American Express — Tina Fey

In this American Express commercial, Tina Frey highlights the economic concept of gains from trade. A man in front of her gets the last goat cheese garden salad, but she really wants that salad. She has to figure out what he might possible want from her. She offers to buy his movie and include her snack box if he’s willing to exchange the salad that he had just received. Both parties benefit from their ability to trade with each other.

Thanks to John Raby for the submission!

Beauty and The Beast — Gaston

Gaston is the best man in town, for everything! If you don’t believe that, you can just ask him. In this scene from Beauty and the Beast, LeFou starts a song to help cheer up Gaston after Belle’s rejection. Gaston has an absolute advantage in a wide variety of things)—fighting, spitting, eating a large number of eggs, and even interior decorating. Gaston, however, is a relatively poor chess player. While Gaston is capable of doing everything for himself, it doesn’t mean he should. Gaston can still benefit from trade if he focuses on his comparative advantage.

Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip!

Walmart — Negotiations

Each year, children collect their trick-or-treat goodies and then go about trading their candy with each other. This scene from a 2019 Walmart commercial illustrates the concepts of gains from trade, bartering, and mutually beneficial transactions. Each child only trades an amount they are willing to give up and aren’t forced to trade with each other. After the exchange, both are better off than they were before the meeting.

Thanks to Brian Lynch for the recommendation!

Boss Baby — Gains from Trade

 

Tim doesn’t like green beans, but his baby brother sure loves them. Whenever the parents leave the kitchen, the boys realize there’s an opportunity for trade. The Boss Baby knows he needs a favor in exchange for eating his brother’s beans because he isn’t just giving away his services for free.

Thanks to Catherine Madrid for the reference!

Pretty Woman — A Week’s Worth of Time

In Pretty Woman, Edward is really interested Vivian and makes a business proposition for her to spend a week with him. He offers to hire her as his companion. During the negotiation process, they attempt to settle on a price. They agree on a price of $3000, but at the end of the clip she admits to Edward that she would have stayed for $2000 (implying she has now earned $1000 of producer surplus), but Edward reveals he would have actually paid her $4000 (implying his consumer surplus is also $1000).

Project Runway — Specialization

James Tierney shared this great clip on his website a few years ago and it covers the idea of using Project Runway to discuss specialization and gains from trade. One of the contestants describes the process of designing the outfit line and discusses each member’s role in the creation of the outcome.

Just Go With It: Negotiation Scene

Maggie (Bailee Madison) negotiates a deal with Danny (Adam Sandler) when he asks her to act like his daughter. This scene does a great job opening a discussion for consumer/producer surplus in a principles class (or economic rent in a labor class).

How to Make Everything: A $1500 Sandwich in Only 6 Months

 

This is a great clip to talk about opportunity costs and gains from trade. The author goes through the process of making an entire chicken sandwich from scratch. I often open lecture asking students how much it would cost them if they did it themselves and then we watch this video.

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