One of my favorite behavior economics thought leaders, Steve Dubner of Freakonomics fame, was on Marketplace this week (see podcasthere). The topic was also one of my favorites – beer. Specifically, it was on the counterintuitive notion that selling more beer inside a sports stadium decreases problems from alcohol misuse.
The common assumption we make is that the easier it is to buy alcohol inside the stadium, the more people will drink and the more problems that will occur. But that is ignoring the behavioral science.
First, we need to think about the alternative. What are people doing now? They hang out in the parking lot before the game and drink. Because this is alcohol that is purchased earlier, there is less of a cost-consciousness limiting the volume imbibed. Also, because of the perceived time pressure, fans were chugging rather than drinking – making it more likely that they would drink a greater volume than they planned. Then they might also sneak some alcohol into the game (or sneak back to the parking lot during halftime) to drink more. Again, the cost and time pressures lead to greater volumes.