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Public Policy

Selling something for free on craigslist - for economists

I recently gave away an ugly backyard shed for free on CraigsList provided the person came to pick it up. Within minutes of posting the item I got 7 emails. I deleted the post immediately. I responded to the person who seemed best able to take it (she had a tiltable trailer with a winch on it) and set it up for Saturday. She failed to show saturday, so scheduled Monday. She failed to show Monday, but came Tuesday. I wasn't too worried about which day she came but did want it gone.

The 9.5 foot wide shed was at the end of a 20 foot long concrete pad that was 10 feet wide with a tree on one side and my garage on the other side. At the end of the pad was my alley. So she had to thread the shed down the pad between the tree and the garage without hitting anything, turn the corner at the end of the pad so it could be loaded onto her 20 foot long trailer. The winch on her trailer was broken. It took my battery charger, several screws and boards I had handy, and a few hours of my time to get the thing loaded on her trailer. Her truck hit my neighbor's fence and left tracks in the alley. I am not happy about that.

Structuring better "free" sales for Craigs List

If you are giving something away for "free" as long as they pick it up, I suggest you keep the listed price at zero and keep the title as "Free" but then in the details and in your communication with the person strike a slightly different deal: they pre-pay you $100 for the privilege of taking it for free which you decide whether to keep or give back. If their removal of the item meets your standards then you promise to give back the $100. If they ruin something or break something or - worst - abandon the pickup you keep the $100 to help pay for whatever the problem is.

My theory is that this will reduce the demand to only serious people who will show up on time, with the right tools/equipment to get the item.

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Proposal for pricing on professional photos: prices that are reduced over time

We recently participated in an event that included photos taken by a professional photographer. The photos are OK and they're of my wife while she's 8 months pregnant - a pretty special time.

Unfortunately, we were only told after the event that the photos would be $125 to get the high quality digital version of the file. Right, one hundred twenty five US Dollars. I have a hard time imagining that any of her customers are going to buy more than one photo. Maybe two...but that's it. We will not buy a single one. I bet a lot of her other customers are that way. So, here's what I propose:

Simple price differentiation for professional photos

The problem is that some of her customers will pay $125 for some of the photos. And for those customers it is worth it and she makes a pretty good amount of money from it. But she is leaving some value uncaptured. We would probably pay $20 for a few of the photos of us. And some of the other people would probably pay $50 for their photos.

The classic econ 101 perspective on this is that you choose a market price and go with it. Supply and demand intersect and there you go.

Graduates of Econ 102 (or marketing 101) should get into the next layer, though: price differentiation. Price differentiation is charging different prices for the same product.

  • The current scenario is this: she sells 2 extra photos at $125 and makes a total of $250.
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Bike to Work Month (at least for me)

"Officially" bike to work month is in May. That seems like a reasonable time: the weather is pretty warm and it's early enough in the year that any converts will likely keep biking throughout the summer. I'm taking a slightly more hardcore approach. My bike to work month is February. If I can bike to work most days in February I think the rest of the year will be easy!

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Copyright, public domain, and fair use in terms your kids will understand

And not just terms they'll understand, but terms they probably have memorized!

Ok, so this is just plain awesome. Generally speaking I don't like blogging and just linking to something else, but I have to give it to Laura on this one: Disney fairy tales deconstructed (and reconstructed) to explain copyright, public domain, fair use, and a little history of the related laws. It's a parody, it's news, it's criticism, it's small compared to the cited works, it has no commercial impact on Disney's original works, and it is absolutely, 100% brilliant.

Go watch it. Take the five minutes, it's worth it. (If you're like me and using some crazy operating system try the vlc media player).

Now, here's what I have to say. Copyright is a big deal. Trademarks are a big deal. Patents are big deal. And yes in general intellectual property rights are a really big deal. We really need to protect them. Like, really protect them. Without the guarantee of profit from protected intellectual property rights we won't have (much) investment in new music, arts, performance, technology, gadgets, and, perhaps most importantly, drugs. We like music, arts, and gadgets. We need new drugs. But we need old drugs too. And we need them at a reasonable price.

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Why Angies List Sucks

Note: "sucks" is a pretty strong and immature word, but it's the word to use online when you think someone has a bad idea. So, if that's off-putting, get over it. Or start a "sucks sucks" site.

Recently I was asked what I thought of Angie's List. Frankly, I had no idea. I was told it was a pretty neat list that has good ratings of local retailers. The idea is that you are looking for advice on a company to hire for a service (e.g. car repair) so you check Angie's List and see the advice and ideas of other users who have used the site. It's basically like Better Business Bureau, City Search, or one of thousands of other local directories. Many of these directories are broken: biased reviews, paid inclusion, incomplete information, etc. This is where Angie's List claims to be different. They use "only" consumer generated content and require a "small fee" to keep the reviews unbiased.

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