Haley is at a staff meeting. She’s worried that she hasn’t had enough good ideas lately. Her fear is that this will lead her boss to believe that she isn’t working hard on behalf of the company. Haley signals that she’s a good worker by suggesting that Gloria sell a family recipe to the company (NERP). Gloria has long held the recipe secret. The recipe is an example of private technological knowledge. The recipe is valuable to Gloria because of the family tradition. The recipe is valuable to NERP because it could give them an edge in the lifestyle industry. Will Gloria sell? (Note: Jay also makes a fantastic joke about the value of a bachelor’s degree that can be used for discussion on human capital)
Gloria and Jay are looking to sell her family’s sauce to a larger company. They each use a different tactic to make the product more appealing. In doing this, they’re trying to increase the demand for the sauce. Unfortunately, they don’t coordinate their strategies in advance and Jay blows the deal. In fact, there’s a lot of information that Gloria has hidden from Jay. She has long had a surplus of sauce that she has been keeping in storage lockers across town. Gloria has likely paid a lot of money for all of the storage. What do sellers usually do when they have a surplus? Are Gloria’s past actions consistent with traditional economic principles of rationality? Consider sunk cost and marginal costs. (Note: this scene is an example of adverse selection. Gloria knows that her product is no good but they are trying to signal not only that it’s good but also that it’s special, almost magic)
It’s Halloween. Jay and Gloria usually coordinate their costumes. Use this scenario to setup a payoff matrix for picking costumes. Gloria and Jay are the players. What choices would you like to give Gloria? What choices would you like to give Jay? What are the payoffs for each possible outcome? What’s the most likely outcome given your matrix? There isn’t a single correct answer. Just have fun with it and discuss.
Jay has a great new invention that he believes will revolutionize the closet industry. It’s a sock dispenser. In competitive industries, product differentiation can lead to short term profits – especially for early adopters. Why is Jay concerned that his son, Manny, has a new friend who has seen this idea?
Jay got new glasses that make him look like an old man but they work really well. So well that he realizes that Gloria’s family members in Columbia are wearing his old clothes. Notice that Gloria says that they sometimes send the clothes back. In the US, people frequently donate clothing to people in less developed countries. Many economists argue that this is counterproductive and leads to a surplus of clothing in these countries. That surplus can hurt markets and cost jobs.
Jay bought a bog butler in a casino gift shop and thinks that everyone loves it, but Gloria detests it and tries to get rid of it. Every time she comes home, she’s reminded of the dog and it ends up scaring her. While Jay loves it, he’s perhaps not taking into account the cost it has on others in the family.
Manny lost Luke in a “sketchy” neighborhood. He and Phil enlist Gloria’s help to track him down. When they arrive in the neighborhood, they find that it has changed quite a bit since Gloria lived there. When searching for a girl, they have the option of visiting one of the four area cupcake stores, each specializing in a different area.
Jay takes Joe out to the driving range and discovers that Joe is a natural. Joe’s natural skill is a form of human capital that gives him the potential to earn a large salary in the future. Human capital is often acquired through years of training, education and hard work. But sometimes, luck gives some people an edge over others. If Joe works hard and practices, he could follow the path of other young golfers with natural talent like Tiger Woods and Lexi Thompson. Jay wants to do all he can to make that happen.
Phil is desperate to sell this house. The buyer loves it but is afraid that it is haunted. Phil brings in Gloria to cleanse the house of unfriendly spirits. What they find isn’t spirits – it’s not ghost. It’s only bees! This demonstrates adverse selection and screening. Economics suggests that a market where the buyers know less than the sellers will result in adverse selection. That is, there will be more “bads” (haunted) houses on the market than “goods” (non-haunted). One way the ways that the problem of adverse selection can be reduced is through signaling. Phil (the seller) takes an action (asks Gloria to inspect the home) in order to reveal that this home is a “good” (not haunted) home.
Economics often suggests that competition improves efficiency. Jay seems to agree. He fosters competition within his family to help them achieve their goals. But are they really achieving those goals? Later in the episode, we find out that there were some unintended consequences of his actions.