In reading the first five chapters of Harford’s book, what really appealed to me was his ability to explain common queries about different parts of life with such simple economic analysis. Granted, there is more to the stories Harford tells, but the underlying causes of the things he goes into are readily explained using fairly easily understood concepts.
What was especially fascinating in the supermarket chapter was how supermarkets purposefully delineate between “quality” brands and “generic” brands such as pop-tarts versus toaster pastries or dr. pepper versus dr. thunder. One of my favorite things in life is searching for the most absurd looking knock-offs of popular products, mocking them, and then indulging in them with my friends because we are admittedly too lame to think of better things to do. While I acknowledged the sharp differences in presentation (clever slogans and cartoon characters with bright colors everywhere in high end products as opposed to a box that looks almost ridiculous in comparison with its shoddy attempts at eye-catching colors and pitch-characters) I never considered that it was on purpose. To identify consumers willing to pay more for an item by putting them off the cheaper option through boring presentation is something that never considered to me. However, like all the other examples Harford gives, it made a lot of sense. It was more obvious with the coach/first class distinctions on planes.
The ability of companies to price discriminate without openly stating it and maximize profits through it is a very intriguing concept and one that Harford not only explains through very simple economic terms but also stimulates interest for further investigation in. Reading that particular chapter has possibly made me more paranoid about how much I should be paying for any given item I wish to consume.