I read an interesting piece recently by Matt Might looking at artificial scarcities and the cost related to duplicating items vs. carting them back and forth from, say, home and work. Here is how Might defines an artificial scarcity…
An artificial scarcity arises when the cost of duplication is less than the lifetime opportunity cost of traveling with or to a good.
Several examples Might gives include: keeping an umbrella in each car, a screwdriver on each floor of the house, a tube of Chapstick in each room, etc. But these are all inexpensive items. But what about items of non-trivial cost?
What is the cost of packing up a laptop power adapter and carrying it with you versus the cost of having an extra adapter at the office?
For example, the cost of traveling with the adapter combines the mental burden of remembering to take the adapter with the opportunity cost of time spent packing and unpacking and the space lost in your bag.
Suppose you spend a minute each day packing and unpacking the adapter. Within a year, you’ve lost about six hours to just packing and unpacking your adapter.
In an interview on The Setup, Might elaborates:
You will find 85 Watt MagSafe laptop power adapters (sometime two) pre-installed everywhere we frequent in my house: the couch (x 2), the kitchen desk, the home office (x 2), the rocking chair and the bed. Another lives permanently in my travel bag.
This was pure validation for me because a few years ago, I bought a separate Apple laptop charger for my office, despite the pain the $80 caused my grad student budget. For me, it wasn’t the time spent packing and unpacking—it was simply the annoyance. My office power outlet is inconvenient to access, packing it up gets my hands dirty, and the charger is a non-trivial addition to the weight of my bag.
Now, I arrive in my office, yank out my MacBook Pro, and plug in the cable that’s waiting on my desk. When I’m ready to head out, I grab my laptop and I’m off.
Now I have some fancy words to justify this.