Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wines by the glass? I’ll send it back

I was reading my international headlines, and found an interesting article in the Globe and Mail, a Canadian Paper. The article, Wines by the glass? I’ll pass, caught my eye; well, because it is about wine! It addresses the quintessential issue of ordering just a glass of wine: Who knows when the bottle was corked?

If the bottle was opened an hour ago, you are in the clear. If it was opened the night before, then you run the risk of drinking a nice glass of vinegar. A quote by the author, Beppi Crosariol:

“The risk to unsuspecting drinkers is especially acute early in the evening, when half-empty bottles from the previous day's service are circulated for a second go-round, just like Saturday's unsold salmon repurposed as Monday's fish cakes (and shrewdly accompanied by a strong tartar sauce to mask any odours). Who, after all, is going to complain?”


As an economist, I will most definitely complain! I have many times done one of two things: (1) asked for a taster of the wine (they never say no, by the way), or (2) sent a bad glass of wine back to the bartender and asked for a fresher glass (again, they never say no). It’s all about marginal cost and marginal benefit (the ultra economic terms put here in real-life circumstance).


What is the marginal benefit of drinking the glass of wine? Well, I am a white wine drinker, so it is a combination of two things. A well-infused sugar mecca, plus the barbiturate feeling only alcohol can instigate; the combination is superb - only if the glass of wine is a freshie.


What is the marginal cost of drinking the glass of wine? If you get a tasty glass of wine that exudes no characteristics of being old, then it is simply the price of the glass, let’s say $8/glass. If you don’t get that freshie taste, then the marginal cost rises.


The marginal cost of the non-freshie glass of wine = (a) price per glass + (b) the pain of drinking a bad glass of wine. Cost (b) is the opportunity cost, where the pain of drinking the bad wine is defined by how delicious the alternative wine (the sent back and improved glass) would be.

For me, the marginal benefit > marginal cost each and every time that I have encountered a “bad glass of wine,” and I always send it back. Don’t be afraid, people, Economics demands that you send back the glass!


Please leave your comments. Best, Nontruths

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