Why People Mistake Good Deals for Rip-Offs
October 22, 2013 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Why People Mistake Good Deals for Rip-Offs. In another experiment, the ventral putamen, a region of the brain that processes reward, was more active when people drank Pepsi than when they drank Coke—except when they were told that they were drinking Pepsi. Coke’s brand appeal is so powerful, and our ability to determine the value of cola so fickle, that our brains respond differently as soon as we learn that what we’re drinking isn’t Coke. The physical experience doesn’t change at all, but we’re unable to peg the value of a brown, caffeinated soda until we know where its life began.
posted by crossoverman (97 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
anyone who can't tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi probably grew up drinking Mountain Dew.

personally, I've switched to cabernet, but I can still tell the difference between the coke and the pepsi!
posted by HuronBob at 8:44 PM on October 22, 2013 [33 favorites]


Incidentally, "The Ventral Putamen" is the name of my new band.

We won't be able to decide whether our music is Smooth or Cool jazz until our audience tells us what we're playing.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:59 PM on October 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


I fundamentally do not believe any research that involves people not being able to tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. They are just not that similar.

Here's how it splits out:

Coke tastes like Coke.
Pepsi tastes like sugar.
Coke Zero tastes like Coke with less burn.
Diet Pepsi tastes like Coke with less sugar.
Diet Coke tastes like ass.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:59 PM on October 22, 2013 [41 favorites]


Coke tastes like caramel coloring.
Pepsi tastes like bubbles and venom.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:05 PM on October 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Carbonated beverages or art, the backstory often determines the price.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:05 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Diet Coke is the nectar of the gods.

Pepsi, on the other hand ...
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:06 PM on October 22, 2013 [8 favorites]




True story: battery acid tastes like lemon juice.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


They both taste like malted battery acid to me.

What portion of my brain is it that makes me want to Print Screen that comic and infringe on the copyright just because of the COPYNO thing that it switches to when I mouse over?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:13 PM on October 22, 2013 [46 favorites]


I remember an episode of All In The Family in which Mike Stivic showed how he could taste the difference between Coke, Pepsi, and Royal Crown Cola even though Archie insisted there was no difference between them.

I would have been about five or six, I think, but I still remember the scene vividly.



This has been another episode of "mr_crash_davis rambles on about a post that is tangentially related to a childhood memory".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:15 PM on October 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


What portion of my brain is it...

It's the bit that rejects Ctrl-U.
posted by pompomtom at 9:20 PM on October 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


And the best cola is:

RC MOTHAFUCKIN' COLA.

(I didn't RTFA.)
posted by XhaustedProphet at 9:23 PM on October 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


If I were crossoverman I'd be weeping right about now.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:25 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The taste test.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:33 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although, curiously, Archie doesn't appear in the scene at all. Oh, dear.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:34 PM on October 22, 2013


Stop Confusing Good Deals For Rip-Offs With This One Weird Trick. Click now!!!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:38 PM on October 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


Coke tastes like Coke.
Pepsi tastes like sugar.
Coke Zero tastes like Coke with less burn.
Diet Pepsi tastes like Coke with less sugar.
Diet Coke tastes like ass.


Pepsi Max tastes of win. It is easily the most ultimate soda. If you aren't drinking Pepsi Max all the live-long day, you might as well be a tree.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also:

Last Saturday, an elderly man set up a stall near Central Park and sold eight spray-painted canvases for less than one five-hundredth of their true value.

The true value of a thing is what somebody will pay for it. So, in effect, the "true value" of these spray-painted canvases is $52.50 apiece, which is still way too much for a spray-painted canvas.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:43 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


This might be worth a little listen.
posted by edeezy at 9:44 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, AND THEY WOULDN'T GIVE IT TO ME...
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:49 PM on October 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


turbid dahlia: "If you aren't drinking Pepsi Max all the live-long day, you might as well be a tree."

Which drink Brawndo.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:54 PM on October 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Diet coke tastes like a sweet ass.
posted by benzenedream at 9:55 PM on October 22, 2013


Here...let's bring some closure to this.... Peace y'all.
posted by HuronBob at 10:03 PM on October 22, 2013


Diet Coke is delicious, Coke tastes like drinking undiluted syrup, and Pepsi tastes like sugar stirred into water.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:04 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not Pepsi Max...it tastes like aspartame stirred into water! That's a Greek word!
posted by turbid dahlia at 10:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand, Diet Coke tastes like poison, actual poison. What are all of you tasting or not tasting that you don't immediately spit it back out again, fearing for your lives? Is there some sort of taste bud thing with aspartame where it tastes fine to some people and godawful to others, like cilantro?
posted by yasaman at 10:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [34 favorites]


Are we talking about Real Coke with actual cane sugar or that HFCS monstrosity that they serve in the US?
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:14 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I nailed Jesus to the cross

pepsi
posted by philip-random at 10:15 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


yasaman: "Is there some sort of taste bud thing with aspartame where it tastes fine to some people and godawful to others, like cilantro?"

There must be because my husband gags, literally gags, when he tastes aspartame, whereas I consider Diet Coke a breakfast beverage.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 PM on October 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


And now I wish I hadn't gone with the quote about Pepsi v. Coke - there's a lot more in that first article than that.
posted by crossoverman at 10:17 PM on October 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


NOPE ENTIRE THREAD IS ABOUT SWEET BROWN WATER NO TAKEBACKS
posted by en forme de poire at 10:21 PM on October 22, 2013 [47 favorites]


"Is the pig, once fattened and slaughtered and air-cured, really superior to any other pig?" muses Lecter. "Or is it simply a matter of reputation preceding product?" "It's irrelevant," says Sutcliffe, who is here to eat the hell out of your hundred-dollar ham. "If the meat-eater thinks it's superior, then belief determines value." "A case of psychology overriding neurology,"
posted by The Whelk at 10:40 PM on October 22, 2013


I just read the article author's book Drunk Tank Pink a week ago. Pretty interesting stuff, I thought. Even if there was no soda in it.
posted by Samizdata at 10:42 PM on October 22, 2013


And now I wish I hadn't gone with the quote about Pepsi v. Coke - there's a lot more in that first article than that.

You derailed your own thread. You're a self-derailer!

/seinfeld
posted by davey_darling at 10:43 PM on October 22, 2013


I'll have a frosty glass of Gladwell Lite, please. Nice headline, let me know when you can turn it over at least once.
posted by user92371 at 10:47 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


"A case of psychology overriding neurology,"

The author is either a Cartesian dualist or has a rather shaky grasp on which part of the body generates thought.
posted by jaduncan at 10:49 PM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes!
posted by The Whelk at 10:56 PM on October 22, 2013


Pepsi Max tastes of win. It is easily the most ultimate soda.

Not quite. It'd need to be named "Pepsi Perfect" to be the most ultimate.

You've got two years minus a day, PepsiCo. Get on that.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:05 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would have gone with the art example:

Last Saturday, an elderly man set up a stall near Central Park and sold eight spray-painted canvases for less than one five-hundredth of their true value. The art works were worth more than two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, but the man walked away with just four hundred and twenty dollars. Each canvas was an original by the enigmatic British artist Banksy, who was approaching the midpoint of a monthlong residency in New York City. Banksy had asked the man to sell the works on his behalf. For several hours, hundreds of oblivious locals and tourists ignored the quiet salesman, along with the treasure he was hiding in plain sight. The day ended with thirty paintings left unsold. One Banksy aficionado, certain she could distinguish a fake from the real thing, quietly scolded the man for knocking off the artist’s work.

Normally, Banksy has no trouble attracting customers. Five years ago, two of his pieces were sold for more than three million dollars combined. It would take the elderly man in Central Park almost twenty years to amass the same lofty sum. What makes Banksy’s subversive stunt so compelling is that it forces us to acknowledge how incoherently humans derive value. How can a person be willing to pay five hundred times more than another for the same art work born in the same artist’s studio?

posted by Admira at 11:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


And apparently the next day someone sold out a bunch of fake Banksies, even while insisting on their fakeness.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 PM on October 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi.

And why would anybody think a street vendor would be selling original Banksys for $40? This experiment doesn't prove anything. Pull this stunt off in the midst of an art show—then you have a story.
posted by Camofrog at 11:40 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah I typed up a whole comment about how all the examples from the article really say one thing - context matters.
posted by Admira at 11:45 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Camofrog: One might infer that it is precisely the divorce between artistic merit and perceived value that is being demonstrated.
posted by jaduncan at 12:18 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there some sort of taste bud thing with aspartame where it tastes fine to some people and godawful to others, like cilantro?

As someone so afflicted, I've always been convinced this is the case. The same thing happens to me with saccharin and sucralose, too. Even if it's one of those sneaky beverages that's sweetened with half sugar/corn syrup and half sucralose, I can always tell because of the nasty aftertaste.

It's my genes trying to fatten me up, I'm sure. Or trying to convince me to drink coffee/tea/water instead.
posted by neckro23 at 12:19 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coke’s brand appeal is so powerful ..... that our brains respond differently as soon as we learn that what we’re drinking isn’t Coke.

Advertising works. The simple fact that Coke spends so much money on advertising is a far better measure of its impact on human brain than these academic studies.
posted by three blind mice at 12:21 AM on October 23, 2013


And why would anybody think a street vendor would be selling original Banksys for $40? This experiment doesn't prove anything.

What Admira and jaduncan just said, and three blind mice, too ...

Advertising works.

What would a Banksy original be worth if nobody had ever heard of the guy, if he was but another talented yet unknown artist? Probably about the same as a Banksy original that isn't presented as a Banksy original. 40 bucks.

This experiment speaks magnitudes to me about how much value effective marketing confers on a given item in our culture.
posted by philip-random at 12:32 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


how incoherently humans derive value

Jeremy Bentham was not God. If the human mind fails to conform to his model it's his model that's at fault, not humanity.

Really the idea that the value of something must be reducible to a fixed set of measurable physical properties, such as the formula for a particular fizzy drink, is completely implausible when you stop to think about it. Another sign of the naively reductive paradigm which seems to be stamped on 21st century brains.

I'm a rigorous monist materialist myself, by the bye.
posted by Segundus at 1:16 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fact is, a Banksy is only worth what the market is willing to pay for it. Off a street corner in NYC, I'd rather buy hotdogs.
posted by chavenet at 1:28 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


All this put another way: sell the sizzle, not the steak.
posted by jaduncan at 1:43 AM on October 23, 2013


If I was fed cola in an experiment, and found out that the cola was Coke, I would spit it out into both eyes of the researcher. Twice.

You might say he'd be...double-blind.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:05 AM on October 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


People selling shit photographs / knock-offs of Banksy's work (often, entertainingly, from stalls covered in signs reading "NO PHOTOGRAPHS") is such a ubiquitous part of London that I'd be amazed if he'd made ten quid total here.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:21 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What portion of my brain is it that makes me want to Print Screen that comic and infringe on the copyright just because of the COPYNO thing that it switches to when I mouse over?

Here you go, Drinky_Die, brought you by the magic of "view source" (which the media industry is trying to take away from us)...
posted by Harald74 at 3:39 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi.

I can tell the difference between sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened. By smell, sometimes. HFCS-sweetened drinks tend to have a burning aftertaste to them that sucrose-sweetened drinks don't. I have no idea how can anybody knowingly consume anything with Aspartame in it.

In other words, I can tell the difference between Pepsi and Diet Pepsi more easily than the difference between Pepsi and Coke.
posted by ardgedee at 4:06 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]



What makes Banksy’s subversive stunt so compelling is that it forces us to acknowledge how incoherently humans derive value.

I think the better interpretation is considerably less complementary to Banksy.
posted by jpe at 4:14 AM on October 23, 2013


It tickles me that a scientist studying how people value things is named Thaler.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:25 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You might say he'd be...double-blind.

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Count me as a person who can detect the revolting aftertaste of all of the artificial sweeteners. Yes, all of them. Even the newer, "better" ones.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:48 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I quit Diet Coke cold turkey in college, just to see if I could. After four weeks, I tried one, just to see what I'd think of the taste now that it wasn't so familiar. It tasted HORRIBLE.

From that day on I've drunk it daily, as I have now for (mumble-mumble) years.

My brain is a twisted, untrustworthy jackass and it honestly pains me to know that we are stuck together for the rest of my life.
posted by argonauta at 5:00 AM on October 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Regarding those taste tests that Pepsi wins: you're only drinking a sip or so, right? Pepsi is sweeter so it usually wins blind taste tests; sweeter things are initially more rewarding to your brain even if you don't have much of a sweet tooth.

However, people tend to drink soda in servings of 12 ounces or more. Has anyone done a taste test where you are drinking a real serving? Perhaps Pepsi is too sweet for most people in large doses. Sweet becomes sickening pretty quickly. Maybe Coca-Cola isn't on top just because of advertising; it might just be designed to win out over time.
posted by spaltavian at 5:29 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Harald74: "What portion of my brain is it that makes me want to Print Screen that comic and infringe on the copyright just because of the COPYNO thing that it switches to when I mouse over?

Here you go, Drinky_Die, brought you by the magic of "view source" (which the media industry is trying to take away from us)...
"

Heh, I just had NoScript turned on, to the same effect. I wonder what that'll do to drm'd code...

I tend to consider coke, pepsi, etc, to be more or less interchangeable. Yes, there's enough variation to tell them apart but I'm not so invested in the differences. Now root beer, on the other hand...

More on the topic of the post, I run into the same evaluation problem on deal-a-day sites. If a price looks good, the "ok, so what's wrong with it..." impulse kicks in, even if what's "wrong" with the item may be that someone made an ordering error and a company needs the warehouse space for a higher-ticket item. There are also a number of supermarket products that are made in the same facility, and just packaged in brand name and store brand boxed. Same stuff, same store, different package, different price...
posted by Karmakaze at 5:40 AM on October 23, 2013


What makes Banksy’s subversive stunt so compelling is that it forces us to acknowledge how incoherently humans derive value. How can a person be willing to pay five hundred times more than another for the same art work born in the same artist’s studio?

It's not incoherent, because value is not always based on the easily observable physical properties of an object out of context. Glass jewelry is pretty just like rare stones, but it doesn't make sense to value it just based on appearance. And a baseball with some dirt on it might be worth more to a player who knows it's the first ball they ever hit in the majors.

For a lot of things, value is less about the physical properties of an object and more from the idea of the object and how special or powerful that idea is. If you buy art from random no-names to hang on your wall, you get something nice to look at. But the people paying massive amounts of money for Banksy's work aren't doing it for purely aesthetic reasons any more than people use an ATM machine because they love portraits of Andrew Jackson.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:47 AM on October 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here you go, Drinky_Die, brought you by the magic of "view source" (which the media industry is trying to take away from us)...

I just turned off javascript for a minute and right-clicked on it so I could save to my local machine. Because fuck you, fuckball.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:53 AM on October 23, 2013


Re: Art: This is why I really enjoy looking for original art in thrift stores and junk stores. Yes, 99.9% of it is crap, but when you find something you like, you know you like it for what it is, and not for any other reason. (And then you go home and Google the hell out of the artist, which is also awesome and fun.)

The one danger is the Antiques Roadshow Fail -- finding something you really love, and then finding out it's worth enough money that you have to sell it, because you can't afford to insure it, and should you really be keeping something that's worth more than your apartment building? (This is why I can't watch Antiques Roadshow -- I don't see "Whoooo money!". I see "We can no longer afford to keep Great Aunt Agnes's portrait, because it was painted by someone famous and is worth more than our house. It must go to an oligarch who is worthy of its ownership." I realize this is not rational.)

I don't understand, Diet Coke tastes like poison, actual poison. What are all of you tasting or not tasting that you don't immediately spit it back out again, fearing for your lives? Is there some sort of taste bud thing with aspartame where it tastes fine to some people and godawful to others, like cilantro?

Yes, this. I'm on the "everything artificially sweet tastes horrible" side while my boyfriend drinks Diet Coke exclusively, which leads to some fun mix-ups in restaurants as waitstaff frequently assume the female human drinks Diet Coke. (I have now switched from regular Coke to iced tea for this reason. Too many mouthfuls of poison.)

And I'm double-fortunate, because artificial sweeteners are also an IBS trigger for me. (I think just the ones that end in "ose" but for obvious reasons I haven't tested it.) This led to a super-fun drive home last !Holiday when my aunt decided to sweeten the carrots with some sort of artificial sugar crap (I thought they tasted weird) and didn't tell anyone until after we'd eaten them. Honestly, why do carrots even need to be sweetened?
posted by pie ninja at 5:56 AM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Actually now that I think about the money analogy, a good response to Banksy's stunt would be to set up a stand selling $20 bills for $15 each and then pretend to be shocked when almost everyone assumes that it's a scam.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:03 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is experimental research on people's ability to recognize that there is a difference between coke and pepsi (they can ) and their ability to identify what they are drinking (they generally cannot).

I know this because I taught 2nd year research methods labs where the kids had to do Pepsi and Coke taste tests at 8am in the morning in order to demonstrate various aspect of experimental design (and I had mono at the time so that was all I did for the day - it was a pretty messed up time for me - existing just to force feed undergrads sugar water).

Oh and my neuroscience is such phrenological crap cortex lights up every time I read about a 'brain area did this' study in popular press.
posted by srboisvert at 6:27 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some people drink Pepsi. Some people drink Coke. The wacky morning DJ says democracy's a joke!

I don't generally trust these kinds of popularly reported True Psychology Facts with Experiments That Make Entertaining Stories anymore, though.
posted by edheil at 6:41 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


the ventral putamen, a region of the brain that processes reward . . .

     Incidentally, "The Ventral Putamen" is the name of my new band.



I thought it was the name of one of the positions in 43-Man Squamish when played under Canadian rules.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:59 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there some sort of taste bud thing with aspartame where it tastes fine to some people and godawful to others, like cilantro?

I remember way back when we all wore onions on our belts, they were rolling out aspartame as the New, Less-Cancer-y Than Saccharine and Cyclamate Sweetener, and you could mail-order a coupon (maybe from TV Guide?) for free Nutru-Sweet Gumballs, so you could see that it tasted Just Like Sugar.

It did not.

It tasted like, maybe sweetened gasoline? Very "chemical" tasting. I spit out my free gum (and I was a Violet Beauregarde-Level Gum Chewer) within about a millionth of a second. I have never been able to stand aspartame, or almost any artificial sweetener. Even Stevia, which is natural, tastes horrible to me. I want sugar. Or honey. Or even high-fructose corn syrup. I like calories with my sweetness.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:17 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Banksy pricing experiment reminds me of this from the Tiffany Sedaris thread:

She prices her pieces on a sliding scale. ''It depends on how much I had to hurt myself while I made it, how far I had to drag it, whether it was night or day. Mostly, I make it up," she says. ''It's a made-up price for made-up stuff in a made-up world."

I believe artists (and everyone else) should be able to sell their work at a price that reflects the effort they've put into it, but there seems to be a point where the pricing goes cuckoo bananas. Not just for art, but for things like luxury goods and CEO salaries. I'm sure there's an economic term for this other than "lolrichpeople."
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:24 AM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


A bottle of beer is easier to value because it fulfills some basic needs, but many of the factors that determine its price are just as slippery. In one experiment, bar patrons in Boston sampled and rated whether they preferred a “regular” beer (Sam Adams or Budweiser) or an “M.I.T. brew” (the same beer with several drops of balsamic vinegar). Only thirty per cent of those who knew that the M.I.T. brew contained balsamic vinegar preferred it to the regular beer, but that number rose to fifty-nine per cent when the vinegar remained a mystery.

Must not have been offered to many micro drinkers because me and most of my friends would have spit both samples on the ground. Balsamic vinegar! In beer? Bad enough you offer me Budweiser, which makes Diet Pepsi taste like nectar of the gods and I think Diet Pepsi tastes like battery acid cut with pee.
posted by Ber at 7:29 AM on October 23, 2013


Your brain is less than subjective when it comes to caffeinated drinks. If it associates Diet Coke with the imminent delivery of the addiction-feeding chemical then it'll trick you into thinking it's delicious, even if it wouldn't be if you weren't an addict.
I've experienced this personally when my employer stoppped stocking the free-drinks fridge with Rockstar and switched to Monster. Initially, I didn't much care for it, but it only took a week or two for the new flavor to be the most delicious thing ever. Then one day when I picked up a Rockstar at the store for old times' sake, I didn't much care for it.
posted by rocket88 at 7:52 AM on October 23, 2013


All of this talk about Coke, Pepsi, and other sodas, and not a single reference to the Nectar of the Gods: OK Soda? What is wrong with you people?

Clearly, you need to be reminded, that Things Are Going To Be OK.
posted by andreaazure at 7:55 AM on October 23, 2013


I know I'm just supposed to chitchat about the sugar water at this point, but there's something in the article that actually interests me more:

The people who were told that the beer was sold at a run-down grocery store were willing to pay a median price of $1.50, whereas those who were told it was sold at a fancy resort were willing to pay a median price of $2.65—a seventy-seven per cent premium for the privilege of enjoying the same outcome.

I'm not sure this experiment demonstrates what the writer thinks it does.

The scenario sets up a gamble for the beer drinker: if they underbid, they will not get a beer. So it's not that they have a genuinely higher valuation for fancy-resort beer versus run-down grocery store beer; the extra price they're willing to pay is to offset the risk of getting no beer at all from the place which is expected to have higher prices.

The 77% premium isn't "for the privilege of enjoying the same outcome;" it's a hedge against the loss of that outcome.
posted by ook at 7:57 AM on October 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


A little late here, but this article isn't about rip-offs... it's about the power of brands. People would buy fake dog vomit for a million bucks if it had Banksy's signature on it. People love Coke for simply being Coke. The ephemeral identity of a thing is sometimes more powerful to us than its actual physical existence.
posted by GuyZero at 8:00 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your Television Heritage Minute: Here's Gene Siskel -- wearing Roger Ebert's necktie as a blindfold -- proving to Roger, Bob Costas, and the millionen that it is possible to identify the color of cinema "Dots" candies by taste.

If I blew the timecode, the action starts at the 9 minute mark.
posted by Herodios at 8:05 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm really getting frustrated by interesting articles that ruin themselves by shitty titles.

This is not about why people mistake good deals for rip-offs. Even if the paintings were genuine Banksy, without provenance, no one would be able to resell them - so it wouldn't, in fact, be a case of paying 50$ and then having it appreciate ridiculously. The only reason they're able to now, presumably, is that it has been "Authenticated" or confirmed as part of a Banksy setup.

Art isn't worth what the picture itself is worth - it's worth what the thing and its verifiability are worth. If you don't like the art, $50 would in fact have been a rip-off.
posted by corb at 8:23 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are two kinds of value. The value you put on something so that you can own it. So clothing or food or a chair. What do you think is a fair price for this thing? So if I really liked one of those Banksy deals (which, nah, not so much) then $60 for a painting on a canvas, that I'd like to hang over to sofa seems about right to me. The $60 Banksy is the same as a $1,000,000 Banksy, but I can only afford the cheap one. Even if I did have $1,000,000, I wouldn't spend it on art.

But, there's also the value associated with an asset. Not a consumable, or a daily object, but an item that has intrinsic value. So let's take my Honda. I buy it for a number of reasons, reliability, handling, looks, comfort and price. The value of my Honda is based not only on these things, but what other, similar things cost. Now, I could have pretty much the same vehicle in the Accord name plate, but that would mean that I affix an extra $2,000 on the difference in the name. And I don't. So I get the Honda.

"All things being equal" is a pretty good yardstick of value. So we have two sweaters. The material is the same, the color is the same, but the prices are vastly different. One sweater is a no-name store brand, it covers your nakedness and keeps you warm. The other is made by a designer. Now, "all things being equal" you probably buy the cheaper sweater because who cares? BUT. If the designer sweater has a cut that's more flattering to your figure, or the color is slightly better, or it's not itchy, well, there's more to that sweter than nakedness covering and warmth.

So sometimes people just prefer to own something more expensive because of brand recognition. Designer clothing, or handbags, or perfume. It's not intrinsic value, but a perception of value, the status symbol.

So I guess we're trying to understand why people pay more for things just to say they did. I can answer that in two words. High School.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:27 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


A big part of the value of art is the value of art. If people didn't know they could sell the Banksy they just bought for a $1 million two years from now for at least that $1 million and probably more, they wouldn't willingly pay that. Yeah, the value is basically a mass delusion, but it's not just art that has that problem. Knowing you can sell it later for a price similar to what you paid for it is how housing gets so expensive, too -- you don't have to be able to actually afford to buy it, you just have to be able to afford to rent it from the bank for the low, low price of your interest payments.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly, you need to be reminded, that Things Are Going To Be OK.

Wait, is Pepsi OK?
posted by eddydamascene at 8:40 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder WHY Coke has such a powerful brand in culture. For me, the preference stemmed from pre-adolescence when I moved to North America.

At the time, early nineties, Pepsi commercials were very sexualized showing all the beautiful people doing sexy things, and Coke was doing kind of hippie-love ads. As a child I was a bit intimidated by the Pepsi ads, which while glamorous, were out of reach, and liked the Coke ads which were friendlier and seemed to push unbridled sexuality less.

How does that association form for others?
posted by tatiana131 at 8:49 AM on October 23, 2013


my mom's a hardcore pepsi drinker so i probably like coke out of some kind of teenage rebellion or something
posted by titus n. owl at 8:53 AM on October 23, 2013


Anecdata: I went 20/20 blindfolded taste testing Pepsi and Coke. I do not how anyone could confuse the two.
posted by 6ATR at 9:03 AM on October 23, 2013


To quote the delightful Seanan McGuire, diet coke (and really all diet soda) taste "like going down on a hooker from Candyland."

I remember being in Mexico and drinking sprite and coke and being amazed at how good they tasted after not having drunk soda in a long time. I decided to keep doing this when I got back to the US. The US varieties still tasted of varying degrees of ass. Yes, Pepsi and Coke are different, but it's like the difference between Miller and Coors (Clydesdale vs. Mustang). I'll drink Jaritos occasionally because the flavors are interesting and hey, no HFCS ass taste (also, Mango soda!, albeit a touch sweet). However, I have gotten blank looks when I've been asked what there is to drink in my apartment and my answer is "water, beer and there may be milk in the fridge, I'm not sure."

To the original subject, we are, in part brought up to believe (with good justification) that any deal looking too good to be true is. If you don't have that kind of filter, you end up getting hit by scams. A suspicious person can be conned, but it takes more effort and is more difficult.

So Bansky, someone whose art has a distinct style that would be fairly easy to replicate? If I see works that look like his on a corner, well, I think "nice Banksy knock-offs." The odds of them being real are pretty small (larger than that handbag actually being a real louis vuitton, but that really isn't saying much). In fact, after this story has run so much, I wonder how much you could make selling forgeries of Bansky in Union Square for a day.
posted by Hactar at 9:04 AM on October 23, 2013


I grew up drinking Dr Pepper (and by drinking I mean going through a 24-pack while playing Counter-Strike all night) so the Pepsi and Coke thing doesn't resonate with me very much. I mostly quit drinking soda later in my later teens, but when I really want a soda now I tend to get Coca-Cola that has cane sugar in it. A lot of people tell me they can't tell the difference, but I am certain I can. I'm sure some scientist is able to come along and prove me wrong though.
posted by gucci mane at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2013


I think people are upset when confronted with the idea that for many things, the actual price of it is a completely arbitrary number with no relation to " value". It's one thing to intellectually know currency is a highly abstracted, arbitrary medium of exchange but it still makes some people uncomfortable that if you just say something is valuable, it is. ( I'm seeing this in slightly older people I travel with as inflation keeps going up, they know that higher prices are inevitable as a result of The Current Situation but they talk about it like people are committing some kind of grave moral insult to them personally because food costs have gone up. Note these are not people who are going to be particularly threatened by food cost increases.)

( also Pepsi tastes totally different it's like five times sweeter with no nutmeg-y over tones what is wrong with you peopple don't you have taste buds?)
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Regarding those taste tests that Pepsi wins: you're only drinking a sip or so, right? Pepsi is sweeter so it usually wins blind taste tests; sweeter things are initially more rewarding to your brain even if you don't have much of a sweet tooth.

I participated in a Pepsi taste test, years ago at a summer camp. The Pepsi people set up a few tables, and it didn't take long for the lines of kids to form. Each kid had a chance to drink a small sample in identical small paper cups, and then they were asked which they preferred. If they chose Pepsi, the person doing the test congratulated the kid, and gave him his choice of chocolate bar. If the kid hadn't chosen the Coke, he was told, sorry, that's too bad, better luck next time!

It took less than a minute for word of this to filter back through the lines of kids, all of whom of course wanted a free chocolate bar. So all the talk in the line immediately turned to, how do I tell which is Pepsi? I had no idea. Fortunately, someone did know, and pretty soon every kid knew: Pepsi tastes stronger. Go for the cup with the stronger taste. So that's what I did. And I got a chocolate bar. And Pepsi got to report me as yet another blind taste tester who preferred Pepsi.

To this day, I prefer Coke.
posted by Dasein at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


They both taste nasty but one tastes slightly less nasty. I guess it is odd to me that people would drink a whole can of soda on purpose for beverage enjoyment purposes and not because they are carsick or something.
posted by elizardbits at 9:30 AM on October 23, 2013


Fact is, a Banksy is only worth what the market is willing to pay for it. Off a street corner in NYC, I'd rather buy hotdogs.

In Philadelphia, it's worth fifty bucks.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:30 AM on October 23, 2013


This whole Coke vs Pepsi, HFCS vs sugar vs diet, leaves out another important variable: glass vs tin. (Plastic is obviously a non-starter.)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:48 AM on October 23, 2013


The obvious answer is because most rip-offs are designed to be easily mistaken for good deals.
posted by ckape at 10:55 AM on October 23, 2013


My wife keeps it real by buying Mexican Coke, in glass bottles, by the case at Costco. I am a Coke Zero drinker so I'm a blasphemer in her eyes.
posted by Ber at 10:55 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even if the paintings were genuine Banksy, without provenance, no one would be able to resell them - so it wouldn't, in fact, be a case of paying 50$ and then having it appreciate ridiculously. The only reason they're able to now, presumably, is that it has been "Authenticated" or confirmed as part of a Banksy setup.

Well, sort of; really, it's more an example of the impossibility of perfect information in a market (at least in some instances) and how that complicates ideas of fair market value and especially "good" vs. "bad" deals. Certain kinds of commodities, particularly those that become cultural touchstones or collectibles, are very good at turning price signaling into price noise over a stretch of time.

An unconfirmed Banksy for $50 is a bad deal, right up until it's confirmed, at which point it's an excellent deal. You might just as well call buying a Van Gogh in 1890 a bad deal...but everybody in 2013 might wish their ancestors had been "foolish" enough to do so. Granted, there's arguably a point at which there's enough information to make the buy, but even that window is small and its opening and closing are quite unpredictable as well.

The market is very rational -- for a deeply reductive definition of "rational" -- in the eternal present, but not necessarily in speculation or retrospection.
posted by kewb at 10:56 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diet coke from the can. Always.

Embrace the burn.
posted by Night_owl at 11:04 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another thing about the Banksy canvases, is who wants to carry one of those around on the subway, bargain or not?
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:49 PM on October 23, 2013


Night_owl, Kroger Big K Diet Cola costs ~50% of what Diet Coke costs and the flavor is similar enough (unlike virtually every other generic diet cola, which is just the regular flavor plus aspartame) that I don't even buy Diet Coke unless it's at a gas station or restaurant.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:40 PM on October 23, 2013


Maybe you can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, but wine experts can't tell the diiference between good wine and bad.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:15 AM on October 24, 2013


Can the wine truly be said to be good or bad, then?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2013


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