The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas
- Why do so many supermarkets, even in small towns, stay open 24 hours a day?
- Why do the keypads on drive-up cash machines have Braille dots?
- Why are people more likely to return cash to a store when given too much change than to return merchandise for which they were not charged?
- Why do color photographs cost less than black-and-white ones?
- Why do brides spend so much money on wedding dresses they will never wear again while grooms rent cheap tuxedos even though they will have future occasions that call for one?
- Why top-ranked universities have the same tuition as lesser-ranked ones
- Why no top-ranked universities are for-profit
- Why many schools require school uniforms
- Why many schools no longer name a valedictorian
- Why most states enforce mandatory kindergarten start dates
- Why humanities professors often write so unclearly
- Why engine displacements are smaller in Europe
- Why the proportion of luxury cars on the road is higher in Singapore than in the U.S
- Why pedestrians are fined for jaywalking in Rome but not in New York
- Why fuel filler doors aren’t always on the same side of the car
- Why an accident in the southbound lanes of a divided highway causes a traffic jam in the northbound lanes
- Why pollution is a more serious problem in the Mediterranean than in the Great Salt Lake
- Why the fall of the former Soviet Union spelled gloom for caviar lovers
- Why team managers and coaches wear uniforms only in baseball
- Why American men fare so badly in soccer, and why American women fare so much better
- Why hockey players favor helmet rules even thought they always skate without helmets in the absence of rules
- Why rookies of the year often have a mediocre second season
Women and Fashion
- Why female models earn so much more than male models
- Why super-thin models were banned in Madrid
- Why women endure the injury and discomfort of high heels
- Why Victoria’s Secret offers multi-million-dollar bejeweled bras that no one buys
- Why coyness is often considered such an attractive attribute
- Why it’s easier to find a partner if you already have one
- Why predominantly male legislators outlaw polygamy
- Why physically attractive people are also more intelligent
- Why brides buy and grooms rent
- Why people are marrying later
- Why rural couples marry earlier
- Why Japanese couples spend twice as much on their weddings as American couples
- Why people think Cornell has a high suicide rate, even though its rate is only half the national average
- Why real estate agents often show clients a second house that is both more expensive and in worse condition than the first
- Why some firms give employees a “free” BMW rather than an equivalent bonus in cash
- Why kamikaze pilots wore helmets
- Why New Yorkers tend to be impatient
- Why New York taxis are yellow
- Why taxi rates include a big fixed charge
- Why a liter bottle of water costs four times as much from the minibar at the Parker Meridian Hotel as at the Duane Reade drugstore across the street
- Why $20,000 cars rent for $40 a day while $500 tuxedos rent for $90
- Why brown eggs are more expensive than white ones
- Why many fast food restaurants offer free meals if you aren’t given a receipt
- Why an appliance retailer might hammer dents into its own appliances
- Why airlines charge a premium for last-minute tickets while Broadway theaters sell them at a discount
- Why round-trip fares between Kansas City and Orlando are lower if you start in Orlando
- Why Disney World doesn’t charge extra for rides with perennial waiting lines
- Why rental car companies, unlike hotels and airlines, don’t charge cancellation penalties
- Why managers often overestimate the efficacy of blame and underestimate the efficacy of praise
- Why black Apple MacBook laptop costs significantly more than its otherwise identical white one
- Why software makers give away programs worth more than the machines that run them
- Why obscure books and films recently gained a new lease on life
- Why more popular CDs sell for less
- Why indie musicians favor file sharing and established stars oppose it
- Why CDs use the same format worldwide and DVDs use different formats in different countries
- Why CDs and DVDs come in different size cases, even though the discs are exactly the same size
- Why companies put “as seen on TV” in print ads and product packages?
Some waiters earn more than assistant chefs not because they contribute more value to the restaurant enterprise, but because the cooking job can be a stepping stone to more money and prestige while waiting tables leads nowhere.
In each instance there is a cost/benefit relationship than can be observed and calculated. The costs are not always monetary, nor are the benefits immediate and bankable, but in every case they reveal something about both economic principles and human nature.
Introduces key ideas such as the cost benefit principle, the “no cash left on the table” principle, and the law of one price.