Gloria realizes that a new hot sauce by Auntie Alice tastes very similar to hers, so Jay and Gloria go to the supermarket to confront the grandmother. While there, Phil tries to play tough and accidentally eats some of her volcano sauce, which is a bit too much for Phil. Hot sauces are a great example for product differentiation! They are all substitutable and differentiated by heat level, but also by different ingredients. The market for salsa is probably monopolistically competitive since price is an important factor.
A second concept covered in this clip is the role of advertising. According to Auntie Alice, she’s only the spokesperson for a larger corporation who uses her likeness as a branding strategy. The role of branding is part of why monopolistically competitive firms don’t produce at minimum average cost. The use of brands could be to signal some kind of information, but it’s not clear what signal a sweet old lady has with hot sauce. Alice hints that the company has lots of lawyers who will squash any one who challenges them, implying that the company uses this tactic to create barriers to entry. Later in the episode, we learn Auntie Alice may not be telling the whole truth!
See more: advertising, barriers to entry, brand names, branding, efficiency, imperfect competition, marketing, market power, monopolistic competition, patents, preferences, product differentiation, profit
Gloria wants to sell her family’s sauce to a larger company. Jay and Gloria each use a different tactic to make the product more appealing, in essence trying to drive up the demand for the sauce. Unfortunately, they don’t coordinate their strategies in advance and Jay blows the deal.
It turns out 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. When firms normally have a surplus, it means that the price for the product is above the equilibrium price.
This scene is also a good example of adverse selection in exchange. 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 magical.
See more: adverse selection, advertising, asymmetric information, demand, double coincidence of wants, information economics, marketing, preferences, product differentiation, profit, rationality, sunk cost, supply, tastes and preferences
Phil is trying to sell the family’s station wagon, but it has some issues that he knows would lower the value of the car. Phil words the advertisement in a way to make the car seem unique instead of defective. Akerlof famously questioned the existence of used markets in his famous Market for Lemons paper.
See more: asymmetric information, lemon, market failure, market for lemons, marketing