Re: poly: Buying groceries

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Tue Nov 10 1998 - 14:53:40 PST

James Rogers wrote:

> This presents a few practical issues:
> -The ability to time average purchases in this manner depends on what
> fraction of the persons total income the purchase represents. A poor
> person may not be able to afford groceries that cost twice as much the
> first time they walk into a store, even though the cost is averaged over time.

This problem together with Curt Adam's point about people trying to
cheat by discovering errors in the product if they have to pay mean
that the scheme might only work in contexts of fairly "civilized"
(=wealthy and honest) customers.

> -Relatively low volume businesses (e.g. new companies) would probably have
> similar reservations about conducting business this way. A short term
> deviation from the long term statistical average could bankrupt a company
> in the short term.

But for groceries I hardly think this would be a problem since they
are so cheap. You would presumably have an upper limit (say $50) to
how much one customer could gamble.

> -How would businesses maintain inventory control?

By multiplying with two, you'd still get an estimate of how much has
been sold, although with a greater standard deviation than otherwise.

I too am curios about the general question whether you could patent
something as simple as this or Sacha's idea of different prices at
different check-out points?

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Tue Nov 10 22:58:12 1998

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