I know the “why do hot dogs come in packs of ten and buns in packs of eight” question is beloved of boring observational comedians everywhere, and has become a cliched example of people who don’t have anything more interesting to talk about.
But from an economic perspective, why do hot dogs come in packs of ten and buns in packs of eight? Last weekend I spent about ten minutes laboriously looking through all the hot dog buns trying to find one in a pack of ten so it would match my hot dogs. I finally gave up and bought one of the twenty or so different packs-of-eight. If there had been a ten-pack, I would have bought it instantly.
This sort of equilibrium shouldn’t be able to last ten seconds in a free market. It should literally have taken ten seconds from the moment the hot dog bun company executive noticed all the other companies sold their buns in an inconvenient number to the time she decided to make her company’s product stand out by offering what consumers are looking for.
I know it seems trivial. But then we posit theories like “Companies will react to consumers’ desire for safe goods by monitoring their own safety standards” or “Businesses can’t remain sexist over the long term, because refusing to hire competent women who are otherwise neglected would be like leaving a hundred dollar bill on the ground”.
And both of those arguments sound like they should work, unless of course for some mysterious reason entire industries can just completely fail to respond to incentives for indefinite periods of time based on some stupid reason like tradition. Right now the hot dog situation seems like an especially good example of evidence in favor of this possibility.