Wrestling with Convenience

I believe in convenience. There is no question about it! I don't have time to waste and I believe that the human race has come so far that we should be streamlining away from every hassle and nuisance. But, I also love economics and I am fascinated by utility maximization and how we measure utility for common goods.

Now, how do I apply that to the store?

Here is a simple (well, actually quite complex) example. We are opening a convenience store. (Yeah!!!) People go to convenience stores everyday and pick up a bottled soda (or a water, or tea or whatever). These drinks have a very high utility to the customer. So much so that they are extremely profitable for the store. I would be crazy not to have them, right? Good for me, good for the customer, no brainer!

Oh, but wait! Not good for the environment, not good for the customer's long term health. See, I loathe plastic soda bottles!

First, they are horrible for the environment. Even if the bottles were recycled by everyone (which they aren't), what about the caps (which definitely aren't)? And even if the bottles were recycled and made into something else, it would be a final destination product (not another bottle, but carpet or a plastic toy) that, inevitably, would end in the dump. Who is that good for?

Then, plastics are horrible for our health. The bottles are made out of chemicals (PET) and hormones (biphenyl-A) that leach out into the beverage and are now being linked to all sorts of cancers. I don't plan to sell cigarettes, so why would I sell carcinogenic bottles?

But would you come to a "convenience store" without beverages? No, of course not. Will you come to a convenience store that only sells fountain beverages in paper cups or that only offers glass and aluminum can sodas? (Recycled glass and aluminum containers take approximately 5% of the energy of creating new and can be recycled over and over). This is a gamble but I am thinking it is one that truly maximizes social utility. I hope Chestnut Hill agrees!