Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hyperbolic Discounting #2 - Nightclubs

Following on from the previous post on hyperbolic discounting, the other example where people seem to show much too much short term impatience is in nightclubs. 

For most nightclubs, even very expensive ones, it’s not too hard to get in without too much hassle if you go there when the place is deserted shortly after opening time. But as soon as the place starts filling up, the bouncers get free rein to exercise their pea-brained messiah complexes and start jerking you around by making you wait for hours.

The question is, why are people so unwilling to just chill out in a half-empty club for half an hour? Is it really worse than standing outside in the queue for 30 or 45 minutes because you turned up late? And if the half-full club is unbearable, why is the full club so awesome that you’re willing to wait so long for it?

It seems that people place an enormous discount rate on the club being awesome at the moment they walk in. So much so that they’re willing to endure a far crappier experience of standing in line for a significant fraction of the time they’d otherwise be in the half-full club. Which doesn’t make much sense to me.

Then again, I guess it depends on your model of the average person in a nightclub. If it's this:

then perhaps it's not really such a surprise.

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