Question of the Day: Is Pot Smoke a Good Signal?

From a reader named Ben Doty:

Quick question that may benefit from an economist’s perspective, possibly relating to complimentary goods, signaling, expertise, and education:

If you walk into a surf shop and the stench of marijuana nearly knocks you over, does that make you more or less likely to purchase surfing lessons there?

What do you say, readers? I have never been in a surf shop myself; I have, however, been in the pro shop at various golf courses and I can tell you that I have never once smelled marijuana there.

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COMMENTS: 28


  1. Don Fagen says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  2. Roberta says:

    I dont think it makes a difference it smells like pot, if they smoke pot, or not. I think if they know the sport they will be able to give adequate lessons either way. Maybe even more focused lessons and you may get bonus time out of it.

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  3. Dan says:

    Marijuana does not make one a good surfer, nor bad surfer (or good/bad teacher for that matter). I would look for personal recommendations for lessons and rely on that rather than the smell of a surf shop. I think ultimately it would come down to the type of person you are and what you look for in a teacher. If you have a negative opinion of the drug, then it would probably be a good indicator that you would not want to buy lessons at a store (any store) that smelled like pot. This question just seems so ridiculous to me, perhaps I just don’t get it.

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    • Abhishek says:

      that’s why it’s freakonomics you know, ridiculous questions and ridiculous answers but eventually make sense

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  4. Phil says:

    I don’t see why it would have an effect on purchasing. But smoking it might help you learn better, that is if you already smoke marijuana.

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  5. Marcus says:

    Back in the days of my youthful indiscretions, it probably would encourage me to be more open and friendly with them. Now, it wouldn’t have any influence on whether to buy or not.

    Also, funny you mention pro shops – I work at one of the most prestigious country clubs in the United States, and while what you’re said is true, I have noticed that peculiar stench on our golf courses many, many times.

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  6. Alyssa says:

    The smell adds authenticity to the surf shop: if they smoke there, regardless that it’s a place of business, then they are the real deal as far as surfers go. Kind of like being able to see where the goods are made in a bakery so you know they are fresh and not shipped in.

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  7. Eric M. Jones says:

    I think pot is a good idea socially, but not in a place of business, driving, school, or wherever one is expected to pay attention and get a job done.

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    • Dan says:

      Years back when I smoked regularly, there were many cases where my focus was intensified because I was high. Granted there were times where my mind would drift, but I don’t think marijuana should be the blame, more so a person’s personality.

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  8. Kyle says:

    The reader who sent in this question wasn’t asking if smoking marijuana causes person to become a better surfer or teacher. If the amount of pot the average surfer smokes correlates with how often they surf, then a shop smelling of marijuana could signal that the surfers are more capable.

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  9. Jun Sorioso says:

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a study out there measuring pro surfers’ performance against pot intake. But I’d imagine moderate users would have better flow and heavy users would probably be dead.

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  10. Neal says:

    I think there is a higher probability that the lessons would be sub-par if I smelled pot upon entering, as compared to a clean, pot-free store. However, if there are very high reviews on Yelp that say otherwise, I would be indifferent to the smell of pot if the end result is a good lesson.

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  11. Ryan says:

    Smoking pot might help you surf better, but unlikely it will help you teach better. Learn to surf sober, then lighten up with a smoke when you have trouble blocking out distractions.

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  12. Robert says:

    Far less likely! I’d walk out!

    I want responsible instructors, not people who are high, drunk, or stayed out too late to stay awake. If I’m paying for lessons, value for my money dictates I want focus to be on me, not their current stake of intoxication.

    Being intoxicated is no way to run a business. If they’re going to be irresponsible with their own responsibilities, how will they be with my needs?

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  13. Steve C. says:

    I spent a summer working in the pro shop at a local muni, and smelled weed on everyone from fire fighters, to lawyers, to retirees my grandfather’s age. This usually occurred on multiple occasions a week, and often times it was in the early morning.

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  14. Paul in VA says:

    I think pot is a bit of a red herring here. Revise the question to say if when you entered the store there was a pile of empty vodka bottles on the counter. Do you want a lesson of any sort from someone who is drunk?

    EVERYBODY who Drinks, or smokes pot thinks that they handle it just fine. The same way everybody thinks they are an above average driver. The comment about “it makes me sharper” is just plain baloney, and people looking to justify their vices. Drunk driving statistics are clear that even a small / social amount of alcohol has a huge impact on driving ability. But everybody who drinks and gets home safe thinks that they handle alcohol better than others.

    If it smells like Pot, or booze, or whatever, I am outta there, and you should be too.

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    • Gary A Stephenson says:

      I’m an Alcoholic,been sober over 30 years.there is no comparison to MJ and drinking .I’m darned lucky to be alive.I totaled 10 car’s.never killed anyone,but could have killed dozens,or more!

      there are no black out’s with MJ….
      there are none of the effect’s Of Alcohol in a person who only smokes MJ.I’m not drunk now!nor am I high now.If I were drunk right now you would not be able to read these words,if I were slightly inebreated,there would be many spelling errors,and i would get upset and go have more to drink until I passed out or drove home totally smashed and probably wrecked another car killing a whole family!

      I don’t smoke and drive but if i did you would be 100% safer in front,behind or beside me,you would think I was an old man going the speed limit at 30mph and why don’t i move over,because your doing 35….give me a break ….five over the speed limit fits everyone.,i now drive less than that!
      75 on the freeways in Arizona and higher in some places in this wonderful country…..

      I learned great defensive driving when I worked for a major Company….it all goes out the window on the way home from a bar or to many drinks anywhere with yourself or anybody!

      lets test it side by side !Have all the police in any town watch and/or ride along,especially the ones who smoke mj or drink booze.I’ll go against any law enforement official anyware any time in a controlled police test .
      you furnish the now legal MJ and and bottles of Alcohol.

      hmmmm,sorta gets me riled up…sorry for my ranting.

      In a couple years I won’t remember this anyway…so lets do it soon!

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  15. Scott says:

    This question was only published because of the 1980s surfer stereotype.

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    • Gary A Stephenson says:

      oh and I golf,but I’m a real hacker…in GOLF !
      And it is smoked by people on the course…..

      and darned near every where else!
      wake up legalize and make fare rules,consise and to the point unlike Alcohol rules…one drink,x amount of ounces…gimme a break !

      to my friends who drink you know my feelings too and we are still friends.
      if not ,tough!

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  16. Mike M says:

    As a surfer I sort of take offense to the question. Surfers today are athletes. The ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals, the sports governing body) drug tests their athletes on the pro tour. This isn’t the 60′s or 70′s where the question wouldn’t have been so off base, but we have had enormous growth over the last 30 years in our sport.

    The greatest surfer of all time (and arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time) Kelly Slater with 11 world titles under his belt has is pretty anti-drugs and was a vocal supporter of drug testing in Surfing. Sure there are are some surfers who smoke weed, but the sport itself has worked very hard to shed this stereotype and you are just helping it continue. To answer your insulting question, no, I would not buy anything from a surf shop that smelled like weed.

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  17. Mike says:

    I’ve had a similar experience in Hawaii. Took a lesson from some kid who was a complete meathead. Was a small family operation and clearly only the matriarch had any interest in running a business. The kid sure knew how to surf but he sucked at teaching.
    I don’t care for weed but I also don’t care who smokes it. That said anyone who would allow their business to smell of it isn’t a place I would support.
    Finally Ben, what a lame assumption you’ve made here. Surfers today are doctors, lawyers, yoga instructors, students, finance-douches, and yes, Jeff Spicoli types.
    Maybe the better question is; if you enjoy weed, would you be more inclined to take a lesson from a fellow smoker?

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  18. Larry says:

    Shouldn’t the word be “complementary” rather than “complimentary”?

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    • Tracy says:

      I think you’re right, Larry.
      “Complimentary”: Free toke with lesson!
      ‘Complementary” = “goes with”, as in complementary colors. Pot by reputation (according to the original querent) “goes with” surfing. So an authentic surf shop should smell of it.

      Or, the smell of marijuana is meant to stupefy you into signing up. You’re buying under the influence. (That was my first impression of the question.)
      I think that those who do doobage are not as likely to show up for scheduled appointments. That, or they are taking it for chronic pain. Either way, you could do better elsewhere.

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  19. Yo UNcle says:

    No matter the the class of man and no matter his worth..each has their vice! You may smell marijuana/green in a small comer spot off the beach, cool type atmosphere! You can bet there is plenty of alcohol/booze to go around a good many times at your local golf club! And being that most clubs have affluent members…green and booze ain’t enough plus those are very loud! Catty #2 has candy/girl/buggahsuga/COCAINE/b!t~#!!! Open your eyes at self and respect those who do the same! RESPECT! #highwheniwrotethisblaze1

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  20. Afrojive says:

    I would be worried if I didn’t smell pot at a surf shop.

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  21. oodood says:

    I asked my daughters (age 20,26). They immediately responded, “Yes.”

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  22. Steve Cebalt says:

    This seems to be a front for a retail drug dealing operation. The surf shop may give them some legitimacy with the IRS, but what they may really be selling is weed, with a little surfing gear and surfing lessons on the side to launder the drug money.

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  23. aledil says:

    I, for one, would not likely take surfing lessons, especially not if I were influenced by marijuana (directly, that is). But if I were to walk into a surf shop, and that surf shop had that dank comfortable aroma of the good stuff floating around, then I would certainly feel a gooooood vibe, thus probably positively influencing my decisions within said shop.

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