September 19th 2018

Today I had to walk into town on my lunch break to buy some Euros for my holiday tomorrow, and — hearing my Dad’s theoretical advice in my ear — I decided to go to the effort of checking multiple Bureau de Change(s?) to see who provided the most competitive exchange rate.

I first tried Thomas Cook, and the lady in their offered me 1.1 Euros to the pound. Next door to Thomas Cook was Thomson (which is apparently a different company), who said the same thing. The Co-op Travel was next door to Thomson, but I couldn’t be bothered to wait in the queue just to ask what their exchange rate was.

At that point I wondered why Travel Money providers had stopped advertising the exchange rate on a digital noticeboard outside the shop, but I soon answered my own question: It’s because they want you to wait in the queue to ask what the exchange rate is, because when you’re that far committed you’re more likely to buy from them than go elsewhere.

A few minutes away from Thomson & Cook is the Post Office. My theory was that the Post Office would be the most competitively priced provider because of what I’ve just coined “The Supermarket Fuel Phenomenon“, and it goes like this:

If you want to get petrol for your car, the cheapest place to go is usually one of the major supermarkets: Tesco(s), ASDA(s), Sainsbury’s. They price their fuel competitively because they want to benefit from another term that I’ve just made up to describe this: The “Oh, while I’m here…” buying pattern. They want you to go to their shop for fuel and then realise you need bread and milk and washing up liquid and packeted mangetout and a cross-trainer and a new television. And suddenly you didn’t just buy fuel.

What was I saying? Oh yeah.

My theory was that the Post Office would take that Supermarket Fuel strategy and offer the best exchange rate because they want to entice you into the store to buy other things. You aren’t going to go into Thomson and think “Oh while I’m here I’ll just pick up a Mediterranean cruise and a package holiday to Majorca” but you might think “Oh yeah, I need some stamps and some envelopes and a novelty pen” when you go to the Post Office, and suddenly you’re walking away with more than Euros, having spent more than you would’ve done in Thomson.

Anyway, that wasn’t the case. The Post Office offered me 1.097 Euros to the pound, the bastards.

But, even though I’d specifically gone to four different shops to find the best exchange rate, and even though I’d literally just acknowledged that the reason they don’t advertise the exchange rate externally on a notice board is to entice you into the store, I fell for it. And I just bought the Euros at the worst exchange rate out of the four, because I was already there, and I’d already collected that little raffle ticket that they make you get at the Post Office.

And so, even though I still walked away with €440, it ended up costing me £400.97 instead of the £400 it would have cost me in Thomson.

Until tomorrow, I was robbed, but I deserved it, because I fell for it.


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