Can The Economist do basic math?

If anything economists are known for doing too much math. Economics journals are nothing but lengthy tracts of calculus and linear algebra or else econometric regression tables and tests. The Economist, on the other hand, sets itself up as the voice of economics on world policy matters. I’ve never been a huge fan. I appreciate the broad coverage they provide but never was pleased at the finger-wagging, we-know-best tone interwoven into its journalism. I may buy a couple issues off the stands a year, if it piques my interest, but that is about it.

So when I got a letter from The Economist offering me a Professional Discount Rate, I was curious enough to open the envelope. What I read was not reassuring. On the top of the letter I got this:

Cover Price (12 issues) C$260.31

Your Savings C$245.31

Your Professional Rate C$15.00

Then below the fold: “Your first 12 issues for C$15 – an 84% SAVINGS OFF the cover price”

Now $15 for 12 issues is not too shabby a deal. In the fine print below they tell you they subsequently start charging C$36 every three months thereafter.

But hold on a sec. A regular price of $260 for twelve issues? I’m pretty sure The Economist does not cost $21.69 an issue. And my “savings” relative to the “cover price” are a reduction of 94%, not 84%. So what gives?

The answer is that the teaser is just plain deceptive. Later on the fine print cites a newsstand price of $7.99 an issue ($95.88 for a twelve pack), and $15 would imply an 84% savings. Where does the $260.31 “cover price” come from? To get to that lofty perch of value, one must include a bunch of other Professional Subscription Benefits, such as Special Issue: The World in 2011 ($11.95), Full Access to The Economist on iPhone or IPad ($28.24), unrestricted access to The Economist online ($28.24), and free access to The Economist in audio ($96.00).

Personally, I can barely bother with the odd print edition. I really do not need that much of The Economist in my life, even at the low, low price of $144 per year, which is the real bottom line of the offer. If any of you do, go to www.economist.com/mail.ca and enter code 121C1.

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