New Year’s Parties and Experience Goods

My friends and I were in Dallas for New Year’s and we thought about where to go and ultimately decided that we were willing to pay some money for a big party. Ultimately, I think we paid too much and so didn’t quite get our money’s worth. I mean it was very fun, but we spent too much and it wasn’t as fun as we what we spent.

The lesson I extracted from this entire New Year’s situation is that there are a lot of ways to make decisions and that one has to not only be careful about how one makes a decision, but also how one decides what kind of methodology is employed.

For some things, information is easy to obtain and the quality of the item being bought is readily known. For example, food is bought everyday and everyone knows what food is good and what it’s worth. I know how much I like Dr. Pepper and so can make a really informed choice about how much enjoyment Ill get from a can of it. Therefore, I can know how much I should spend to get a can of the stuff. Also, I know how much my enjoyment can change. If I’m really thirsty, I’ll pay more, but if I just had some orange juice (my leading alternative to sodas) then I won’t pay even the normal rate.

Parties are not like Dr. Pepper and that’s because they are one off unique events. Dr. Pepper’s are all the same, but parties are not. Who is going to be there? What music will there be? All that matters and it cannot be homogenized (thank god). This is the same thing as buying a house. Houses don’t have set prices like other things, why is that? Well, because their value is only roughly determinable. Square footage and location are important and obviously do a lot to determine their value, but there are a lot of intangibles that just cannot be manufactured, even in development lots that have the exact same house built at every property.

So, for houses and parties, one needs to do a lot of research, and my friends and I, being the people we are,  did kind of a lot of research. We wanted to make sure the crowd would be our age, that the music was good, that there would be a lot of alcohol (we went the all you can drink route, which is expensive, but I think is worth it).

But here is where the post gets a little bit interesting, which is that some things can be subverted just by thinking about them in a certain way. Here’s what I mean. My friends and I were so concerned with trying to maximize our New Year’s experience that we neglected to think about the fact that trying to maximize our fun was itself a source of trouble. We maybe should have realized that we would have a great time no matter what we did because we hadn’t seen each other in many months and our time together was sacred.

I mean, it wasn’t that bad, because that atmosphere permeated the night and took over our New Year’s spirits regardless, but if we had been much less picky about where to go and what to do, our fun level would have probably remained roughly the same.

For all our planning for which party to go to, we were downright careless about the planning once that was decided. For instance, my dad told me before leaving the house that it would be really hard to find a taxi leaving the event and that it was going to be really cold outside later in the night. In fact, it was so hard to find a taxi that my dad drove us downtown around 9.

As we got out of the car, he suggested that we find a cab that was leaving and get the cabbie’s personal number so that we could call him once everything was over. We thanked him for his wise Wolf-family wisdom and then promptly ignored it.

Fast forward 5 hours. We are all waiting downtown without a cab in sight with the temperature falling to around 25 degrees.

What I think is funny is that we spent hours trying to find where to go when in reality it wouldn’t have mattered, but we declined to enact a simple fix that would have made things much easier and pleasant for us.

I think there is a straightforward analogy between our night and meeting the `right person.’ For instance, I think put all sorts of barriers in the way of their own happiness when they search for the love of their life (Ill speak from the male perspective). For instance, some guys will look for a girl that’s the right age or the right breeding or lives in the right city or the right level of physical attractiveness or etc. etc. When in reality, going about a decision in that way is probably self defeating and probably won’t matter anyway. My friends and I made the mistake of thinking we wouldn’t have fun if we went to some place that wasn’t fun when in reality any place would have been fun given we were all together. Same with looking for that special someone. Rather than looking for someone, one would be better off just seeing what falls in one’s lap and just working from that. But that might take a certain type of emotional maturity that’s hard to find. Who knows.

But then, at the same time, people will turn around and ignore all sorts of obviously important, small things when “in love.” This is analogous to us, once set on a venue, refusing to arrange a cab in advance. We paid the price. Same thing can be with people we are strongly attracted to. Does it matter the person has a touch of narcissism or a crippling paralysis when faced with real adversity? We overlook such easy things and then find that the person we loved is actually quite spiteful or utterly out of commission when unemployment hits or hard times come calling.

Humans are the only species capable of making decision in a careful, self-conscious way, and I guess its not surprising that being nature’s first experiment in rationality, we have all sorts of ways to make bizarre choices.


2 Responses to “New Year’s Parties and Experience Goods”

  1. 1 Brent
    January 3, 2011 at 5:59 am

    So glad I find your blog, Jordan! Really resonates a lot with Barry Schwartz’s “Paradox of Choice” line of thinking, when it comes to the energy invested in a choice and the resulting satisfaction. He’s probably my favorite “practical” philosopher. I’m sure you’ve read his stuff before, but this commencement address sums up his thoughts nicely if you haven’t: http://www.swarthmore.edu/news/commencement/2004/schwartz.html. Hope you’re thriving, Brent.

    • 2 questionbeggar
      January 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks for reading Brent. I am flourishing and I hope you are too (never heard anyone use that word for well-wishing, but its nice…).

      Thanks also for this citation, I read that commencement address and there’s a lot in there.

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