The Simpsons — Grease Business

When Homer finds out from Apu that there is a local business buying old grease, Homer sets out to be rich. He buys $30 worth of bacon, feeding it to the dog, in order to harvest the extra grease and sell it. He spends hours frying up bacon only to earn 68 cents. He doesn’t seem bothered by his losses since his wife (Marge) paid for it. There’s one problem Homer hasn’t realized yet; Marge gets her money from Homer.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip suggestion and summary!

History of the World — Unemployment Insurance

For someone to be considered unemployed, they must actively search for employment and not be currently employed. In this scene from Mel Brooks’ History of the World, the unemployment officer asks two key questions of citizens looking for their unemployment payment:

  1. Have you worked (killed) last week?
  2. Did you try to work (kill) last week?

She also warns that their unemployment is about to run out and that they need to make sure that they find work, which is similar to how many unemployment systems are setup.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip submission!

Kim’s Convenience — Driving vs. Baking

Appa has made a collection of baked goods but his wife thinks she could do it better. In an earlier scene, Umma damages a friend’s car and made offered to pay for half the cost of repairing the damage. Her husband is disappointed because he feels he could have saved them a lot of money. Umma lets him know that’s why she isn’t a millionaire, but at least she’s a better baker.

Thanks to John Kruggel for the clip submission.

60 Minutes — Changing Preferences

One of the common shifters of demand is changing tastes/preferences, but that is often taught as something beyond the control of firms. It’s often associated with fads or maybe new research, but firms can also adjust the tastes of their products to induce new preferences. This 60 Minutes segment looks at how companies are changing demand for their products by directly changing the product, or at least the perception of their product.

Thanks to John Kruggle for the submission!

The Office — Automated Assitant

A new phone system can replace many of Pam’s tasks. She normally spends her day connecting incoming calls to different sales people and departments, but this new phone system will make it so that anyone calling Dunder Mifflin can dial directly to the department they want. She thinks she still has value at putting our candy, but then realizes a vending machine can do that as well.

Jim swoops in to save Pam and play the role of Michael Scott, the branch manager. Jim is in love with Pam and doesn’t want to see her fired, so he acts like Michael and tells the salesman that they aren’t interested. He’s almost busted, but luckily gets away with it.

Thanks to Richard McGrath for the clip submission!

Community — Market Price

Troy and Abed are sitting at dinner in a fancy restaurant when the bill arrives at the end. Troy initially offers to pay for dinner because it was Abed’s birthday, but is shocked by the final total since so many things on the menu must have been listed as “market price.”

Restaurants often list menu items as “market price” because they may include item (like lobster or fish) that have a constantly fluctuating price. Instead of printing new menus to account for changing prices, restaurants will just list it at “market price.”

Thanks to Luke Starkey for the clip submission.

Pizza Hut — Gorbachev’s Fault

It’s almost a decade after the Berlin Wall has fallen, and Russia is coming to grips with the introduction American “culture” in their country. As President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev was responsible for the dissolution of the USSR. The resulting economic transition was confusing for many, as the advertisement shows disagreement among family members about the state of Russia in the years following the end of Soviet rule.

Old Spice — Smellcome to Magic

Individuals often make decisions that are in their own best interest, and often disregard the impact they may have on other people. Whenever this happens, individuals are creating an externality. Someone else either benefits or is harmed by that outcome. In the case of someone putting on deodorant, that could have spillover benefits from people getting to smell a “fresh scent.” If too much is applied, it could annoy others are turn to a negative externality.

Volkswagen — Buying a Used Car

Asymmetric information is a condition in which one party to a transaction has information that isn’t known to the other side of the party. This can disrupt the market for used goods because the buyer may not know the full extent of what they’re purchasing. In this Volkswagen ad, the father and son duo are unaware of the older lady’s past experiences with the cars. This is a great segue to Akerlof’s Market for Lemons, which is based on the the used car market.

Turkish Airways — Flying Everywhere

This Turkish Airways ad shows the value of network externalities to a market. A network effect occurs when the value of a product or service depends on the number of users. Network effects are typically positive, such that the more people using the product, the more valuable the product becomes. Airlines are an example of network effects, as the ad points out, because the more places they fly, the more valuable the flights are to the people purchasing the tickets.

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