A man walking down the street finds a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. He pockets it and tells his friend, an economist, about his good fortune: "I found twenty dollars on the street today!"
"You couldn't have," the economist replies. "Someone would have picked it up already."
I tend to think like that economist. I'm skeptical of discounts and think most are a waste of time; it's a rare occasion to truly get a discount win.
For this reason I've never bought an Entertainment Book - until this year. I temporarily shed my grumpy cynicism and forked out $65, thinking at least it helps the school fundraising, and at least it may get us out on a few good memory-making family expeditions.
So yesterday we went to the Melbourne Aquarium. This, like the zoo, is a once-every-two-years kind of expedition for us because while great, it's pretty expensive.
I looked up the Entertainment Book coupon ("good for one general admission when another general admission is purchased"), then looked up the ticket prices online.
You can buy tickets cheaper than at the door by buying them online and printing them out; this would have cost us $83. A family ticket at the door costs $92.
The Entertainment Book coupon cannot be used for online tickets, so it is only a discount on the door price. Which we would not have paid, because without the Entertainment Book we would have bought the online tickets.
Our other option was for me to take the kids when Y. was working, which would have been a fair bit cheaper, but would have blown the whole "family day memory building" thing. Also, would the Entertainment Book coupon have let me take in one child free? It wasn't clear if "general admission" included a child ticket, but I assumed they'd allow it.
Here is how the ticket prices stacked up:
So all four of us went and we paid $72 with the Entertainment Book. Although that's officially $20 off the walk-in price, it's an effective discount of only $11, since without the Entertainment Book we would have bought the online tickets for $83.
If I had gone with the kids, the Entertainment Book would have given us only an effective discount of $6.50, being the difference between the cheapest online tickets ($63) and $56.50
So, no huge discount for us in this case.
Of course $11 is better than nothing. But at this rate, and if I'm looking at the Entertainment Book in purely financial terms, that's a lot of family expeditions to make the $65 outlay "pay for itself".
Oh I know, I know - family tickets are already a "discount" over 4 single tickets. But are they really? Or are single tickets overpriced to make the more commonly purchased family tickets seem cheaper?
But anyway, we had a nice time, and the fish were pretty.
And the penguins are most excellent. In fact, I resolve to spend the rest of my life looking at penguins and feeling happy.