Boxing Day, Time Zones, Odds, and Cents

October 2008


When one of my colleagues mentioned that Boxing Day (December 26) was a day to celebrate the sport of boxing, I remarked that I always thought it to be a day related to opening Christmas boxes. That was my polite way to give him doubt in his assumption without my sounding like a know-it-all. When someone makes an information blunder, it just reminds me that all of us have plenty to learn.


But when a corporation makes an information blunder that transmits misinformation to the masses, I get pretty irritated.


When a major grocery store chain recently held a contest involving scratch-off cards, the official rules listed the odds of winning as 84:1. When I emailed the company to suggest that they update their rules to the correct odds of winning as 1:83, I was rudely told that the odds were written correctly and in accordance with state law. Apparently nobody realized that the store was claiming that there should be 84 winners for every 85 players. Of course I wanted to contact the attorney general to express my outrage, but it was a battle I had no investment in and had no desire to further bother myself with.


This summer, a cable television company was holding a contest and its official rules listed the starting date and time and the ending date and time for the contest. The times were listed as 9 AM CST and 5 PM CST. Since most of the country is on Daylight Savings Time during the summer, I was befuddled as to why Standard Time was being used. In fact, only Arizona (except the Navajo Nations) and Hawaii are on Standard Time during the summer, and neither is Central Standard Time. (They are on Mountain Standard and Hawaiian Standard, respectively.) I just shook my head and tried to convince myself that it really didn’t matter.


One of the most prolific information blunders is stores listing prices with a decimal point and a cent sign, effectively listing a 99 cent item as costing 99/100 of a cent. When I worked at a grocery store during my college days, I tried to explain the error to the store manager. He could not see the difference between 99 cents and 0.99 cents. Really! He started marking decimal points on the pre-printed price stickers on the shelves until I just said “Forget it.”

I realize that these battles are too ubiquitous to fight, like pockets of flames composing an out-of-control fire. All I can do is learn as much as I can to minimize my own information blunders and trust that others will try to do the same.