Quick Hitters: Two New Ideas to Improve Italy’s Economy

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my economic knowledge with Italians everywhere–ranging from my ideas on collecting tickets from train passengers to collecting tickets from vaporetto passengers.  I’m sure the effects will be showing in the recent quarterly reports, right? Let me just do a quick search on Google and…

Ohhhhh, Jesus.

Should’ve listened to me, fellas.  Anyway, if America is a country founded on second chances, then Italy should, realistically, be founded on about a half-dozen of those things.  Without further ado, here are my two most effective ideas for getting the Italian economy into high gear, or at least, preventing it from being lapped a couple more times.

1. When you have a sale going on, you should advertise this outside

Really, just a basic theory of the firm concept, and by theory of the firm, I mean a concept that 5 year-olds running a lemonade stand grasp.  Today, I went to a local bookstore and picked out a book I needed, after looking at the sticker on the back that said 10E. When I went to the register, 10 euro note in hand, the lady behind the counter said “otto cinquanta.” Not entirely confident in my Italian comprehension, I stammered back, “Il prezzo? Otto cinquanta?” She replied, “Si, lo sconto” and pointed at the wall.  On the inside wall, facing the register–FACING THE REGISTERwas a tiny, uninteresting sign saying, in Italian, “15% Off All Products.”

Now, I would’ve bought this book anyway, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I could’ve gone through the entire store, searched around, grabbed a book, bought it, and left–without a single clue that a sale was going on.  Compare that to Amazon.com, which drowns the customer in deals and discounts, and you really wonder why bookstores are going out of business.

Although this may have been an isolated incident, but if I help just one Italian shop pull itself up by its bootstraps and relaunch its marketing campaign by turning a paper around, it’ll be worth it.  I know to you they might seem like riff-raff, but to most everyone else, those people are customers.

2. Prevent lost worker productivity by limiting the number of times you end a conversation with “Ciao”

One of the worst things about the March Madness aka the NCAA Basketball Championship (I know, it’s only November, but Duke’s kicking some ass right now, so I can’t help but dream…) is the people complaining about lost productivity from people following games at work, filling out brackets, et cetera.  (Even President Obama has fallen under this scrutiny for outlining his picks each year, despite the fact that he clearly doesn’t spend too much time considering it as he always picks UNC.)  Besides the fact that this “distraction” a huge cultural event in America, it only consumes parts of 4 work days a year, and that the workers are only getting distracted from the other distractions they’d be consumed by if March Madness didn’t exist, it’s a pretty solid complaint.

So, let’s logically extend that argument to Italy.  One of the biggest “time-wasters” Italians engage in is saying “Ciao” repeatedly at the end of a conversation.  A typical end to a Italian conversation in Italy goes like this:

A: “Ciao, ragazzi!”

B + C: “Ci-ciao!”

A: “Ciao!…ciao!”

B+C: “Ciao.”

Plenty of lost productivity there.  If you say every conversation lasts 2 seconds longer than it should be, then that’s 2x total seconds lost, where x is the number of people in the conversation, and with y conversations occurring between chatty Italians every day,  then I conservatively estimate the daily value of 2xy–the total seconds lost in the country due to overuse of “Ciao”s–to be in the hundreds of millions. (Don’t worry, I hired Nate Silver to run the numbers.) That’s a lot of time that can be spent not working from 1:00-3:30 in the afternoon or spent calling your mothers.

Anyway, these tips ought to do the trick and fix Italy’s economy.  If not, I’ll keep my ear to the ground to find the latest Italian inefficiencies.  Keep your head up, fellas–your economy will be clicking in no time.  Rest assured–there certainly isn’t some greater, underlying mechanism at work here that’s causing your economic issues.  No way.

(UPDATE: Nate Silver now says there’s an 88.3% chance that Italy’s economic issues are caused by something larger than “Ciao” overuse.)


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