"Have you ever heard about the three men that were out on the town? After having consumed more drink than they should, they decided to wear it off by staying overnight in a hotel. The desk clerk charged them $30.00 for the room. Shortly afterwards the desk clerk realized that he had overcharged the three men by $5.00. He calls the Bell Boy over, gives him the $5.00 and explains to him that he had overcharged the three men and asked him to go up and give them the $5.00. On his way up, the Bell Boy thinks they will be happy to get a refund so why don't I give them each $1.00. They will be happy and I will have picked up $2.00. But when he does that and gives each man $1.00, that means they only paid $9.00 each for the room, which is a total of $27.00; plus the $2.00 the Bell Boy pocketed is a total of $29.00. But they gave the desk clerk $30.00! Where did the extra $1.00 go??"

Well. let's look at the initial situation. Each man pays $10 for the hotel room, the hotel gets $30, and the bellboy has nothing. Now, when everything has settled, each man has paid $9 for the hotel room (a total of $27), the hotel got $25, and the bellboy got $2. So what went wrong?

Actually, this is not a math problem at all, but a mathematical example of
the classical magical principle of misdirection. The problem glibly states
"which is a total of $27.00; plus the $2.00 the Bell Boy pocketed", which
is a meaningless calculation, but serves to distract you from the correct
calculation. The correct calculation would be "which is a total of $27.00;
*including* the $2.00 the Bell Boy pocketed". This way you can see
that the difference is $25, the price of the room. The misdirection works
because the answer it provides is *close* to something you expect
(the original $30).

If we wanted to get more complicated, the men *spent* $30 on the
room, which the hotel *received.* The hotel then *spent* $5
on the refund, of which the bellboy *received* $2 and the men
*received* $3. Then the total spent is $35 ($30 by the men and $5
by the hotel), and the total received is $35 ($30 by the hotel, $2 by the
bellboy, and $3 by the men as a refund).

"But when he does that and gives each man nothing, that means they still paid $10.00 each for the room, which is a total of $30.00; plus the $5.00 the Bell Boy pocketed is a total of $35.00. But they only gave the desk clerk $30.00! Where did the extra $5.00 come from??"This is either a mathematical proof that crime really does pay, or, more likely, a very suspect statement. That's why the numbers in the original were chosen to make it look like it almost worked. That way you go along with the misdirection, get misled by the wrong calculation, and are confused by the result.

Of course, what actually happened (in our modified case) was that each man paid $10 for the room, for a total of $30.00, of which the hotel got $25 and the bellboy got $5.

- Numbers for the Real World: Intelligent Life.
- The Challenge of Innumeracy.
- Try the Probability Quiz.
- Wordlore and wordplay.
- Return to the front gate of Esmerel.

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