Tricky Price Labels

Here’s an example of a confusing pricing label that could catch you out if you’re not careful. On first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that a bottle of water was $9NT, but actually to leave with this water you’d have to pay $18NT.

First have a look at the two labels to the right, which are very straight forward. The label furthest to the right says –

原價 15 10

原價 (原价 yuánjià) means ‘original price’, that is, 原來的價格 (原来的价格 yuánlái de jiàgé).

The label in the middle is also easy to understand and lists two prices for two different quantities of water –

售價 22
售價 19

售價 (售价 shòujià) simply means the ‘selling price’, as in 銷售的價格 (销售的价格 xiāoshòu de jiàgé).

The confusion starts with the label furthest to the left. As I mentioned above, after reading the other labels you’d naturally think a bottle of this water was $9, but let’s take a closer look.

Price Label


Largest on the label, after the $9 price, is 買一送一 (mǎi yī sòng yī), which means ‘buy one get one free’. Great! So for $9 we get two bottles? …not quite.

The next line says 單價 (单价 dānjià) 18. The means ‘price for one $18’, followed by 平均每件9 (píngjūn měijiàn 9), average price for each 9. 平均 means “average”, 每 is “every/each” and then 件 is a classifier for items.

Upon this further inspection we’ve learnt that a bottle of water actually costs $18, but comes with a second free bottle. While technically this means each bottle of water is $9, it is impossible to only pay $9 and walk out of the shop with one bottle of this water.

I hate this kind of trickery and if I was going to buy a bottle of water it’d be the $10 bottle on the far right. It’d cost me an extra dollar but save me having to carry around a second bottle.

As an aside, if you’re in the UK check out the very funny TV series Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish, in which Gorman makes fun out of analysing things like this.