Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Price Point

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate the courage of the founding fathers, who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors so that one day, after six seasons of "The Apprentice," we could all walk around smugly saying "price point."

Am I the only one bothered by the creep of this meaningless phrase into our vocabulary? Well, not entirely meaningless; in microeconomics one can speak of a "price point" along a demand curve, corresponding to a particular number of units demanded at a given price. And in business, one may discover natural "price points" for a given product, at which demand is disproportionately high due to an irregular demand curve.

But lately I have heard people on television say "price point" simply to describe the cost of an individual item--i.e., its price. The word "point" does not convey any additional information. And yesterday, a furniture salesman offered to sell me a sofa, chair, and ottoman package at "a price point of $1200." Actually, he said "price" first, then (a bit hesitantly) "price point," before repeating the latter term with confidence, clearly pleased with himself to be using such important language.

I am convinced that this trend is a result of "The Apprentice," which has given ordinary Americans a peek into the world of junior executives and their typical activities such as piloting the Goodyear Blimp and engaging Michael J. Fox to play ice hockey at a casino. Each week on "The Apprentice," someone is guaranteed to say "price point," even correctly on occasion.

So here is my rule: if you have a Ph.D. or M.B.A., and if you are standing in front of a chart, you are permitted to say "price point." Otherwise you are just a dumbass with a new word.

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