Measured Response

I once saw a vending machine in Japan with a 200ml Coca-Cola, a 300ml Coca-Cola, a 500ml Coca-Cola and a 800ml Coca-Cola. Each one cost ¥120.

I was perplexed. I couldn’t imagine paying ¥120 for 200ml of something when they could get more (four times more!) of the same stuff for the same price from the same place.

Just then, I looked over at Mika at the next vending machine. She was buying a 200ml Coke.

"Why are you buying the 200ml one‽" I inquired, shocked. "You could have 800ml for the same price!"

Mika thought for a second and replied, "I only want 200ml of Coke."

I just posted a short review of a slightly related study on the Science That Matters blog.

7 Replies to “Measured Response”

  1. I completely understand.

    When shopping I will often see Food with 2 for 1 offers and I will buy what I need. When I get to the Cashier they tell me “oh thats 2 for 1 ” I know I say but I only want  the 1 and the rest would be wasted.  It blows some people away that you might buy what you need not what you can.

  2. That’s vaguely similar to what I experienced when I first went to the US – There apeared to be different sized drinks in, e.g. (back then) McDonald’s, but on the other hand, there were free refills! (something I had never heard of, it was unknown in Europe back then).

    So I could not understand why there would be different sizes if you could just buy the smallest and refill it all the time.

    Actually, at that point I could not understand why anybody would do free refills anyway, it looked like a totally stupid concept from a capitalistic point of view (and my parents were cursing America when my sister and I had to go to the restroom of some random shop very quickly a short while later, because we had drunk as much Coke as we could. My dad still likes to reminisce about facial expression the clerk had in that shop when we ran past him towards the restroom)

  3. Firstly, nice interrobang!

    Secondly, it’s a wide-spread generalisation that Americans tend to think that more (or bigger) is always better. Not that I’m a Xenophobe… ask anyone!

  4. It used to boggle me in the supermarket when I was younger why anyone would buy a 20 oz. soda when it often cost as much as or more than a 2-liter. (I would not study economics until some years later…)

    Closely related is that marketers will try to sell you a larger-sized product as a “better value” because it’s more profitable for them, and because US culture puts a high value on getting the best deal, people often take it even if it’s not what they may have wanted.

    As a libertarian I find myself conflicted about this. I believe you should have the right to choose to do unhealthy things if you would like to. But too many people do them out of ignorance, and then others exploit it: valuing short-term benefit over long-term benefit in a way that’s simply antisocial (and that’s an unwritten essay, there). The number of cognitive traps you can fall into is pretty stunning, and it’s hard to do enough education to counteract them all.

  5. I think that the question also is what happens to the rest?

    I’d agree with Mika if it was a can, and once open the rest would be wasted.

    OTOH if it was a bottle that could be opened, used, re-closed and kept for later, I’d have taken the 800ml in the morning, and then used it all day.

    In the first case it’s not wanting to waste, in the second, it’s being economical.


  6. Already in 1989, Itamar Simonson identified the attraction and compromise effects. I find especially the compromise effect remarkable: Brands (and products) tend to gain share when they become compromise alternatives in a choise set. There’s quite some follow-up research confirming this bias to the “middle choice”.

    Reference: Itamar Simonson (1989), Choice Based On Reasons: The Case of Attraction and Compromise Effects, Journal of Consumer
    , 16 (2), p. 158–174.

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