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On a questionable website full of revisionist pro-nazi propaganda, which is not worth linking to (*), I found the following statement:

Along the same lines, I remember a National Socialist bookseller that used what it called “Aryan pricing”—$5, $10, $15, rather than $4.99, $9.99, or $14.99.

(*) Please don't ask me what I was doing there. If you really want to find the quoted site just put the quote in your favourite search engine.

I find the concept very interesting. According to that other question those psychological pricing ending in 99 were already around since the end of the XIXth century (which I find shocking as I always believed this was a modern idea).

So such prices could have been seen in pre-Nazi Germany. And I can totally see how people were annoyed at the sellers trying to rip them off with those $.99 prices and be relieved that this annoying practice end once the NS regime is in place. This would increase the confidence of the regime which would be perceived as less corrupt. Unfortunately I cannot find any other reference about that than this revisionist site.

So is there any verified truth about this statement?

EDIT: About the $ sign in the quote: it could have been used as a general symbol meaning money in an English-language text, and does not necessarily refer to the USD currency, which obviously was irrelevant in Nazi Germany. But the implication seems to be: as the seller seems at least to refer to his ideology – originating from Nazi Germany – the question is still whether this was a) a thing for a national-socialist then 'to not like psychological pricing' and call round prices 'Aryan' pricing, declaring that the 'Aryan' and thus preferred behaviour for sellers and b) whether this then found its way into actual German law when the Nazi's were legislating, outright forbidding such pricing strategies.

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    May be better on Skeptics SE. – Spencer Aug 17 at 21:16
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    Love the dollar amounts :-) – Display name Aug 17 at 21:30
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    I have the vaguest recollection that prices ending in .99 were considered a "Jewish" method of pricing. I think in fact any kind of fixed pricing was a 19th century invention -- before that haggling was common (and still is in some places). – releseabe Aug 17 at 22:13
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    @releseabe Your memory is correct. This .99 thing was one aspect of what Nazis considered "Judenpreise". Another was haggling, which was outlawed from 1935–2001 with Rabattgesetz (if exceeding 3% or Zugaben). Answers need to find these keywords, "honest prices" or sth, exact laws (or ads from the time ending all in round sums?) for precision. That said, the quote from the Q seems to be from one US-citizen…? That's a weird start indeed, if not poor, but surprisingly not really bad, unfitting, or off-topic here. Given the state of net-censorship around those words: good question. – LаngLаngС Aug 18 at 14:27
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    @releseabe It's not that it actually was a Jewish thing, that's nonsense. It is about whether the Nazis declared it as such and acted accordingly with law making. And fixed price with max rebate 3% was declared a measure against (declared as being) 'Jewish' commerce practices (when confronted why Aryans did that as well: 'that have 'infected' the more honest German traders'.) This is part of the 'anti-capitalism of the idiots'-aspects of antisemitism. – LаngLаngС Aug 18 at 16:32
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A quick search for the term: Gebrochener Preis (Psychological pricing), including some Bachelor papers, does not mention pre-war usage in Germany at all.

One would have to go through newspaper archives to see how prices were displayed at the time.

The author of your quote seems to have produced quite a lot of articles in the few years. Since he quotes someone who tells him directly about this claim and uses Dollars, I assume he is speaking about a American National Socialist.

Also a German bookseller would know that Fixed book pricing has been in force since 1888 and therefore would not make such a statement within the context of his profession.

As noted in other comments, the given quote inside the original article is completely out of context of the article. My impression is that the author is using every opportunity too push his agenda. Such claims should be taken with a ton of salt.

  • The currency-unit issue may be real. Especially since the originating site says completely en passant in an otherwise completely unrelated text "I remember One NS-book-seller…", not that 'Germany did that'. But then there was from 1933 until 2001 Rabattgesetz – LаngLаngС Aug 18 at 9:40
  • @Bregalad But it would surely help the quality of your Q further if you'd find a source (obviously without evidence, otherwise the A would be there) making this claim clearly situated in (pre?) NS-Germany and using marks. It's not that it's "written by" but that "it appears to be about a" US-nazi book seller. If it is just that particular individual's motives the connex to NS-law is quite a bit weaker. – LаngLаngС Aug 18 at 20:36
  • @Bregalad one cannot prove what does not exist. What can be done is to check existing souces if it is meantioned. But nothing I found mentioned if the. 99 prices where used in pre-war Germany or when it started. The only thing left that can help is checking newspaper archives and look at the prices used in advertisements. The the answer is: nothing confirms this claim. Futhermore the Rabattgesetz was in use to prevent resalers to underbid each other for special sales only. Before and after its abolishment these .99 prices where in use for both special and normal sales. – Mark Johnson Aug 18 at 21:33
  • @Bregalad Also since a Fixed book price was introduced 1888 in Germany, is another sign that the quoted bookseller was not German. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_book_price – Mark Johnson Aug 18 at 22:08
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    @MarkJohnson Oh so actually you meant the original quote probably mis-used the expression "national socialist" to mean somebody in America who consider himself so - instead of having the original meaning in Germany. Sorry but I totally misunderstood that, and now this makes perfect sense. Also you should edit your last comment in the answer and it'll be perfect. – Bregalad Aug 19 at 12:01
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The practical reason for .95 or .99 pricing isn't psychological manipulation of the customers at all. That might work on some people, but not many. It actually came into use to combat thefts by retail staff, in the days where most payments were in cash.

If the Nazis abolished it, the effects of "Aryan pricing" would have been to make theft and corruption easier, and to reassure people paranoid about being fooled. Both of those seem quite compatible with Nazism as it was practiced.

If a customer hands over an exact sum and turns away to leave the shop, the sales assistant has an opportunity to pocket the money. If the customer is expecting change - even a penny - they tend to carry on paying attention to the assistant, making sleight-of-hand with the money more difficult.

It looks wrong to the customer if an assistant gives change out of their own pocket, purse or wallet, so the assistant has to open the till/register to give change, and the customer expects to see the money go into the till. This is also why many tills would not open except on a sale, and printed the amount rung up on an internal roll of paper.

Source: explanation from the keeper of a shop I worked in during the 1970s. Wikipedia has the same story, and notes that the first till was called "Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier", supporting the reason.

Keeping .95 and .99 pricing now that most payment are electronic seems to be a tradition of "that's the way pricing is done", although I have noticed it becoming less common in recent years.

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    That is a theoretical conjecture only barely related to the question. It was not what was told at the time in trade schools. From 33–45 mail-order and cash-less transfers were known. How would the cashier effect apply there? You need to find or disprove that the concept of "Judenpreise" (which was 'a thing' that Streicher hated) went into actual law or not. And I'm not finished researching, but it seems to not be the case (making 2nd para connecting to OPQ way off). – LаngLаngС Aug 18 at 14:14
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    Many payments are cash today, also if you buy more than one article this won't prevent theft as the sum will not end in .95 or .99; and if you want to just rob an article you still can even with this system so I still believe it's a psycological marketting technique. It even works on people who are aware of it so they continue to use it. – Bregalad Aug 18 at 19:24
  • @Bregalad - The key was that virtually no transaction would come to a round amount. To make change the clerk was required to open the till, which would not be possible unless the amount(s) was entered and a receipt printed. (The only other way to open a till was to key in a "no sale", which often required a key and always created a record.) The invention of this sort of till dramatically reduced skimming. I believe John Dallman's point is that outlawing an effective anti-corruption policy to serve a silly populist reason was consistent with many other Nazi policies. It's a valid point. – pokep Aug 20 at 4:10
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    You need references for your claims. – Polygnome Aug 20 at 17:49
  • For anyone over a certain age, this is all common knowledge. – pokep Aug 21 at 0:22
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No.

The concept that informs this "Aryan pricing" ideology the book seller orients himself on is based on the antisemitic stereotype of 'unfair pricing done by Jews', then (and now, don't search the net for the word) called: "Judenpreise" (hereafter JP).

The context for the precise quote that informed this question seems to be an American citizen, not a German, as detailed in Mark Johnson's answer. As this American in the memory of the reporter seems to base his reasons on NS ideology, it is still interesting to see whether or how Nazis followed this principle in reality, and if they made this into actual law.

Interestingly, these JP were variously perceived as too low, undercutting competition and enforcing a lower quality standard across the market, as well as too high, derived from monopolies or usury. These folk explanations were already described, analysed for example by Werner Sombart in his (1911): "Die Juden und das Wirtschaftsleben." (1911) Sombart later had allegedly ties to national-socialism and his personal views are difficult to ascertain regarding antisemitism as a whole. But in that book he nevertheless offers a much more differentiating view on the subject matter, that at the very least explains this race around pricing goods as a more 'natural' development within capitalism (than the true NS-conspiracy thinking).

It seems unlikely that this pricing regulation – and the consequential effective stifling of competition via prices – ever went into actual law during the third Reich. Checking changes to the German versions of laws pertaining to business practices does not reveal anything obviously relevant to this 'pricing things preferably (not) to .99 numbers'.

What Nazi legislators did do was enshrining into law the Rabattgesetz that was in effect from 1934 to 2001. It regulated discounts and allowances within a very tight frame – to ensure "more honest prices". This was officially 'directed against Jews', as they claimed at the time. This had no direct relation to consumer end prices in the sense of 'no mathematical effect towards or a away from .99'. It was said that if a sale was to be finalised significantly differing from the price advertised, this would be sign of dishonest starting price, and it effectively prohibited any form of haggling, systems of rebate and so on – it is said. More on Rabattgesetz in Götz Aly: "Rasse und Klasse", chapter "Handfeste Brauchbarkeit – Das Rabattgesetz oder die Freiheit des Feilschens", (p 61–64), Fischer: Frankfurt, 2003:

In all naivety, the twist pointed to the origin of the law, which at the time was explicitly directed against "haggling", the "alien merchant spirit of the liberalist system era" and the "Jewish grocer soul". Already on May 12, 1933 the law for the protection of the national retail trade had prevented the "evil of the encumbrance system", on November 25 of the same year followed the "RabG", the Reichs-Rabattgesetz. Both laws aimed at the "purification of competition" and the fight against "degeneracy", as the commentator and co-initiator of the law, Elmar Michel, wrote. His work appeared in 1934 and 1957: "Nothing needed to be changed in its main features," it says in the second edition. Why should it be? Michel was first a member of the government council in the Reich Ministry of Economics, then a ministerial director in the Federal Republic. No, he got excited in 1957, the RabG "contains no typical National Socialist thoughts". After all, the "fight against department stores was not limited to the NSDAP". Last but not least, Michel himself had already worked on the law in 1932.

So, while this does draw on antisemitism and was enacted under Nazi rule, it was devised before and in effect long after.

Nevertheless you can imagine that the most hardened antisemites in Germany were all ears to believe every crazy theory that somehow blamed 'the Jews' for something. Especially Julius Streicher seems to not have known any limits for absurdity in believing and promoting antisemitic accusations. His own newspaper is therefore an example to analyse. From a search through advertisements available on image sites from between 1933 and 1945 it seems very obvious that not all products were priced evenly. But as Streicher was one of the biggest haters, are ads in his paper conforming to this "Aryan pricing" theory?

"Der Stürmer" No 12, March 1938. Prices of the paper:

  • 20Pf per weekly copy, 84 Pf per whole month, price per ad-unit: 75Pf (100 PF = 1.00 RM)

Ads giving prices in that paper:

  • Watch: 15.00 RM
  • Admission to dance with food and drink: 1.00 RM
  • Garlic supplements: 1 month package: 1.00 RM, 14-week pack: 3.00 RM
  • nice shoes: 7,50 RM
  • bound books for a monthly rate of 2.50 RM by

    • Hitler: 7.20 RM
    • Göring: 6.50 RM
    • Goebbels: 4.50 RM
    • Rosenberg: 1 copy: 6.00 RM, all 4 volumes: 24.20 RM
  • Fatherland bicycles: 28.00 RM, 32.00 RM, 55.00 RM, 66.00 RM

  • book "Pfaffenspiegel" ("often forbidden, always available"), different editions, 2.85 RM, 2.85 RM, illustrated 6.00 RM, all 3 for 11.70 RM, in 2.00 RM monthly rates

  • offerings from the Stukenbrok catalogue:

    • bicycle lamp: 1.95 RM, dynamo: 3.00 RM, bike: 39,50 RM, sewing machine: 135,00 RM, typewriter: 109.50 RM, wrench 1.85 RM, expander: 4.25 RM, musical instrument: 7.90 RM, watch: 3.50 RM, camera: 17.75 RM, pistol 8.50 RM, rifle: 10.50 RM
  • weight reduction pills: 40 pieces per pack, 1.43 RM

  • sport shoes: 10.90 RM
  • quit smoking pills: 1,90 RM, 0,35 RM more if pay-by-mail
  • different models of pistols: 3.60 RM, 2.90 RM, 1.60 RM
  • anti-grey-hair potion "O-B-V": 1,85 RM
  • different number of pieces of cutlery: 24 teil., 34.65 M, 26.20 M und 14.30 M (bis 72telllg u. mehr).
  • hair improvement water for women: 1 bottle 1.50 RM, double-pack 2.50 RM
  • men's suit: 28.00 RM
  • razor-blade sharpener: 0.75 RM
  • bikes from 29.00 RM – 32.00 RM
  • long shelf-life sausages: 5.30 RM and 4.80 RM
  • piece of furniture: 25.00 RM
  • plum jam: 3.60 RM, 9.30 RM
  • webbed wire fence: 4.90 RM
  • roses: 10 pieces 3.00 RM, 1 piece 0.50 RM
  • musical instruments: 27.25 RM, 8.75 RM, 4.25 RM, 4.40 RM, 5.65 RM, 21.75 RM, 53.00 RM, 130.00 RM, 96.00 RM, 67.50 RM
  • bikes: 32.00 RM, 36.00 RM, 45.00 RM, 52.00 RM
  • outdoor rubber clothes & shoes: 8.75 RM, 10.50 RM, 3.90 RM, 9.90 RM, 12.50 RM
  • coffee grounds roasted: 6.20 RM

These prices do look somewhat simplified.

If you compare that to how the same paper complains explicitly about JP in "Der Stürmer", No 5, February 1932:

enter image description here

But that numbers ending in 9 weren't taboo should be quite clear:

enter image description here

This might still seem like a real effect to observe: "good national-socialists avoided prices ending in .x9"? Well, not really. On archive.org you have an easier time researching catalogues from the era, compared to image searching the net for contemporary ads giving prices. You will notice that the disdain for listings of prices ending in .x9 is very evident for all catalogues from 1933–1945. But the same effect is seen for pre-1933 listings, and also for listings after 1945. For larger sums, round numbers, .5 or .25 are represented more often than today. For smaller items with this effect seems unobservable

Psychological pricing towards the .x9 limit seems to just take its hold much later than in the US. But as this supposed effect isn't restricted to decimal places, but also applies to for example 990 RM compared to 1000 RM. Then we do not have to look much further than the Volkswagen, which was planned from the start to be sold at 990 RM.

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