English is not my native language and I am currently living in Singapore. I encountered this sign in a stall:

Lose money! 亏本卖! Jualan rugi!

I understand this sign as "By buying this, you'll lose money in an irrelevant product, what are you waiting for?" but it's obviously not the good interpretation. Can somebody enlighten me ?

  • It makes no sense to those speaking US English. I presume it's some sort of joke, or something in the local idiom. – Hot Licks Apr 11 '18 at 2:02
  • (It could mean that the sellers claim to be losing money at that price. (If so, it's poorly worded.) The term "fire sale" that I see in the background implies prices are lower than seller's cost.) – Hot Licks Apr 11 '18 at 2:02
  • The English doesn't make any sense to me either. Is it possible that the Chinese or "Jualan Rugi" makes more sense? Does anyone know what it says? It's possible that this is the work of Google Translate. – Laurel Apr 11 '18 at 2:04
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    The Chinese text displayed reads "亏本卖", which Google Translate says is "loss to sell", which is garbled, but could mean "selling at a loss". The Malay "Jualan Rugi" means the same thing; Google Translate gives "Loss Sales". – Green Grasso Holm Apr 11 '18 at 2:14

This may be a case of shoddy translation.

Inputting the simplified Chinese characters into LineDict returns 亏本卖, which apparently means to sell something at a loss, i.e. the merchant will not earn back the cost of the product from the money earned on the sale.

According to Google Translate, jualan rugi is Malay for sales loss.

Thus, the intended meaning seems to be that the price is so low that the shopkeeper is losing money, and therefore the consumer is getting a very good deal indeed. But lose money is not the way to express this in English, and as you observe, will be taken quite the opposite way—that the customer will lose money.

The English equivalent would be something like below cost, i.e. the merchant's cost. I'm not familiar with any one conventional phrasing, as it isn't a common thing to advertise in the U.S. or Canada. Here, that is mainly a selling point on more expensive items like cars or major household appliances, which might be billed as below factory invoice or below dealer invoice or some such. Selling below cost on a regular basis to drive out competition is actually against the law.

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