Levi’s Price Discrimination

So I’ve never managed to buy jeans on discount. Let me explain. Unlike most other people (if you go by what the store assistants tell you), I don’t like to wear faded jeans. It is perhaps an inherited hangover since my father used to consider jeans to be inherently dirty and would make me discard jeans as soon as they faded a little bit. It could also be more practical – since I sometimes like to wear jeans to official meetings, I want to wear jeans that look neat.

Now I’ve managed to drive my wife crazy with my shopping (and we’ve known each other for barely four years, shopped together for three maybe). She thinks I’m way too fussy about clothes, and can’t make up my mind easily. I’ve explained earlier on this blog why I take a long time over shoes (my sandals are now wearing out, so I’m getting ready for another ordeal). But the more fundamental differences that my wife and I have is with respect to jeans.

The problem is that we fundamentally disagree on what purpose jeans serve. I have traditionally looked at jeans as comfort wear. Trousers I’m absolutely comfortable in (I sometimes even sleep in my jeans), which I don’t need to wash too frequently, and which can be worn even after they get torn in non-strategic places. I’ve always bought “comfort fit” jeans, and after I graduated to branded jeans towards the end of my teens, my staple had been the comfort-fit Lee Chicago.

The problem is that my wife thinks of jeans as fashion-wear – things you need to necessarily look good in. Some of the jeans she owns are so skinny that sometimes she takes a really long time to change. She looks great in them, no doubt, but the problem is that she expects that I too wear such jeans. And so after some ten years, I have given up my loyalty towards Lee Chicago, and instead have to try out various skinny fits (as things stand now, I own only one pair of Lee Chicago, bought in 2009).

Ok all this is besides the point of this post (and the point of another post which I never wrote). Coming back to the point of this post, the deal is that nowadays I find it extremely hard to shop for jeans. Of course it doesn’t help that I don’t live in Kathriguppe (with its dozens of factory outlets) any more, and that in my part of town (Malleswaram-Rajajinagar) the only place you can find decent branded clothes is in malls, which are a pain. The bigger problem, though, is that it is very hard to find stores that stock my kind of jeans.

In the last couple of years, our strategy for shopping clothes has been to visit a multi-brand outlet in one of the two malls near our place, so that we have a wide variety of choice. Except that I have no choice. Because stores such as Lifestyle or Shopper’s Stop or Westside (which now mostly stocks private labels) or Central don’t stock my kind of jeans. At all. If you happen to locate a store clerk and ask him for “mid blue straight cut non-faded jeans” he will look at you as if you have just landed from another planet. He can be excused for giving you those looks, for his store simply doesn’t stock non-faded jeans, because of which he has never sold them!

So I happened to be on Brigade road over the weekend, and I had a small gap of about half an hour between two meetings, and thought I should visit the Levi’s flagship store there. I must mention that the salespeople there were definitely significantly more polite than I’ve ever seen at a multi=brand store. However, as soon as I repeated my mantra (mid blue straight cut non-faded jeans), the first thing the salesperson who approached me told me ¬†was “oh Sir, but there’s not discount on that!”.

It’s clever price discrimination by Levi’s, to not sell non-faded jeans on discount. For they know that people who buy non-faded jeans tend to be older (hey I’m only thirty), or will be buying them for office wear, and they are less price elastic than the typical college kid who buys faded stuff. So while the college kid needs discounts to be attracted during the “discount season”, the “formal jeans” buyer needs no such attractions, and will pay full price for his stuff.

It is interesting to note, however, that companies that make formal clothes (not Levi’s) also offer massive discounts during the “discount seassons” (one of which is on now). That, though, can be explained by the fact that most people need a few sets of formal clothes (even those that normally wear faded jeans), and discounts are necessary to attract customers.

Now I’m beginning to think that the market for “formal jeans” in India is extremely niche, and if I”m acting above my age because I prefer such jeans. I half-expect my wife to call me an “uncle” be cause of this.

Niche

I always thought it is a good thing to do something niche – like having a set of skills/capabilities which few other people have. However, the problem with that, I have come to believe, is that it can be too niche. In which case, you tend to suffer from lack of liquidity in the market.

Lack of liquidity can mean one of two things – it can be good in a way that it ensures wide spreads, so you get to charge much more than the “fair mid price”. On the other hand (maybe in very extreme cases) it can also mean that there is no deal, and you don’t even make the fair price, leave alone a spread.

I think creating liquidity in the market that you want to place your product in is an art.

Bangalore Book Festival

So today I made my way to Gayatri Vihar in the Palace Grounds to visit the Bangalore Book Festival, on its last day. It was interesting, though a bit crowded (what would you expect on the last day of an exhibition? and that too, when it’s a Sunday?). I didn’t buy much (just picked up two books) given the massive unread pile that lies at home. However, there was much scope for pertinent observations. Like I always do when I have a large number of unrelated pertinent observations, I’ll write this in bullet point form.

  • There were some 200 stalls. Actually, there might have been more. I didn’t keep count, despite the stalls having been numbered. Yeah, you can say that I wasn’t very observant.
  • All the major bookshops in Bangalore barring the multicity ones had set up shop there. I don’t really know what they were doing there. Or were they just trying to capture the market that only buys in fairs? Or did they set up stall there just to advertise themselves?
  • It seems like a lot of shops were trying to use the fair to get rid of inventory they wanted to discard. All they had to do was to stack all of this on one table and put a common price tag (say Rs. 50) on every book in that collection, and it was enough to draw insane crowds
  • One interesting stall at the fair had been set up by pothi.com an online self-publishing company. I’ll probably check them out sometime next year when I might want to publish a blook. Seems like an interesting business model they’ve got. Print on demand!
  • I also met the flipkart.com guys at the fair. Once again, they were there for advertising themselves. Need to check them out sometime. Given the kind of books I buy, I think online is the best place to get long tail stuff.
  • There was an incredibly large number of islamic publishing houses at the fair! And have you guys seen the “want qur an? call 98xxxxxxxx for free copy” hoardings all over the city? Wonder why the Bajrang Dal doesn’t target those
  • There was large vernacular presence at the fair. I remember reading in the papers that there was a quota for Kannada publishers, but there was reasonable presence for other languages also, like Gult, Tam, Mellu, Hindi
  • A large number of stalls were ideology driven. Publishing houses attached to cults had set up stalls, probably to further the cause of their own cult. So there was an ISKCON stall, a Ramakrishna Mutt stall, a Ramana Maharshi stall, etc.
  • Attendance at most of these niche stalls was quite thin, as people mostly crowded the stalls being run by bookstores in order to hunt for bargains. Attendance was also mostly thin at publisher-run stalls, making me wonder why most of these people had bothered to come to the fair at all.
  • I saw one awesomely funny banner at the place. It was by “Dr Partha Bagchi, the world leader in stammering for last 20 years” or some such thing. Was too lazy to pull out my phone and click pic. But it was a masterpiece of a banner
  • Another interesting ideological publisher there was “Leftword books”. Their two sales reps were in kurtas and carrying jholas (ok I made the latter part up). And they were sellling all sorts of left-wing books. Wonder who funds them! And they were also selling posters of Che for 10 bucks each
  • I wonder what impact this fair will have on bookstores in Bangalore in the next few days. Or probably it was mostly the non-regular book buyers who did business at the fair and so the regulars will be back at their favourite shops tomorrow.

I bought two books. Vedam Jaishankar’s Casting A Spell: A history of Karnataka cricket (I got it at Rs. 200, as opposed to a list price of Rs 500) and Ravi Vasudevan’s “Making Meaning in Indian Cinema”.

The Theory of Consistent Fuckability and Ladders for Men

Ok so the popular Ladder Theory states that men have only one ladder. It states that all men want to sleep with all women, and they simply rank every woman on the scale of how badly they want to sleep with her or whatever. Women, on the other hand, have two ladders – the “good” ladder, and the “friends” ladder, which allows them to get close to men without harbouring any romantic/sexual thoughts. Since men are incapable of exhibiting such behaviour, you get the concept of Gay Best Friend.

However, this absence of dual ladders for men exists only if you look at the short term. If you are a man and you are looking for a long-term relationship with genetic propagation as a part of your plans, I argue that the female twin ladders can be suitably modified in order to separate out “friends” from potential “bladees”. In order to aid this, I present the Theory of Consistent Fuckability.

From the ladder theory, we know that every man wants to sleep with every woman. For a fruitful, long-term, gene-propagating relationship, however, this is just a necessary but not sufficient condition. As I had argued in another post, given that divorce is usually messy, the biggest cost in getting married to someone is the opportunity cost of getting into long-term relationships with the rest of the population. And if you are involved in gene-propagation, it is ideal if neither of the propagators cheats on the partner – from the point of view of the child’s upbringging and all such jazz.

So if you are a man and you want to marry someone, you must be reasonably sure that you want to sleep with her on a consistent basis. You should be willing to do her every day. If not, there is a good chance that you might want to cheat on her at a later date, which is not ideal from your genes’ point of view.

A small digresssion here. You might ask what might happen to “ugly” women (basically women considered unattractive by a large section of men). However, the argument is that the market helps you find your niche. For example, if you want to cheat on a woman, there must be other women who are superior (on your scale) to this woman who want you to do them. Assuming that I am extremely unattractive and the fact that not too many “attractive” women will want to do me, I should be able to set my “consistent fuckability standard” appropriately.

Returning to the point, when you are evaluating a woman for MARRIAGE (note it doens’t apply to shorter term non-gene-propagating relationships), you will need to decide if you will want to have sex with her on a consistent basis. And based on the answer to this question, you can define the universe of all women into two – those that you want to do consistently and those that don’t. And they form your two ladders.

Now, reasonably independent (maybe there’s a positive low correlation on one of the ladders) of this consistent fuckability factor, you can evaluate the women on other factors such as emotional compatibility, strengths, weaknesses, culture fit and all that jazz. And rank them on those. And then use this distinction on the consistency factor and you will have your two ladders. So you have the “friends” ladder – which is differnet from the friends’ ladders of women in the sense that you want to sleep with them but not on a consistent basis. And there is the “good” ladder of those who you want to do consistently.

To summarize, consistent fuckability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a fruitful, multiplicative, gene-propagating long-term relationship; and because of this, under certain circumstances, men also develop a pair of ladders.

Currently listening to: When I’m Sixty Four, The Beatles