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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Real Estate
I tried converting the prices into pizzas, to put it in more familiar terms, and it just became a hard-to-think-about number of pizzas.
Title text: I tried converting the prices into pizzas, to put it in more familiar terms, and it just became a hard-to-think-about number of pizzas.


In this comic, Cueball is speaking with Ponytail, his real estate agent, about an ongoing negotiation over the price of a house he is looking to buy. This is probably his first time buying a house and he is very overwhelmed by the process, a very common feeling among first-time home buyers. The housing market is so complicated and ever-changing, that it is almost impossible for the layman to have any concept of what a piece of property is worth. One must rely on the opinions of their real estate agent, building inspector, friends and family, along with research regarding the housing market in the area (average property values, what houses recently sold for, etc). Telling the agent that you need time to think about it is a good strategy to stall for time and research further while seeming to know what you're doing.

In the caption Randall makes it seem that he is in Cueball's situation in any financial negotiation, not only for such large ones as when buying real estate.

In the title text Randall mentions that he tried to convert the prices into the equivalent numbers of pizzas that amount could buy (most pizza parlors charge roughly 15 dollars for a "large"-sized pizza, so this could net him over 650 pizzas). Thinking of the price of an object (or a reduction in the price) in terms of the number of pizzas (or similar objects) that amount could buy is a good strategy for weighing the pros and cons of a smaller purchase, but doesn't help in this situation, as the number of pizzas is so large that it becomes meaningless in itself. A better strategy would be to compare the large price to his average monthly cost of living (rent, utility bills, car payments, et al), or to compare to the comparatively stable average cost to build on-site, or the price of factory built homes.

This comic is in line with the much older 616: Lease and the more recent 1674: Adult regarding buying real estate and not feeling grown up (see also 905: Homeownership).

This comic (and the title text) also alludes to the fact that humans are generally very bad at comprehending/visualizing very large numbers; mathematician Spencer Greenberg has similarly suggested trying to convert very large numbers into different units (such as US national debt into US national debt per person) in an effort to bring the magnitudes down into something more comprehensible, something that Randall humorously attempts to do with the aforementioned conversion to quantities of pizza.


[Ponytail and Cueball sit in office chairs on either side of a desk. Ponytail looks at a piece of paper she is holding in her hand, more papers lie on the table. Cueball sits with his hands in his lap, thinking in a thought bubble before he replies to her remark.]
Ponytail: The sellers offer to drop their price by $10,000 and cover the driveway repairs.
Cueball [thinking]: These are all staggeringly large amounts of money that I have no idea how to even think about, let alone compare.
Cueball [speaking]: Tempting. We'll need a few hours to consider it.
[Caption below the panels:]
Me in any financial negotiation.

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