Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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). Despite the comic mocking it as an obvious stalling tactic, telling the agent that you need time to think about it is a good strategy to 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 16-inch/40 cm pizza, so this price cut could net him over 650 pizzas even before the driveway repairs). 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. For example, a $300k house would represent 20k pizzas, or enough to have a pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for about 18 years! 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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That comic would've been funny ten years ago, but I'm not buying it from an author that is 33, sorry. Is Cueball supposed to be still in college? Is Munroe poking fun at fatuitous sophomores? Boring. --220.127.116.11 12:11, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- Buying a house is still really complicated, even for someone who has already graduated from college.Herobrine (talk) 10:48, 30 September 2017 (UTC)
- I think Randall still feel confused about owning a home, and the prices. When buying for hundred of thousands dollars and then some one cuts 10.000 dollars of the price, that is not that much relative, but it would be a huge deal to save that much in any other situation. Is that then a good offer or nor? As can be seen from my initial start of the explanation by just adding refs to three other comics, this is an issue Randall has returned to several times over the span of xkcd's lifetime. --Kynde (talk) 13:18, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- Rings completely true to this 41 year old18.104.22.168 14:29, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- And to this 33 year old 22.214.171.124 19:51, 26 September 2017 (UTC)
- It highlights what basically becomes an enormous difference in number size when doing some of these financial transactions. Having owned a house for three years now, I still cannot fully conceptualise the amount of debt I'm in. Sure, I know the number, and I signed all the papers, but it's an order of magnitude more than buying a car, which is an order of magnitude more than buying a 4k UHD TV, which itself is one of those things you don't even do every year. Within that context, being able to properly appraise whether that 10k discount (and driveway repairs) are worth it is fairly difficult to do. I got a 6k discount for a roof job that needed to be done on the house, along with an estimate that coincidentally expired before closing, that ended up costing me 11k. I had nowhere near any experience to know if any of that was reasonable, and, quite frankly, I still don't think I would have if I did it again. 126.96.36.199 18:17, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- It's not just about evaluating the numbers in themselves, though. It's the cognitive dissonance between on the one hand knowing that $10,000, in the abstract, is a large amount of money (it could make a significant difference to your life), and on the other, it being well within your margin of error in judging what a house is worth. The amounts being discussed are at the same time both meaningless and hugely meaningful.188.8.131.52 11:30, 29 September 2017 (UTC)
- If you're correct as to his age, I'm a chunk older than him and I still identify with comics like this. I've never bought a house and am sure it would likewise overwhelm me, it would be difficult to grasp that I'm considering encurring such a large debt. I too sometimes don't feel like I'm an adult and am just faking, I spent so many years growing up knowing I wasn't an adult that once I became one it was difficult to grasp that this has "magically" changed. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:29, 26 September 2017 (UTC)
I'm 32 myself and since I'm in the middle of selling/buying a house, I can say for darn sure I feel like this!184.108.40.206 23:27, 3 October 2017 (UTC)
- Well, he cracked the joke about Cueball drilling too many holes in his first own walls (xkcd no 905) six years ago. Don't know why, Dilbert certainly hasn't aged in decades, but it bothers me here. ;-) --220.127.116.11 08:24, 26 September 2017 (UTC)
- I think it's because Dilbert is completely fictional, based on things the author has experienced, while we KNOW Cueball is largely Randall, even if sometimes he's Randall's imagination coming out to play. :) Yes, Randall has made several references to not feeling like an adult (I think this explanation might have them all) but he's certainly not alone. Since I saw this comic I had a memory on Facebook. 4 people making declarations - "I have a car", "I like to clean", "I can cook" and "I have a Netflix password" - all holding their hands up with rings firing beams into the sky, last panel they're now one person, a la Captain Planet: "By your powers combined, I am... A fully functional adult!". I was instantly reminded of this comic, LOL! (I'd be the one who can cook, none of those others apply to me). And again, I'm notably older than Randall. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:00, 29 September 2017 (UTC)
So, what are driveaway repairs? How much value does it normally have? Sorry for being stupid.
18.104.22.168 19:19, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- It could be broken tiles in the driveway for instance. Depending on how many and what type it could be a whole range of values. The idea is that Cueball also has no idea if this compares to the 10,000 $ discount he already has on offer. Probably not though...--Kynde (talk) 19:45, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- As far as I know, the average driveway is paved (at least here in North America, which is also where Randall is). A driveway could have oil stains and such, and/or could be developing damages like roads get potholes, and cracks. "Repairing" any of these would require repaving (though I suspect they never dig it up like roads to start fresh). I think even a simple repaving would run into the thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the driveway. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:38, 26 September 2017 (UTC)
Seems to me that part of the joke is Cueball, being stunned by the numbers, still uses his normal "let me think about it" response, even when the offer being presented is possibly already a concession to his indecisiveness, and has no drawback (they offer to both reduce price and cover the repairs). 22.214.171.124 20:59, 25 September 2017 (UTC)
- It has a drawback. He can still decide not to buy the house at all and "save" a whole lot of money. 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- He might also be considering other houses, is this now the better deal? Was it overpriced to begin with and this $10G only a drop in the bucket? Are there other necessary repairs which will cost even more than the money reduction, meaning that it should be reduced further, since the final cost to Cueball will still be higher than the previous price? Are there other issues he hasn't found yet, devaluing the place? (I'm thinking of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where they bought a place in the "upcoming" neighbourhood of Dowisetrepla - DOwn WInd from the SEwage TREatment PLAnt, a plant that was closed for the weekend, and thus not stinking up the whole neighbourhood when they saw it). NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:29, 26 September 2017 (UTC)
This may also have a poke at some recent radio commercials (I forget for which bank) where, in the commercials, real estate agents and home buyers refer to home prices in terms of "years of really hard work" or similar. 188.8.131.52 03:02, 26 September 2017 (UTC)
15 dollars is ALOT for pizza... given that frozen ones are only $5 and about double that for a store pizza and I am talking AUD here Needforsuv (talk) 11:32, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
- Depends on the definition of "large", but about 12-13 EUR for a ~32cm pizza seems reasonable to me. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:51, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
- It also depends on the quality of pizza. I can get a large from Dominos (nation-wide chain) for 10 USD or from a local, family owned brick-oven place for 16 USD. 184.108.40.206 15:22, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
- Also, assuming AUD means Australian Dollars, Randall is in the States, this would be American Dollars, what's the exchange rate? Here, in Canadian Dollars, I would estimate the average price from a restaurant - not frozen, not greaseball-mainly-sold-by-slice-for-broke-students - is about $18 or $19 for a large, which indeed would be in the vicinity of $15 American, perhaps rounded down to $15 for mathematical simplicity (which is the point of this anyway). NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:00, 29 September 2017 (UTC)