Monday Check-in

And how were your weekends?

Friday Estimate

What are your estimations?

The Story Behind Costco’s Free Samples

When I was a kid, my father would devise a cheap lunch that consisted of taking me to Costco to snack on some free samples, and then we’d split the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo in the food court (it’s still $1.50 today—an amazing deal after taking inflation into account). This was done more out of necessity than frugality, though I was unaware of it at the time. I was more fixated on that fact that stores gave all those samples away for free.

The Atlantic writes that this is a tactic that actually boosts sales, builds loyalty, and occasionally gets people to buy things they wouldn’t have picked up at the store in the first place:

Ariely adds that free samples can make forgotten cravings become more salient. “What samples do is they give you a particular desire for something,” he says. “If I gave you a tiny bit of chocolate, all of a sudden it would remind you about the exact taste of chocolate and would increase your craving.”

But maybe the most interesting part of this story has less to do with the premise of the Atlantic article, which is to examine the psychology behind free samples; it’s about the labor behind free samples and you’d miss it if you didn’t read until the very end:

The Widespread Popularity of HGTV

Sometimes, at a dinner party, or at another kind of event where you are meeting friends of friends and engaging in small talk, you’ll start off by talking about what you do, and then where you live, and how crazy the real estate market is around here and how that’s reflected on shows like Selling New York, and then you suddenly realize that the acquaintance in front of you has also watched HGTV on more than one occasion, and have they seen Love It or List It or Property Brothers?

I don’t have cable, nor own a television for that matter, and yet somehow, I’m aware of all of this. I’ll be traveling for work somewhere and will find myself in my hotel room watching someone put up a subway tile backsplash in their kitchen.

Why do so many people watch HGTV? According to Pacific Standard’s Phillip Maciak, HGTV is “so watchable because it features attainably realistic ritual re-enactments of the American Dream every half-hour.”

Let’s Throw Some Money at Our Problems: September 2014 Check-in

It’s time to check in on our debt payments and savings goals again. If you’re joining us for the first time, you can read about our decision to publicly keep track of our debt here.

Reconsidering a Living Situation

I mulled over the fact that I had just dropped off a rent check for an apartment in Manhattan that I hadn’t even lived in for half of the month.

The Only Thing You Need to Read on National Coffee Day Is This ‘History of the Latte Factor’ by Helaine Olen

[View the story "Helaine Olen on 'The History of the Latte Factor'" on Storify]

Monday Check-in

And how were your weekends?

Friday Estimate

Good morning! It’s Friday—let’s do some estimations.

The Economics of Reclining Seats During Flights

During my flight home, the passenger in front of me turned around and mumbled something, and when I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you,” the passenger across the aisle from her said: “She asked you if it would be okay for her to recline her seat.”

Life and Health at 75

Ezekiel Emanuel, the director at the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has a provocative piece in The Atlantic this month called “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”