Free Market Sunbed Selection
It occurred to me, while taking my vacation in Turkey, that the system for allocating the sunbeds around the swimming pool in my hotel/resort was pretty close to being a perfect functioning free market.
So, if you allow me the conceit of considering all those people who were guests in the resort as it’s “population” then what we had was a situation where there was equality of opportunity and where your reward correlated with the amount of effort you are prepared to put in. The limited resources were secured in a competitive market.
As in many other places, it worked like this – there were not enough sunbeds around the pool for the number of guests at the resort. So people rose early in the morning in order to put out towels on the beds they wanted to secure for the day.
If you rose late, say 10.30 AM, as we did on the first day because we had arrived in the small hours of the morning and were knackered – you were unlikely to be able to get any sunbed by the pool at all. This didn’t leave you bedless, though. You simply had to walk to the beach and spend the day on a sunbed there. Which was absolutely fine, but for the purposes of this market was very much the ‘last resort’.
In order to get a bed by the pool you had to rise at 8.30. At this time you’d be grabbing one of the last few available and it’d be in the least popular location. Rising at 7.30 would give you a choice of about half the available beds and probably some of the ones that were in popular positions. Rise at 6.30AM and you’ve joined the ranks of the really hungry sunbed entrepreneurs, prepared to battle your way through your hangover and your sunburn and your bleary eyes in order to get a good spot from a selection of about 90% of the available beds.
But if you got up at 5.30AM you had moved into the elite, those who were prepared to do battle for the best sunbed locations of all. What made those beds special? They were right next to the pool and close to notable amenities like the bar, the water slides, the toilets/showers, the pool Disco etc. These were the gold label locations as far as sunbed coordinates go.
I noticed that the numbers who were prepared to get up at those different times seemed – in the broadest possible sense – to be rather similar to the numbers that might participate in a similar free market situation in the “real world.” A tiny group rose at the crack of dawn to get the greatest prize at all. A slightly larger but still small group made the 6.30 run and were happy with their gains. By 7.30 there were quite a few hunter/gatherers competing for prey.
The largest group of all rose at the more sensible 8.30, were happy with whatever bed they could get and thought anybody who rose any earlier simply to get a sunbed twenty feet further to the North was a nutter. And a small but not insignificant minority rose late, failed to get what they wanted and then spent the day moaning about it to anybody who would listen.
There was even crime, of a sort. Some unscrupulous fellows would move towels and place their own – taking the prize that another had gained through effort while expending almost no effort of their own. I saw one family challenged after they had done this and was not surprised to hear them defend themselves aggressively, suggesting that “nobody should be able to reserve sunbeds anyway.”
Maybe nobody should be able to reserve sunbeds. I don’t know. But the market was there, it had rules, and the vast majority of people were happy to be bound by those rules. Because without rules what would we have? Water pistols at dawn, that’s what.