Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fascinating economics puzzle

So, I've been reading a lot of game theory and popular economics (including Tim Harford's excellent The Logic of Life). And tonight I encountered a fascinating example of an interesting economic effect.

The first Thursday of each month is one of Toronto's open science-fiction pub nights. We meet at a place called The Foxes Den. The bar has daily specials, but they're usually the same on the first Thursday of each month, and, like, forever they've been offering a special on a small pizza with three toppings of your choice for $7.99. Usually, two or three people get that (I'm usually one of them, and I get pepperoni, bacon, and onions).

Anyway, tonight, for whatever reason, they changed the special: instead of being any three toppings of your choice, the special was on the "meat lover's pizza" -- with these three toppings: sausage, pepperoni, and beef. It was $7.99, as usual.

Now, in any previous month, you could have ordered that exact same pizza under the special, but tonight when you had to take those three toppings, our group bought nine pizzas (including one bought by me) instead of the usual one or two. Fascinating to see that giving people no choice of toppings moved way more pie than letting them pick the toppings they wanted.

Anyway, it was, as always, a terrific evening. Lots of BNFs (big-name fans), including Murray Moore, Catherine Crockett, Taral Wayne, Hope Liebowitz, Alex Von Thorn, Marah Searle, and Lloyd and Yvonne Penney; two -- count 'em, two! -- Clinks: Carolyn and David; a trio of Tans (Irwin, Lisa -- who is big in Doctor Who fandom -- and their son, Ian); three Ph.D.s (Dan Evens [physics], Diane Lacey [chemistry], Charles Levi [History]); and a slew of people who just plain like reading SF. Always a great time, and newcomers are always welcome!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At July 04, 2008 12:39 AM , Blogger envaneo said...

$7.99 for a small pizza? That's pretty good. My wife and I like Pizza 73 and Pizza Hut but for the "high end Pizzas," we like rose bowl.

Just wondering what sort of game theory are you talking about? I grew up on Avlon Hill board wargames and SPI games in the 1970's and 80's. Lots of Starfleet battles and Advanced Squad Leader in there as well. Something tells me though Summer,games and Toronto mean only one thing: Blue Jays.


At July 04, 2008 9:22 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Jim. By "game theory," I mean this:

Game Theory.

I've never been a gamer. :)

At July 04, 2008 12:29 PM , Blogger ChrisH said...

Is that economics, or an example of the tyranny of choice?

At July 04, 2008 3:35 PM , Blogger envaneo said...

Rob, And I thought Starfleet battles and ASL are heavy game topics. That kind of stuff your delving into is way over my head.

I'm old school. It's a pity that that most people today equate the console/video game player as a "gamer." IMO,a real gamer is players sitting down at a table (or over one); with figurines cards or counters a rules book and dice. Sitting on the couch with a control pad in your hand and a bag of cheetos isn't a "gamer"

In which case I've never been a "gamer" either :-)

At July 04, 2008 8:41 PM , Blogger hdonw said...

I think in most people's minds it goes like this; "Oooo, a pizza special, $8, 3 toppings, hmm, which three, ham, mushroom, and, uhm, hmm, no, wait, ground beef and mushroom and, hmm, or maybe pepperoni and, err, no, ground beef, rats, I can't decide, eh, I'll just get the steak sandwich".

At least that's how it works for me. Give people too much choice and they'll opt out.
Give them one or two choices and they'll always pick one of them.
Just like your night out proved.


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