Bundles of Cables

Straw Bundle
Which color?

James Surowiecki from New Yorker talks about the effects of the recent Fox vs Time-Warner Cable affair on public perception. His focus was that the event reminds viewers that much of the money they pay are for stuff they don’t use or don’t want – the idea of bundling, allowing consumer surpluses in one product/good spill over to others which are bundled together with it. This allows less mainstream stuff to be sold to the mass market or introduced to consumers since without bundling their proceeds wouldn’t pay for the cost.

The complexity of the modern economy supports bundling; it helps people make some of their choices. Imagine if you’ve to assemble exactly which channels you want each month based on what is going to be screened on them; or to decide every single module running in your computer during installation (the Linux style); or to decide which brand of sugar, type of coffee beans, water and cup to use for takeaway coffee at breakfast. And James show how customers like them:

The appeal of bundling is partly that it reduces transaction costs: instead of having to figure out how much each part of a package is worth to you, you can make a blanket judgment. Bundling eliminates the problem of fretting about small expenditures, which may be one reason that flat-rate pricing is very common in the vacation industry (cruise ships, all-inclusive travel packages, and so on). It also offers what economists call option value: you may never watch those sixty other channels, but the fact that you could if you wanted to is worth something. Many consumers also perceive bundles as bargains; getting a bunch of things for one price feels like a deal, even when it’s not.

Of course, like what James mentioned at the end of the article, when components of the bundle start fighting over the cost of each of them or the proportion of their share over the entire bundle’s proceeds, it will raise the appeal of à la carte. Imagine when the addition of a Sashimi palette into the buffet table results in the waiter going around to collect extra money from the patrons still in the restaurant and able to enjoy the Sashimi. Those who don’t want the Sashimi and just entered the restaurant would opt for à la carte while those leaving would protest.


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