I was driving home from my brother’s last weekend when I stopped to fuel up on the edge of his small town. After washing the windshield, emptying out my wrappers and empty soda cans, and fillin’ ‘er up, I went inside to pay.
I handed the nice young lady my credit card. And while she was doing her thing, my three seconds of wait time was interrupted when I looked down:
Holy cow! When the heck did these get to be $20 and $30?
Thankfully, no one was waiting in line behind me, so I could ask a few questions:
“Do people buy these?”, I asked.
“Sure”, she said, and went on to say that one guy comes in and buys a few of the $30 ones once a week.
If you’re anything like me, you meet this testimony with mixed emotion. First, I’m not in the business of telling others what to do with their money. Yet I felt a disconnect with those who regularly buy scratch-offs as I looked down at all the tickets:
I looked back up. “Do people prefer some games over others?” In other words, does it matter to players if it’s “Dandy Dollars” $2 ticket or “Scratch-n-Score” $2 ticket?
She explained that people do care. They think some games have better odds than others. I also think people prefer some games over others just because of marketing–they like the packaging. I remember this when I was in high school and bought a few tickets simply because I turned 18. I remember choosing ones I found more interesting.
The cashier then told me that players also think that different serial-numbered tickets have a better chance of winning. The cashier can’t sell out of order, though, so customers go with the game whose particular ticket number is up to be bought next. She explained this buying behavior in good humor, knowing that it makes no difference what the serial number is.
But people have their theories and gambling really brings out the superstition. There’s an interesting psychology there where we deviate from logic and attend to some third party for an outcome–whether it be the serial number, a rabbit’s foot, or my father who always wore a lucky shirt when the Viking’s played. (Guess he wore it yesterday.)
Lottery tickets bring out the thinking that gets you to try to intuit the winning tickets. Maybe there’s something to “having a feeling” about that ticket or those numbers, but when we suspend logic to gamble, it almost always fails. But that doesn’t stop people from having and acting on that gambling-induced tunnel-vision. Maybe it’s people trying to figure something out–cracking the code. Maybe it’s addiction–chasing that next high, that thrill of winning or of even just scratching. Maybe it’s the need for us to escape reality and dream about winning the big one.
And I guess inflation (or tough times, or better times) warrants a $30 investment into a game designed to make you lose.
In a continuation of the mixed feelings about lottery tickets and gambling on Wednesday, we’ll see the benefit of providing a service that people desire, but the consequences of relying on people to gamble.
to new plateaus,