THE “12 ITEMS OR LESS” LAB
Paying a professional line-waiter vs. paying more for an item
I admit it: if a story title contains the phrase “wait in line,” I’m more likely to click on it. So, when I came across this Elite Daily (@elitedaily) video, “Meet the dudes that will wait in line for you,” I clicked away. When people are standing in line, there is always a chance we might learn something about decision-making, and this video does not disappoint.
Charging to wait in line for people is certainly an innovative business idea, filling a need in the market for people who don’t have the time or the inclination to queue up but have the money to hire someone to do it for them. But it also raises the question: Why is it that we think line waiting is a fairer basis for distributing tickets/goods than price, the ability to pay for something?
If we hire dudes to wait in line, we’re paying more money and less time for the goods. When we wait in line ourselves, it means that we can afford to wait. Either way, a hidden but real element of the item’s price is that waiting time. The airlines get this: you can pay one price for your ticket and board earlier, or a lower price by forfeiting the time you have to wait to board.
Time is money, literally. If you have the time to wait in line that means you can afford to spend the time line-waiting instead of working. If you hire a dude to wait in line for you, it means you can afford to pay someone to do that. In turn, that dude can profit by charging for his time to save your time.
Doesn’t that make waiting in line just a proxy for price?
So why does forcing someone, or their hired dudes, to wait in line, feel so much fairer than increasing the price or allowing an auction for the tickets/goods? Or does the fact that some people are hiring dudes to wait in line also feel unfair?
(Recommending Dollars and Sense by @danariely and @jeffkreisler for some clues where you’ll find some excellent discussions about what we think of as fair in pricing.)
UNUSED VACATION TIME: PARADISE LOST?
Another issue of irrationality about the value of lost time
Right before Thanksgiving, I re-upped my blog about the irrationality behind employees not using all their vacation time. Last week, Jan Zilinsky (@janzilinsky), a research associate at NYU, pointed out a CNBC story with stats from a Harris Poll for Glassdoor that 9% of employees used none of their vacation time in the previous twelve months, and another 23% took less than a quarter.
I guess I’m not the only person who’s thinking about this these days: there’s Zilinsky, CNBC, Harris, and Glassdoor. But you know who’s not thinking about it? Millions of workers who annually lose $66 billion in benefits for all the unused vacation days that expire.
UPDATES ON FREE SPEECH ON CAMPUS
Some perspectives on the latest developments in controversy involving teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd (@newworldhominin) and Wilfrid Laurier University:
- On December 6, Shepherd tweeted, “Investigation has begun and the plot thickens. There is no documentation of any ‘complaint.'”
- Macleans Magazine (@Macleans) posted a lengthy article, “What really happened at Wilfrid Laurier University,” with detailed reporting from the scene, including that the Rainbow Centre, a campus LGBTQ support community, made the complaint to the school.
- Heterodox Academy (@HdxAcademy), in addition to posting a detailed description of what happened with Shepherd at WLU, posted a piece by co-founder and Rutgers psychology professor Lee Jussim about an event at Rutgers, “Stigmatizing legitimate dissent threatens freedom of speech.”
In advance of the 100th anniversary of physicist Richard Feynman’s birth, his Twitter is heating up
I encourage you to follow the late Professor Richard Feynman on Twitter. No one, in my opinion, was a more eloquent voice for science, and for uncertainty and doubt as engines for seeking truth. The people responsible for the tweets remind us of some bit of Dr. Feynman’s teaching every day or two. Feynman’s wisdom inspires me every time I’m reminded of it. Example on March 21: “We need to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed. It’s OK to say, ‘I don’t know.'” That profound statement is just average by Feynman standards among the 240 tidbits shared since February 2017.
CRITTERS OF TWITTER
Menagerie of Science … and Mischief
As a person committed to learning about the world, animals will necessarily be a point of interest, wonder, and amazement. We learn an enormous amount by studying animals, and get some well-earned doses of humility. We may be at the top of the food chain, but we share this planet with an amazing assortment of creatures.
Here are the highlights of my recent critter tweets:
- Rolf Degen (@DegenRolf), a prolific science writer and must-follow on Twitter for his diligence in summarizing new findings, tweeted an item I should have ignored: “Individuals who post about cats on social media are more neurotic than the general population.” I’ve been known to take a fun picture of my cats and share it but for some reason, Degen has put me on a mission. I’m not sure if my goal is to deny that cat-posters are neurotic or further prove it, but I treated his November 8 tweet as some kind of a challenge.
- I immediately posted a picture of a stray cat in Tel Aviv.
- Cats from my house thereafter showed up in tweets on Nov. 25, 26, 27, Dec. 5, 9, and 12.
- I also tweeted a dog-vs.-tennis-ball video and clip of a dog skateboarding through a long course made by human legs.
- I posted about a new finding that chimps change the way they communicate to take into account what their audience knows, something generally presumed to be an exclusively human trait.
- I shared a cool case of evolution happening right before our eyes, about birds confronted with an invasive species of snail.
- Migratory habits of the rats of New York.
- How flies outnumber us 17,000,000:1 but also make chocolate possible.
- And, most recently, the German discovery of Insect Armageddon and the group of (human) amateurs responsible for the discovery.
I’ve always gravitated toward creature features. Like last April, when I linked to a piece in Science (@scienmag) about the effect of psychoactive drugs on spider’s ability to build a web: “First found out spiders could eat all of us. Now they are on drugs? This can’t help the matter.” In these harrowing times, a find it only mildly terrifying but highly entertaining that, with everything else we have to worry about, there is always the chance a bunch of drugged-out spiders could devour us.
For your enjoyment, here are some of the webs the drugged out spiders spun.