Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"What Exactly Does 'Worth it' Mean?"

I shall not reveal the actual numbers because they are exposingly embarrassing, but I need an opening example and this one came readily to mind.

There’s this musical Hamilton, whose touring company is currently playing Los Angeles.  Hamilton, a fabulously successful theatrical enterprise, is unlikely triggering subject matter for a Broadway musical, even more unlikely as an incongruous “hip-hop” presentation, but go figure. 

Lesson Learned:  Anything is commercially possible.  And if someone tells you it’s not, say back, “What about Hamilton?  That should shut them up, big time.

So here’s the thing.  Like my friend’s Dad who once made him a dinner of potatoes and corn, explaining, “You like potatoes and you like corn; what could be bad?”, I like musicals and I like history.  A musical grounded in history?

What could be bad?

Besides, it got phenomenal reviews, and won numerous awards.  (In case the “potatoes and corn” example does not extend beyond “carbs.”) 

The only other person in our family who enjoys musicals is wonderful stepdaughter Rachel, although her preferences lean more towards the “song-and-dance” variety they stopped making in 1927.  (My One and Only, Crazy For You.)  But since Rachel thoroughly enjoyed In the Heights, which is also by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, she was unequivocally in.


Two tickets for Hamilton.

The question, based on its stratospheric ticket pricing, the question Rachel sensibly then asked me, as she was arranging procuring the tickets, was:

“How high are you willing to go?”

Assuming hypothetically – not hypothetically, mathematically – that you have the financial resources to afford tickets to Hamilton at any price, “How high are you willing to go?” comes down entirely to the issue of “Worth it.”

Staying with Hamilton, before I expand the conversation more generally – to include people who don’t care about Hamilton – I was aware that, seeing the show in New York, certain family members had paid an extremely high price – I am trying to exclude moral judgments, such as “an exorbitantly high price”, although “extremely high” is a(n arguably milder) judgment itself – because “extremely” is not “extremely” to everyone, though if I told you the number, you would imaginably leap to the declarative “Are you kidding me!?!”, making my “extremely” sound, by comparison, even-handedly “reportorial.”

Anyway, finishing the point of that meandering sentence in a sentence all its own, certain family members paid an amount of money for tickets to Hamilton that, from my personal perspective, I would comfortably categorize as “too much.”  Which is a variation of opining, “It’s not worth it.”

By a lot.  (Informed what they had done, I injudiciously remarked – and you can reliably count on me for “injudicious remarks” – “I wouldn’t pay that much for a ticket to a show if I was in it.”)  (Which, as a practical matter, is ridiculous.  If I was in it, buying a ticket to watch it would be a physical impossibility.  At any price.  That was simply my evocative way of saying, “Nothing, including a show with me in it is worth they paid for those tickets.  Which, by the way, nobody involved considered my humorous version of that funny.)  (And I was actually surprised about that.)  (But that’s me.)

After an extensive search, Rachel located two tickets for an upcoming afternoon Hamilton matinee.  Since I had already informed her how high I was willing to go, she tentatively reported that these tickets were substantially higher, albeit still a third less than those squandering family members had paid.

Momentarily ignoring my (entirely arbitrary) “Price Limit”, my follow-up question to her was,

“How good are the seats?”

Rachel’s enthusiastic response:

“They are Fourth Row, Center.”

My immediate counter-response:

Do it!”

And so we did. 

As of this writing, we have not yet seen Hamilton, so the retrospective consideration of, “What is worth it?” –  is unavailable for current evaluation.  Still… (I just sighed)… I don’t know…

How do you attach monetary value to a subjective experience?

“I just had my first Kobe Beef steak.”

“How much did it cost you?’”

“A hundred-and-forty dollars.  But it came with an assortment of vegetables.”

“Was it worth it?”

“No.  But at a hundred-and-eight dollars it would have been perfect.”

Logic Alert:  The preceding assertion makes no logical sense, because it is not grounded in logic.  On second thought, minus the application of logic, maybe it does.

Imagining it is actually possible, how exactly do you evaluate “worth it”?

Let’s look at the Hamilton example.  (The Kobe Beef example being too laughable to even consider.  You eat the steak and it’s gone forever.  Along with your hundred-and-forty bucks.  As this was a true-life experience, I actually mentioned this hilarious menu option to affluent dinner companions who, it turned out, had been seriously considering it.  Once again, my observation fell flat.  They had absolutely no idea why I was laughing.)   

Setting aside “I’ve got the money” – because if you don’t, you lack sufficient chips for this exercise – the “Is it worth it?” calculation in the Hamilton tickets example involved…

– How badly I wanted to see Hamilton, and how much I would regret it if I didn’t.

– The requisite ticket price for a spectacularly successful musical, playing here for a limited period, then it was off to San Diego.

– How much the quality of those “Fourth Row, Center” seats offset my previously established “Expenditure Ceiling”, an equation involving “The better the seats, the more malleable the “Price Limit.”

 How I react ideologically to “price gouging.”

 – How much even more these tickets would cost if we had gone through a professional ticket agent.

 – The relationship between the extremely high Hamilton ticket prices and my aggregate net worth.

– Comparative one-time luxury expenditures – I had once paid $750 dollars (times four) for a one-hour helicopter ride over a volcano on Maui.

– How sensitive I would be to others’ accusations that what I’d done was not “worth it.”

– And how much less the tickets cost than certain profligate family members had shelled out in New York.

I’m telling you, this is complicated stuff.

And the answer, I suppose, is ultimately personal in nature.

Expanding the exercise (as previously promised), think about this when you are facing your next purchase, be it a house, a pair of elegant dress shoes, or a higher-than-it-used-to-cost bag of Doritos.”

“It’s not worth it”?

Hold it.

What exactly are you talking about?


Wendy M. Grossman said...

For me the calculation comes down to: how much will I regret spending the money if I hate it and want to walk out after the first ten minutes?


YEKIMI said...

I'll just wait for it to show up on PBS. I'll only have to sit through a beg-a-thon for funding that will turn out to be longer than the play itself, but it will be free. [And if I record it, I can zip through the beg-a-thon parts.]

Pidge said...

Well, I hope it's worth it!
We, however, refused to pay $300 for two tickets to "Beautiful". And that's $300 Canadian...
Now we've apparently paid that to see "Come From Away" because some friends said they could get a great deal. I wasn't paying close attention. How good can it be?
The problem is that the actual money is worth so little these days. That how you know you're getting when Lew used to say how he could get a steak dinner for 25cents!

Mike T. said...

Here's an interesting coincidence for you (or at least for me): Today I found out Best of the West is available on DVD. And while reading the Amazon customer reviews, I came across this one:

"This is a price vs. value thing. At half the current price (currently $35) it is worth buying.... If Amazon doesn't drop this to the $15-$18 area, you won't be missing much by not buying it."

There you have it, Earl: Someone thinks Best of the West isn't worth what Amazon is charging for it.

But take heart: The remaining reviewers all raved about your show. "A brilliantly funny show," "One of the funniest shows of all times," and "Almost every line is hilarious" are among the encomia heaped upon it. To these people, at least, $35 is a small price to pay for such Pomerantzian brilliance.

Maybe their purchases--assuming you get any royalties from them--will help lessen the sting of those Hamilton tickets.