I’m reading a book called ‘The Undercover Economist’ by Tim Harford. It’s very much in the gist of books like Freakonomics, brimming with anecdotes that cause one eyebrow to raise, beard stroking to commence and the reader to emit tuneful humming noises. The book recounts the never-ending ambition of big corporations to find new and inventive ways of drilling more money out of consumers when they least expect it. It makes some points that are almost terrifyingly obvious, and yet that most of us get duped by every day. I work with businesses accounts, finances, revenue, profit margins and other thrilling conversation-killers on a regular basis and yet I was genuinely shocked to realise that it doesn’t actually cost a cafe an extra 50 pence to pile squirty cream and marshmallows on to my hot chocolate.
As corporations go, supermarkets are a particularly wiley bunch, happily embracing organic, fair trade and high welfare food as they can jack up the price well beyond what the genuine additional cost is. When you pick up one of these ‘ethical’ choices, you’re telling them that you are happy to pay more, not just the actual extra cost, but much more. Continue reading