Monday, September 21, 2015

Emerald City Mayhem

You might remember this from a few years ago. At the time, I brushed it off a bit. Consumer fraud happens from time to time, and quite frankly if you're not getting soused in the parking lot pre-game and then smuggling in a flask, you're not appreciating the sport the way God intended.

This morning, I revisited my brush-off. The NFL and its subsidiaries have something of a reputation for being fiercely protective of the goodwill in their intellectual property. Cheerleaders' handbooks are notorious for their meticulous attention to minutiae, down to extremely basic intimate personal hygiene issues. Deflategate was HUGE news, penetrating even my stubborn indifference to pro sports. Hell, the Greatest Deliberative Body in the World™ has been known to directly intervene into the professional sports industries. It seems as if fraud or negligence of this sort should be all but impossible. Risking the alienation of customers over concessions is simply bad business. Recall that the absurdly high prices of refreshments at places like cinemas and sporting events are a way for firms to allow customers to voluntarily reveal whether they are marginal or inframarginal customers: everyone pays the basic tariff (adjusted for the quality of the seating) and then retains the option of paying extra for the convenience of gorging on stearic acid and simple carbohydrates for the duration. I suppose that the above video is merely an extension of the underlying economic logic. Inframarginal customers are less likely to bother checking whether or not their already wildly overpriced vaguely beerlike piss-swill sizes are sufficiently different to justify the surcharge. After all, if you were prudent with your finances, you wouldn't buy yak squeezins at... hang on, let me check... CenturyLink Field (when last I lived there, Seahawks Stadium was called Qwest Field (ugh)).

So, no individual patron of interest has much incentive to bother doing a beer size QA check. They're primarily there to watch the Hawks get embarrassed yet again. But repeat small probability events enough times, and the above video becomes a near certainty. You can't fool all the people all the time. By backwards induction, you shouldn't even try.

I'm a bit puzzled then. Is my model of the NFL misaligned? Can the Hawks' concession service really be that obtuse? Why is the NFL so incredibly uptight about propriety elsewhere but they let crap like this slide? What am I missing?

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?