Game Theory Coffee Filter
May 22, 2014 8:42 PM Subscribe
On weekdays, I get my morning beverage from one of the many coffee carts dotted around my office neighborhood. Most frequently, I go to either Cart A or Cart B. Cart A is across the street from the bus stop where I get off for work. A is open weekdays from 7am to 3pm. Cart B is conveniently located directly outside of my office, open 7am to 4pm, but only on the 3 or 4 days a week when the owner feels like coming to work, like when it's not raining or too hot or Thursday or whatever. The menus are identical, and the service is unremarkable. Given that my goal is to get my morning jolt with as little hassle as possible, which one should I give my business to?
posted by decathecting to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't see from the bus stop whether B is there on any given day. So every morning I get off the bus, and I have to make a decision: do I cross the street and go out of my way to get my drink now at Cart A, then cross back and go to my office? Or do I walk past that cart toward my office until I turn the corner and can see whether or not Cart B is there, and then go to B on the way into the office if it's there, but have to walk back around the corner and across the street to A if B is not there?
Basically, to the extent that my tiny purchases have any effect on the proprietors' behavior, I'd like to use my buying to reward Cart A for being there every day, rain or shine, and incentivize Cart B to come out more often and/or punish them for being lazy. And I'd like to have things be convenient in the morning when I'm grumpy.
Is the best way to do that to use Cart B every single time it's open, so that the proprietors know it's profitable and will maybe want to come out more? Or should I use A most of the time, both so that I don't have to double back on the days when B turns out not to be there and to punish B's flakiness, and only use B when I'm coming out of my office in the afternoon for a pick-me-up?
This is a ridiculous question. But I think about it a lot. And I want to know what the best strategy is, assuming I have some tiny, marginal effect on the businesses I patronize. So please no "it doesn't matter" answers. Thanks!