Is this an example of a Self-Fulfilling or Self-Defeating Prophecy?
September 6, 2017 10:10 AM   Subscribe

If we don't sell enough widgets, the manufacturer has to raise the price to compensate for the lack of revenue. But if the manufacturer raises the price, it will be harder to sell the widget.
posted by FireStyle to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Market participants respond to incentives. If the manufacturer has lower margins (my assumption) on their smaller batches than they will change their pricing accordingly.

Also, the smaller the buyer, the less negotiating power they have on their side of the table. See Wal Mart for a counter example.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:19 AM on September 6, 2017

It doesn't seem like either, to me. (Partly this may just be about making it an "if" statement?) It seems like a statement about a cause-and-effect spiral that *can* happen, and the manufacturer can anticipate this and maybe find another way to respond to the low sales.

Can you say more about the context in which this comes up?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2017

I think it's more of a vicious cycle. A self-fulfilling prophecy would be more like an analysis that suggests that costs to produce widgets will increase, leading a company to reduce investment in widget production, causing an increase in the cost of widget production.
posted by skewed at 10:28 AM on September 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Maybe Skewed is right, in that it would more likely be considered a vicious cycle?

The context was in a meeting I had recently. We weren't selling enough widgets that are custom made the the manufacturer. We were told that the lack of sales could result in the manufacturer raising the price so their margins would remain in tact (sort of what Reasonably Everything Happens said).

I was like "well that's kind of a problem, because if we make an already expensive widget more costly, then we'll sell less. And in turn, they'll presumably raise the price again, and so on and so forth.

I wanted to say then, that it was a self defeating prophecy, but I couldn't remember, so I help my tongue lol
posted by FireStyle at 11:08 AM on September 6, 2017

I think you could say raising prices in that situation would:

- be a self-defeating move
- defeat the purpose
- be counterproductive
- be self-sabotage
- lead to a vicious cycle
- lead to a death spiral
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:19 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

a "negative feedback loop" might be another idiom for this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes. I'm in manufacturing and this is known as a "death spiral".

It's technically not a negative feedback loop; it's a positive feedback loop with a negative consequence. A true negative feedback loop always approaches its stable state.

Though this might be where the typical usage of the phrase differs from the technical definition. (Literally, ironically, etc.)
posted by TomFoolery at 11:59 AM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding "positive feedback loop" aka "vicious cycle."
posted by dondiego87 at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2017

This is the familiar death spiral you hear about regarding health insurance. If insurers can't get enough healthy people to sign up, they have to raise insurance premiums to cover the sick people. And if they raise insurance premiums, even more healthy people will drop out, leaving the sicker ones, which leads to more premium increases. Eventually premiums get so high and the number of insured becomes so low that the insurers quit the market.
posted by JackFlash at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2017

posted by trialex at 3:23 PM on September 6, 2017

Y2K was a self-defeating prophecy. There was so much clamor about how terrible it was going to be that businesses got there act together and very little bad happened.

A lot of advertising tries to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. A lot of hype leading to lots of sales. Apple has this act down pat.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:38 AM on September 7, 2017

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