Minor Econ Adjustments


I read a book one time, entiled “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” It was written by Dan Ariely, a professor who specializes in the field of “behavioral economics.” His work is interesting because it reveals how even the most insignificant factors in our day-to-day lives can have dramatic effects on how we live. The book describes several of his unusal-yet-quirky experiments on human behavior, which include


1. Seeing how your choice of clothing affects how well you do on an exam


2. How “FREE” giveaway items get people to buy things they don’t need


3. How the appearances of people around you actually affect how “attractive” you look to the opposite sex.


His approach to studying behavioral economics shows us how conventional economics may be insufficient in predicting outcomes, because it assumes that people make rational decisions.


Ariely states that people can and do behave irrationally quite often, partially because our sense of intuition isn’t hard-wired for the complex choices of day to day living. We may think we are making the best decisions for ourselves, but only because we can’t see the underlying complexity beneath seemingly ordinary choices.



Lately I’ve been thinking about the minor inefficiencies and other behaviors present in the SE environment, and how people have ignored them or learned to live with them. It might be interesting to talk about how much things might improve (or worsen?) if small changes were made in the system.



1. The Co-op store in SE



Ate Leony’s stall near the tambayan area is the Econ student’s go-to place for food and school supplies. Its proximity to the classrooms and the low prices of goods make it very convenient for just about everyone; you can apply just about every economic principle to explain why Ate Leony will never run short of customers.


Still, the co-op stall experiences problems during the lunch rush, where everyone and their mother lines up in the cramped space under the stairs to buy siomai and Smart C. There is barely enough room for people to stand in single-file, so people who have just purchased food had to carefully squeeze their way back out, risking soy sauce dripping on the clothes of their peers.


There has been much talk over the construction of bigger and better tambayan areas for the orgs, but has anyone considered improving the Co-op store? If Ate Leony gets a more spacious place within SE, will it encourage more patronage from students and faculty? (not to mention be more comfortable for her, who has to mind the register for hours at a time).


I’d like to think it is not a trivial issue. Long queues at peak hours can and do discourage people from lining up to buy something, even if it’s only a bottle of water or a pen. It might sound ridiculous, but every additional increase in the width of the stall could correlate with a measurable percentage increase in income.


In terms of factors of production, if the space under the staircase is “land,” capital would refer to the steam cooker and refrigerator. The refrigerator itself is somewhat problematic, because it often fails to keep drinks cold. Even without a long line, people probably wouldn’t spend 26 pesos on a room-temperature coke or ice tea (bottled water would be the better option; cheaper and healthier. Doesn’t taste as good though.). Whether the refrigerator has surpassed its useful life, or was just set to a higher temperature to save on electrical costs, it’s worth examining how improving on it can affect buyer behavior and profits. Will the costs incurred by replacing or re-setting the fridge be surpassed by increased revenue? Will more people choose to buy from the stall of the drinks were guaranteed to be properly chilled at any time of day?



Photocopying in SE



The lone photocopying machine on the third floor of the library is convenient due to its proximity to the research materials, but is hindered by its speed. Due to the backlog, having documents copied at this station entails a waiting time of a few hours to an entire day. To work around this drawback, students are encouraged to plan their borrowing in advance, that they may get their reading materials on time. While this situation is somewhat acceptable, the fact remains that, as long as a RESERVE BOOK still being photocopied, the student’s ID must remain at the front desk. Without his or her ID, a student cannot gain access to other libraries on campus until they get it back. Even if just a few pages are to be copied, the waiting time is just too proportionally long to even come close to being “convenient.”


Of course, one can have things photocopied elsewhere. There are stations in CBA, Vinzon, and SC. Still, the trips to these places use up minutes and energy. It might sound like personal laziness at first, but multiply those walks by a the number of students in the school, and you might be looking at a significant amount of wasted time over the course of a year. Factor in the risk of losing books and other materials while transporting them outside of Econ and the issue looks a bit more pressing.



These issues are far from being the most urgent ones in the building, but as long as we are students of a course that seeks to optimize efficiency and utility (second only to engineering perhaps), they’re still interesting enough to consider.




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