with this excellent example of how nuanced purchase decisions can be.

Once you start to pay attention to this sort of thing, you see it constantly.

Over time, you’ll gain a much better understanding of how thoroughly subjective (and bizarre) value calculations are.

This is a very useful skill if you want to value price your projects.

Anyway, here is Rebekah’s message (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan,

Today when I was buying ketchup, I thought of you.

I bought the more expensive kind. It was a smaller bottle for a slightly higher price. It was organic, which I don’t really care about in ketchup, and I’d bought at least one other product from the brand before that I actually disliked. So what gives?

The size of the bottle. Seriously, that was the deciding factor. I don’t use that much ketchup, and I live alone on the top floor of my apartment building, and the basket I was carrying was already heavy.

The ketchup manufacturers probably never thought about this at all. A bigger bottle is always better, right? Except when it’s heavy and you don’t actually want that much. You might even be willing to pay 25% more, on a smaller bottle, just to avoid the inconvenience.

I’m not the average customer so ketchup people don’t really care about my weird edge case. But niched-down experts do care about this kind of oddball situation, however it applies to their market.

I’m not totally sure how ketchupmongers would find out about this kind of thing if they did care; most people who prefer a smaller bottle, or whatever, probably don’t think about why, or even realize that’s why they chose one product over another. I’m not really sure how experts do this either, to be honest.

Anyway, I thought of you because stories about nonintuitive buying decisions are kind of your jam. Condiment pun not intended. ;)


Thanks for sharing, Rebekah!