Best Buy 5% follow-up, Ph.D’s are a horrible choice, and cognitive distortions

BEST BUY FOLLOW-UP: The Best Buy website team has caught up to the Best Buy email marketing team and is now reporting that Best Buy cardholders get 5% back in Reward Zone dollars, which can be used to buy anything at Best Buy.

The relevant headline on MarketWatch reads, “Best Buy boosts loyalty rewards to spur sales”:

B. Riley analyst Scott Tilghman said Best Buy and other operators of voucher-based rewards have found that every $1 in certificate face value tends to reap $2 in purchasing. And, of course, a fair amount of points go unused.

“The cost is relatively minimal because more than likely they will make it up on increased sell through,” he said.

Wow, if they’re making so much money by giving money away, just imagine how much they’d make if they increased rewards even more! We’re ready for someone to break the 10% barrier…

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T GET A PH.D IN THE HUMANITIES: Rebecca Schuman, holder of a Ph.D. in literature and an adjunct professor at Ohio State University, would like you to know that getting a Ph.D. in a soft subject is a terrible, horrrible, no-good, very bad idea:

Don’t do it. Just don’t. I deeply regret going to graduate school, but not, Ron Rosenbaum, because my doctorate ruined books and made me obnoxious… No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.

Some grim numbers to consider:

Well, tenure-track positions in my field have about 150 applicants each. Multiply that 0.6 percent chance of getting any given job by the 10 or so appropriate positions in the entire world, and you have about that same 6 percent chance of “success.” If you wouldn’t bet your life on such ludicrous odds, then why would you bet your livelihood?

…No, you will not get a job—not because, like Kafka’s mouse, you went in the “wrong” direction, but because today’s academic job market is a “market” in the sense that one stall selling fiddlehead ferns in the middle of a strip mall is a “farmer’s market.” In the place of actual jobs are adjunct positions: benefit-free, office-free academic servitude in which you will earn $18,000 a year for the rest of your life.

A professor by the nom de plume of Thomas H. Benton has been advising students for years not to attempt to follow in his footsteps.

As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:

  • You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.
  • You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.
  • You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.
  • You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold — such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.

Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not listen to people who try to tell them.

You have been warned. By all means follow your passions, but it’s possible to follow most passions while also holding down a decent job.

50 COMMON COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS: Psychology Today has a list of 50 common cognitive distortions. The whole list is worth a read, as it’s filled with things we’re all guilty of to one degree of another, but some can have a disproportionate impact on our financial lives. For example:

29. Falling victim to the “Foot in the Door” technique.

When someone makes a small request to get a “Yes” answer, then follows up with a bigger request, people are more likely to agree to the big request than if only that request had been made.

Ever had a salesman, telemarketer, or fundraiser try that technique on you? If you understand the psychology involved and are able to understand what people are doing you as they are doing it, it’s easier to say no to this sort of manipulation. There have been some interesting studies done on this technique, so take a look if you’re interested.

31. Focusing on the amount saved rather than the amount spent.

e.g, Focusing on the amount of a discount rather than on whether you’d buy the item that day at the sale price if it wasn’t listed as on sale.

We’ve all been there, right?

47. Positively biased predictions.

For example, expecting that if you sign up to a one year gym membership you will go, if this hasn’t been the case in the past.

Though in all fairness, having a positive bias does help one get through the day. We seem to recall that people who are most objective about their abilities tend to be depressed. By all means, be cheerful–just be aware of what the cost might be.

(H/T: The Big Picture)

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