Spending Twenties to Chase Fives

It’s a new month. That means that tonight, I’ll be doing a price update in our point of sale system. I wrote our current system myself, poorly, in vb.net. Before, it was a shoe-horned open-source point of sale system and the update procedure involved a perl script I did not understand. The current price update procedure is to download a price list from a pricing service and update all the items in the database. If we have a game in stock and the price has changed, the title, quantity in stock, and new price go onto a report that the lackey carries around the store on a clipboard the next day, checking off games as he updates their price tags.

It started off easy enough. Four pages, single-spaced in a 14-point font. Lackeys knocked it out in a couple of hours.


As of last month, it was 19 pages, and multiple lackeys were planning together about who was going to tackle what in the week-long process. The announcement that the next morning there would be a price update waiting on the printer elicited groans, pleas, bargaining, and threats to call in sick.

Something had to be done. I did some tinkering with the reports and realized that something like half of the updated items were only being updated by $1 one way or another. In some cases, game prices would go up by one dollar one month, only to drop by a dollar the next.

So I set it up so that my system ignores price updates of a buck or less if it’s something we have in stock. If we don’t have it in stock, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and make the update, since it’s not going to make extra re-pricing work.

If a game is on a trend either up or down in value, only changing by a buck this month and by another buck next month, then I’ll be able to catch it as it reaches that $2 threshold.

As a result, my prices are not as bleeding-edge accurate as they could be. But when my average price is 15 to 40 percent lower than my competition, and actually competitive with eBay prices, does it matter if I’m selling it for $33 or $32? Not enough to take up a day or two of lackey time every month. Even if there’s nothing else for them to do, I would rather them spend the time compulsively cleaning the glass, re-sorting Magic cards, talking to customers about games, and looking nervously up at the security cameras.

Don’t spend twenties chasing fives. Let the five go and put the twenty into something more productive, like the Store Mascot Costume Fund.