So I see this image on r/facepalm today. It reads: “In the 1980s, A&W tried to compete with McDonald’s Quarter Pounder by selling a third-pound burger at a lower cost. The product failed, because most customer thought 1/4 pound was bigger.”
I know Americans aren’t out here doing topology for fun, but I figured that we weren’t that dumb. No way was this Reddit post correct.
[Narrator: It was.]
I dug around a bit and found a former A&W franchise owner’s blog, in which he explains that, yep, Americans’ math skills sunk that burger:
We were aggressively marketing a one-third-pound hamburger for the same price as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. But despite our best efforts . . . they just weren’t selling. Perplexed, we called in the renowned market research firm Yankelovich, Skelly and White to conduct focus groups and competitive taste tests.
Well, it turned out that customers preferred the taste of our fresh beef over traditional fast-food hockey pucks. Hands down, we had a better product. But there was a serious problem. More than half the participants in the Yankelovich focus groups questioned the price of our burger. “Why,” they asked, “should we pay the same amount of a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s? You’re overcharging us.” Honestly. People thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter of a pound. After all, three is less than four!
Say what you will about A&W, it seems the beef itself wasn’t the issue, it was the fact that we can’t do fractions with our fingers.