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

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  145 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
- How Prices Matter rices are ubiquitous, so much so that their importance to the smooth operation of a market economy (even one constrained by extensive polit- P ical controls as is the case in China) can go unnoticed and unheralded. Prices are what all trades, whether at the local mall or across the globe, are built around. Tey facilitate trades among buyers and sellers ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published May 19th 2008 by Copernicus Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Nov 06, 2015 Santhosh rated it liked it
This is a fairly good piece of work as a consolidated and organized structure of major topics related to pricing: pricing and the law of unintended consequences, asymmetric information, market dynamics, price discrimination, peak-load pricing, decoys, elasticity of demand, seasonals, coupons, zero pricing, buyer entrapment, just-below pricing, behavioral economics, loss aversion, queues, gender pay gap, etc.

Where McKenzie lets us down is, when introducing economics into the picture, his examples
Chris Aylott
Oct 10, 2009 Chris Aylott rated it liked it
The author is extremely smart, and will not hesitate to tell you so, so please be sure to pay close attention to his golden thoughts, and I think I'm going to gag. But he does have some interesting thoughts on pricing, and how a simple price point usually has a complex set of of needs and circumstances tied up in it. McKenzie digs through a wide variety of discounts, rebates, and pricing schemes, showing how they segment markets and relate to other concepts such as search time and marginal cost. ...more
Feb 27, 2013 Ariadna73 rated it liked it
Shelves: economy
First discovery that leaves my mouth open: how it would cost less (in lives) to overlook a terrorist plot that can become a terrorist attack in an airport because it would save the lives of many freeway users that would fly if the security level is not raised.... atonishing!

Preface : How price matters -- ch. 1. Price and the law of unintended consequences -- Hybridnomics : HOV-lane economics; California style -- Air travel safety for infants and toddlers -- 9/11 terrorists and American deaths si
Roger Pharr
Jul 09, 2008 Roger Pharr rated it liked it
Second Review:
I'm 3/4 through this book. I'm also decided that brevity is an undervalued virtue in science writing. A writer on economics should understand that if there is to be any art to his science, he must economize his words.

Sadly, it's likely the case that a book has to be certain length for people to feel like it's worth buying, and is no fault of the poor professor at all that he's redundant and slow to get to his points. It's just the state of the world.

My defenses are three: 1)to ski
Jun 18, 2008 Dave rated it liked it
I think it started off good, but quickly devolved into a winded academic paper. However, I did learn from this book and that's a positive. The many discussions of grocery stores, coupons, and manufacture rebates have immediate applications to my day-to-day life and the sense of saving money in an uncertain economy.

Specifically, through reading this book, I learned that coupons are a method of "price discrimination" whereby a manufacturer charges two different prices for two different classes of
Apr 16, 2015 Lectus rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Am I really dumb or this guy explains things in a very difficult way. For instance, I read the section about the shortage of water in California and, from my understanding, there's no such shortage. They increase the price of water when it doesn't rain too much to create awareness that it isn't raining so they should mind the water. Well, if that really is the explanation, couldn't he just say so without so much blah blah blah?

The explanations must be in the book, I just didn't find them as they
Jul 26, 2008 Sunil rated it it was ok
the ideas and theories are fine, but the author goes way overboard in repeating himself throughout the chapters. as someone whose primary job involves pricing, i can relate to the fundamental ideas he espouses but his explanations and arguments are long-winded and incomplete. if you are not familiar with pricing, however, you'll probably enjoy skimming through this book as it does a decent job of explaining some basic precepts of pricing without getting too technical.

if i was the publisher, i'd
Jan 05, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
Very readable although the format was almost more like a textbook than “popular nonfiction”. Chapters included: Why copupons?, Why does popcorn cost so much at the movies? Why rebates? Why queues? Why the male/female wage gap will always exist, And probably others that I am forgetting right now. I always think it’s nice to know theories which let one understand things which seemed not to make much sense. The short answer to all the questions: opportunity cost. The slightly longer answer: opportu ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Christina rated it it was ok
I thought this book would be similar to "Freakonomics", but it's way too heavy on economic theory for me. I skimmed the sections I found interesting on movie prices, popcorn at the movies, coupons and rebates, but I didn't learn anything knew. In fact, I disagreed with most of the author's way out theories (like women get paid less than men because men compete more strongly for higher wages in order to win better mates- huh?). I think sometimes the simplest theory is the correct explanation.
As someone who has no background in economics, this book was quite difficult to read. I wanted answers to some or the questions posed by the author. Or, rather, I much more wanted the "explain it like I'm five" version. Only after multiple readings of some chapters could I even begin to explain it to someone else.

This is the sad part of the book. The happy part is that things are explained! In that way it's a really great book in uncovering these odd mysteries.

Also, I never buy movie popcorn.
Petko Bossakov
Jun 22, 2014 Petko Bossakov rated it liked it
This is a nice book for anyone interested in pricing, but its style is a bit unusual. Not quite light enough for popular science, yet not quite dense and structured enough to be a textbook. (Actually, at university we're giving it to students as optional supplementary reading.)

McKenzie may be going a bit too far in his assumption that all buyers act rationally, but it's interesting how pure economical reasoning can give unexpected answers to many pricing puzzles. (Many, but not all; some of the
David Robins
May 24, 2010 David Robins rated it really liked it
This is a well-written well-sourced book examining a series of economic puzzles and explaining how the obvious, or folk wisdom, answers are usually inaccurate or don't tell the whole story. Covers the topic title, and movie seat pricing (why isn't it variable?), why women are paid less than men on average, price discrimination, coupons and rebates, university housing, "lemon" cars, free goods, prices ending in "9", cheap printers and expensive ink, sales, and queues, with detailed attention to t ...more
Bridget Casey
Jun 17, 2013 Bridget Casey rated it liked it
Shelves: consumer-culture
Very interesting collection of microeconomic analyses of a variety of topics (everything from movie ticket prices to the gender pay gap). Other reviewers complain the author is arrogant and his literary style a bit dry, which is true only because the book is a more cerebral work than "Freakonomics". I enjoyed it, even though I did feel it read much like a textbook. Overall it's a tad disjointed and the printer ink chapter was way too long, but I enjoyed the in-depth study that shed new light on ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Tyler rated it really liked it
Very interesting. Even knowing some about economics already, this provided some new information that I hadn't heard. It also challenges, not refutes, many mainstream thoughts like popcorns costs so much because they have a monopoly. It also provides an interesting perspective on the wage gap between men and women which I had never heard before. Overall, a good book for people to read. Even libertarians who think they have heard it all should read this because it provides very different informati ...more
Nov 22, 2008 Melissa rated it liked it
I skimmed a lot of this book. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as interesting or easy-to-read as Freakonomics, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was due back to the library in 2 days, with reserves on the title, so I didn't actually finish it. Some of the theories were interesting (law of unintended consequences, etc.), but I think this book was written more for those who really study economics, not those (like me) who like to read about it as a general interest.
Mar 30, 2013 Mark rated it it was ok
I did something with this book I almost never do. I stopped actively reading in about the second chapter, and just skimmed the rest. It's good information, but it is presented in such a dry, academic way once you get past the initial interesting examples that it is a tough slog.

Also: Five demerits for calling it "the Noble Prize" twice on one page.
Mar 09, 2010 Joshua rated it really liked it
Extremely thoughtful analysis on pricing conundrums using the fields of behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, and contemporary pricing as frameworks to get beyond plain-vanilla supply-and-demand considerations. Perhaps a dry read for someone not interested in the field, and perhaps not totally exhaustive for the academic seeking a full treatment on the subject. Excellent works cited.
Oct 01, 2012 Alicia rated it it was ok
This book was incredibly dry. I mean, I LOVE non-fiction, but I was slugging through this one. It just seems like there are so many factors that go into price, how can he say, even as an economist, that his observations are more correct?
Mar 02, 2012 Vincent rated it it was ok
Note to self: Trust the wisdom of the crowd and don't read anything below 3.5 stars.

Hoping to learn more about pricing, but found was neither econ pop lit nor particularly insightful beyond outlining a couple key terms.
Oct 10, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
Somewhat disjointed at time as the author drew from multiple sources for materials. But the underlying concepts are valuable and the related discussion extremely nuanced. I love seeing authors consider multiple hypothesis and all the related logic. Very readable
Jan 13, 2014 Arup rated it really liked it
Great read for anyone who DOES NOT come from a commerce, economics or MBA background. Feel free to pick and choose chapters to read
Aug 26, 2008 Peg marked it as to-read
misti, reading,why popcorn costs so much at the movies
Nov 26, 2009 Eric rated it it was ok
Interesting view of prices and economics, but it repeated itself and got a little long.
Sep 09, 2008 Emily marked it as to-read
@ neither.
I think economics should definitely be studied by using popcorn and other junk food.
May 21, 2012 Kelly rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, nonfiction
Interesting, but still a little unapproachable for someone who's not much interested in economics. The last chapter had a lot of heterosexist gender stuff that left a bad taste in my mouth, too.
Jan 26, 2009 Alpha rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
Kind of interesting, but rather dry. There's some good stuff in the book, but I liked The Undercover Economist better.
Mar 13, 2010 Will rated it really liked it
A fascinating look into the layman's side of economics. Similar to freakonomics!
Ken Proudfoot
Nov 09, 2016 Ken Proudfoot rated it really liked it
This has excellent info for anyone in business with explanations of how many products are priced and positioned. Opens your mind to re-thinking about how you price your own products and services....
Lori Grant
Mar 29, 2013 Lori Grant rated it really liked it
A should-read book for knowledge workers and entrepreneurs on concepts and trends.
Mar 15, 2013 Kimberlie rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
Sadly disappointing. It's a slow read, so I gave up and started skimming. Some interesting info, but it's buried in monotony.
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“people's stupidity probably explains much of what people do and don't do, as I have conceded all along in this book.” 2 likes
“The law of unintended consequences rules, often with deadly silence.” 1 likes
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