An “all-you-can-eat-for-seven weeks meal ticket,” Olive Garden’s 21,000 “Pasta Passes” went on sale yesterday for $100 at 2 pm.
At 2 pm and one second, they were sold out.
If you missed out, eBay remains an alternative. While buyers have non-transferable passes, Olive Garden is auctioning 21 extras. During yesterday afternoon, the bids ranged from $440 to $750.
Where are we going? To the extra pasta and a little known, fascinating economist.
Our Bottom Line: Marginal Analysis
More of us should remember economist Alfred Marshall (1842-1924). A professor at Bristol and Cambridge, he was the scholar who encouraged us to focus our analysis at the margin.
An imaginary border that takes us to something extra, the margin is where the economic action occurs. When government statisticians report employment data, they go straight to the margin with job creation. At work, many of us might find that a decision to do extra depends on whether we get an hourly wage or a salary.
Similarly, Olive Garden’s Pasta Pass changes how diners think at the margin. Having paid $100 for seven weeks of food, they think less about ordering an extra plateful. Meanwhile on the supply side, Olive Garden is surely considering where to constrain extra consumption. This year, for example, no takeout was in their FAQ.
There was though a never ending pasta eater who lost four pounds by thinking at the margin. Using his Pasta Pass for every meal, a North Carolina minister said he limited his extras by avoiding the breadsticks and eating, “… the spaghetti sauce and meatballs and maybe a fork of the pasta. It’s not like I’m eating three bowls of pasta every time I sit down at the Olive Garden.”
My sources and more: Always good for a snippet of information that has broader significance, the WSJ Overheard column alerted me to the Olive Garden promotion. I also recommend Motley Fool for analysis and CNBC for instantaneous data that included when Olive Garden sold out. Curious about consumption, at Salon I discovered the minister who exclusively ate at Olive Garden for the seven weeks. Please note that this post was slightly edited after publication.