Can You Tell Cheap from Costly?

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We told you recently how brand name and generic versions of both batteries and dish soap often perform the same. Now another product category has up and confused consumers -- wine. When it comes to cheap wine over pricey, many people can’t tell the difference, reports CNET. Only 39 percent of people could tell the difference between a $23 bottle of wine and a $5 one. English psychologist Richard Wiseman doesn't have much faith in people's wine-tasting abilities and thinks the results would be the same with any group of study participants.

We've known for a few years that many people actually prefer cheap wine over pricey. A December 2008 news item in the UK Telegraph caused a stir when it reported that cheap, fruity wines made in America were outselling expensive French varieties in Britain. Part of the reason behind people's cheap wine-buying habits, according to a Freakonomics post, is that some of the expensive wines aren't that good -- they carry a higher price tag because of production or marketing costs. If you're in the market for cheap wine over pricey, by the way, check out our guides on cheap red wines and cheap champagne.

A bit of research shows that people have a hard time differentiating between the budget and bank-breaking with products other than wine, though. A forum in the Lifestyle section of MSN asking if women can tell cheap makeup from the costly kind shows that only about half can. Another discussion on StraightDope showed that people also had trouble sniffing out high-priced fragrances. Some didn't think there was much of a difference.

It's the same with food. The majority of people posting on Yahoo Answers said they couldn't tell the difference between store-brand and brand-name food. Others posting on the diet website 3FatChicks said they'll go store-brand only for certain items. It depends on your tastes and dietary or beauty needs, really. One person said she couldn't go generic for ketchup. Another said the thickness of her hair required her to buy more expensive shampoo.

So, do you pick cheap wine over pricey? What other items fooled you with their discount price tag?