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A Healthy Dose of Rationality

Oscar Foulkes October 3, 2011 Uncategorized 1 comment

We humans are not nearly as rational as economists would have us believe. Or, to borrow from behavioural economist Dan Ariely, we are irrational, but in a predictable way.

The shopping centre closest to my home, Gardens Centre, has an excellent tenant mix, and is well supported. For as long as I can remember it has had a health shop, which sells (OK, sold) a wide range of homoeopathic remedies, as well as the dietary substitutes necessary for the thousands of people who these days seem to harbour all kinds of intolerances. Visit us here sideeffects

From a rational, strategy perspective, it seems like a business model tailor-made for modern trends in eating, organics and holistic health.

However, much to everyone’s surprise, the health shop recently closed. Now, there may be a wide range of reasons why the owner of such a business would close it, but I’m guessing that a surfeit of sales would not be a reason for shutting the doors.

At the other end of the centre is a German meat deli, which runs a queue for its bratwurst rolls at lunch time every day. It’s a business that appears to be in rude health, even if its patrons may at some point start suffering the effects of eating an excess of animal fat.

So, the health shop closes, but the artery clogger thrives.

The difference is this: the benefits of following the healthy living option may only be felt in years to come (assuming you haven’t been run over by a bus first). On the other hand, the satisfaction of tucking into a roll filled with pork belly or bratwurst – especially when you’re hungry – is felt immediately.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Yes, the macro-rationality says that a huge daily whack of animal fat is going to diminish either the length or quality of our lives, but we’re pleasure-seeking animals. For us, weird as it may seem, it’s rational to make the choice that delivers its benefits immediately. Even if that choice is harmful in the long term.

The same (ir)rationality applies to smoking, drug abuse and all our consumption choices that negatively impact on the environment.

1 comment

Heather - October 20, 2011

Ah, but Wellness Warehouse is moving into their space. It will be interesting to see whether their different formula is more compelling to the free flow of ZAR

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