This modern sales gimmick started as a way to prevent theft in the 1800’s.
Charging odd numbered prices
When you see something advertised as being “just $99.99,” it’s meant today to disguise the fact that it’s going to cost you more than a hundred dollars. However, the original idea was to stop cashiers from stealing from businesses. James Ritty from Dayton, Ohio, ran a bar: “Pure Whiskeys, Fine Wines, and Cigars.” Because there weren’t cash registers, James’ bartenders were stealing him blind.
After hearing about how steamships measured the turns of their propellers, James realized he could do the same thing for cash. He got his brother to build him a counting machine that would log transactions at his bar. Patented in 1879, Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier stopped the majority of theft.
James later realized if you charged 99 cents instead of an even dollar, cashiers would have to open the register… so he added a bell that would alert him to every time a transaction was taking place. James sold his invention to the company that later became National Cash Register.)