Waiting for Free Cheeseburgers: Worth the Opportunity Cost?
There’s a long line of students snaking around the courtyard near my office. They’re queuing up to get a “free” cheeseburger, courtesy of Dave’s Hot and Juicy Tour of America, a Wendy’s promotion. A student near the current end of the line will spend 15 minutes in the sun to get the burger. A Wendy’s cheeseburger usually costs $2.99. I certainly wouldn’t be out there, even if I liked cheeseburgers.
If the student’s opportunity cost of time exceeds $12/hour, waiting for the freebie is a bad decision. But since there’s some evidence that people value time outside of work at 1/3 their wage, and since it is unlikely that many students’ hourly wage rates exceed $36/hour, standing out there is sensible on narrow economic grounds for nearly all students. But: This doesn’t factor in the likelihood of heat stroke—it’s 101º in the shade!