How simple maths can turn advertising into something surreal


Since coming to England (this time around) I’ve noticed a new chain of stores that I don’t remember seeing when I was here last: the Cash 4 Clothes stores.

Basically, the concept is this: you take your old clothes to a Cash 4 Clothes store. The store weighs your clothes (no, not the store itself, we haven’t gotten to the surreal bit yet) and gives you cash for it. The cash you receive depends on the weight of the clothes you brought in.

Now I’m guessing they won’t take your woolly sweater that you just wore to the local swimming pool, no matter how modest or how big a fan of The Killing you claim to be, but other than that, I think they’re pretty happy to take almost anything.

The going rate, judging on the places I’ve passed by the last couple of weeks, seems to be 50p per kg of clothes. Which brings us to the happy, happy lady in the picture above.

Now I’m guessing that she’s there to show potential customers just how happy you will be and how much money you can actually make by selling your old clothes.

OK, so far so good. An advertisement that shows people how happy and rich you can make them. Sounds good.

Well, perhaps not, if we insert a little maths into this scenario (yes, this is part of the surreal bit).

Now if we look at our very happy lady, she’s holding a fan of £20 notes. I count them to 17, meaning that she’s holding a total of 17×20 = £340. With the going rate being 50p per kg of clothes, that means that she has just sold 2×340 = 680kg of clothes. For people who prefer pounds to kg (shame on you!) that’s 1496 pounds of clothing.

Although the clothes might be allowed to be stuffed into a regular car, if you judged it solely on its weight, you might have a little trouble actually getting it in there.

Let’s imagine that the happy, happy lady was selling all of her jeans. And she used to really like jeans. Really, really like jeans. According to (God bless the Internet for this existing) an average pair of jeans weighs between one and two pounds (shame on denimblog for not going metric yet!). Let’s say that a pair of the happy lady’s jeans weighs about 1.5 pounds. That would mean that she would have to sell 1496/1.5 = 997 pairs of jeans to make the £340.

And jeans are pretty heavy. So say that the very happy lady was happy because she’d finally gotten rid of all her old t-shirts after deciding to go corporate. Well, according to (yep. you’ve probably already guessed where this is going), a t-shirt weighs between six (small) and ten ounces (XXXL). WE’ll say that the happy lady used to be really into rap and wore the XXXL t-shirts. An ounce is about 0.03kg, so our formula here is 680/0.3 = 2266 t-shirts going over the counter.

Now here’s a little experiment for you: take a t-shirt or a pair of jeans and throw them on the floor. Then imagine doing the same 996 times more (for jeans) or 2265 more times (for the t-shirts). How much of your floor do you think you can see? Or how many houses could you cover.

Right, now let’s take a second look at our smiling lady:


Now, speaking purely in marketing terms, I’d say that a little maths makes it very odd for the happy, happy lady to be giving us a smile that would probably be most at home somewhere between a commercial for the lottery and an Always add (why are those women always smiling?).

Surreal, wouldn’t you say? And that’s even before touching on the oddity of a place that buys your clothes selling washing powder….

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