Ol’ Man Levitt: The Answer to the Freakonomics Quiz

Earlier this week I posed a quiz to blog readers: what happened twice to me in the last few days that had never once happened to me in the first 45 years of my life.

Well, it turns out that the answers readers posted turned out to be a pretty interesting data for analysis.  At the time that my researcher Sara Kuse crunched the numbers, there were 280 guesses (some commenters guessed more than once, and we counted all their guesses) that fell into roughly 110 different categories. 

The most commonly made guesses were getting robbed or mugged, making a hole in one, getting recognized/asked for an autograph, winning a prize, losing something like a wallet being in a car accident, and being stung by a bee.  Over 30 percent of all the guesses were one of those items.  None of those would qualify, however, because they’ve all happened to me at least once before.  Getting robbed and a hole in one were two great guesses – both have happened to me exactly once in my life. 

In fact, of the 280 guesses, 232 have already happened to me, and thus can’t be the right answer.  (I have seen both a bald eagle and a double rainbow, stepped in dog poop, been in a fist fight, and been approached by hookers, just to name a few).

The most frequently given answers that haven’t ever happened to me are getting stuck in an elevator (5 guesses), having my car towed (3 guesses), and being hit by lightning (3 guesses).  I’ve also never fainted, administered CPR, or had a politician take my advice.  Those last three are all great guesses.

I was beginning to think that the question was too hard and no one would get the right answer, when blog reader Molly finally nailed it, two or three days after the initial post went up.  Congratulations, Molly, you’ve earned some Freakonomics swag.

The correct answer: I was given the senior discount!

The first time it happened, I thought maybe it was a mistake.  I was at Boston Market, and the person ringing me up could not have been nicer and then without saying a thing about it, handed me a receipt with a 10 percent senior discount.  Who knows, maybe it was an accident.

The second time, it was no mistake.  I was at a golf driving range – one I go to a lot – and the guy handed me back a dollar more than the amount of change I always receive.  I told him he gave me one dollar too many, and he told me the senior rate was a dollar off the posted price.  I was so busy updating my priors on how old I have become that I didn’t even think to protest.

I must really be going downhill quickly because this week, after the quiz went up, I got the senior discount for the third time!  This time in front of my wife, who asked “Did he really just give you the senior discount?”

Why shouldn’t he, everyone else does.

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  1. brent says:

    I was close!

    “. . . you were assumed to be old enough for AARP.”

    And I answered a couple of hours into the contest . . .

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  2. maureen Greenbaum says:

    I don’t get it
    I checked you both out
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Levitt May 29, 1967 (age 45))
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_J._Dubner (August 26, 1963 (age 48) – interesting photo

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  3. SomeCallMeTim says:

    I go to a buffet (part of a national chain) somewhat frequently. I noticed that one cashier was giving me a senior discount – before my 50th birthday. Granted, I have a fair amount of grey in my beard and mustache, but just a scattering on the top of my head.

    The first time I didn’t notice it until I was at my table. The second time I noticed the discount as I was paying. If there is purgatory for cheapskates, I will go there courtesy of my third senior discount – there were two cashiers, and I intentionally got in the line with the discounting cashier.

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  4. SunnyvaleCA says:

    Well, look on the bright side: being mistaken for a senior citizen twice is probably a lot less painful than being struck by lightening twice!

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  5. Brian says:

    you’re working too hard.

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  6. Danielle says:

    I’ve received AARP mailings. I’m 26.

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  7. Griff says:

    If something about your haircut, level of sleep, lack of summer suntan etc makes you look older than you are today , then it probably will tomorrow too.

    I would not say that these events were independent of each other.

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  8. Kathy says:

    Either people are nuts for thinking you are 65, or you need to update your photo!

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