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.

A Series of Unfortunate Event — Library Operating Hours

 

Olivia is frustrated with the administration because they only allow the library to be open for a short amount of time. She rightly notes that it doesn’t actually cost anything for the library to be open longer, partly because her salary is paid regardless of the number of hours. The administration, though, has used the money for personal reasons and doesn’t understand why it needs to be open longer. Olivia argues that the marginal cost of operating the library is zero, which implies that operating the library is only one large fixed cost.

Thanks to Brittany Pifer for the scene recommendation!

The Chi — Price > Marginal Cost

 

 

Coogie Johnson rides up to the corner store to get a grape pop and beef jerky. Habib, the store owner, tells him it’s $1.00 for the soda and $1.75 for the jerky. Coogie then tries to talk Habib down to letting him pay $0.25 for soda and pay full price for the jerky to which his son nodded in approval. Even though the retail price for the soda and the jerky are $1.00 and $1.75, respectively. Coogie knows that the soda is priced well above the marginal cost and attempts to negotiate the price down closer to the marginal cost. Habib argues that it’s not fair to charge him a different price than other customers, but the son recognizes that some profit is better than no profit and agrees to sell it to Coogie at a lower price.

Thanks to Kyle Davis for the reference.

I Love Lucy — 5 Cent Hamburgers

Price wars aren’t good for business profits, which is why many firms may want to collude. If two goods are close substitutes, prices should be driven down near the marginal cost of production.

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