Not paying a surcharge vs. getting a discount

January 10, 2017

Semantics in the news (very broadly speaking): Not paying a surcharge vs. getting a discount — is there a difference? In today’s Supreme Court case, freedom of speech meets your wallet:

“You can imagine that a rational person would look at a cash discount, understand that it’s functionally the same as a credit card surcharge, and make his decision accordingly,” said Todd Rogers, a professor of public policy at Harvard. “But the cool and important contribution that behavioral science can make here is to highlight how people behave in reality, which is not in this so-called rational way.” The word “surcharge,” he said, prompts consumers to think about the price differential in a way that “discount” does not — which, in turn, has an effect on their willingness to use cash.