Behavioural Economics

Last week I boarded a flight from Mumbai’s CSI Airport. I witnessed an unusual incidence in that flight which triggered lots of thoughts in my mind about how and why people behave the way they do. This is a personal account of what I ‘felt’ and ‘experienced’ therefore this is open to interpretations and judgements. No quality control tests will be applied to the readers comments or reactions! 

When the captain of our flight (airline or flight details have no relevance here, hence not quoting) announced that the boarding was complete, a cabin crew member made another important announcement. She said, “We have found a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses near the boarding gate area. Please check if it belongs to you, if you were carrying one.” For a moment there was complete silence and nobody came forward to claim that pair of Ray-Ban. I was watching the reactions of people seated around me curiously. Nobody seemed to bother about those sunglasses as people got busy making themselves comfortable, pulling their seat belts, planning their food order, checking and counting luggage. As no one came forward, going by the usual policy, the cabin attendant decided to put that pair of sunglasses at an appropriate place in one of the storage boxes behind her. I just smiled thinking to myself, ‘Is that the right way to clear the ‘lost and found’ stuff by an airline company?’

Twenty minutes after the takeoff, the cabin crew began the sale of in-flight food and beverages. By the time they reached the row where I was seated, 40 minutes had passed from the time the announcement for Ray-Ban Wayfarer was made. When the crew members came closer to my row, a gentleman seated in the aisle seat diagonally opposite to me said, “Can you show me the pair of that Ray-Ban sunglasses?” I got glued to the scene. That member of the crew went back to the place where she had kept the pair, brought it before this person and said, “Sir, here it is”. He opened the case, took quick glance without taking the pair out of the case and said, “It’s mine only“. The lady handed over the pair to him with a big smile and said, “OK Sir.”. As she went past his row, he hurriedly pulled his backpack from the overhead bin located above his seat and tucked that case into the bag. This time the smile on my face was bigger and stayed there for a long time. 

I kept pondering for the remaining duration of that flight, ‘Did the pair really belonged to him? Why did he not respond for almost an hour even after carefully listening to the announcement (I had seen him keenly listening to the announcement)? Could there be a better way to identify the owner such lost goods by airline company? And finally, let’s assume that this person was not the true owner of the pair of sunglasses. In absence of a claimant was he given away the pair because it would save the airline’s cost and time in identifying the true owner?

Economic behaviour and misbehaviour is all around us. All we need to do is to stay awake!



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Author: anilkshatriyablog

I work as Assistant Professor in the area of Accounting at IMT Nagpur. I love teaching, writing and cycling. I follow a simple principle, 'Help ever, hurt never'.

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