Classical economists view consumers as rational actors who systematically try to maximize their own advantage. This helps explain why economic forecasts are often wrong. Marketers tend to be shrewder in realizing that people are chronically irrational. To what extent do consumers indulge their oddball superstitions? A USA Today/Gallup poll gives an intriguing glimpse, asking adults how they would react if given a room on the 13th floor when checking into a hotel. Overall, 13 percent said they’d be bothered by it, while 87 percent said they wouldn’t be. Among those who said they would be bothered, 74 percent would go to the trouble of asking for a room on a different floor. As you can gather from the chart below, older women are an exceptionally superstitious bunch, while most men at least claim to be unfazed by this particular bugaboo. Nineteen percent of the 50-plus women said they’d ask for a room on a different floor, as would 10 percent of the 18-49 women, 4 percent of the 50-plus men and 5 percent of the 18-49 men. Note that among respondents who said they’d feel uneasy about being on the 13th floor, women appear proportionally more inclined than men to act on their aversion. In this respect, at least, women rebut the stereotype that depicts them as the less assertive sex.
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