Musing About Shoeshines, and the Free-Market Question of the Week
One of our two terrific interns, Calvin, and I had a great talk on the way back to the office from City Hall today. (We were there to distribute copies of our recent studies to the Board of Aldermen, the mayor, etc., but that does not relate to this post.) Calvin and I share very similar beliefs about questions like social capital and interaction, best described in the famous book Bowling Alone.
Somehow, the talk turned to shoeshines, and we began to think of the many great things about getting a shoeshine. When you get your shoes shined at a place like Andre’s in Clayton, you: A) improve the value of an asset, in that your shoes will look more professional and better handle wear and tear; and, B) have a very pleasant time in the process, because shoeshine proprietors tend to be good conversationalists, like bartenders, or perhaps you’d just quietly enjoy the newspaper; and, finally, C) get both of these things for what we all consider to be a very inexpensive price — about $7.
So, I ask you, before I leave to go get a shoeshine, what are some other things that have these three qualities? There are lots of serves with which you spend a little money to improve the value of something you own, but it is usually not fun to go to the dry cleaners. There are countless ways to have a pleasant experience for a little money, like going to a nice bar, but they generally don’t improve the value of anything. Lastly, there are clearly things that improve the value of an asset, and are fun, but are not considered inexpensive — like golf lessons.
My initial inclination is that a car wash is the closest thing to a shoeshine. For people who enjoy yard work, gardening might fit here, too. A small investment in seeds and hand tools can lead to hours of enjoyment in your yard, improving the value of your property. Haircuts could almost make it — but for women, at least, a trip to the stylist is not cheap. Let me know your thoughts. …