We recently rediscovered Tim Harford’s Undercover Economist advice columns and thought it might make for some interesting reading to the new generation of economics students in the School.
Dear undercover economist,
I think I’m a likable person but I struggle to get dates. I’ve been told I give a bad first impression and just need to persuade women to get to know me a little better. Some friends are dragging me to speed-dating but I can’t see how a series of three minute conversations can be anything other than a disaster. How can I persuade the girls to give me a second chance?
James Atkinson, Clapham
Many people suffer from this problem – and not just people, but products too. Imagine a new manufacturer trying to persuade skeptical customers that a new DVD player is reliable. Nobody’s ever heard of the company name, and how do they know the DVD player isn’t going to break down after a few weeks?
The solution is for the company to offer money-back guarantees offering to replace the player or refund the customer’s money if the thing breaks within, say, three years. That gives the customer some insurance, but more importantly, it is an unmistakable signal of the manufacturer’s confidence in its product. People who make poor-quality merchandise can’t afford to promise to fix it.
You, too, need to offer a money-back guarantee.
Go to the speed-dating session with two tickets for a top West End show and give them to the girl you like. Tell her that you are sure she will like you if she gets to know you, and that you suggest that she uses the tickets to take you on your third date. That is a measure of your confidence that she will want a third date. If not, she is free to take someone else.
I think this should work. It will certainly ensure that for the lucky lady, you will give a first impression that lasts.
Yours speedily, The Undercover Economist
If you are interested in reading more Economics (“matching markets”) views on dating, have a look at: