Most Thursday nights, my boyfriend and I go to a chicken restaurant that has abandoned any attempts at interior design or an inviting atmosphere, unless you count the fact that the tables have been covered in a newly laminated collection of advertisements for local muffler shops and pitbull breeders. It is the kind of place where ordering a Heineken earns you some serious side-eye, and playing Toto on the jukebox—even ironically, especially ironically—might result in a permanent ban. (Last week, with two credits left, my finger hovered over the button for Toto IV, and my boyfriend shook his head and hissed, “Don’t.” He played the Georgia Satellites. Everyone approved.)
ANYWAY, Thursday night is when they run their long-standing wing special, and the reason that we might stand beside the barred windows for 30-plus minutes, waiting for a table. Wings are 40 cents each, regardless of how many you order, and that flavor is well worth sitting on a slick vinyl seat, overhearing conversations about deer season, and the unofficial Toto ban. Ten wings? Four bucks. TWENTY wings? Eight bucks. The wings are great, and the math makes sense—unlike this bonkers-ass pricing structure from a West Philadelphia restaurant.
Last week, Sean Woodall, a 24-year-old Philadelphian, posted a picture that she’d snapped at Danny’s Wok. “There’s gotta be a better way to convey this information,” she wrote, underneath that shot of its complicated-looking pricing structure.
The only things about this that seem clear are that Danny’s has a minimum order of four wings, at a price of $1.14 per wing, and that it abandons the per-wing pricing after an order of 30 wings. (At 50 wings, the orders start increasing by tens, except even that pattern is interrupted by a random, cursed order of 75.)
Woodall’s mentions quickly became oversaturated by Math Twitter, who tried to figure out what was happening with these prices. Some people who are smarter than I am discovered that the cost of each wing increases in alternate amounts, first by $1.10 per additional wing, then by $1.15, then back to $1.10, etc., a pattern that holds until the 24th wing...because the 25th wing is only 55 cents. WHUT?
But… why… why would they do this? Woodall told Buzzfeed News that she didn’t think to ask when she was in the restaurant. “[Maybe] they wanted to make it as easy as possible for customers to know how much they would pay for any possible amount of wings, without the cashier needing to clarify or calculate,” she suggested.
Another Twitter user suggested a different motivation for the aneurysm-inducing price structure. “Okay, I think I figured it out,” Alex Hallden-Abberton wrote. “They wanted to make a profit of $1 per wing, but that’s a $1 profit AFTER a combined 11.25% sales tax and restaurant tax, AND after the operating costs (oil, electricity) of making the wings. So they calculated the cost as C = n*1.1125 + x rounded to the nearest 5 cents, where C’s the total cost, n is the number of wings, and x is their operating expenses to the nearest 5 cents, starting at 10c and going up to 15c, 20c etc.” (If that makes sense to you, please let me occasionally borrow your brain components.)
Hallden-Abberton said that the restaurant must’ve wanted to offer a slight volume discount: at 25 wings, customers get a 50-cent discount, a full $1 discount at 50 wings, and a $1.50 discount for every 75 wings. (But if you buy 150 wings, you only save a nickel over the cost of two 75-count orders? WHAT IS THIS SHIT?)
Danny’s Wok clearly hides a math mystery that never be solved, right up there with the Hodge conjecture, the Riemann hypothesis, and whatever assorted equations Will Hunting couldn’t figure out. Yes, it’s insane, but does anyone know how they feel about Toto?