Small Publisher of the Year 2011, 2010, 2008, 2006 

‘Author William Poundstone, an easy-to-read best-selling writer, takes readers through the psychological ploys consumers face each day when they reach into their pockets and purses to pay for goods and services. It attempts to help them answer the big question: how do they know whether they’re getting value for money? … Very readable account of dark arts used to convince consumers they should pay more for everything.’

Piers Akerman, Daily Telegraph

People used to download music for free; then Steve Jobs convinced them to pay for it. How? By charging 99 cents. Prada and other luxury stores stock a few obscenely expensive items — just to make the rest of their inventory seem like a bargain. Why do text messages cost money, while emails are free? Why do jars of peanut butter keep getting smaller in order to keep the price the ‘same’? The answer is simple: prices are a collective hallucination.

In Priceless, bestselling author William Poundstone reveals the hidden psychology of value. In psychological experiments, people are unable to estimate ‘fair’ prices accurately and are strongly influenced by the unconscious, the irrational, and the politically incorrect. It hasn’t taken long for marketers to apply these findings. ‘Price consultants’ advise retailers on how to convince consumers to pay more for less, and negotiation coaches offer similar advice for businesspeople cutting deals. The new psychology of price dictates the design of price tags, menus, rebates, ‘sale’ ads, mobile-phone plans, supermarket aisles, real-estate offers, wage packages, tort demands, and corporate buyouts. Prices are the most pervasive hidden persuaders of all.


‘Immensely readable and deeply researched.’

New Zealand Listener

‘Pricing is often seen as market-driven and rational but this improbably fascinating book reveals all the alarming tricks used to make consumers pay more for less and argues that prices are often entirely unrelated to anything other than the whims and consumer psychology. You’ll learn a lot about “anchoring” and you’ll never look at a restaurant menu the same way again.’

Sun Herald

‘Much of behavioral economics … has focused on the seemingly crazy ways in which people and prices interact. In his new book Priceless, William Poundstone offers a thoroughly accessible and enjoyable tour of this research … Poundstone is an engaging intellectual historian who traces the development of behavioral economics from its roots in the 1960s discipline called psychophysics, an offshoot of psychology … It was more than century ago that Oscar Wilde famously observed that “people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. In Priceless, we now have the proof.’

Steven Pearlstine, Washington Post
» All reviews for this title

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