每日英語跟讀 Ep.982: Why Surge Prices Make Us So Mad
When Bruce Springsteen decided to do a run of shows at a Broadway theater with fewer than a thousand seats, he appeared to reject the laws of economics — or at least what would seem to be in his financial best interest.
He limited ticket prices to $75 to $850 and has been allocating them through a lottery that includes identity verification. His goal was to prevent scalping. Yet not everyone who sought tickets got them at those prices. The tickets that have leaked onto the open market on StubHub ranged in one recent search from $1,200 to $9,999.
It sure looks as if Springsteen left a great deal of money on the table and impeded the laws of the marketplace. After all, some people got tickets for $75 for which others were willing to pay four figures.
But the strategy may be less irrational than the raw numbers suggest. And understanding the hidden logic behind concert pricing — or how the Home Depot responds to a hurricane, or even how your neighborhood restaurant handles the Valentine’s Day crunch — can provide a guide to solving some of society’s biggest problems while satisfying people’s deep need for a sense of fairness.
Understanding this logic can also win you a Nobel. At least, it did recently for the University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler, who was honored for work that includes study of what constitutes fairness in markets. He has shown that the simplistic Economics 101 version of how markets work — in which a seller raises prices however much it takes to match demand — can be inefficient, or offend people’s moral sensibilities, or both.
Technology is making “variable” or “dynamic” pricing — the same strategies that ensure airplane seats, hotel rooms or Uber cars are almost always available if you’re willing to pay the price — more plausible in areas with huge social consequences.
Dynamic pricing of electricity could help bring down pollution, reduce energy costs and make renewable energy more viable. Constantly adjusting prices for access to highways and congested downtowns could make traffic jams, with all the resulting wasted time and excess emissions, a thing of the past. Any sector where supplies tend to be fixed but demand fluctuates — the water supply, health care — would seem like prime candidates for variable pricing.
But technologists, entrepreneurs and regulators who would go down this path first need to learn a few lessons from Thaler — and Springsteen.
“A good rule of thumb is we shouldn’t impose a set of rules that will create moral outrage, even if that moral outrage seems stupid to economists,” Thaler said.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/320172/web/