Alright, this is hilarious. Or pathetic. Or hilarious in a pathetic sort of way. Or something.
Last week in Boston, a water main broke, rendering tap water undrinkable (unless it was boiled). This inspired the journalism majors at Boston station WHDH to produce some highly emotional footage about two tragic side effects—side effects which, as far as it was possible to tell based on everything they teach in journalism school, were entirely unrelated.
First, we had the report on price gouging, featuring a woman weeping—-weeping!—-because her son had been charged $1 a bottle instead of the recent sale price of $3.99 for a case of 24. Then, we had the entirely separate report on frustrated consumers who had visited five stores and/or waited in long lines to buy bottled water. Apparently nobody at WHDH thought to ask how much longer those lines might have been if prices hadn’t risen.
Nor, apparently, have the folks at WHDH ever learned that the whole point of prices is that they adjust quickly to changes in market conditions, and that that’s a good thing. Even the convenience store owner who is a pure altruist and refuses to profit from a crisis would be well advised to raise the price of water and donate the proceeds to charity, rather than allowing all of the available water to be snatched up by whoever happens to arrive first or elbow everyone else out of the way.
In case you think I’m leaving something out, here’s the video footage from the two separate reports—one on prices and one on quantities. (Gee, if only there were some way to relate price to quantity! Maybe somebody could invent a graph with two axes….).
With a hat tip to my former student Noah Bennett: