Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson
shkarlson
50bookchallenge

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, THE FAST TALKER AT THE END EXPLAINS WHY.

Modern data base management makes it possible for businesses to tailor services precisely to the requirements of consumers, and to price things accordingly. Thus there are charges for things that used to be free, and goods or services that used to be sold as bundles currently can be priced component by component. It's enough to make an economist rethink what life in a costless-information economy would be like.

Sometimes, however, there are information asymmetries. The seller knows the foibles of the buyer, but the buyer doesn't know the foibles of the seller until that late charge or peak period surcharge or inactivity charge kicks in. Such things provide the material for Gotcha Capitalism, which Book Review No. 21 recommends if for no other reason than the hints for dealing with customer disservice phone lines or writing letters of complaint or identifying government agencies that exist to enforce contracts and property rights, which do exist for buyers as well as for sellers.

To an extent, the book is an endorsement for living simply: make do without a mobile phone, don't subscribe to pay-per-view, pay off your credit cards in full each month, make relatively little use of rebates and gift cards, and buy only a house that you can finance on a thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage and you avoid many of the most common hidden fee traps.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops).
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