Lemonade Lesson

While working on my previous post, my lovely bride was watching an episode of ABC’s What Would You Do?. For those unfamiliar, it is a hidden-camera show where actors portray unusual or uncomfortable situations and see how bystanders react. After a rather heartwarming segment involving bystanders coming to the defense of a homeless man, there followed a segment about kids running a lemonade stand.

Blatant Predatory Pricing. Pic by EvinDC

The actor-kids set up a sign advertising lemonade for $1, but after unsuspecting customers place their order, the kids nonchalantly offer napkins, straws, and cookies. These “extras” push the final bill for the customers to $5, $15, and up. In response to the customers’ bewilderment, one of the actor-kids (referred to as a “wanna-be one-percenter“) offers such defenses as “I’m an entrepreneur” and “We’re running a business.”

Eye roll.

Sure, the segment is tongue-in-cheek, with the kids playing up the greed and shyster image. Call me a sourpuss taking things too seriously, but the dialogue of the narrator and (most likely) for the kids was written by a media scriptwriter. Should I be surprised that it reflects an ideological perspective that sneers at commerce?

Of course, the story has many redeeming points. Despite locating in a swanky neighborhood, many of the “one-percenters” who patronize the stand and get stuck with the unexpectedly high bill actually do pay up. Even after acknowledging the veiled extortion, most abide by the terms of trade. No Ebenezer Scrooges here.

P.S. I couldn’t help seeing this as a precursor of our vaunted universal health care: sold to the public as cheap; shown to be quite the opposite after the fact.

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3 thoughts on “Lemonade Lesson

  1. tzard says:

    I would be curious about what the adults would do if the police came and broke-up the lemonade stand for not having a business license, collecting sales taxes, having health permits etc….

    Probably nothing – the government is the socially-acceptable bully.

  2. Michael says:

    It’s clear from your posts that you are concerned about factual accuracy of economic discussion. So, I have to ask two questions of your post that contain blatant falsehoods: 1) what universal health care are you referring to? None exists. 2) The Affordable Care Act is projected by the CBO to reduce the federal deficit. How is this “opposite…[of] sold to the public as cheap?”

    1. Tim Shaughnessy says:

      Since the two “blatant falsehoods” are in my P.S., I assume you were content with the bulk of the post; I’m glad!

      1) He may not have succeeded, but in his 2008 campaign BHO “Fully supports a universal health care plan and has stated that we require a plan with ‘everybody in, nobody out. A single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan.’” http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=2008+obama+campaign+platform&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CGUQFjAI&url=http://voices.yahoo.com/barack-obama-platform-2008-presidency-890881.html&ei=EXlXUKeAPMf40gHihIGYCw&usg=AFQjCNE5D4iBIAGjMiLruTJtqO0D-7ILSg&cad=rja. His 2008 plan, without an individual mandate, was chided by critics as not “universal health care,” but of course the SCOTUS upheld exactly that part of Obamacare: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/06/28/supreme-court-upholds-individual-mandate-obamacare-survives/

      2) How Obamacare affects the federal deficit is a separate issue from how it will affect health care costs to patients, which was my intended point. Catholic doctors may disagree with you: http://www.cathmed.org/issues_resources/blog/the_next_boot_to_drop/
      Further, even if Obamacare reduces the dollar cost of getting health care, it likely will increase the time cost (which can be much worse if you’re in pain), as patients under more “universal” plans in other countries can attest when waiting weeks or months for treatment that can be done much more quickly here.

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