Re: poly: Buying groceries

From: <>
Date: Mon Nov 09 1998 - 19:17:47 PST (Nick Bostrom) writes:

> Buying my groceries today during rush hours, I had to wait some
> five minutes in a queue in order to pay. During this time I
> thought of the following simple way of cutting the queues: Instead
> of having every customer pay for his groceries, let everybody
> activate a randomizing machine when they are about to exit. With 50%
> chance a green light flashes, and with 50% chance a red light
> flashes. If green light, then you just pass without paying; if
> red light then you pay twice the amount you'd normally do.

It's a cute idea, but I think few would go for it, because people don't
correctly value losses vs. gains. Most people are substantially
risk-averse even for small amounts. It's not rational, but there it is.

The grocery stores wouldn't like it for a different set of reasons.
Sometimes people change their minds in the checkout line (they
don't have enough money, they notice the box is damaged, they
decide to stick to their diets after all, etc.). If the store lets you
opt out after the doubling, it will obviously be abused; but otherwise
the customers will end up unhappy from time to time.

It would be amusing to do double-or-nothing in Vegas, and there
might be a market for this with irrational gamblers.
Received on Tue Nov 10 03:21:18 1998

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