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At Last, You Can Buy Wallpaper and Sheets with Big Macs on Them

Big Mac sheet set
courtesy of BigMacShop.se While visions of hamburgers dance in your head...

Call it fast (food) fashion. McDonald's just launched a home goods and apparel collection featuring oversized Big Macs on sheets, thermal underwear, wallpaper—even pet clothing.

Perhaps even stranger than the existence of the new Big Mac Shop collection is the fact that sales are currently limited to one country: Sweden.

The collection was introduced on Tuesday at a “McWalk” fashion show in Stockholm. The range of products includes Big Mac bedding, Big Mac thermal underwear, and Big Mac wallpaper, priced at the equivalent of about $47, $58, and $54, respectively. All items feature the same picture-perfect image of a Big Mac that you only see in ads—never in the restaurant when you buy one—repeated hypnotically over and over.

Yes, this has all the makings of an April Fools gag. But it’s not April 1 yet. And based on the reporting of AdAge and AdWeek, among others, these are indeed actual products that are actually for sale, in Sweden at least. (Alas, we tried to make a purchase on the site but were shot down with the message that delivery was not available to the U.S.)

AdWeek clarified that while the Big Mac collection wasn’t a joke, it was “part of a global day of McDonald’s hijinks” called imlovinit24 that took place earlier this week. The campaign called for 24 marketing stunts in 24 cities around the world, including a huge Big Mac jigsaw puzzle in Madrid and a tollbooth in Manila that dispensed free McDonald’s food to drivers. Profits from Big Mac Shop sales will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

At last check, bedding, thermals, and wallpaper from the collection were still available to interested Swedes, but it appears as if the collection’s rubber boots, raincoats, and dog clothing are already sold out.

MONEY Odd Spending

How Much Do Street Musicians Make? More Than You Think

Brass band, Jackson Square, French Quarter
Kylie McLaughlin—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image Brass band, Jackson Square, French Quarter

A San Francisco duo earns over $21 an hour busking on the street. But it's not quite as good a business as that number makes it seem.

Ever wonder how much people playing music on the street pull in? Speculate no longer.

Over at Priceonomics, Mark Sandusky, one half of the music duo The Dirty Little Blondes, has made his financials public. During 12.5 hours of performing, the pair made a total of $532, which works out to $21.22 per hour each.

Assuming a 40-hour work week, that’s an annual salary of $44,137. But before you quit your day job, know that even the pros can’t hit the streets and pull in that much cash every day. (And as the Sandusky notes, you’re not going to make any money if your music isn’t good.)

Sandusky has learned to pick his spots, performing on the streets of San Francisco, where the band is based, almost exclusively on Friday through Sunday and generally in the evening. The above revenue came over the course of an entire month, meaning any aspiring 9-to-5ers hoping for similar results are probably out of luck.

“It’s also not as if I can walk out on the street and make $21.22 an hour whenever I want,” the guitarist writes. “The big numbers all came between the hours of 5pm and 10pm on days before weekends or holidays. Even out of those 10 prime hours, we could only comfortably play 6 of them (3 a day) before our voices, fingers, and general energy level started to break down.”

How important is good timing? On their least lucrative Friday night, the Blondes made $98 in two hours. On their worst Monday afternoon, the group made just $3 in the same time period.

Sandusky recommends picking areas where your type of music is going to get the best reception, and cycling through multiple spots to make sure you don’t overstay your welcome. He’s not the only performer to discover the importance of location. Joshua Bell, the renowned violin soloist and conductor, tried busking in a busy Washington Metro station and was rewarded with only $32.

The Blondes‘ preferred venue? Next to a crosswalk, which grants at least 20 seconds of a captive audience.

Check out Sandusky’s entire post here.

MONEY Odd Spending

Get a Vasectomy and Have a Ball Watching March Madness

Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Michigan State Spartans to win the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.
Elsa—Getty Images Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Michigan State Spartans to win the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.

Yes, timing your vasectomy to coincide with the NCAA March Madness tournament is a thing.

“Get your vasectomy, then sit on the couch for 3 days watching sports–Doctors orders!”

That’s part of the pitch for the “Vas Madness” deal currently being offered by the Texas-based Urology Team. The special package costs $595 and includes an initial consultation and the surgical procedure that’ll stop you from getting anyone pregnant. But sorry sports fans, “consultations and vasectomies cannot be performed on the same day,” the promotion warns.

As bizarre as it sounds, the idea of getting snipped around the time of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not new. Vasectomy clinics report spikes in appointments around March Madness, presumably from men who feel that there’s no better period than tourney time to recover from the briefly painful procedure. The recovery involves little more than a few days of guilt-free sitting and icing one’s nether regions. And since you’re immobile for a spell thanks to doctor’s orders, why not see if there are any good games on TV?

One year, a clinic in Cape Cod even threw in free pizza as part of its March Madness-themed vasectomy package.

The vasectomy-March Madness connection dates back at least a half-dozen years. Many people credit the seemingly odd concept to the Oregon Urology Institute, which ran a “Snip City” radio ad in the late ’00s, encouraging men to have a little “snip-snip,” followed by “doctors orders to sit back and watch nonstop basketball.”

Who are the men who time this sensitive, life-changing procedure in such a way? “They are the clever ones, the men who put some thought into when they scheduled that not-often-discussed elective surgery,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported back in 2009. “Their wives might even wait on them.”

At the time, one Cleveland-area urologist told the paper that his schedule was completely booked with vasectomies timed to coincide with March Madness. And he said he fully understood why men timed it so: “If they’re going to have a day off, it might as well be on a day when they would want to be watching basketball, as opposed to watching ‘Oprah.'”

MONEY Odd Spending

10 Supposedly Irish Things That Aren’t Remotely Irish

Green Beer
Alex Hayden—Getty Images

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, millions will be embracing all things Irish. Wait, make that faux Irish—because many St. Patrick's "traditions" have nothing to do with Ireland or Irish culture.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, millions of Americans get their Irish on and partake in all sorts of seemingly Irish practices. They sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and drink Guinness-infused concoctions with colorful names. Heck, some even start the day off with a bowl of magically delicious Lucky Charms because, you know, there’s a leprechaun on the box and all.

We hate to it break to you, but many St. Patrick’s Day mainstays are pure Americanized nonsense, including the following:

Shamrock Shake
Let’s hope you didn’t think this fast food favorite actually had Irish roots. The artificially green, mint-flavored McDonald’s Shamrock Shake first appeared in 1970—in the U.S., of course—and it’s been a periodic limited-time-only menu cult hit every year around St. Patrick’s Day ever since. For a brief time in the mid-1970s, McDonald’s used an obese furry green character named Uncle O’Grimacey, who looks like a mix between Grimace and Oscar the Grouch, to promote the Shamrock Shake. The 550-calorie product wasn’t available nationally until 2012, and McDonald’s Ireland lists the Shamrock Shake as “NEW” on its menu.

Killian’s Irish Red
Like a few other seemingly imported beers that are actually made in the U.S.A., Killian’s Irish Red ale has been brewed exclusively in America for decades. Coors purchased the name in 1980, and the suds are made in factories in Colorado.

Lucky Charms
Um, no. Despite this cereal’s magically delicious leprechaun mascot and his over-the-top brogue, Lucky Charms is made by the giant Minneapolis-based food manufacturer General Mills and has nothing to do with Ireland or Irish culture. The traditional Irish breakfast has sausages, pudding, eggs, browned bread, and cooked tomatoes, not colored marshmallows.

Female Leprechauns
If you run into a woman in a leprechaun costume—sexy or otherwise—on St. Patrick’s Day, be aware that she probably isn’t the genuine article. She probably has no pot ‘o gold either. Shocking, right? According to A History of Irish Fairies by Carolyn White, there is no record of lady leprechauns, which makes you wonder how these tiny figures procreate. Leprechauns are known to be quite clever, but still. Also mind-boggling: Before Friends, Jennifer Aniston’s career in Hollywood truly began with her role in the low-budget 1993 horror film Leprechaun. (She wasn’t a leprechaun though—that would be ridiculous.)

“When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”
The beloved tune, memorably recorded by Bing Crosby among others, is often categorized as a traditional Irish folk song. In fact, it was written and composed by a trio of thoroughly American New Yorkers who were professional songwriters, for an extremely short-lived 1913 Broadway show called The Isle O’ Dreams.

Black Velvet
Don’t order this fancy cocktail concoction at a pub in Ireland if you want to make friends. Half Guinness Stout and half champagne, the black velvet was invented in the mid-nineteenth century not in Dublin or anywhere in Ireland but in London—as a tribute to the British royals no less. Specifically, the black velvet was created as an appropriately dark, mournful way to honor Prince Albert’s passing away in 1861. Oh, and that late ’80s hit song “Black Velvet”? It doesn’t have anything to do with Ireland either; it was written by Canadians and performed by Alannah Myles, also Canadian.

Irish Car Bomb
Car bombs were one of the weapons of choice used for decades during the Troubles of Northern Ireland, when thousands were killed. The term would never be used in Ireland as punchline, or as the provocative name of a cocktail, as it is in American bars, where a “car bomb” is a shot of Irish whiskey and Irish cream that’s dropped into a half-filled glass of Guinness.

Bennigan’s, Beef O’Brady’s, Tilted Kilt
None of these Irish- or Celtic-themed American bar-and-grill chains have origins in Ireland or are authentic to Irish pubs and cuisine. These restaurant concepts were born in Georgia, Florida, and Las Vegas, respectively, and none has locations in Ireland.

“St. Patty’s Day”
It’s still commonplace for the shortened version of the holiday to be spelled this way in America. However, spelling it so can get some people seriously fired up because in Ireland, “Patty” is short for Patricia, not Patrick. The true Irish spelling of “Patrick” is Pádraig, so the only way to shorten it is Paddy. One Irishman living in Canada went so far as to create the website PaddyNotPatty.com to hammer home that it should always be PADDY. How upset do the authentically Irish get when they see “Patty” used in place of Patrick? “It’s “like nails on a chalkboard,” the site explains. “It gnaws at them. It riles them up. It makes them want to fight… you know, more than usual.”

Green Beer
The Irish don’t bother with this foolish malarkey. As one Irish ex-pat living in America explained it when being interrogated about real St. Patrick’s Day customs back home, “If you dyed beer green in Ireland, they’d punch you.”

MONEY Odd Spending

13 Money Superstitions to Know on Friday the 13th

Money Tree
Martin Christopher Perea—iStock Money Tree

The origins of some of the weird money habits we practice all year round.

Whether or not you believe in the unlucky powers of Friday the 13th (and apparently the stock market doesn’t), there are plenty of money superstitions to keep you occupied throughout the year. Here are 13 of our favorites, from the wacky to the I-might-just-try-that…

1. Money trees. According to popular myth, a poor Taiwanese farmer came across an unusual tree one day in his fields. Thinking it would bring him luck, he uprooted it, brought it home, and began selling plants grown from its seeds. The farmer prospered, and ever after the tree was said to bring wealth and good luck to its owner. Its reputation has made the plant—botanical name pachira aquatica— a popular gift for new business openings and graduations.

2. Find a penny, pick it up… And all day long you’ll have good luck! With one caveat: Make sure the penny is heads up before you grab it. Over time, pennies began to reflect the popular “good vs. bad” dichotomy, with heads earning a positive reputation and tails a negative. When you see a tails-up penny on the street, flip it over so the next person can reap the good luck.

3. Money attracts money. Most cultures have some version of this adage. (This one is a particular favorite in Greece.) Which is why you’ll often find that when someone gives a wallet or purse as a present, they stash some money, even if it’s just a penny, in one of the pockets.

4. Keep your purse off the floor. There’s an old Chinese saying, “A purse on the floor is money out the door.” Putting your purse on the ground shows disregard for your wealth, and suggests that you may have a tough time managing your finances.

5. Throwing coins in a fountain. Dropping coins into bodies of water started as a way to thank the gods for the gift of clean water and ask for good health. Saying a prayer when you tossed the coin eventually evolved into the modern-day practice of throwing money into wishing wells and fountains.

6. If a spider crawls into your pocket… You’ll always have money. Provided you’re not too afraid to stick your hand in there to get it.

7. Especially if it’s a “money spider.” On the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, a brown spider or grasshopper in your home is supposed to bring you good luck. A green grasshopper, however, brings misfortune. The concept of a “money spider” is popular in other cultures as well and will supposedly bring you good money luck if you let it crawl on you (see above).

8. The Number 8. Particularly in Chinese culture, the number 8 signifies wealth and prosperity, making it a coveted digit in phone numbers and license plates. And while the financial benefits of the number are often touted, some numerologists point out that the shape of the number indicates balance and that as a Karmic equalizer it is a “force that just as easily creates as it destroys.”

9. Never accept a knife for free. Giving a gift of knives or scissors is bad luck, suggesting that your connection with the person will eventually be severed. To avoid ending the relationship, it’s common practice for the recipient to pay a penny so that the knife is no longer considered a gift.

10. If a bird poops on you… Or your house or car, or if you step in it, you’ll be rich.

11. Itchy palms. An itchy right palm means you’ll bring bringing in some cash, and an itchy left palm means you’ll be paying money out. Can’t get the left palm to stop itching? Superstition says to rub it on a piece of wood.

12. Origami jumping frog. A three-legged frog symbolizes good luck, and one made from a dollar bill can help bring you prosperity. They are easy to make, and you can keep them in your wallet or hidden around your home to attract some good money vibes.

13. The “wealth corner.” According to the Chinese practice of feng shui, the southeast corner of your home is considered your “wealth area.” Decorating your wealth area with trinkets that symbolize money accumulation, like wealth vases and Chinese coins, or stashing some money there, can help you maximize its impact on your financial life.

Read next: A Dozen Scary Weird Things to Know About Friday the 13th and Money

MONEY Odd Spending

A Dozen Scary Weird Things to Know About Friday the 13th and Money

We've dug up 12 alternately creepy and amusing Friday the 13th factoids for your pleasure—including how superstitions around this number and day can affect sales of homes, flights, and, strangest of all, tattoos.

  • “Friday the 13th” movies have grossed $380 million.

    Friday the 13th Part VI Jason Lives 1986
    Mary Evans—Ronald Grant Archive/Mary Evans/ Friday the 13th Part VI Jason Lives 1986

    BoxOfficeMojo added up the ticket sales of all 12 movies in the “Friday the 13th” franchise, and the sum came to $380 million, or a whopping $770 million after adjusting for inflation. The overall highest-grossing film was 2003’s Freddy Vs. Jason ($82.6 million), but after adjusting for inflation the original Friday the 13th came out on top, with its 1980 haul of $40 million translating to $123 million today. Oh, and you might have noticed that with a dozen Jason movies, another one would seem inevitable to make it 13. Sure enough, there’s one in the works that was originally supposed to be released on March 13, 2015, but has been pushed back to next year.

  • Tattoos cost just $13 on Friday the 13th.

    devil tattoo
    Alamy

    If you are going to mark your body permanently, you’d think you’d want to pay good money to get it right. You’d perhaps also think you wouldn’t want to tempt fate by doing it on a day known for bad luck. The proliferation of $13 tattoo deals that periodically pop up on Friday the 13th in cities such as Las Vegas, Tampa, St. Louis, and Charleston fly in the face of that kind of thinking. Generally speaking, participating tattoo parlors offer a limited number of small tats for $13, and customers are expected to tip $7. Some vendors also discount all tattoos by 13% or sell T-shirts for (you guessed it) $13.

  • You can fly one way to HEL on Flight 666 for $148.

    underbelly of jet plane at night
    Eric Meola—Getty Images

    Finnair offers a daily 95-minute flight, AY666—a.k.a. Flight #666—straight to HEL. The odd coincidence was noticed a few years ago by the media, and it’s not quite as ominous as it sounds: The entirety of the flight is in Scandinavia, not the underworld, as it departs CPH (Copenhagen) bound for HEL (Helsinki). Earlier this week we searched to see how much a flight to HEL would cost on Friday the 13th. The total was 1,028 Danish Krone, or about US$148. We only looked up the one-way price, because we’re assuming there are no round trips to HEL.

  • People seem to shy away from Friday the 13th flights.

    LAX Terminal 2
    Alamy

    Some studies have indicated that Friday 13th is a relatively cheap day to fly because demand is so low, presumably due to the superstitious not wanting to travel that day. This might be a myth, or at least there should be a caveat because Fridays and Sundays are universally considered the most expensive days of the week to fly. Still, as Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., explained in a National Geographic story, “It’s been estimated that [U.S.] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they normally would do.”

  • That Dossey guy sells a book about superstitious holidays for $15.

    Dossey Book

    Holiday Folklore, Phobias, and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatment and Superstitious “Cures” is one of several products sold by Dossey on his Phobia Institute site. The regular price for the 1992 book is $15, though a “web price” is listed at $10 (then add $5 for shipping). Used copies of the book are also listed for $4 at Amazon (1¢ + $3.99 shipping).

  • Friday the 13th weddings can be cheap.

    dark wedding banquet hall
    JG Photography—Alamy

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Friday the 13th tends to be a slow day for weddings compared with other Fridays. Hence the occasional 10% to 15% discount offered by venues for couples unafraid to seize the date.

  • But you’ll pay extra for a Friday the 13th theme wedding.

    Zombie Wedding at Viva Las Vegas
    Viva Las Vegas

    Viva Las Vegas Weddings has been promoting the fact that 2015 has three Friday the 13ths (in February, March, and November), and offers a variety of special creepy themes appropriate for the date—Zombie Wedding (pictured), Dracula’s Tomb, Ghoulish Gazebo, Graveyard Wedding, and so on. Friday the 13th wedding packages start at $600, compared with $450 for normal ones.

  • A #13 address can hurt home sales.

    #13 house number
    Georges Diegues—Alamy

    According to research cited by Zillow, 40% of real estate agents say that houses with a No. 13 address are known to cause resistance among buyers, and that sellers often have to lower prices as a result.

  • Investors shouldn’t be scared of Friday the 13th.

    150313_EM_Fri13th_Investors
    David A. Cantor—Associated Press

    Yes, the stock market’s mini-crash in 1989 took place on a Friday the 13th in October. But overall, Friday the 13ths tend to be fairly lucky days for investors, with greater odds for a positive gain in the S&P 500 compared with other days.

  • For one mall, Friday the 13th means coupons and freebies.

    Blueberry Bliss and Pineapple Kona Pop tea mix with Teavana glass teapot
    ZUMA Press—Alamy

    The Solomon Pond Mall in eastern Massachusetts has declared this week’s Friday the 13th as a “Lucky Day” for shoppers. Simply show the linked message to guest services, and you’ll receive a goody bag filled with freebies like Teavana tea and hair care samples, as well as a coupon for a $1 Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

  • Friday the 13th is big business for haunted houses.

    Cutting Edge Haunted House
    Ron Jenkins—Star Telegram

    This Friday, like every Friday the 13th, is potentially a big moneymaker for haunted house and other creepy attractions. Entrance can cost a pretty penny too, especially in Texas, which seems to be ground zero for haunted houses. For instance, the Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth charges $25 to $35 plus a $3.50 per-ticket service fee ($5 off for kids!), while the VIP Experience at the Dark Hour Haunted House in Plano runs $65 plus a $4.25 fee. At the lower end, there’s the Zombie Apocalypse for $16.50 in Colorado Springs, or the Scared City Haunted House in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is charging $10 admission for “ONE LAST NIGHT” before they remodel for the 2015 Halloween season.

  • Or partake in a “highly immersive terror” campout.

    Great Horror Campout
    Great Horror Campout

    This Friday, Los Angeles’s Griffith Park—probably best known as the setting for key scenes in Rebel Without a Cause—is hosting the “Great Horror Campout.” Billed as a “12-hour, overnight, interactive horror camping adventure” that includes “highly immersive terror” activities like the Hell Hunt Experience and an after-dark screening of Friday the 13th. Naturally, tickets cost $13 when purchased in advance. Among the suggested items campers should bring for the evening are drinks, snacks, sleeping bag, and a “Few Changes of Underwear.”

    Why end it here, you might ask, instead of pushing the list to 13 Friday the 13th-related things instead of 12? We were just too scared to go there.

MONEY Odd Spending

For $250K You Can Buy Citizenship in an Island Paradise—and a 0% Tax Rate

Frigate Bay, southeast of Basseterre, St. Kitts, Leeward Islands, West Indies
Robert Harding World Imagery—Alamy Frigate Bay on St. Kitts, where citizenship is for sale.

But you won't necessarily be off the hook for taxes owed to Uncle Sam.

From beachy Antigua and Barbuda to snowy Bulgaria, a handful of nations around the world are selling passports to anyone who can pay, according to a new Bloomberg Business report. Often, there is little to no requirement that you ever actually step foot in the country.

It’s your money that has to travel. The phenomenon, euphemistically dubbed “citizenship by investment,” gives anyone able to pony up enough cash a range of benefits, including official passports and visa-free access to dozens of countries, as well as some ethically dubious ones like “limited disclosure of financial information” and preferential tax rates.

A citizenship in St. Kitts, for example, costs $250,000 and buys you visa-free travel to countries like Mozambique and Venezuela, which require travel visas for American citizens. Moreover, income and capital gains taxes on the island are a big fat 0%, making it an attractive outpost for those looking to avoid U.S. taxes.

“This is a fantastic property to have a home, to have an address when the taxman comes asking why I claim that I’m a resident of St. Kitts and Nevis,” Thomas Liepman, director of the Christophe Harbour resort in St. Kitts, told conference attendees to whom he was pitching time-share condos, according to a Bloomberg reporter who was also in the audience. (It turns out prospective St. Kitts citizens can skip the $250,000 fee by investing $400,000 in real estate.)

Of course, pretending to live where you don’t for tax purposes is neither ethical nor legal, even if all those New Yorkers with Florida license plates have been doing it for years.

The foreign earned income exclusion does let you reduce your taxable income by up to $100,800 made overseas, allowing for some legal tax savings. But, says White Plains, N.Y., CPA Paul Herman, “the IRS is very clear that no matter where in the world you earn income, it’s subject to U.S. taxes—assuming you want to stay an American citizen.”

MONEY Odd Spending

Snuggie Maker to Pay $8 Million Over Customer Complaints

The makers of popular “as seen on TV” items like the Snuggie have agreed to an $8 million settlement over deceptive business practices.

MONEY Odd Spending

‘Spocking': The Weird Way to Ruin Money and Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

To honor Leonard Nimoy and the iconic character he played on Star Trek, all you need is a $5 Canadian banknote and a black marker.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a prime minister in Canada from 1896 to 1911, and his face is featured on the Canadian $5 bill. Apparently, some feel his face also resembles Leonard Nimoy, the instantly recognizable actor who served as Star Trek‘s Spock, and who died last week.

Starting a few years back, someone thought it would be funny to take older versions of Canada’s $5 banknotes and artfully add some black ink to the profile of Laurier—darkening and extending the eyebrow, sharpening up the tip of the ear, scratching in a dark bowl-shaped helmet full of hair—so that the resulting image looked like Spock. (Another version of this game turned Laurier’s mug into Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.)

Now that Nimoy has passed away, fans of the actor and the highly logical Vulcan he played on TV and the movies are being encouraged to “Spock” their Canadian $5 bills in tribute. The “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page—yes, there is such as thing, founded in 2008—has heralded the “revival” of Spocking Fives. As you’d guess, word of this curious activity has spread on social media, like so:

The parody Twitter account @PMLaurier—yes, there is such a thing—recently wished “Adieu to the great Leonard Nimoy” in a Tweet that showed one of the manipulated bills, noting that he was “Honoured so many Canadians thought we looked alike and would ‘Spock’ their $5 bills.”

As for where and how, exactly, the idea of “Spocking” currency first began, the “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page only has this to say: “The origins of this mysterious tradition are shrouded in secrecy, although it is widely believed to be totally awesome.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

1 Trick to Getting What You Want When You Negotiate

Boss
MoMo Productions—Getty Images

You won't believe how easy it is

Conventional wisdom says that, in negotiations, it’s better to offer the other party a firm number rather than a range. The thinking is that a hiring manager who hears, “I want between $40,000 and $45,000″ will focus on the lower number, or somebody you want to buy a car from will jump on the higher number if you tell them, “I can pay between $8,000 and $8,500.”

That conventional wisdom is wrong. New research finds that people who offer a range really give themselves a better chance at getting the number they really want — but you have to do it the right way.

Columbia Business School professor Daniel Ames says there are a couple things going on when you negotiate with a range as opposed to a single number. For starters, there’s the psychological concept of “tandem anchoring.” When we hear a range, our minds are predisposed to take both numbers into account, not just the one that we want to hear.

“Our research shows that people receiving a range offer are often influenced by both ends of that range in estimating their counterpart’s limits,” Ames says.

The other psychological component at work is what Ames calls the “politeness effect.” While we generally think we drive a hard bargain when we negotiate, we’re not really as tough as we think we are. “We tend to think of negotiators as being reasonably shrewd and skeptical and self-interested,” Ames says. “But across multiple studies, that’s not what we found… When we look at the counteroffers that negotiators made, it was partly predicted by how rude or polite they thought it would be to make that proposal.” Even in cases where a negotiation is anonymous and buyer and seller don’t expect to cross paths again, most of us are still reluctant to be overly cutthroat.

The key to turning this into a number you want to hear — whether you’re landing a job or buying a car — is to give the other party what Ames calls a “bolstering range;” in plain English, tilt the numbers in your favor. If you want a salary of $50,000, tell the hiring manager you’d like between $50,000 and $55,000.”Range offers tend to shift what offer-recipients think about the offer-makers’ limits,” Ames says. “Adding a higher number… tends to tug assumptions about that limit higher.”

Now, Ames points out there are a few limits to this. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they assume the limit is the mid-point of the range,” he says. In one experiment where subjects were asked how much they would pay for a hypothetical catered event, those who heard the caterer’s estimate of $100 countered with an average of $77, although even those who heard an estimated range of $100 to $120 only offered an average of $83. “They didn’t all necessarily end up inside the range itself, but they tended to end up with more than they would have gotten with just the point offer,” Ames says.

So aim high, but keep it reasonable, Ames warns. “Range offers have some limits,” he says. “[They] tend to work best when they start at assertive, but not outrageous, levels and when they span a modest width.” In other words, if you want a $60,000 salary in a job offer, don’t suggest a range of $75,000 to $80,000. And don’t make the range so broad that it can damage your credibility, he cautions. “Range offers that go beyond normal widths, which tend to be 5-20%, tend not to bring extra value.”

Read next: 4 Subtle Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Chances for a Promotion

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