Have you ever stepped foot in a grocery store and been immediately overwhelmed by all the choices you have about everything from chips to sodas? The paradox of choice is that we often believe having multiple options makes it easier to find the product we really want, but it turns out that having a lot of options makes it harder to figure out exactly which one we want and often leaves us unhappy with our choice.
In this particular scene from Zootopia, Nick Wilde and Finnick buy a large popsicle to eventually meltdown and reform into small “Pawpsicles” to sell to other animals. This scene can be used when teaching barriers to entry since the popsicle market appears to have very few barriers. The two of them are able to access all the necessary ingredients and can setup their businesses outside the bank easily.
Thanks to Bryn Goldman for the clip suggestion!
On Hot Ones, celebrity guests are interviewed while eating progressively spicier wings. In Season 8, Episode 1, Gordon Ramsey discusses the makings of a $25 hamburger as well as the costs that are often “hidden” from the customer. This is a fun, and relevant way, to introduce concepts like labor and rent to students who are unfamiliar with the costs of running a business. Toward the end, Ramsey discusses the notion of excess capacity, whereby firms are not necessarily producing at minimum average total cost. If firms can fill the excess capacity (perhaps through price discrimination), they may become efficient.
A big thank you to my student, Abdullah Al Otaibi, for sending me this clip!
Chance the Rapper is grew up in Chicago, which is nicknamed “The Second City.” In honor of his hometown, Chance the Rapper (along with Kyle Mooney) shares some of his other favorite second-best items, which he considers better than the first. This is a fun introduction to substitutes, or even monopolistic competition and product differentiation. This could be used in an upper-level class to discuss ordinal preferences or transitivity.
This Wendy’s commercial picks fun at Soviet economics that were notorious for limiting options available to consumers in the name of efficiency, but monopolistic competition in a capital market thrives on product differentiation and the ability to cater to people’s preferences.
Thanks to Rob Szarka for the find!
Superior products can provide companies with a short term barrier to entry in a market, but they aren’t usually long lasting. Beyond technological superiority, some companies may have service or quality superiority, as is the case with the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. Offering a superior product allows the owner to treat customers rudely, offer high prices, and restrict output as he desires.
This clip is available thanks to Economics of Seinfeld.
In monopolistically competitive markets, sellers offer differentiated products, and this Hawaiian food truck is no different. While some people believe that food trucks should only offer a small range of menus, the chef argues that in order to stand out in such a competitive market that he has to offer variety. Introducing new substitutes will decrease the demand for others and eventually lead to zero economic profit.
Thanks to Hannah Canil for the clip suggestion!
@Wootenomics check out the very beginning of Hawaii 5-0 season 2 ep. 4 after the theme song. Yay Econ.
— Hannah Canil (@hannnnah22) January 14, 2017
Randy Marsh is a local contractor who flips homes in the area. His TV show, white people flipping homes, has come under bad wrap when local Confederates have decided to use his television show to protest the Amazon Echo stealing jobs in the town. Marsh takes the men to court for damages because viewers negatively associate the local Confederates with the show. He’s asked why he doesn’t change the name of his show, but he lists off a variety of other show titles that were already taken. In a monopolistically competitive market, product differentiation is essential to creating demand. Items must be substitutable, but sellers also must try to convince buyers that their product is somehow unique from the competition.
When teaching students about the different types of firm structures, we always discuss monopolistic competition and how firms try to differentiate their products to get positive economic profits. This short clip shows how Toys R Us is staying open for 87 hours straight to differentiate itself from other toy stores around the holiday season.
Thanks to James Tierney for the clip and description.
A new food truck sets up shop outside the donut store. The clip starts with the new owner coming by and asking how long the shop has been in business and what kind of customers stop by. She quickly realizes that she can setup shop and steal some of the existing customers. This clip does a really good job showing how monopolistically competitive markets function and that even though an imperfect substitute enters the market, the demand for one business decreases.