Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Stand in Line for Cheap Broadway Tickets?

The New York Times has an interview with Victoria Bailey, executive director of the organization that operates the TKTS Booth. The Booth's long lines (for discount Broadway tickets) have always been an anomaly. If tourists are willing to stand in line hours in sauna-like heat, why not charge a higher price for tickets (and have shorter lines)? One answer: Fairness research has shown that most people regard lines as "fair" and higher market prices less so. The New York Times' Erik Piepenberg asked Bailey about the lines and got this:

Our mission is in large part to promote conversations about theater. You do that in person. The booth is kind of a town square. About 30 to 35 percent of people there are first-time Broadway attendees. There is anxiety about what to see. You hear those conversations within a few minutes of getting there.

It’s hard to believe because the lines are moving so quickly but almost every transaction involves a series of questions: “I’m interested in ABC show, but which show has the best seats or the steepest discounts?” There is an urban fellowship about that experience.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fourth Circle of Hell (Home Edition)

In George Loewenstein's classification, people can be divided into "tightwads" and "spendthrifts." Tightwads feel an excess of pain when spending money and thus spend less. Spendthrifts don't feel enough pain and overspend. In both cases, the gut reaction to spending money biases, and sometimes trumps, rational budgeting. A new study by Scott Rick, Deborah Small, and Eli Finkel finds that spendthrifts tend to marry tightwads, and vice-versa. That may not be a good thing — "In spite of this initial attraction," the authors write, "spendthrift/tightwad differences within a marriage predict disagreements over finances, which in turn predict diminished marital well-being." The article begins with this quote from Dante's description of the Fourth Circle of Hell:

I saw a nation of lost souls…they strained their chests against enormous weights, and with mad howls rolled them at one another. Then in haste they rolled them back, one party shouting out: “Why do you hoard?” and the other: “Why do you waste?”