Still in Spain, after Barca, we headed over to the city of Seville. We needed to park up the motor for a few hours, so drove to the parking lot in the airport. And that’s when we saw it: Absurdity with a capital A. Or so it seemed at first…
On the wall of the parking lot hangs this here price list:
No folks, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. And no, that hasn’t been Photoshopped. Those figures, though very unreal, are actually for real.
What? How? Why? Anyone have a clue?
At first we didn’t, and were thinking of finding out by parking our vehicle for two minutes, handing over a euro, and asking for the correct change – to six decimal places :). But then it seemed to dawn on me – and I thought I’d figured it out. Then, confident that others might want to try working out the logic – or lack thereof – behind this bizarre pricing mechanism, I wrote a post – in my native Russky – and published it on my Russian language blog, inviting folks to confirm my ‘solution’ or prove me wrong.
Thanks to one of my followers who responded quickly, I soon learned that such price lists with such daft tiny fractions of a euro shown are to be found in other airports all around Spain, not just this one in Seville. Which kinda blew my theory about this being a freak one-off in Seville out of the Sangria…
So let me now back up a bit and tell you about that theory I came up with in trying make head or tail of these dizzy decimals…
My initial thought was that whoever ordered this particular – unique – sign told the designer to simply come up with a per-minute price list based on hourly rates or a formula or something, and that’s just what he went ahead and did. He crudely entered the formula into, say, Excel, used the results to make up his layout file, and sent it to the printers for transferring to plastic. The formula gave a result with a really long tail after the decimal point (a so-called rational number in mathematics – five sevenths or something like that). And in Excel – I reckoned – the fixed number of places after the point was six. The designer didn’t notice – or didn’t care, the price plate was made up, and handed over to the parking lot folks. Those folks had been told to simply ‘get the price list up on the wall asap’, and so that’s what they did – also not noticing (or caring) about the silly-long decimals. That was my version anyway…
The reality of the matter turned out to be much more prosaic and banal.
The challenge required neither logic nor arithmetic as I first thought, but economics and an understanding of taxation!
Thank you Vicente Diaz of our GReAT team, who gave the following explanation. (Local knowledge trumps everything.:)
“Buenos días Eugene!
The reason is that parking prices were very expensive and tricky, people complained, and the government decided that there should be some more transparency – in this case forcing everybody to publish the price per minute, so people could compare.
Parking businesses then decided to apply the law, obviously to their own benefit. So they put as many decimal numbers as possible to confuse users and, in practice, making the law useless.
Old Spanish tricks to bypass laws and fool customers :).”
Well I never!
However, the challenge about ‘continue the decimals’ is still valid, I do believe; it just needs rephrasing. Here we go then with an updated Spanish Parking Pricing Conundrum:
Prices charged in Spanish airports are given with six decimals after the point – with the aim of increasing profits, pulling the wool over the eyes of car-parkers, and getting round tax legislation. But no matter the reasons why, what was the formula used in calculating the per-minute prices, and, accordingly, what are the full, exact prices – to as many decimal places as there may actually be?
Come on Einsteins, thinking caps on!…