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    The Economics of Everyday Things

    Who decides which snacks are in your office’s vending machine? How much is a suburban elm tree worth, and to whom? How did Girl Scout Cookies become a billion-dollar business? In bite-sized episodes, journalist Zachary Crockett looks at quotidian things and finds amazing stories. Join the Freakonomics Radio Plus membership program for weekly member-only episodes of Freakonomics Radio. You’ll also get every show in our network without ads. To sign up, visit our show page on Apple Podcasts or go to freakonomics.com/plus.
    enFreakonomics Network60 Episodes

    Episodes (60)

    53. Food Trucks

    53. Food Trucks

    How did mobile kitchens become popular with hipster gourmands? And just how much money can a popular truck make from a lunch shift? Zachary Crocket drops some napkins.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Mariel-Leona Edwards, senior operations manager for Señor Sisig.
      • Matthew Geller, founding president of the National Food Truck Association and C.E.O. of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association.
      • Evan Kidera, C.E.O. and co-owner of Señor Sisig.

     

     

    52. Little League

    52. Little League

    Youth baseball — long a widely accessible American pastime — has become overrun by $10,000-per-year, for-profit travel leagues. Zachary Crockett peers inside the dugout.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Linda Flanagan, author.
      • Nick Mackenzie, future New York Yankees shortstop.
      • R.J. Mackenzie, physical education teacher and baseball dad.
      • John Miller, journalist and baseball coach.

     

     

    51. Wine Corks

    51. Wine Corks

    Why do we use a specific kind of tree-bark tissue to seal up 70 percent of wine bottles? Zachary Crockett takes a sniff and gives the waiter a nod.

     

     

    50. Self-Checkout

    50. Self-Checkout

    Grocery stores have turned shoppers into cashiers. Zachary Crockett runs two bags of chips and a Gatorade over the scanner.

     

     

     

    Carnival Games (Replay)

    Carnival Games (Replay)

    Does anyone ever win the giant teddy bear? Zachary Crockett steps right up.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Matthew Gryczan, retired journalist and engineer.
      • Elliot Simmons, former carnival game worker.
      • Olivia Turner, general manager of Redbone Products.

     

    49. Weather Forecasts

    49. Weather Forecasts

    With industries relying on them and profits to be made, weather forecasts are more precise and more popular than ever. But there are clouds on the horizon. Zachary Crockett grabs an umbrella.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Steve Adelman, head of Adelman Law Group, PLLC and vice president of the Event Safety Alliance.
      • Peter Neilley, director of weather forecasting sciences and technologies for The Weather Company.

     

     

    48. College Fraternities

    48. College Fraternities

    A fraternity’s budget includes broken windows, liability insurance, chili dog breakfasts, and the occasional $40,000 DJ. Zachary Crockett crashes the party.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Anthony Anderson, member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
      • Danielle Logan, owner of Fraternity Management.
      • Charlie O’Neill, member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
      • Stephen J. Schmidt, professor of economics at Union College.

     

     

    47. Bail Bonds

    47. Bail Bonds

    How does bail work — and who's really paying? Zachary Crockett follows the money.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Joshua Page, professor of sociology and law at the University of Minnesota.
      • Steven Zalewski, criminal defense attorney and co-owner of Affordable Bails New York.

     

     

    46. Car Colors

    46. Car Colors

    So many vehicles on the road today are white, black, or gray — but automotive designers find that consumer preferences may be changing lanes. Zachary Crockett surveys the lot.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Tom Crockett, classic car enthusiast.
      • Mark Gutjahr, global head of design at BASF.
      • Nikkie Riedel, carline planning manager at Subaru of America.

     

     

    • EXTRA:
      • "Car Washes," by The Economics of Everyday Things (2023).

    45. Storage Units

    45. Storage Units

    Americans love to buy new stuff and hate to get rid of old stuff, which is why storing it all has become a $45 billion business. Zachary Crockett cleans out the garage.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Zachary Dickens, executive vice president and chief investment officer of Extra Space Storage.
      • Anne Mari DeCoster, self-storage consultant.
      • Kara Kolodziej, self-storage unit tenant.

     

     

    44. Movie Sound Effects

    44. Movie Sound Effects

    The background noises you hear in film and TV — from footsteps to zombie guts — are produced in specialized studios by professionals known as Foley artists. Zachary Crockett makes some noise.

     

     

     

    43. Top-Level Domains

    43. Top-Level Domains

    Those letters at the end of web addresses can mean big bucks — and, for some small countries, a substantial part of the national budget. Zachary Crockett follows the links.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Vince Cate, technical contact for the .ai domain in Anguilla.
      • Kim Davies, Vice President of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority Services and President of Public Technical Identifiers at ICANN.
      • Tianyu Fang, contributing editor at Reboot.

     

    42. Cemeteries

    42. Cemeteries

    The verdant lawns promise everlasting rest — but what does it mean to sign a lease for all eternity? Zachary Crockett finds out where the bodies are buried.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Terry Arellano, co-founder and president of Cemetery Property Resales, Inc.
      • Jeff Lindeman, C.E.O. and General Manager of Mountain View Cemetery.
      • Tanya Marsh, professor of law at Wake Forest University.
      • Maureen Walton, founder and president of The Cemetery Exchange.

     

     

    41. Pet Movers

    41. Pet Movers

    Relocating halfway across the world is hard enough for humans. For pets it can require a specialist. Zachary Crockett waits at the airport, holding a sign saying "Fluffy."

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Amelia Barklow, owner of two pet ducks, Wobbles and Bean.
      • Mike Gays, managing director of Global Pet Relocation.
      • Gemma Tappin, pet relocation consultant team leader at Global Pet Relocation.

     

     

    40. Prosthetic Limbs

    40. Prosthetic Limbs

    More and more Americans rely on prostheses. They’re custom-fitted, highly personal, and extremely expensive. Zachary Crockett investigates.

     

     

    39. Houseplants

    39. Houseplants

    Interest in houseplants has exploded in recent years. But what causes floral trends, and prices, to grow? Zachary Crockett sows a few seeds.

     

     

    Bowling Alleys (Replay)

    Bowling Alleys (Replay)

    Once America’s favorite recreational activity, bowling has been in the gutter for decades. But some surviving alleys are resetting the pins. Zachary Crockett laces up.

     

    • SOURCES:
      • Mike Leong, owner of Bel Mateo Bowl.
      • Devon Stewart, head coach of Florida State University bowling team, C.E.O. of Bowl Connect, and consultant with the Hansell Group.

     

     

    38. Junk Mail

    38. Junk Mail

    Why does the mailman bring us so many catalogs, credit card offers, and pizza coupons? Because his job depends on it. Zachary Crockett checks the mailbox.

     

     

     

    37. Personal Injury Lawyers

    37. Personal Injury Lawyers

    If you can make it through three years of law school, you too might end up on a billboard.  Zachary Crockett makes the case.

     

     

    36. ATMs

    36. ATMs

    Why do you have to pay $4 to get $40 cash at a bar? And who does it go to? Zachary Crockett checks his balance.

     

     

     

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