Insuring Nothing

Nope, not insured against kids
Nope, not insured against kids

Tyler Cowen mentioned something about product insurance at one part of his book, Discover Your Inner Economist. He says that one should not argue with his wife when she insist on buying product insurance even when you know that the results are economic analysis are at your favour. Presumably, there are some other cost-benefit analysis taking place, at the level where the cost of winning the argument greatly overwhelms the benefit (which of course is the cash saved on the product insurance). The Economist asked why people continue to buy them even when products are unlikely to fail, which means that these product insurances are immensely profitable for the electronics retail sector. The researchers who examined purchase data from a big electronics retailer for over 600 households from November 2003 to October 2004 concluded that the purchases were linked to the shopper’s mood. Of course, a less-than-rational wife might be the explanation, but even the wife has a sound explanation for that:

[…] the emotional tranquillity that comes with buying a new warranty is not in itself without value, even if “rationally, it doesn’t make sense”.

But I find an ingredient missing in this story; the researchers probably falsely assume that all the shoppers have got the same level of perceptiveness. And I believe perception have all to do with the purchase of product insurance. Think about it, when was the last time you had a product which failed and the warranty period was just over and you blame yourself for not buying additional coverage? But how about the last time when you did buy the product insurance and it didn’t fail at all within the span of its usage, not once? Just like the belief that we’re unlucky enough to always join the slowest queue in the supermarket; our erroneous perception of the frequency we get unlucky can make us more frustrated with a product insurance unextended than a product which didn’t fail after we bought the coverage despite the fact that they probably inflicts the same cost on you. Obviously it actually hurts you more when you think back and regret not extending coverage; you probably won’t even think back on how stupid you were to buy product insurance for a reliable product since you’re using it happily.

This creates a bias for purchasing product insurance. Our faulty perception supplements our faulty memory in suggesting that buying product insurance would be the wise choice, going by the seemingly sound argument of ‘if the product fails, I’m protected; and even if it doesn’t, I get a peace of mind plus the retailers deserve the reward if they recommended me the durable kind of good’. You could very well have realised that if the product was that durable the manufacturer would already have taken a cut for that on the retail price and that if the product ran a high chance of failure the retailer wouldn’t even offer you the product insurance in the first place. And if your wife has anything to say about that, it’ll probably be “Must you be that calculative?”

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