Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies: And Other Pricing Puzzles

Overview

This entertaining book seeks to unravel an array of pricing puzzles from the one captured in the book’s title to why so many prices end with "9" (as in $2.99 or $179). Along the way, the author explains how the 9/11 terrorists have, through the effects of their heinous acts on the relative prices of various modes of travel, killed more Americans since 9/11 than they killed that fateful day. He also explains how well-meaning efforts to spur the use of alternative, supposedly environmentally friendly fuels have ...

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Overview

This entertaining book seeks to unravel an array of pricing puzzles from the one captured in the book’s title to why so many prices end with "9" (as in $2.99 or $179). Along the way, the author explains how the 9/11 terrorists have, through the effects of their heinous acts on the relative prices of various modes of travel, killed more Americans since 9/11 than they killed that fateful day. He also explains how well-meaning efforts to spur the use of alternative, supposedly environmentally friendly fuels have starved millions of people around the world and given rise to the deforestation of rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From the reviews:

"The author, Richard McKenzie, does a popping-good job showing readers why they should buy his book. … since his book is about hidden truths in marketing and he demonstrates the popcorn truth so well, you definitely get a feel … to buy this book." (Beneath the Cover, June, 2008)

"Richard McKenzie takes the reader through the conundrums of pricing —why are there after-Christmas sales, why do new cars instantly lose so much value … and how does subsidized university housing burden the university in unforeseen ways. And, of course, why popcorn costs so much at the movies. Fun but also illuminating on the power of markets to value your time and the products and services you purchase. Why Popcorn Costs So Much At the Movies, And Other Pricing Puzzles makes pricing theory interesting!" (Hugh Hewitt, June, 2008)

"Richard McKenzie’s book, Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, and other pricing puzzles, is out. … It looks like a good microeconomics primer to me – a nice mix of thoughtful price theory and contemporary examples." (The Undercover Economist, June, 2008)

"In this book, McKenzie covers an eclectic range of topics, looking at strange pricing phenomena and their consequences. … this will be an interesting read." (Andy Ridgway, BBC Focus, Summer, 2008)

"The first place/time I heard of this book was on the EconTalk podcast … . Dr. Tyler Cowen recommends the book as well. … provides a solid grounding on the ‘why’ of prices. Why are they so important, why must we get them ‘right?’ … The treatment of ‘free’ items such as ink-jet printers was excellent, and possibly worth the price of the book itself. … In short, a solid book that I enjoyed more than I expected to." (Amateur Economist, August, 2008)

"This is an interesting book and a good read. The level is not technical and is similar to some of the recent crop of popular economics writings … . What differentiates this book is its ideology: markets and people are rational." (Huw Dixon, Times Higher Education, July, 2008)

"McKenzie uses clear economic reasoning to explain many aspects of pricing that are otherwise puzzling. He even uses reasoning about prices to show that the federal government’s rules for getting on airplanes have caused more deaths than the terrorists … . … He uses economics to analyze the issues deeply and presents a more balanced view of the incentives and motivations of sellers. … McKenzie’s Popcorn is a welcome antidote to Freakonomics." (David R. Henderson, Regulation, Vol. 31 (3), Fall, 2008)

"In his most recent book, entitled 'Why Popcorn Cost So Much at the Movies, and Other Pricing Puzzles,' ... Richard McKenzie explains this conundrum as well as other pricing mysteries. ... Overall I enjoyed this book ... . Mckenzie's writing style graciously makes this book effortless to read and comprehend. ... I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to gain a greater understanding of how basic economics principals can accurately explain pricing enigmas in our everyday lives." (Keegan Hall's Infamous Blog, December, 2008)

"The book Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies is an academic book wrapped in a populist title. It provides insight into a variety of pricing mysteries … . it is useful for anyone involved in pricing a product. … The book touches upon social issues and the unintended consequences of pricing. … With a variety of topics, it has something for students and professionals … . " (The Viodi View, January, 2009)

"Written by an economist for smart people, Popcorns unpacks pricing puzzles taken from real life, from the age-old debate over ending a price in a 9 to charging $10 for a bucket of movie theater popcorn. … To an entrepreneur facing the mystery of setting prices, this book contains a wealth of important ideas." (Inc, January, 2009)

"Pricing makes the economic go’ round. … Professor McKenzie does a good job of tackling this complexity head on, and anyone whose job is remotely connected to pricing will benefit from reading this book. Consumers who are curious about the prices they pay … and how they got that way are likely to enjoy this book as well. … McKenzie’s writing is engaging and readable. … this is a must read book for anyone who deals with pricing." (The Customer Knowledge Advantage, May, 2009)

"Of all the good books I’ve read recently, the best so far is probably Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies and Other Pricing Puzzles by Richard McKenzie. … The book looks at a large number of pricing puzzles and … provide rational explanations for why they might be the case. … McKenzie … illustrate the possible ways to resolve these puzzles. … I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is … interested in understanding economics as the science of making decisions." (Diversified Interests, July, 2009)

“This book illustrates pricing puzzles … and provides alternative reasoning based on sources in either rational (e. g. opportunity cost, experience/network goods, market/information uniformity, sales prediction) or non-rational (e. g. regulation, politics, psychology) economics. Presented as a sequence of puzzles and discussions/answers, this is a thought provoking book. I highly recommend.” (Raresaint, March, 2010)

From The Critics
Written by an economist for smart people, Popcorn unpacks pricing puzzles taken from real life, from the age-old debate over ending a price in a 9 to charging $10 for a bucket of movie theater popcorn. McKenzie never trivializes or condescends, and he steers clear of making controversial statements just for the sake of publicity. Best of all, he is scrupulous about exploring multiple theories for each issue raised, avoiding the mistake, made by so many writers, of telling only those anecdotes that support the book's main thesis. To an entrepreneur facing the mystery of setting prices, this book contains a wealth of important ideas.
—Inc. Magazine Top Ten Business Books for 2008
Inc. Magazine
Written by an economist for smart people, Popcorn unpacks pricing puzzles taken from real life, from the age-old debate over ending a price in a 9 to charging $10 for a bucket of movie theater popcorn. McKenzie never trivializes or condescends, and he steers clear of making controversial statements just for the sake of publicity. Best of all, he is scrupulous about exploring multiple theories for each issue raised, avoiding the mistake, made by so many writers, of telling only those anecdotes that support the book's main thesis. To an entrepreneur facing the mystery of setting prices, this book contains a wealth of important ideas.
—Top Ten Business Books for 2008
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441926449
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 10/29/2010
  • Edition description: Softcover reprint of hardcover 1st ed. 2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard McKenzie is the Walter B. Gerken Professor of Enterprise and Society in the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. He has written a number of books on economic policy, most notably the Microsoft antitrust case in the United States. His latest book, In Defense of Monopoly: How Market Power Fosters Creative Production (University of Michigan Press, 2008) challenges the theoretical foundations of antitrust law and enforcement. His commentaries have appeared in national and major regional newspapers in the United States, and he produced an award-winning documentary film, Homecoming: The Forgotten World of America's Orphanages, that has aired across the country on public television. Richard McKenzie is a frequent columnist for Wall Street Journal.

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Table of Contents

Price and the “Law of Unintended Consequences”.- Pricing Lemons, Views, and University Housing.- Why Sales.- Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies.- Why So Many Coupons.- Why Some Goods Are Free.- Free Printers and Pricey Ink Cartridges.- Why Movie Ticket Prices Are All the Same.- Why So Many Prices End with “9”.- The Economics of Manufacturers’ Rebates.- The Psychology and Evolutionary Biology of Manufacturers’ Rebates.- The Question of Queues.- Why Men Earn More on Average than Women—And Always Will.

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