back to article A fifth of Europeans can't work out how much a TV costs

A full 20 per cent of European consumers are too befuddled to work out which is the cheaper flat screen TV when given a choice of two*, European Commission research has found. The figures, released today, show that fewer than two-thirds of consumers could read an ingredients label, while 18 per cent of shoppers are flummoxed …

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  1. bitmap animal
    Alert

    Doesn't surprise me

    There are quite a few people at my work who would struggle with that TV question, the standard of basic maths is generally appalling.

    My son was at the supermarket recently and the cashier (20ish year old man) had real difficulty in counting about 80p in change. It's everywhere.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    o dear

    Seriously, how are businesses supposed to account for the ever deepening stupidity of the average person, and it seems the lower you go the dumber people become.

    le sigh~~~~

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      Does this mean that if the average IQ is, by default, 100, then my IQ keeps steadily rising year on year?

    2. Daniel Evans

      Change

      I regularly try to work out the amount of change and exact coinage a cashier should give before they manage to - the amount of times I know I need £3.11 change before they've punched the "£5" button on their cash register is embarassing.

      1. peter 45
        Happy

        Embarassing? - only for them

        I do it regularly, just to show them up. What is even funnier is when I have already added the entire bill up and present them the exact change before they have finished 'beeping' the goods through. It sometimes works to my advantage as when they state the amount, I can tell them they must have keyed in a wrong value 'cos it is incorrect. I did it to a bank teller once when paying in several cheques. Now that was embarassing.

        1. G28
          WTF?

          Why

          Why would that be embarrassing? Generally stock is "beeped" through, or scanned, not only calculate the total but as part of stock control as well. I can honestly say that if I worked in a shop and had to serve you I'd be fairly unmoved by your amazing maths skills.

          It might also be worthwhile remembering that the next time you tell your excellent teller story that nobody cares, everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Oh and that it's not excellent.

        2. Dave Lawton
          FAIL

          Re: Embarassing? - only for them

          I looked on with amazement when a bank teller reached for a calculator, to add up 4 cheques, all of value £15.00

    3. ravenviz
      Happy

      Re: Doesn't surprise me

      Giving them the remainder of change so you can get rid of shrapnel is another good one, e.g. passing over a £5 note and 37p in change for an item that costs £3.87.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge
        Stop

        indeed

        Unfortunately that is an issue. I often get rid of low value change to get higher coinage in return. I must say that B&Q usually have older staff - never had an issue there, the same in our local chippy but I often get blank looks in supermarkets.

        Shame really as it's a life skill.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Flame

        Shrapnel

        Oh, come on, checkout persons do not have A* level Maths.

        (Waiting for the flames......)

        1. Naughtyhorse

          They might

          a level maffs aint what it used to be!

          you get a pass if when asked to add 6 and 8 you take off only 1 shoe in order to compute the answer.

        2. ravenviz
          Unhappy

          Re: shrapnel

          With the young jobless count these days and people getting what they can they may well have! :(

    4. Old Handle
      Go

      That's easy

      Offer a 10% discount.

    5. Jerome 0
      FAIL

      Irrelevant

      Disturbing though it is that so many people can't work out 10% of £500, it's also entirely irrelevant to the question this research claims to be investigating. How many shops do you know that mark an item "10% off" but don't highlight the price after the discount?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why doesn't it surprise you?

      I think you'll find that "what's everywhere" are shit surveys.

      Population of the EU: 501,260,000

      Population surveyed: 56,471

      Percentage of total population surveyed: 0.01126581%

      Another non-comprehensive survey which has been generalised beyond its scope.

      Why anyone pays any attention to <strikethrough>these detailed and comprehensive studies</strikethrough> this bollocks escapes me.

      In another comprehensive survey I asked 5 people passing my house what they thought of The Register. Apparently, judging from the results obtained, no-one at all has heard of it.

  3. nemo20000

    Or more accurately

    20% of Europeans don’t know what “20% of Europeans” means.

    We’re doomed, DOOMED.

    1. Marvin the Martian
      Pint

      And in other shock news:

      Half the plebs is even more stupid that the average punter.

      Full details at 11-ish, or whenever we've worked them out.

      1. Richard IV
        Coat

        Re: And in other shock news

        Only if "average" means the median and the mode doesn't equal the median.

        Mine's the one with holes for an above average* number of arms

        * meaning the arithmetic mean

        1. longbeast
          Happy

          2.000043

          Can you be so sure that there aren't a few people with extra arms?

          Just to confuse the count, I'm going to stubbornly insist that I have four. Two of my arms have shoes on, admittedly, but that means nothing.

  4. Clive Galway
    Stop

    Surely the title should be "A fifth of europeans can't do maths"?

    I fail to see why they confused the issue with mention of TVs, its a simple maths problem and has nothing to do with consumerism.

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Coat

    TV Price Test

    I blame the schools. Back in the day (cue sound of violins...), circa 1960 or so, we used to do mental arithmetic every day. Naturally there were no calculators apart from the venerable Abacus and the odd tabulating machine.

    These days, I've seen shop assistants reach for their calculator to add a few simple numbers (both less than 20)

    Don't get me started on approximation... now that is a lost art indeed.

    Mine's the one with a 58.5ohm resistor in the pocket...

  6. John I'm only dancing

    Cheapest TV

    Is the one bought off the bloke in the pub who happens to work in the warehouse.

    1. Oliver Mayes

      Don't blame the schools

      If someone can't work out what 10% of 500 is then they're likely beyond help.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't blame the schools

        >If someone can't work out what 10% of 500 is then they're likely beyond help.

        Or a politician calculating the interest repayments on his non-existing house

    2. GatesFanbois

      title

      Surely the title should be "A fifth of europeans can't do arithmetic"

      1. Shaun 1

        Also

        Four fifths of Brits can't spell rithmetic

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          aye

          maybe out of reading and riting that was their worst of the 3 R's

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Up

            The real 3 Rs

            Ready, wRiting and Reckoning :D

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Four fifths

          And the other two fifths can't add up!

          1. ravenviz
            Joke

            Re: four fifths

            And 1000000% don't understand binary!

    3. Bassey

      Re: Steve Davies 3

      "I blame the schools...we used to do mental arithmetic every day."

      As they do now Steve. And I know plenty of people educated in the 60s who wouldn't be able to answer that question. Many people from that era can't read or write either - my wife volunteers at the local school in the evenings teaching adults basic reading, writing and arithmetic and they are NEVER short of students in their 50s and 60s. The "Education Today" thing is just a myth put about by a lazy media.

      A decent proportion of today's GCSE maths is done as a series of mental arithmetic questions. The students have a pen and an answer sheet. Nothing else. The teacher stands at the front and reads out a series of questions. You have X seconds to write down the answer (and only the answer - if you scribble notes or workings out you lose marks) before the teacher reads the next question.

      But it is far easier for the media to make out that kids aren't taught certain skills or are lazy than to find out the truth.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        I'll have to ask my sister (a maths teacher) if she has ever heard if this?

        What I do know is that the lower level papers test at a level that an average 8 year old in the 60's would find insulting.

        Things like measure a line, read a simple scale and count the shaded squares on a 4x4 grid.

        These are Exams that serve no purpose at all, as they do not test for how smart the kid is, but just how stupid they are.

        When they are that thick potential employers don't care about exam results; just can they push a broom in a straight line and turn up to work regular.

        Hopefully the new rules for school league tables that exclude all the ICT exams (~4 of them) and other exams that are used to pretend kids have been given an education will disappear.

        The next stage should be some simple honesty and stop lying to people that going to university and getting a degree in there current hobby will do anything other than make them poor.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        I smell a maffs teacher

        desperately trying to justify the cliff that standards have dropped off in the last 30 years.

        average school leaver today is funtionally illiterate

        average graduate today is functionally inumerate

    4. peter 45
      Headmaster

      Sorry to disagree

      I would normally lament the education system of this country, but it is not universal. My nephew was being taught mental arithmetic at primary school. I don’t just mean how to add up two numbers in his head, but mental tricks like how to multiply by 5 or 9 or work out VAT at 17.5%. Only thing I remember from my Primary School days was screwing with my teacher’s head by continuing the recital of the times table beyond x12. Tee Hee.

      1. mccp

        VAT at 17.5% ?

        Keep up - we're at 20% VAT nowadays.

        I'm convinced that they made a big mistake here - most people found it non-trivial to work out how much tax they were paying when it was 17.5%. Now it's 20%, it's simple for most to work out that their new £499 TV includes £100 tax.

        In France the VAT rate is 19.6% and loads of other countries have the rate set at 18%, 19% or 21%. I'm sure that obfuscation is the name of the game here.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Let me be one of many...

          ...to point out that

          >Now it's 20%, it's simple for most to work out that their new £499 TV includes £100 tax.

          is wrong your 499 GBP tele includes 84.17 GBP tax

          Apparently not so simple.

        2. deadlift
          FAIL

          Maths, you say?

          Actually the VAT on a TV costing £499 is just under £85...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Are you sure?

            If the TV costs £499 inc VAT, I make the VAT content £83.16666666666666667 (£415.83333333333333 Ex VAT)

            But then IANAA so I could be wrong....

    5. Steve X

      1960's mental arithmetic

      And that was in pounds, shillings and pence, when calculating a discount meant more than just moving a decimal point.

      How many of "today's yoof" would even know where to begin calculating 10% discount off £3 7s 5¼d in their head?

      1. Marcus Aurelius
        Headmaster

        10% of £3 7s 51/4d

        Well you could convert to d and back again

        so 3x240+7*12+5.25 = 720+84+5.25 = 809.25d

        So 10% of that is 81d, leaving about 728.25d = £3 0s 8.25d (give or take a farthing)

        Or another way

        10% of £3 = 6s = 72d

        10% of 7s = 8.4d

        10% of 5.25s = 0.5d

        For a total of 72+8.4+0.5 = 80.9d = 6s 8.9d

    6. davemcwish
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Steve Davies 3

      I sat my then Scottish 'O' Grades in the early 80's. At that time there was a separate exam in Arithmetic (as distinct from other branches of Secondard School Mathmatics - Trig, Geometry, Calculus); no calculators just a small book of log tables, pencil, eraser, blank working paper and your brain.

      I recall that one person in their mocks did so badly in the multiple choice/guess that they'd have got a higher score if they'd just answered "A" (OR "B" or "C" OR "D") for every question.

      PARIS: The proof that lack of intellect is an inspiration to some

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    Innumeracy is horrible

    A few years ago at a (nameless shop) I was buying ink jet cartridges. There was a 10% offer if I bought 2. So I decided to stock up and bought 4 - so the shop assistant offered me a 20% discount!

    I wonder how many people read agreements on web sites ? A year ago I got a new VAT number, this involved ticking a box to say that I had read the adjacent link. Only trouble was that the link was broken -- it took me 3/4 hour on the phone to report the fault abd be told where the agreement was. I doubt that it stopped people signing up.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet...

    ... the vast majority of them has A levels. And in maths too.

  9. Turtle

    Gladdens my heart!

    "Respondents were next presented with a scenario where two shops were selling identical flat-screen TVs. They were told that in shop A, the price is €500 but a discount of 10% is offered. In shop B, the price is €400. Consumers were asked which TV would be cheaper."

    And here I thought that it was only American schools and educational establishments that churned out illiterate, innumerate idiots.

    1. R J Tysoe
      Thumb Up

      I'm waiting...

      ... for the inevitable responses to this post from people who don't have english A levels.

    2. The lone lurker
      Thumb Down

      I can has A levels?

      I'm guessing you pride yourself on your own intellectual skills? Yet simple grammar escapes you.

      1. Steve X
        Headmaster

        Grammar

        "majority" is a singular noun.

        1. frank ly Silver badge
          Headmaster

          The Majority Report

          'Majority' is the singular of the noun; hence, "There is a majority", "A majority was obtained".

          However, 'The majority of them' is a reference to a number of people (or things), where that number must be greater than one. Hence, "The majority of them were confused."

          Can we get a majority concensus on this?

          1. Steve Foster
            Badgers

            @The Majority Report

            Only after you learn how to spell consensus. Or were you trying to take the (purple) michael out of the recent attempt to glean lots of new marketing detail for the Americans?

            (The obvious icon choice)

          2. Michael Dunn
            Thumb Up

            Majority of them is a reference?

            Sir, you are a C programmer, who understands pointers.

      2. thedweeb
        Headmaster

        @ The lone lurker

        Your point is valid, but your execution is not. Your first sentence: "I'm guessing you pride yourself on your own intellectual skills?" is not a question and should not have a question mark. Not to mention "I'm guessing". Your second begins with "Yet", which is just plain nasty.

        1. The lone lurker
          Thumb Up

          Correction for thedweeb

          I would assume you are one of those people who take pride in their superior intellectual skills. Despite this your sentence lacks the correct grammatical rules.

          I'm guessing this is better you pedantic bastard? Yet I think that you may still find some issue with my post.

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: contracts

      Read the 404 error, print off a copy for your records, confirm that you have read it.

      The real small print isn't to your advantage, so it is better not to be bound by it.

    4. Raving
      Paris Hilton

      Consumers were asked which TV would be cheaper.

      Neither. Buy it for €19.99 during Black Friday's shopping madness

      (Remote and activation P.I.N. including exclusive 5 years deluxe content access is €499.99 extra)

      Paris 'cos she knows a good deal when she sees one.

  10. Pete 2 Silver badge

    And 100% click "accept" without reading the agreement

    I have some sympathy with the 18% who were flummoxed by a BBD. Given that a date such as 08/03/11 could refer to August, March or November over a span of 8 years, it's easy to see where the confusion can arise.

    It's really well past time (that time was 31/12/99) that we all agreed that representing three different fields with three identically formatted values in no standard format is a recipe for confusion, if not disaster. Surely it's not that difficult to use three letters for the month and remember the lessons of Y2K and have a 4-digit year value? Though whether that year should be western, jewish, chinese or another choice still leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding.

  11. The lone lurker

    Stop the world please,

    I want to get off now.

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Before you all dive in...

    ...to bemoan the state of (several) European education systems, perhaps you should remind yourselves that this is a consumer survey and so 99% of its findings are worthless.

    In this case, I'd suggest that the sort of person who responds to the survey probably has too much spare time on their hands and there might be a reason for that.

  13. Fuh Quit
    Thumb Up

    That's my wife.....

    It's 10% off, I've saved you money!

    I suppose 10% of a lot is ....... a lot that she's saved me. I'm so lucky.... ;-)

    1. Steve Foster
      Flame

      @Date Formats

      The trouble with textual representations of the months is that they are monolingual. Since the world has a multiplicity of languages, that works against cross-border understanding.

      We should adopt the ISO standard forthwith, preferably backdated to 0000-01-01 (yes, the ISO standard has a year 0!).

    2. Nuke
      Thumb Down

      Date Formats

      The other trouble with representing the month with the usual three letters is that they are not alphabetically in the right order. I often use a date in a filename, so a letter to the bank on 5 Apr 2011 would be "bank_11'4'05.odt". That puts my files in date order in the default file manager view.

      Note that my year'month'day has the most significant first, the reverse of normal British practice. For October, November and December I use the hex digits a, b and c. It might catch on one day [sigh], but meanwhile it works well for me.

      The real problem is the USA practice of ordering it as month, day, year - a muddled order of importance.

  14. Mark .

    Reading a contract?

    Well, there's having a rough idea of what you're signing. And then there's reading through 20 pages of small print, fully understanding what all the legal terms mean - and then keeping updated when they dubiously "update" the terms and conditions without your consent.

    Whilst it's sad if people happily enter a contract without looking at it at all, how many of us actually read every last word?

    "These days, I've seen shop assistants reach for their calculator to add a few simple numbers (both less than 20)"

    I've seen Cambridge maths professors reaching for a calculator ... Using a calculator (which everyone has with them these days, even if just on a phone) isn't so bad as long as you know how to do the calculation. I fear the bigger problem here is that many people wouldn't know how to do it even with a calculator - that they wouldn't understand what percentage difference means.

    1. The Alpha Klutz

      "Whilst it's sad if people happily enter a contract without looking at it at all"

      It's sad that almost everything we want to do in life comes with a 20 page contract or user agreement.

      Add up all the contracts you have agreed to and the total comes to thousands of pages.

      This shit needs to be simplified, big time.

  15. heyrick Silver badge
    WTF?

    OMG!

    I'm numerically dyslexic, yet I find 10% of 500 to be a bit of a no-brainer...

    I guess this should make me feel better, but for some reason I'm crying inside.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    But what about ...

    ... the half price Stand, the Extended Warranty, the delivery charge, the 16 way surge protection socket, the full set of gold plated cables and the bottle of screen cleaner.

  17. sjb2016
    Jobs Horns

    The cheapest way to buy a TV

    Forget the maths, it's almost always cheaper to buy a flight to the States and buy it there, even with the cost of flight and voltage adaptors :)

    Evil Steve because even after taking into account the exchange rate and VAT, Apple products (along with most others to be fair) are always more expensive in Europe than the US.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/jobs_horns_32.png

  18. HP Cynic

    Erk

    I do actually work with a few people who have no idea how to calculate for percentages.

    What's most alarming about this is that among all the maths you learn at school percentages are among the most useful in everyday life.

  19. Xpositor
    FAIL

    Total price, all in

    ...some reviews of products don't help - for example 3DTV's where you don't get any bundled glasses, and yet this doesn't feature in the headline price or perhaps get taken in to account in the final review score.

    You wouldn't know of any reviews that fail on that test, would you El Reg?

  20. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Alert

    Mind you, shops delibrately confuse

    In supermarkets, there is supposed to be a representative price on the tickets to allow easy comparison, like so many pence per amount of weight.

    Unfortunately, my local T***o appears to deliberately compare different weights on the tickets, so one item will be priced per 250g, and another will be priced per 100g (and I have seen worse ones involving amounts like 330g, 350g).

    There is only one purpose in this, and that is to defeat the measures introduced to allow product comparison.

    I'm pretty good a mental arithmetic still, but sometimes I have to think for a few seconds before deciding which item is the best value. Other people wanting best value tend to just go for the supermarket brand, believing it will always be cheaper. More often than you may think, they are wrong.

    I'm not saying that it's not a poor reflection on the education system nowadays, but it is clear that shops make it deliberately difficult.

    1. ravenviz
      Happy

      Re: Mind you, shops delibrately confuse

      What about similar items when one is in grams and another brand is in ml (happens with yogurt drinks: Danone Actimel is sold in ml, Yakult in grams)? Maybe they need to put the density on the packet as well!

      1. Spartacus
        Badgers

        Yet more confusion

        My local S********s does this with vegetables.. you can buy loose [75p per KG] or in a bag of three 75p [25p each].. So how much does one weigh? god knows! they don't have a customer scales.

      2. Michael Dunn
        Headmaster

        Density

        And the temperature at which it is measured!

    2. kennsmi
      Flame

      Re: Mind you, shops delibrately confuse, again

      Yes! ffs!!11! These supermarket scam tactics have been driving me insane - both my local A*d* and T*sc* are definitely at it...been meaning to look into reporting them to some sort of high authority...

      The most common scams, as already mentioned, are mixing units per 100g/1kg etc. Then there's mixing physical properties g/ml. But what really gets me is mixing net weight and dried weight - I've seen this done with tins of tuna/other canned/jarred foods...there was something else just at the weekend, but I forget in my old age.

      People think I'm doing some sort of voodoo magic when I study all the labels, hum and hay for a second before pronouncing 'this one is the cheapest!!'. They look at the main price on the label and think 'no it's not'...'idiots be damned' I say...

      p.s. Apologies in advance to all the grammar nazis in this thread.

    3. The lone lurker
      Thumb Down

      I always base my buying habits on a single review.....

      and blame others when I don't get the best deal.

      Twat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        I always base my posting habits on a single comment.....

        and blame others when I get offended.

    4. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Pint

      Around here...

      Supermarkets list different products in g/Kg, lb and catties.

      The Imperial pint, please.

      1. Michael Dunn
        Grenade

        Catties

        Be very careful, if you are Cantonese, not to ask a Thai butcher for a catty of meat!

  21. Martyn 4
    Boffin

    @ Steve Davies 3

    and the reason these shop assistants use the calculator, is because even though the are capable of working it out, a lot of the customers insist that they cannot possibly have got it right.

  22. Keris

    I had to think

    It actually took me a little while -- not to do the calculation, but to remember both prices. When they are in different shops it often becomes worse, because one might "throw in" an extended guarantee and the other might actually provide batteries for the remote.

    But in fact what most people will see is DISCOUNT!!! in big letters, and they have been conditioned that anything with a DISCOUNT is good no matter what the actual price. The same as they have been conditioned that "SAVE 200 POUNDS" (on a 1000 pound sofa they don't need) is actually saving them money rather than costing them 800 pounds.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (untitled)

    You might have your IQ was rising year on year in Europe. But as we all know young folk are getting record exam passes year on year also, proving that in the UK at least, your IQ is falling. Both at the same time, must be a quantum thing :-)

  24. Ale
    Stop

    This is not an arithmetic test.

    The question quoted is in English, and the survey was carried out in Europe, so it's an English test!

    How many people on here know the answer to this question?

    "Respondenci byli obok przedstawiony scenariusz, w którym dwa sklepy sprzedawały identyczne telewizory z płaskim ekranem. Powiedziano im, że w sklepie, cena wynosi 500 €, ale 10% zniżki jest oferowany. W sklepie B, cena 400 €. Konsumentom zadano którym telewizja będzie tańsza"

  25. Efros
    Pint

    Make Darts compulsory

    Darts (501, double for out) should be a compulsory subject. Mental arithmetic is never an issue with darts, although the growth of beer guts may be a problem.

    1. ravenviz
      Coat

      Re: I had to think...

      Why don't you buy an iPad to write it down?

      Mine's the one with the pen and paper in the pocket

      1. Michael Dunn
        Happy

        Novel use for an iPad

        To use as a backing when writing on paper with a pencil!

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Tesco classic...

      Discounting the smaller boxes - e.g. the discount only applies to the 2nd biggest Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, so the big packet, with it's claim of 'best value pack' is actually wrong.

    3. steelman
      Thumb Up

      +1

      Even though Google translator messed it up awfully. Luckily the language has a very flexible syntax.

    4. Your Retarded
      Happy

      Language / arithmetic test

      Well I don't speak any Polish, but I'm pretty confident that the answer is still the second one!

    5. The Alpha Klutz

      "what most people will see is DISCOUNT!!! in big letters"

      Online stores such as Amazon seem rather unscrupulous in this regard.

      When I purchased a NAS box from them recently, they did not claim that the price I paid included any kind of discount, but a week later they had put the price UP and added the words "10% discount" to the description. It was such a blatant and complete lie, I was shocked, but not enough to actually do anything about it (yeah, I got shit to do, sorry, I can't be writing bitchy letters to everyone - except on here of course wink wink)

      Literally every product on there is claiming some sort of discount. I always double check prices at other retailers and about 75% of the time I find that "the discounted rate" is actually "the going rate".

      Don't be taken in by what the retailer claims is a discount. It seems that the laws regarding this are weak and/or weakly enforced.

    6. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      Working out a 161 checkout is a lot easier than doing it though

    7. Michael Dunn
      Alert

      Must be a quantum thing

      You can be sure the gubmint will put a Spin on it!

    8. Michael Dunn
      Unhappy

      Discount, free gift.....etc

      Marketeers are always at it (commercially, I mean!). How often the word "value" or the word "worth" is mis-used.

      "You get a free coppleflog value £30 when buying our happlecod at the low price of £250"

      "The prize is a holiday for two in the Bernese Alps worth £1500, including air fare and transfers."

      Or take the Merkins' woo-woo web sites for "self improvement. "Join today, and get a $300 discount, together with these bonuses free: 'Stop smoking in 4 days' worth $67, "14 days to deep meditation' worth $132..........

      The real meaning of "value" or "worth" in all marketing-speak is "priced at" or "arbitrarily fixed at" or "figure picked at random out of the air.

      People still fall for it, though.

    9. Michael Dunn

      Mental arithmetic

      Also betting on the gee-gees!

  26. Neil Charles
    FAIL

    Online survey?

    "survey of 56,471 people across 29 countries"

    So an online survey then. In which case at least 10% of the responses - and probably a lot more - are garbage,

  27. ravenviz
    Joke

    Re: Online survey?...

    Yes, that's 1,947.28 people per country.

  28. jonathanb Silver badge

    If 20% got it wrong

    If 20% got the TV question wrong, then it is likely that another 20% managed to pick the right answer at random without actually knowing that 10% off €500 is €450 and that €450 > €400.

    1. David Kelly 2
      FAIL

      Its worse than claimed

      jonathanb is headed down the right path. If 1 out of 5 gave the wrong answer then in all likelihood 2 out of 5 (40%) didn't know the answer and guessed. With two choices half got it right.

      So its really 2 out of 5 who can not solve the problem presented.

  29. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    In other words..

    >Yet the survey of 56,471 people across 29 countries, found that fewer than half of EU consumers felt "confident, knowledgeable and protected as consumers".

    Or to put it another way: More than half of EU customers know how the real world operates and aren't fooled by the vacuous self-serving promises of the legislature and their mates in the corporate world.

  30. AndrueC Silver badge

    The way I got good at %ges..

    ..was playing Eve-online. When a week's work can be lost by not understanding '3% increase in resistence to kinetic damage' on a shield or you fail to destroy someone else' week's work because '2.5% reduction in tracking speed' confused you - that's when you brush up your math skills.

    Example stats for a ship:

    http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Nighthawk

    For a tracking mod:

    http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Beta-Nought_Tracking_Mode

    http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=219192

    In some ways it's encouraging that so many 'yoof's can put in so much effort and get to grips with that much complexity. On the down side I wonder how they find the time - some of them put in twelve or fourteen hour days.

    I hung in there for a few years but eventually I couldn't take it any more. It started to turn into a second job and since I wasn't getting paid to play I gave it up.

  31. Alan Barnard

    A trick question

    The punters are right to be flummoxed. In a real shop the information given is designed to fuddle not inform. The real tickets would read:

    "From €400"

    "€500 - Up to 25% off"

    Obviously the question is a trick one.

    I went in Carphone Warehouse to buy a T-mobile PAYG phone. All the prices were "from", there was no mention of operators and no mention of how to get the "from" price. I walked out without a word and without a phone. It is not as though you have to go far to find another phone shop.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      FAIL

      err

      Depending on the phone you could have perhaps 4 carriers offering contracts. Each carrier may have 10 contracts (+ their variations) for each phone. I dont think tomes of information would help you in any case.

      You could have "asked". A novel concept in a shop I know but if you wanted to examine the nitty gritty then look on the internet page.

      1. Alan Barnard

        It didn't used to be like that

        Once you have narrowed it down to PAYG by going to that section, there is only the choice of carrier. Why should I have to ask when I am quite capable of reading for myself? The great feature of Carphone Warehouse is that you don't get jumped upon by a sales droid as soon as you enter the door. Having to ask rather defeats their unique selling point. If the amount of information has really become too much to display in print, how am I expected to make a rational decision? I went into the shop to buy a phone - not to be sold one. </rant>

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Surprises Here

    50% of all people have a below average IQ.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Uh - you sure about that?

      So: are you saying that no one has an average IQ, or that less than 50% have an above average IQ?

      Actually, on a standard IQ test, the idea is that 50% of people will be considered to have an "average" IQ (between 90 and 110), so only 25% will be below average.

      [Of course this is subject to a number of factors in practise.]

  33. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Please...

    Darwin, won't you save us all ?

    1. Apocalypse Later

      Darwin explains

      Survival of the fittest is the reason why we have dumb people. They are the ones that reproduce. Those of us that are clever enough to avoid the trap of multiple offspring (or any at all) don't pass on the genes. "Fittest" does not always mean what we might think or hope that it does.

      James Taranto, who writes the "Best of the Web" column for the Wall Street Journal, talks about the "Wade effect" (named for the Roe versus Wade supreme court decision in the USA, giving women the constitutional right to abortion) which he claims is causing Democrats to die out as a sub-species. Republicans have the same right, but are more often philosophically opposed to exercising it.

      1. Apocalypse Later

        Oops

        Sorry, he calls it the Roe effect. The Wade effect is something to do with American football.

  34. Gareth

    The least intelligent 20% are unintelligent.

    We needed a study to say that at least 20% of the human race is not very sharp in the head?

    Would be interested to see suggestions for what to do about it - whether it's systemic (better education) or just in terms of selling more stuff to morons (bigger writing, more obvious pricing and labelling, free shiny object?).

  35. steogede
    Coat

    Maybe it is a matter of Language rather than maths

    The full price one might be the cheaper of the two, but only the discounted one is cheaper (than it was) - the full price one is by definition no cheaper*.

    * just to play Devil's advocate (or should that be accountant)

  36. steogede

    I forgot to say

    The EUR400 TV is the cheapest, but still full price. The EUR500 with 10% off is cheaper but still more expensive.

  37. NightFox
    FAIL

    Where in the World

    I remember being in PC World (one of those occasions where there really wasn't an alternative) many years ago and I negotiated a £10 discount with a salesman for buying a soundcard and some speakers together. The salesman walked me to the till and left me with the cashier saying "It's £10 off that". The cashier then turned to me and said "Is the £10 off the sound card or the speakers?". Somewhat bemused, I replied that it could be either, and then kept my mouth shut as the even more confused cashier proceeded to knock £10 off both the speakers and the soundcard. Normally I would have said something but on that occasion I thought that even St Peter would agree that they deserved to lose another £10 on the sale.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    20%

    20% couldn't figure out which TV was the better deal?

    Wow... that's like, half of them!

  39. alwarming
    Thumb Down

    But we are a rich country...

    a few 100 pounds here or there.. how does it matter ?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Easier != better

    Perhaps if our currency wasn't based on a system derived from the number of toes we have, people might be forced to exercise their brains more.

    Bring back pounds, shillings and pence!

  41. agricola

    "A fifth of Europeans can't..."

    Sir Winston Churchill supposedly said, "The Americans always seem to do the right thing, but only after they've tried everything else."

    I'm certain that Sir Winston would wholeheartedly wish to retract that statement if it were in reference to the American educational system.

    I'm afraid that what we have here is an attempt on the part of the subject audience to emulate what they see happening in the US: "Hey, we can't let those Yanks out-dumb us!"

    To put this article in perspective: it is strictly my opinion, but I DO seriously doubt that 90% of the American population could tell you quickly, and with confidence, what percentage of Europeans "...a fifth of Europeans..." represents.

    Perhaps you Europeans, as well as the rest of the world needs to disregard Douglas Adams' ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") advice when he said, "Careful; we don't want to learn from this."

  42. agricola

    "A fifth of Europeans..."

    Einstein said it best:: "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

    (paraphrased)

    1. alwarming
      Paris Hilton

      Did Einstein say that ?

      It's accredited to him, but I've not seen a "real" source back up this quote.

  43. JohnG Silver badge

    EU

    It would be interesting to know how many of their survey respondents could name their MEP or any current EU Commissioner.

  44. Matt Hawkins
    Pint

    Ballot Paper

    All ballot papers should have a simple maths question at the top. If you get the question wrong your ballot should be shredded and used as toilet paper in prisons.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The article doesn't help

    Falling into the same journalistic traps that we always see.

    23% of people think the moon works on batteries, while a fifth think that washing machines make toast, but 256 believe eggs contain spy robots.

    Useless comparisons (% v fractions re absolue number) of useless data. Opium for the masses to ooh and ah over.

  46. agricola
    Joke

    Did Einstein say that?

    @alwarming:

    Looks as though you've created some hard work for yourSELF.

    Since this is obviously a matter of serious concern to you, YOU will have to be the one to find whatever or whomever you consider to be a "real" source.

    As I tell everyone, when the situation merits the response, "Don't bring problems unless you can also bring the solutions."

    Warmest regards...

    p.s.: I REALLY don't know, and would, therefore, like to know (quotations being an avocation of mine) the "real" source of Sir Winston's supposed statement concerning Americans always seeming to do the right thing. While you're about doing all this research, you might find it enlightening to discover what Sir Winston had to say about quotations.

    Looking forward to hearing of your discoveries of--remember--the "real" sources...

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