Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sports Illustrated Offers an Intriguing Example of the value of New Goods: How Much Would You pay For this Device?

Last week the New York Times discussed sports economics focusing on a new book by 3 economists that creates a "value added" measure for ranking the quality of NBA ball players. Their study challenged the convetional wisdom that dudes such as Alan Iverson are superstars. I would like to build on this sports theme by pointing out a piece in the recent Sports Illustrated by Rick Reilly discussing the benefits of a new product that allows guys to go to a sports game and drink cheap beer and not miss the action when they need to go to the bathroom. Please read below.

All economists are interested in measuring the consumer surplus from new products. If someone could collect some data here using a contingent valuation study, this would be a nice contribution to sports economics!


Reilly from Sports Illustrated

Ice Cold Beer Comes Out Here?

I have a very personal question to ask. Do you mind drinking beverages dispensed from your fly?
No? Then do I have a product for you!
It's called The Beerbelly ($49.95). It's a beer-storage device worn under your shirt that holds 80 ounces, thus allowing you to approximate life as Larry the Cable Guy. Just hang The Beerbelly around your neck, test the miniature spigot at the bottom and off you go!
Think of all the other uses. Going to SkyBar, where beers are, like, $117? Strap on a Beerbelly! Long flight in coach? Nonstop beer! Porky's and Porky's II double feature? Don't miss a minute!
The makers recommend "sneaking the dispensing spout out your fly." Brilliant! Plus, who'll ask you to share?
I decided to try The Beerbelly last week, at Dodger Stadium. But two days before Operation Contrabeer, a very odd New York friend of mine said, "You ought to take a Stadium Pal with you."
"Get your own beer," I sneered.
"No, you Spam brain," he said. "A Stadium Pal lets you watch the entire game without having to get up to pee."
Sadly, he wasn't joking. The Stadium Pal ($29.95) was invented by a Cincinnati Bengals fan who hated missing part of the game for any reason. And my question was: What is a Bengals fan afraid that he'll miss? A punt?
The Stadium Pal is a (cough, cough) collection device that has a tube running down to a bag that's attached to your calf, with a little drainage valve at the bottom for ... later. In other words, another beer-storage device. On the Pal website, a woman complained that her husband liked it so much he used it while watching games on TV. "Men are lazy," she wrote. (You think?)
I had to have it. I know a bar with a Drink Free Till You Pee night.
I filled The Beerbelly with a six-pack ($7.95), inserted the cold pack (included), brought three friends along (I promised to pay for their tickets), swallowed hard and walked up to the Dodger Stadium gate. I looked lumpy and misshapen, like a guy trying to smuggle jeep parts. Or like John Daly. Trying to act nonchalant, I approached the security checkpoint.
Him (pointing to my hideous stomach): What's all this?
Me: What?
Him(more pointing): This.
Me (hurt): Dude, I just had surgery.
He looked me in the eyes. My heart stopped. Finally, he let me pass. Trembling, I walked to freedom. I felt like I was in The Sound of Music. A von Tap.
Up in section 23 I sat next to a guy drinking a plastic bottle of Bud. I asked him how much he paid. "Eight-fifty," he said, morosely.
Sucker.
I unzipped my fly, stuck a cup between my legs and poured myself a cold one. (Has that sentence ever been written before?) Then some for my friends. Admittedly, we had to get past the fact that we were drinking straight from a crotch, but you talk about savings! Inside the stadium I'd have paid $50 for six beers. With The Beerbelly -- $8. I saved $42! The Beerbelly nearly paid for itself the first time!
"Where's all this beer coming from?" the morose guy finally asked.
"Want to see?" I said, reaching for my zipper. (The woman he was with turned away in horror.) "Give me your empty."
As I filled it up, his eyes went like saucers. I offered him back his bottle. He looked at it like it was a Lance Armstrong sample. But when he felt the bottle was cold, he took a sip and grinned.
In a seat behind me, some guy said, "Can you pull a hot dog out of there?" Suddenly, I was the most popular guy in my row!
Until ... I showed them all the Stadium Pal.
They really didn't want to see the little drainage valve. In the eighth, Mr. Bud got up and cracked, "Excuse me. Not all of us have a Stadium Pal" -- and never returned.
Mr. Wiseacre behind me said, "Maybe he wasn't sure which spout you used to fill his bottle."
See, when people know you're Pal'd up, they constantly think you're peeing. The irony was, I couldn't go. You don't undo 46 years of training in two hours. I had to close my eyes and think of the Trevi Fountain. When my friends saw the relief on my face, they moved one seat farther away.
Coming up next from The Beerbelly's inventor -- The Wine Rack! It's worn by women as a bra.
You don't even want to know where the spouts are.

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