Superstore — Gift Wrapping

 

Garrett is on gift wrapping duty at the store and he hides his inability to wrap gifts under the guise that it’s inefficient. While economists may see gift giving, in general, as inefficient, gift giving inefficiencies are scattered throughout television and movies (Blackish, Brooklyn 99, John Mulaney’s Stand Up, Life in Pieces, and Old School). In this scene, Garrett focuses on the wasted time that it takes, beyond just getting the gift, that goes into wrapping a gift only for the wrapping to be destroyed later.

Superior Donuts — Labor Market Discrimination

 

The local flower delivery guy makes racist remarks to Franco because he’s African American. The rest of the characters discuss other comments they have received regarding their nationalities. Labor market discrimination in this scene occurs as Arthur’s donut shop is a customer of the flour supplier. Customer discrimination could persist, but if the customers aren’t discriminatory, they have the ability to take their business elsewhere, which Arthur and Franco try to do. The Becker Model of discrimination argues that only customer discrimination can last in the long run because competition should drive out co-worker or firm discrimination.

CBS TV — Kennedy on the Labor Market & Unemployment

In a 1963 Labor Day interview with Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy discusses his position on handling the labor market of the United States with around 4 million unemployed (about 5.5% at the time). Kennedy notes that the growing labor force in the United States requires that if the US wants to “stand still,” they still need to move very fast. Kennedy’s main policy focus at the time was retraining workers who had been displaced by technology and making sure that significant amount of workers have the necessary education to handle the growing workforce.

Kennedy also speaks to the lost jobs in “hardcore unemployed” industries like coal and steel and how it’s important to make sure those workers are retrained because those workers are no longer needed. He then laments that there’s a different issue with older workers replaced by technology and younger workers who don’t have the education to handle that technology. Kennedy ends this portion of the interview with a very powerful quote about the fear of automation:

Too many people coming into the labor market, too many machines are throwing people out.

You can view the entire interview, courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library, on YouTube.

Star Trek TNG — Data Overanalyzes

 

Data is trying to formulate a battle plan for Commander Riker, but he’s assuming that Commander Riker is rational and knows that Data has analyzed his move. Data takes it a step further and hypothesizes that Commander Riker knows that Data knows that the commander has a battle plan. Full information is a tough assumption about rationality, but bounded rationality lets us assume that people have limitations but still respond to incentives in a predictable way. While perhaps a human failure, most of society does not operate on the same level as Data.

Thanks to Peter Nencka for the clip suggestion!

Life in Pieces — Thank You Cards

 

Colleen and Matt are back from their wedding, but they haven’t written any thank you cards. Joan tries to drop hints by buying them thank you cards, but now she’s gotten to the point of just telling them they need to write thank you cards. Colleen realizes they need to do this because they want gifts later for their baby shower. This self-interest has sparked an idea! While it may be fair to write each person an individual card, Colleen and Matt realize it’s much more efficient to make a thank you video that people can share. The gesture isn’t well received at brunch. Often, improvements in efficiency (in this case making a video and saving the couple time) come at the cost of equity (many family members feel this isn’t fair).

Life in Pieces — Flight Vouchers

 

Colleen and Matt are at the airport waiting for their flight, but it’s overbooked. They realize that they can receive flight vouchers for volunteering to wait for the next flight. Throughout the day, they continue to volunteer to be moved to the next flight until the last flight of the day is cancelled. The two end up missing their own wedding, but they are compensated with the “free hotel.” The scene outlines the value of time that people have in their willingness to delay their travel, but it also shows the potential risk of not making it somewhere.

Thanks to Peach for the clip suggestion!

Life in Pieces — Unbundling the Shoes

 

At their family garage sale, John tries to sell a pair of shoes as separate items. By unbundling the items, he offers one shoe for 50 cents, but the second shoe as $10. He almost gets tricked when the shopped is buying the shoes for her husband who only has one leg, but John tries to quickly back-peddle. This form of price discrimination is the opposite of a bulk discount.

Life in Pieces — The Stress of Regifting

 

Joan tries to give Jen and Greg a gift certificate for a couples massage because of how stressed they are. It turns out that Greg and Jen had already given her that gift certificate and caught her in the act of regifting the item. Joan claims they didn’t really need it because they were never really stressed so it was better to just give it back. One of the transactional issues of gift giving is that it’s hard to know exactly what the other person values, which creates losses in surplus.

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