Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Capital-Labour Substitution:
Fortune Cookies and Lottery Numbers

A recent Powerball Lottery had 110 second-place winners -- about 105 more than organizers expected. It soon emerged that the winners had used numbers they received in a fortune cookie. [NYTimes, registration required]

"Our first winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie," said Rebecca Paul, chief executive of the Tennessee Lottery. "The second winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie. The third winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie."

Investigators visited dozens of Chinese restaurants, takeouts and buffets. Then they called fortune cookie distributors and learned that many different brands of fortune cookies come from the same Long Island City factory, which is owned by Wonton Food and churns out four million a day.

"That's ours," said Derrick Wong, of Wonton Food, when shown a picture of a winner's cookie slip. "That's very nice, 110 people won the lottery from the numbers."

The same number combinations go out in thousands of cookies a day. The workers put numbers in a bowl and pick them. "We are not going to do the bowl anymore; we are going to have a computer," Mr. Wong said. "It's more efficient."

Unfortunately, the article does not explain what Mr. Wong meant when he said, "It's more efficient." Did drawing the numbers require too much costly labour time compared with using a computer to add the numbers to the fortune cookies?

For more on lotteries, see this from Ted Frank.

On a related question, I wonder whether there has been an impact on the demand for fortune cookies since this story broke.
Who Links Here