Superstore — Handheld Automation

 

Corporate has created new devices for customers to use that will allow them to look up where items are located in the store, scan the items, and pay for their total. The employees quickly point out that the device essentially replaces the workers and they are left wondering what that means for them. Dina tries to point out the relationship between ATMs and bank tellers, although she doesn’t have it exactly right.

At the end of the clip, Amy points out that corporate has also asked the stores to cut back employee hours, which implies that the new machines are replacing some of the labor in the store.

Life in Pieces — Discounts & Sunk Costs

 

Tim tries to host a guys night and things don’t seem to be going his way. Beyond the awkwardness of just the two of them, the big pay per view fight lasts only a couple of seconds. While the two did get to watch the fight, which had a knockout, it wasn’t quite worth the hundred dollars they paid. Tim notes that he may be able to turn it off and get his money back. With a lot of experience goods, it’s not necessarily the actual outcome of the action that people care about. Tim and Matt did see a fight, so why is he so focused on getting his money back?

A second quick econ line occurs later when they sit down for dinner. Even though Tim isn’t eating any tacos, he notes that the cook is cheaper since he expects Matt to eat 25 or 26 tacos. This form of bulk discounting represents second degree price discrimination. With this pricing mechanism, the hope is to induce customers to purchase more than they would have (law of demand) even though making an additional taco doesn’t have the added cost of another cook.

Blackish — Castle Neighbors

 

This opening cartoon depicts Dre dutifully maintaining his castle and describing the lengths men go to in order to protect their castle. Unfortunately, we can’t always control what neighbor’s do with their castle and their decision to throw parties and disturb us is (seemingly) out of our control. The Coase Theorem would argue that so long as transaction costs are low, people should be able to bargain and sort out external costs imposed by private actions. The insinuation by Dre in this scene is that the transaction costs may be just a bit too high.

Clip recommended by James Tierney:

 

T-Mobile — Ariana or Maps?

The driver of the car faces scarcity (limited data). The driver is forced into a decision between streaming music and using maps with her data. At the end of the commercial she chooses maps, leaving Arianna as her opportunity cost.

Thanks to Brian Devitt for the clip and description!

Brooklyn 99 — Boyle Can’t Quit

 

Boyle’s new food truck isn’t going well at all. He’s losing a lot of money and he can’t seem to change things around. Jake suggests Boyle does what he’s good at and just quits, suggesting that Boyle’s the average price Boyle charges for food is below even his average variable costs. Boyle took out a huge loan and he needs to help pay it back, which may mean that his prices are between the average fixed and average variable costs, in which case he should keep producing even though he’s losing money.

Agents of SHIELD — She Wanted Gold!

 

Loralei is seeking to take over the world and she wants money, but Rooster shows up with a bag full of paper money instead of gold. Rooster explains to her that on Earth, paper money is just like gold although he mistakenly says that Ben Franklin was a US president. While dollars used to be based on gold, they have since been converted to fiat money is backed on faith of the US government.

 

Big Bang Theory — An (Un)Permitted Deck

 

Howard and Bernadette are bothered by their neighbor’s (Andy) new flood lights, which appears to look out over their backyard and right into the hot tub they have built. Andy doesn’t see the problem because his flood lights are in his backyard and provide him some sense of security, but they are a nuisance to Howard and Bernadette.

Instead of talking to their neighbors directly, like the Coase Theory would suggest, they head to the city zoning office to try and report the issue in the hopes that he has violated some city zoning ordinance. When they realize that will take too much time, they try to get Sheldon’s help, but Sheldon is cautious because Bernadette and Howard didn’t get permission to build their backyard deck, nor renovate their shower.

In Howard and Bernadette’s mind, government regulation should only be used for externalities. Their deck and bathroom aren’t affecting third parties so they don’t see the need to have them approved.

 

Adam Ruins Funerals

When a loved one dies, and we are in a state of grief, we often aren’t making the most informed decisions. Funeral homes know this and use this fact to charge higher prices. They can do so because our price elasticity of demand for end life services is high. There are few reasons for this. First, there is not enough time to “shop around” for better pricing on the goods and services provided as a funeral is often expected to take place quickly after a person’s death. Second, there is high asymmetric information about exactly what is actually necessity and what is more a luxury (the clip pokes fun of this with the casket featuring WiFi). Last, there are no close substitutes for end of life services – you only have two options: burial or cremation. For these reasons, we are less sensitive to price when shopping for end of life services for our loved ones and will pay a higher prices consequently.’

Thanks to Erin Yetter for the submission and description! Follow her on Twitter!

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

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