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The Economics of Everyday Things Profile

The Economics of Everyday Things

English, Finance, 1 season, 56 episodes, 14 hours, 59 minutes
Zachary Crockett uncovers the hidden side of the things that surround us. Who decides what snacks are in your office’s vending machine? How much is a 100-year-old elm tree on a suburban block worth — and to whom? And what makes Girl Scout Cookies a billion-dollar business?
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49. Weather Forecasts

With industries relying on them and profits to be made, weather forecasts are more precise and more popular than ever. But there are clouds on the horizon. Zachary Crockett grabs an umbrella. SOURCES:Steve Adelman, head of Adelman Law Group, PLLC and vice president of the Event Safety Alliance.Peter Neilley, director of weather forecasting sciences and technologies for The Weather Company. RESOURCES:"Traders Have Turned Betting on the Weather, a Technique Pioneered by Enron, Into a Booming $25 Billion Market," by Dylan Sloan (Fortune, 2024)."Why Your Weather Forecasts May Soon Become More Accurate," by Dan Stillman (The Washington Post, 2023)."The High-Tech Race to Improve Weather Forecasting," (The Economist, 2023)."Study: Climate Change Has Increased Atmospheric Instability Over Past 40 Years," by University at Albany (, 2023)."Beyoncé Concert In D.C. Suburb Highlights Complex Weather Challenges," by Marshall Shepherd (Forbes, 2023)."Forecast Process," by the U.S. National Weather Service. EXTRAS:"How Will We Handle the Heat?" by Freakonomics Radio (2022)."The Folly of Prediction," by Freakonomics Radio (2011).
5/20/202413 minutes, 46 seconds
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48. College Fraternities

A fraternity’s budget includes broken windows, liability insurance, chili dog breakfasts, and the occasional $40,000 DJ. Zachary Crockett crashes the party. SOURCES:Anthony Anderson, member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.Danielle Logan, owner of Fraternity Management.Charlie O’Neill, member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.Stephen J. Schmidt, professor of economics at Union College. RESOURCES:"If Student Deaths Won't Stop Fraternity Hazing, What Will?" by Ben Kesslen (NBC News, 2021)."Social Animal House: The Economic And Academic Consequences Of Fraternity Membership," by Jack Mara, Lewis Davis, and Stephen Schmidt (Contemporary Economic Policy, 2018)."How Fraternities Exacerbate Inequality," by Jillian Berman (MarketWatch, 2017)."18 U.S. Presidents Were in College Fraternities," by Maria Konnikova (The Atlantic, 2014).Inside Greek U.: Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power, and Prestige, by Alan D. DeSantis (2007). EXTRAS:"Freakonomics Radio Goes Back to School," series by Freakonomics Radio (2022).
5/13/202419 minutes, 24 seconds
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47. Bail Bonds

How does bail work — and who's really paying? Zachary Crockett follows the money. SOURCES:Joshua Page, professor of sociology and law at the University of Minnesota.Steven Zalewski, criminal defense attorney and co-owner of Affordable Bails New York. RESOURCES:"Does Bail Reform Increase Crime in New York State: Evidence from Interrupted Time-Series Analyses and Synthetic Control Methods," by Sishi Wu and David McDowall (Justice Quarterly, 2023)."Profit Over People: The Commercial Bail Industry Fueling America’s Cash Bail Systems," by Allie Preston and Rachael Eisenberg (Center for American Progress, 2022)."All Profit, No Risk: How the Bail Industry Exploits the Legal System," by Wendy Sawyer (Prison Policy Initiative, 2022)."A Debt of Care: Commercial Bail and the Gendered Logic of Criminal Justice Predation," by Joshua Page, Victoria Piehowski, and Joe Soss (RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2019)."The Economics of Bail and Pretrial Detention," by Patrick Liu, Ryan Nunn, and Jay Shambaugh (The Hamilton Project, 2018)."Selling Off Our Freedom: How Insurance Corporations Have Taken Over Our Bail System," by Color Of Change and ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice (2017)."Inside the Wild, Shadowy, and Highly Lucrative Bail Industry," by Shane Bauer (Mother Jones, 2014). EXTRAS:"To Catch a Fugitive," by Freakonomics Radio (2011).
5/6/202417 minutes, 54 seconds
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46. Car Colors

So many vehicles on the road today are white, black, or gray — but automotive designers find that consumer preferences may be changing lanes. Zachary Crockett surveys the lot. SOURCES:Tom Crockett, classic car enthusiast.Mark Gutjahr, global head of design at BASF.Nikkie Riedel, carline planning manager at Subaru of America. RESOURCES:BASF Color Report 2023 for Automotive OEM Coatings."Beige on an S.U.V. Will Cost You, but for Pickups It’s Golden," by Roy Furchgott (The New York Times, 2021)."A Brief History Of Car Colors — And Why Are We So Boring Now?" (Consumer Reports, 2018)."The Link Between the Colour of Cars and the Economy," (The Economist, 2018). EXTRA:"Car Washes," by The Economics of Everyday Things (2023).
4/29/202418 minutes, 26 seconds
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45. Storage Units

Americans love to buy new stuff and hate to get rid of old stuff, which is why storing it all has become a $45 billion business. Zachary Crockett cleans out the garage. SOURCES:Zachary Dickens, executive vice president and chief investment officer of Extra Space Storage.Anne Mari DeCoster, self-storage consultant.Kara Kolodziej, self-storage unit tenant. RESOURCES:"A Fifth Of Americans Rent Self Storage, With Millennials Overtaking Gen Xers In Generational Storage Wars," by Francis Chantree (Storage Cafe, 2024)."Lessors of Mini Warehouses and Self-Storage Units Show Significant Financial Gains During COVID-19 Pandemic," by Ben Chandler and Robin Enlow (United States Census Bureau, 2024)."The Fate of Oversupplied Self-Storage Markets and How to Pull Back From the Brink," by Frank DeSalvo and David Perlleshi (Inside Self Storage, 2023)."A Pandemic Space Race: Self-Storage Roars Back," by Ellen Rosen (The New York Times, 2021)."Need to Store That? Booming Self-Storage Industry Says No Problem," by Liam Pleven (The Wall Street Journal, 2015). EXTRAS:Storage Wars, TV series (2010-present).Auction Hunters, TV series (2010-2015).
4/22/202415 minutes, 51 seconds
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44. Movie Sound Effects

The background noises you hear in film and TV — from footsteps to zombie guts — are produced in specialized studios by professionals known as Foley artists. Zachary Crockett makes some noise. SOURCE:Gregg Barbanell, foley artist at Universal Studios. RESOURCES:"The Weird, Analog Delights of Foley Sound Effects," by Anna Wiener (The New Yorker, 2022)."The Strangest Foley Sounds in Cinema," by Amber Gibson (ACMI, 2021)."The Man Who Makes Hollywood’s Smallest Sounds," by Zachary Crockett (Priceonomics, 2015). EXTRA:"No Hollywood Ending for the Visual Effects Industry," by Freakonomics Radio (2017).
4/15/202419 minutes, 27 seconds
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43. Top-Level Domains

Those letters at the end of web addresses can mean big bucks — and, for some small countries, a substantial part of the national budget. Zachary Crockett follows the links. SOURCES:Vince Cate, technical contact for the .ai domain in Anguilla.Kim Davies, Vice President of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority Services and President of Public Technical Identifiers at ICANN.Tianyu Fang, contributing editor at Reboot. RESOURCES:"The Two-Decade Fight for Two Letters on the Internet," by Jacob Judah (The New York Times, 2024)."Whose Domain Is It?" by Tianyu Fang (Reboot, 2023)."How a Tiny Pacific Island Became the Global Capital of Cybercrime," by Jacob Judah (MIT Technology Review, 2023)."The Tropical Island With the Hot Domain Name," by Rachel Metz (Bloomberg, 2023)."The Never-ending ccTLD Story," by Peter K. Yu (SSRN, 2003).
4/8/202418 minutes, 48 seconds
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42. Cemeteries

The verdant lawns promise everlasting rest — but what does it mean to sign a lease for all eternity? Zachary Crockett finds out where the bodies are buried. SOURCES:Terry Arellano, co-founder and president of Cemetery Property Resales, Inc.Jeff Lindeman, C.E.O. and General Manager of Mountain View Cemetery.Tanya Marsh, professor of law at Wake Forest University.Maureen Walton, founder and president of The Cemetery Exchange. RESOURCES:"Los Angeles Burial Crypt Near Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Hefner on Sale for $2 Million," by Stephanie Nolasco (Fox 10 Phoenix, 2023)."Why the Brooklyn-Queens Border Is Full of Dead People," by Keith Williams (The New York Times, 2017)."Death in the City: What Happens When All Our Cemeteries Are Full?" by Ana Naomi de Sousa (The Guardian, 2015)."Our First Public Parks: The Forgotten History of Cemeteries," by Rebecca Greenfield (The Atlantic, 2011)."Selling a Burial Plot is a Grave Decision," by Erin Peterson (Kiplinger, 2010). EXTRAS:"How to Be Better at Death," by Freakonomics Radio (2021).
4/1/202418 minutes, 59 seconds
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41. Pet Movers

Relocating halfway across the world is hard enough for humans. For pets it can require a specialist. Zachary Crockett waits at the airport, holding a sign saying "Fluffy." SOURCES:Amelia Barklow, pet duck owner.Mike Gays, managing director of Global Pet Relocation.Gemma Tappin, pet relocation consultant team leader at Global Pet Relocation. RESOURCES:"Service Dogs Are Allowed on Planes, but There Are Some Requirements to Get Them There," by Zach Wichter (USA Today, 2023)."More Dogs Die on United Than on Any Other Airline. Here’s Why," by Martine Powers (The Washington Post, 2018)."Emotional support peacock denied flight by United Airlines," by Daniella Silva (NBC News, 2018)."Banned by Many Airlines, These Bulldogs Fly Private," by Christine Haughney (The New York Times, 2011).Pet Travel information, by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. EXTRAS:"Should You Trust Private Equity to Take Care of Your Dog?" by Freakonomics Radio (2023).
3/25/202415 minutes, 53 seconds
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40. Prosthetic Limbs

More and more Americans rely on prostheses. They’re custom-fitted, highly personal, and extremely expensive. Zachary Crockett investigates. SOURCES:Jordan Beckwith, YouTuber and advocate.Eric Neufeld, owner and medical director of Agile Orthopedics. RESOURCES:"Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment & Other Devices," by Medicare (2024)."Limb Loss in the U.S.," infographic by the Amputee Coalition (2022)."A Robot Hand Helps Amputees 'Feel' Again," by Jeffery Delviscio (Scientific American, 2019)."Differences in Myoelectric and Body-Powered Upper-Limb Prostheses: Systematic Literature Review," by Stephanie L. Carey, Derek J. Lura, and Jason Highsmith (Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 2015)."Local Coverage Determination: Lower Limb Prostheses," from the Medicare Coverage Database (effective 2015)."Variation in the Care of Surgical Conditions: Diabetes and Peripheral Arterial Disease," by Philip P. Goodney, Nino Dzebisashvili, David C. Goodman, and Kristen K. Bronner (Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care Series, 2014)."Estimating the Prevalence of Limb Loss in the United States: 2005 to 2050," by Kathryn Ziegler-Graham, Ellen J. MacKenzie, Patti L. Ephraim, Thomas G. Travison, and Ron Brookmeyer (Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2008).
3/18/202417 minutes, 14 seconds
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39. Houseplants

Interest in houseplants has exploded in recent years. But what causes floral trends, and prices, to grow? Zachary Crockett sows a few seeds. SOURCES:Justin Hancock, director of research and development at Costa Farms.Brian Williams, co-owner of Brian's Botanicals.Sarah Williams, co-owner Brian's Botanicals. RESOURCES:"Bidding Wars and $1,000 Succulents: The Wild World of Rare Houseplants," by Hannah Holland (The Washington Post, 2023)."Houseplants Boomed During the Pandemic. Gen Z and Millennials Say the Popularity Is Here to Stay," by Lucia Starbuck (KUNR, 2022)."The Most Iconic Houseplant Trends Through the Decades," by Wretched Flowers (Architectural Digest, 2021)."Meet the Plantfluencers," by Penelope Green (The New York Times, 2018).
3/11/202414 minutes, 31 seconds
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Bowling Alleys (Replay)

Once America’s favorite recreational activity, bowling has been in the gutter for decades. But some surviving alleys are resetting the pins. Zachary Crockett laces up. SOURCES:Mike Leong, owner of Bel Mateo Bowl.Devon Stewart, head coach of Florida State University bowling team, C.E.O. of Bowl Connect, and consultant with the Hansell Group. RESOURCES:"Cornhole and Bowling Are the Sports Most Americans Played Last Year," by Mallory Newall, Johnny Sawyer, Charlie Rollason, and Tyler Ivey (Ipsos, 2023)."Overview of the Bowling Industry," by The Hansell Group (2022)."How Bowling Alleys Made a Comeback," by Justin Fox (Bloomberg, 2019)."New Look Keeps Bel Mateo Bowl Thriving," by Curtis Driscoll (The Daily Journal, 2017)."Inside the Ugly Road Bowlmor Took to Make Bowling Cool," by Gabrielle Fonrouge (New York Post, 2017)."The (Short) History of the National Bowling League," by Bob Johnson (United States Bowling Congress News, 2015). EXTRAS:"Is It Harder to Make Friends as an Adult?" by No Stupid Questions (2023).
3/4/202415 minutes, 50 seconds
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38. Junk Mail

Why does the mailman bring us so many catalogs, credit card offers, and pizza coupons? Because his job depends on it. Zachary Crockett checks the mailbox. SOURCES:Brett Chamberlin, program manager at Catalog Choice.Aaron Gordon, journalist.Mike Gunderson, president of Gunderson Direct. RESOURCES:"U.S. Postal Service Reports Fiscal Year 2023 Results," by the U.S. Postal Service (2023)."How We Ended Up With All This Junk Mail," by Aaron Gordon (Vice, 2020)."Here Are the Data Brokers Quietly Buying and Selling Your Personal Information," by Steven Melendez and Alex Pasternack (Fast Company, 2019)."How to Stop Junk Mail and Save Trees — and Your Sanity," by Elisabeth Leamy (The Washington Post, 2018)."How The Post Office Sells Your Address Update To Anyone Who Pays (And The Little-Known Loophole To Opt Out)," by Adam Tanner (Forbes, 2013).The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. EXTRAS:"Is It Worth It for Charities to Harass Their Donors?" by No Stupid Questions (2022).
2/26/202418 minutes, 9 seconds
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37. Personal Injury Lawyers

If you can make it through three years of law school, you too might end up on a billboard.  Zachary Crockett makes the case. SOURCES:Jason Abraham, managing partner of Hupy & Abraham.Nora Engstrom, professor at Stanford Law School.Kyle Hebenstreit, C.E.O. of Practice Made Perfect. RESOURCES:“Personal Injury Settlement Amounts Examples (2024 Guide),” by Jeffrey Johnson (Forbes Advisor, 2022).“Low Ball: An Insider’s Look at How Some Insurers Can Manipulate Computerized Systems to Broadly Underpay Injury Claims,” by Mark Romano and J. Robert Hunter (Consumer Federation of America, 2012).“A Century of Change in Personal Injury Law,” by Stephen D. Sugarman (UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper, 2000).Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, in the Supreme Court of Arizona (1977).
2/19/202417 minutes, 58 seconds
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36. ATMs

Why do you have to pay $4 to get $40 cash at a bar? And who does it go to? Zachary Crockett checks his balance. SOURCES:Bernardo Batiz-Lazo, professor in the Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University.Patricia Tuz, president of New York ATM.Jon Weilbaker, general manager of New York ATM.Sasha Weilbaker, freelance writer and daughter of Patricia and Jon. RESOURCES:"The Number of ATMs Has Declined as People Rely Less on Cash," by Jim Carlton (The Wall Street Journal, 2023)."Survey: ATM Fees Hit Record High While Overdraft and NSF Fees Fell Sharply," by Karen Bennett and Matthew Goldberg (Bankrate, 2023)."More Americans Are Joining the ‘Cashless’ Economy," by Michelle Faverio (Pew Research Center, 2022)."Thieves Target ATMs Flush With Cash During Covid-19," by Scott Calvert (The Wall Street Journal, 2021),"Locational Study of ATMs in the US by Ownership," by Lian An, Christopher Baynard, Chriadip Chatterjee, and Chun-Ping A Loh (2018)."A Brief History of the ATM," by Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo (The Atlantic, 2015). EXTRA:"Why Are We Still Using Cash?" Freakonomics Radio (2016).
2/12/202420 minutes, 8 seconds
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35. Dental Insurance

Why is it separate from medical insurance? And is it really insurance at all? Zachary Crockett goes in for a cleaning. SOURCES:Brad Bolman, postdoctoral member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study.Pamela Maragliano-Muniz, prosthodontist and chief editor for Dental Economics.Wendell Potter, president of the Center for Health and Democracy; former executive at Cigna. RESOURCES:"Dental Medical Loss Ratios: Understanding the Landscape in Massachusetts and Beyond," by Shaza Stevenson, Megan D’Alessandro, Sandra Wilkniss, and Nicole Evans (National Academy for State Health Policy Blog, 2023)."Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2021," by Katherine Keisler-Starkey and Lisa N. Bunch (U.S. Census Bureau Reports, 2022)."Medicare and Dental Coverage: A Closer Look," by Meredith Freed, Nancy Ochieng, Nolan Sroczynski, Anthony Damico, and Krutika Amin (KFF, 2021)."Dentists’ Group Fights Plan to Cover Dental Benefits Under Medicare," by Julie Bykowicz (The Wall Street Journal, 2021)."Antisocial Dentistry," by Brad Bolman (Hypocrite Reader, 2021). EXTRAS:"'Insurance Is Sexy.' Discuss," by Freakonomics Radio (2023)."Does Health Insurance Make You Healthier?" by Freakonomics, M.D. (2022).
2/5/202416 minutes, 3 seconds
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34. Store-Brand Products

Those low-priced staples on grocery-store shelves — where do they come from? Zachary Crockett finds out at a national convention for private-label manufacturers. SOURCES:Kusum Ailawadi, professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.Eric Beringause, C.E.O. of Winland Foods.Ryan Boyle, vice president of sales at Kitchen Innovations.Samantha Burd, co-owner of Lady Burd Cosmetics.Dean Erstad, senior vice president of sales at Seneca.Harry Overly, president and C.E.O. of Flagstone Foods. RESOURCES:"The Backlash to Price Hikes Is Building," by Julia Waldow (Modern Retail, 2024)."For U.S. Consumers, It’s a Matter of ‘And’ — Not ‘Or,'" by Kari Alldredge and Warren Teichner (McKinsey & Company, 2023)."Those Doritos Too Expensive? More Stores Offer Their Own Alternatives," by Julie Creswell (The New York Times, 2023)."Why Private Label Brands Are Having Their Moment," by Errol Schweizer (Forbes, 2022)."The Hidden Makers of Costco’s Kirkland Signature and Trader Joe’s O’s," by Nathaniel Meyersohn (CNN Business, 2022)."Pursuing the Value-Conscious Consumer: Store Brands versus National Brand Promotions," by Kusum Ailawadi, Scott A. Neslin, and Karen Gedenk (Journal of Marketing, 2001)."The Effect of Generic Products on Consumer Perceptions and Brand Choice," by John J. Wheatley (NA - Advances in Consumer Research, 1981). EXTRAS:"Should America Be Run by … Trader Joe’s?" by Freakonomics Radio (2018)."How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying," by Freakonomics Radio (2014).
1/29/202417 minutes, 49 seconds
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33. Sex Scenes

Behind these steamy sequences, there are body doubles, pubic wigs, legal documents, and dedicated choreographers who make sure everyone is comfortable. Zachary Crockett fast-forwards straight to the good parts.  SOURCES:Alicia Rodis, intimacy coordinator.Matthew Swanlund, founder and principal attorney at Aesthetic Legal. RESOURCES:"Romance or Nomance? Adolescents Prefer to See Less Sex, More Friendships, Platonic Relationships on Screen," by Elizabeth Kivowitz (UCLA Newsroom, 2023)."You're Not Seeing Things —'Nudity Creep' in Streaming TV Reveals More of Its Stars," by Neda Ulaby (All Things Considered, 2023)."Jennifer Aniston Rejected Offer for an Intimacy Coordinator in Sex Scenes with 'Gentleman' Jon Hamm," by Esther Kang (People, 2023)."How the Sausage Gets Made: Inside Hollywood's Prosthetic Penis Craze," by Emma Fraser (Thrillist, 2022)."The Disturbing Story Behind the Rape Scene in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, Explained," by Anna North (Vox, 2018)."Two James Francos. Porn. 1970s New York. The Deuce Could Go So Wrong — but It Doesn't," by Emily St. James (Vox, 2017)."Shooting Film and TV Sex Scenes: What Really Goes On," by Melena Ryzik (The New York Times, 2015)."Sexually Explicit Casting Contract for HBO’s ‘Westworld’ Extras Has SAG-AFTRA Concerned," by Jonathan Handel (The Hollywood Reporter, 2015). EXTRAS:"Why is Everyone Having Less Sex?" by No Stupid Questions (2023).
1/22/202418 minutes, 49 seconds
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32. Used Golf Balls

American golfers lose 300 million balls a year — and all those bad swings are someone else’s business opportunity. Zachary Crockett hits the links. SOURCES:Todd Hutchinson, president and owner of BallHawker.Lashan Wanigatunga, founder of Two Guys With Balls. RESOURCES:"BallHawker, Challenge Enterprises Turn Wayward Golf Shots Into Successful Endeavor," Natalie Gilstrap (Clay Today, 2023)."Temecula Golf Ball Diver Nets $100,000 a Year," by Jeff Zevely (CBS8, 2022)."Golf’s Recycled Ball Market is Big Business," by Erik Matuszewski (Link, 2021)."The Inside Story of What the Original Titleist Pro V1 Launch Was Really Like," Andrew Tursky (Golf Digest, 2020)."Head of Golf Ball Retrieval Company Sentenced for Manslaughter After Diving Death at Wales Golf Course," by Alex Myers (Golf Digest, 2017)."Man Dies While Illegally Diving for Golf Balls," by Alex Myers (Golf Digest, 2015). EXTRAS:"Greg Norman Takes On the P.G.A. Tour," by People I (Mostly) Admire (2023).
1/15/202417 minutes, 13 seconds
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31. Superhot Chili Peppers

The market for gustatory pain is surprisingly competitive. Zachary Crockett feels the burn. SOURCES:Ed Currie, founder and president of the PuckerButt Pepper Company.Stephanie Walker, associate professor and Extension Vegetable Specialist at New Mexico State University RESOURCES:"Pepper X Dethrones Carolina Reaper as World’s Hottest Chili Pepper," by Sanj Atwal (Guinness World Records, 2023)."The Shocking, Stupendous Rise of Superhot Chillies: ‘The Stomach Cramps Can Last for 14 Hours,’" by Tim Dowling (The Guardian, 2023)."14-Year-Old Dies After Trying The Paqui ‘One Chip Challenge,’" by Bruce Y. Lee (Forbes, 2023)."Beyond Neuronal Heat Sensing: Diversity of TRPV1 Heat-Capsaicin Receptor-Channel Functions," by Yaroslav M. Shuba (Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 2021)."Training Your Tongue to Love Spicy Food Benefits More Than Your Taste Buds," by Maddie Oatman (Mother Jones, 2019)."Fire-Eaters," by Lauren Collins (The New Yorker, 2013)."The Arms Race to Grow World's Hottest Pepper Goes Nuclear," by Spencer Jakab (The Wall Street Journal, 2013). EXRAS:"Why Do People Love Horror Movies?" by No Stupid Questions (2022).Hot Ones, YouTube talk show.
1/8/202416 minutes, 27 seconds
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30. Card Counting

Casinos think they can stop skilled gamblers from eking out a tiny edge at blackjack. Is that a losing bet? Zachary Crockett doubles down. SOURCES:"Ben," former professional card counter.Bill Zender, co-founder of Bill Zender and Associates casino consulting firm. RESOURCES:"Blackjack Player Sues Ameristar Casino, City of Black Hawk Over Alleged Detainment for Card Counting," by Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton (The Denver Post, 2023)."Why Does the House Always Win? A Look at Casino Profitability," by J. B. Maverick (Investopedia, 2023)."Counting the Cost," by Bill Zender (GGB News, 2022)."Nevada Supreme Court Orders Casino To Pay Card Counter," by I. Nelson Rose (Gambling and the Law, 2017)."Counting Cards Is Legal, But ..." by Mark Pilarski (Detroit Free Press, 2016)."Card Counter Sues Planet Hollywood Over Detention, Confiscated Casino Chips," by Carri Geer Thevenot (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2015)."Real People Behind Story of '21' Discuss Film's Facts," by Ed Symkus (The State Journal-Register, 2008).Blackbelt in Blackjack: Playing 21 as a Martial Art, by Arnold Snyder (1997). EXTRAS:"How to Make Your Own Luck," by Freakonomics Radio (2020)."The Economics of Sports Gambling (Replay)," by Freakonomics Radio (2020)."Could the Next Brooklyn Be … Las Vegas?!" by Freakonomics Radio (2015).21, film by Robert Luketic (2008).
1/1/202418 minutes, 50 seconds
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10. Michelin Stars (Replay)

Only the finest restaurants have a chance to bask in their glow. Sometimes, it’s a bit too bright. Zachary Crockett squints at the menu. SOURCES:Nick Kokonas, founder and co-owner of The Alinea Group.Charlie Mitchell, executive chef and co-owner of Clover Hill restaurant. RESOURCES:"Michelin Announces 2022 Stars for New York City," by Ryan Sutton and Luke Fortney (Eater, 2022)."What’s Wrong With the Michelin Guide?" by Tim Hayward (Financial Times, 2021)."Eating A 6-Course Dinner From The Best Restaurant In The Country," by Number Six With Cheese (2020)."Expert Opinion and Restaurant Pricing: Quantifying the Value of a Michelin Star," by Carly Shin (Stanford Economic Review, 2018)."Here's How Michelin Stars Actually Affect the Restaurant Business," by Hillary Eaton (Food & Wine, 2017)."Three-Star Chef Asks Michelin Guide To Leave Him Out: 'I Will Be Able To Feel Free,'" by Laurel Wamsley (The Two-Way, 2017)."Lunch with M.," by John Colapinto (The New Yorker, 2009)."Alinea," review by the Michelin Guide. EXTRAS:"Why You Shouldn’t Open a Restaurant (Update)," by Freakonomics Radio (2019).
12/25/202316 minutes, 58 seconds
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29. Greeting Cards

The tradition of sending cards to loved ones was in decline — until it was rescued by a new generation. But millennials have their own ideas about what sentiments they want to convey. Zachary Crockett is thinking of you on your special day.   SOURCES:Mia Mercado, writer and former editor at Hallmark.George White, president of Up With Paper and former president of the American Greeting Card Association. RESOURCES:34th Louie Awards - Finalists & Winners, (2022-2023)."Season’s (and Other...) Greetings," by Maria Ricapito (Marie Claire, 2020)."Hallmark Greeting Cards Have Adjusted to the Digital Revolution," by Trent Gillies (CNBC, 2017)."Testimony of Don Hall, Jr. President and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Before a Joint Hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security and the House, Postal Service and the District of Columbia" (2010).
12/18/202315 minutes, 32 seconds
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28. Horseshoe Crab Blood

How does the blood of a 450-million-year-old arthropod help prevent lethal infections in humans? And could we exhaust the supply?  Zachary Crockett wades in. SOURCE:Dina Fine Maron, senior wildlife crime investigative reporter at National Geographic. RESOURCES:"When the Horseshoe Crabs Are Gone, We’ll Be in Trouble," by Deborah Cramer (The New York Times, 2023)."Horseshoe Crab Blood Is Vital to Modern Medicine. A New Lab-Made Alternative Could Save the Species," by Kristoffer Whitney, Jolie Crunelle, and The Conversation (Fortune, 2023)."Horseshoe Crab Blood Saves Lives. Can We Protect These Animals From Ourselves?" by Dina Fine Maron (National Geographic, 2022)."For Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs, Love Is a Battlefield," by Dina Fine Maron (National Geographic, 2022)."Horseshoe Crab Blood: The Miracle Vaccine Ingredient That's Saved Millions of Lives," by Katie Pavid (Natural History Museum, 2020)."The Role of Horseshoe Crabs in the Biomedical Industry and Recent Trends Impacting Species Sustainability," by Jordan Krisfalusi-Gannon, Anthony L. Dellinger, et al. (Frontiers in Marine Science, 2018)."Video: Horseshoe Crabs Mate in Annual Beach 'Orgy,'" by Heather Duner MacAdam (National Geographic, 2014)."Crash: A Tale of Two Species," S26.E7 of Nature (2011). EXTRAS:"Baby Blue Blood Drive," by Radiolab (2020).
12/11/202313 minutes, 56 seconds
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27. Romance Novels

How did love stories about vampires, cowboys, and wealthy dukes become the highest-grossing fiction genre in the world? Zachary Crockett gets swept away.  SOURCES:Delaney Diamond, romance novelist.Danielle Flores, high school math teacher and avid romance novel reader.Brenda Hiatt, romance novelist.Diane Moggy, vice president of editorial at Harlequin.RESOURCES:"Even as Overall Book Sales Are Declining, Romance Novels Are on the Rise," by Elena Burnett, Sarah Handel, and Juana Summers (All Things Considered, 2023)."Key Takeaways from the Authors Guild’s 2023 Author Income Survey," press release by the Authors Guild (2023)."How Amazon Turned Everyone Into a Romance Writer (and Created an Antitrust Headache)," by Ann Kjellberg (Observer, 2022)."Vivian Stephens Helped Turn Romance Writing Into a Billion-Dollar Industry. Then She Got Pushed Out," by Mimi Swartz (Texas Monthly, 2020)."A Brief History of the Romance Novel," by Amanda Pagan (New York Public Library Blog, 2019)."How Harlequin Became the Most Famous Name in Romance," by Kelly Faircloth (Jezebel, 2015)."Fifty Shades of Amish: A Strange Genre of the Romance Novel," by Leah McGrath Goodman (Newsweek, 2015).
12/4/202318 minutes, 38 seconds
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3. My Sharona (Replay)

Can a hit single from four decades ago still pay the bills? Zachary Crockett f-f-f-finds out. RESOURCES:"The Knack Sue Run-DMC Over 'It’s Tricky' Riff," (Rolling Stone, 2006).Clip of "My Sharona" in the film Reality Bites (1994)."The Knack: Where Are They Now?" by David Fricke (Rolling Stone, 1986)."Top Singles of the Year," (Billboard, 1979)."My Bologna," by Weird Al Yankovic (1979)."My Sharona," by The Knack (1979).EXTRAS:"What’s Wrong with Being a One-Hit Wonder?" by Freakonomics Radio (2023).
11/27/202317 minutes, 24 seconds
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26. Graffiti

 Is graffiti public art, or public nuisance? It depends who you ask. Zachary Crockett tags in where it all started. RESOURCES:"Philadelphia Graffiti Pier: A Love Letter to the City’s Underground Arts," by Honora Feinberg (Guide to Philly, 2023)."USA TODAY Names Philadelphia 'Best City for Street Art,'" (Visit Philadelphia, 2023)."Cornbread, the First Graffiti Artist, Shows New Work at Philadelphia Gallery," by Peter Crimmins (WHYY, 2019)."Porch Light Program: Final Evaluation Report," by Jacob Kraemer Tebes, Samantha L. Matlin, Bronwyn Hunter, Azure B. Thompson, Dana M. Prince, and Nathaniel Mohatt (Yale School of Medicine, 2015)."Graffiti Triggers Crime, Littering, Study Shows," by Jeanna Bryner (NBC News, 2008)."Problem-Oriented Guides for Police: Graffiti," by Deborah Lamm Weisel (D.O.J. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2004).EXTRA:"Urinetown," by Tell Me Something I Don't Know (2017).
11/20/202314 minutes, 10 seconds
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25. Private Jets

Executives shell out millions of dollars for the privilege of flying private — but that convenience comes at a steep cost to the rest of us. Zachary Crockett prepares for takeoff. RESOURCES:"High Flyers 2023: How Ultra-Rich Private Jet Travel Costs the Rest of Us and Burns Up the Planet," by Chuck Collins, Omar Ocampo, and Kalena Thomhave (joint report by The Patriotic Millionaires and the Institute for Policy Studies, 2023)."French Green MPs Want to Ban Private Jet Flights, to 'Bring the Rich Back Down to Earth,'" by Stéphane Mandard (Le Monde, 2023)."Markey, Velázquez Announce Legislation to Make the Rich Pay for the Public Costs of Private Jet Pollution," press release by Senator Edward J. Markey (2023)."Private Planes and Luxury Yachts Aren’t Just Toys for the Ultrawealthy. They’re Also Huge Tax Breaks," by Paul Kiel (ProPublica, 2023)."A Teenager Tracked Elon Musk’s Jet on Twitter. Then Came the Direct Message," by Neil Vigdor (The New York Times, 2022)."This Article is More Than 1 Year Old: A 17-Minute Flight? The Super-Rich Who Have ‘Absolute Disregard for the Planet,’" by Oliver Milman (The Guardian, 2022)."Private Jets — the Achilles Heel of EU Air Traffic Security?" by Crina Boros and Juliet Ferguson (EUobserver, 2018)."In Defence of the Ever-Unpopular Corporate Aircraft," by Joe Nocera (Financial Post, 2017).EXTRAS:"Freakonomics Radio Takes to the Skies," series by Freakonomics Radio (2023).
11/13/202317 minutes, 38 seconds
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24. Pistachios

How did a little green nut become a billion-dollar product, lauded by celebrities in Super Bowl ads? Zachary Crockett cracks open the story. RESOURCES:"Almond Acreage Decline Prompts Industry Introspection," by Mitch Lies (West Coast Nut, 2023).American Pistachio Industry 2021 Annual Report, by American Pistachio Growers (2023)."California’s Agricultural Water Policies Are Nuts," by Douglas R. Noble (The Gainesville Sun, 2021)."Amid Drought, Billionaires Control a Critical California Water Bank," by Chloe Sorvino (Forbes, 2021)."Wonderful Pistachios Achieves Billion-Dollar Brand Milestone," press release by The Wonderful Company (2020)."Pistachios: The Quirks of Agricultural Trade in a Nutshell," by Andrea Durkin (Global Trade, 2020)."California Pistachios With Perfect Timing," by Mark Blackburn (The New York Times, 1979).
11/6/202315 minutes, 42 seconds
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23. Cadavers - Part 2

In the final part of our series, Zachary Crockett talks to a man with a storied — and controversial — career in the body parts business. RESOURCES"Inside the Largely Unregulated Market for Bodies Donated to Science: 'It's Harder to Sell Hot Dogs on a Cart,'" by Justin Sherman (CBS News, 2023)."Bilirakis, Fletcher, Murphy and Tillis Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Stop Brokering of Body Parts, Preserve Integrity of Organ Donation Process," press release by the office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis (2023)."Sunset Mesa Funeral Home Operators Sentenced to Federal Prison For Illegal Body Part Scheme," press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado (2023)."Cashing in on the Donated Dead: The Body Trade," series by Reuters (2017).Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Bone$: A Personal Account of a 'Body Broker's' Thirteen Year Journey Through the Legal and Lucrative Body Parts Business, by Philip Guyett (2011).EXTRAS"Cadavers – Part 1," by The Economics of Everyday Things (2023).
10/30/202315 minutes, 46 seconds
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22. Cadavers - Part 1

In the first of two episodes, Zachary Crockett digs into the strange and discomfiting history of cadavers, and the industry that has emerged around them. RESOURCES:"From Grave Robbing to Giving Your Own Body to Science – A Short History of Where Medical Schools Get Cadavers," by Susan Lawrence and Susan E. Lederer (The Conversation, 2023)."Box of Human Heads Stolen From Truck in Denver," by Carly Moore (FOX4, 2022)."A Body Donated to Science - but Used to Test Bombs," by Rozina Sini (BBC News, 2019)."How an American Company Made a Fortune Selling Bodies Donated to Science," by John Shiffman and Brian Grow (Reuters, 2017)."From Sacrilege to Privilege: The Tale of Body Procurement for Anatomical Dissection in the United States," by Raphael Hulkower (The Einstein Journal of Biology and Medicine, 2011).The Anatomy Murders, by Lisa Rosner (2010).
10/23/202317 minutes, 41 seconds
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21. Car Washes

Why are these sudsy roadside stops one of the fastest growing industries in America? Zachary Crockett takes a look under the hood. RESOURCES:"Private Equity Wants to Wash Your Car," by Miriam Gottfried (The Wall Street Journal, 2022)."California Labor Commissioner Recovers $282,000 for Car Wash Wage Citations," State of California Department of Industrial Relations News Release (2022)."Sgt. Clean’s Future Shines Bright Thanks to Subscription Model, Strong Reputation," by Vince Guerrieri (Crain's Cleveland Business, 2018)."One California Drought Winner? The Local Car Wash," by Lauren Sommer (Marketplace, 2015).Sonny's CarWash College.
10/16/202316 minutes, 40 seconds
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20. Tattoo Parlors

More people than ever before are getting tattoos — but social media has flipped the trade’s business model on its head. Zachary Crockett dips into the ink. RESOURCES:"32% of Americans Have a Tattoo, Including 22% Who Have More Than One," by Katherine Schaeffer and Shradha Dinesh (Pew Research Center, 2023)."Tattoo Removal Business Draws Up High-Growth Potential," by Tim Clark (Forbes, 2023)."The Secret, Chronic Pain of Tattoo Artists," by Devon Abelman (Allure, 2020).The Other End of the Needle: Continuity and Change Among Tattoo Workers, by David C. Lane (2020)."How Instagram Revolutionized the Tattoo Industry," by Salvador Rodriguez (CNBC, 2020)."How Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid?" by Erica Salvalaggio (Inside Out, 2019)."Hey, Pro Athletes: Your Tattoo Is Going to Get You Sued," by Ira Boudway (Bloomberg, 2013).
10/9/202317 minutes, 18 seconds
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19. Pizza Boxes

There’s more than meets the eye to the box that stores the pie. Zachary Crockett cracks the lid. RESOURCES"Who Is the Fastest Pizza Box Folder?! World Pizza Games 2021," video by The Laughing Lion (2021)."Pizza Box Contamination Doesn’t Impede Recyclability, Association Says," by Megan Smalley (Recycling Today, 2020)."Scott's Pizza Chronicles: A Brief History of the Pizza Box," by Scott Wiener (Serious Eats, 2018)."Apple Patented a Pizza Box, for Pizzas," by Jacob Kastrenakes (The Verge, 2017)."We Eat 100 Acres of Pizza a Day in the U.S.," by Lenny Bernstein (The Washington Post, 2015).Pizza Tiger, by Thomas Monaghan (1986).
10/2/202315 minutes, 18 seconds
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4. Used Hotel Soaps (Replay)

Hotel guests adore those cute little soaps, but is it just a one-night stand? Zachary Crockett discovers what happens when we love ’em and leave ’em.
9/25/202316 minutes, 29 seconds
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18. Mobile Home Parks

They’ve long been associated with crime and blight. Now, the investors are moving in. Zachary Crockett follows the trail.
9/18/202319 minutes, 9 seconds
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17. Truffles

It takes fungi-sniffing dogs, back-room deals, and a guy named “The Kingpin” for the world’s most coveted morsel to end up on your plate. Zachary Crockett picks up the scent.
9/11/202317 minutes, 49 seconds
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16. Prop Money

Who makes the stacks of fake cash used in movies — and how do they stay clear of counterfeit law? Zachary Crockett follows the  money. 
9/4/202318 minutes, 55 seconds
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15. Home Staging

How do you turn an empty house into a buyer’s dream home? Zachary Crockett pulls back the curtain.
8/28/202319 minutes, 55 seconds
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Girl Scout Cookies (Ep. 2 Replay)

How does America's cutest sales force get billions of Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs into our hands every year? Zachary Crockett digs in.
8/21/202313 minutes, 19 seconds
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14. “Happy Birthday to You”

The most popular song of the 20th century — and a key part of a ubiquitous American ritual — was also the subject of a years-long legal battle. Zachary Crockett blows out the candles.
8/14/202312 minutes, 10 seconds
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13. Carnival Games

Does anyone ever win the giant teddy bear? Zachary Crockett steps right up.
8/7/202316 minutes, 44 seconds
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12. Women’s Sports Bars

Most sports bars rarely screen women's games. Zachary Crockett taps into the strategy of one woman who changed the channel.
7/31/202316 minutes, 8 seconds
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11. Cashmere

Once a luxury good, the soft fiber is now everywhere — which has led to a goat boom in Mongolia. Zachary Crockett tugs at the thread.
7/24/202315 minutes, 10 seconds
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10. Michelin Stars

Only the finest restaurants have a chance to bask in their glow. Sometimes, it’s a bit too bright. Zachary Crockett squints at the menu.
7/17/202316 minutes, 58 seconds
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9. Bowling Alleys

Once America’s favorite recreational activity, bowling has been in the gutter for decades. But some surviving alleys are resetting the pins. Zachary Crockett laces up.
7/10/202315 minutes, 50 seconds
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8. Delaware License Plates

Vanity plates might be 2KUL4U, but in the Blue Hen State, low-digit plates command high-digit prices. Zachary Crockett sums up a big market in a small state.
7/3/202313 minutes, 16 seconds
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7. Animal Urine

One creature’s trash is another’s cash. Zachary Crockett flushes out the numbers with a man who found profit in pee.
6/26/202312 minutes, 4 seconds
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6. T. rex Skeletons

How do they emerge from the Upper Cretaceous period to end up in natural-history museums and private collections? Zachary Crockett digs for answers.
6/19/202317 minutes, 57 seconds
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5. Sports Mascots

We’re not sure what that creature cavorting on the sidelines is — but it doesn’t come cheap. Zachary Crockett gets the ballpark figures on everyone’s favorite ballpark figures.
6/12/202314 minutes, 17 seconds
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Coming Soon …

A special announcement: The Economics of Everyday Things will be back with all-new weekly episodes starting in June.
4/7/20231 minute, 29 seconds
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4. Used Hotel Soaps

Hotel guests adore those cute little soaps, but is it just a one-night stand? Zachary Crockett discovers what happens when we love ’em and leave ’em.
2/13/202316 minutes, 29 seconds
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3. My Sharona

Can a hit single from four decades ago still pay the bills? Zachary Crockett f-f-f-finds out.
2/6/202317 minutes, 24 seconds
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2. Girl Scout Cookies

How does America's cutest sales force get billions of Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs into our hands every year? Zachary Crockett digs in.
1/30/202313 minutes, 19 seconds
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1. Gas Stations

In our first episode, host Zachary Crockett sidles up to the pump to ask:  Who owns your local gas station, and where do their profits really come from? 
1/23/202314 minutes, 2 seconds
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Coming Soon: The Economics of Everyday Things

A new show is coming to the Freakonomics Radio Network. Stay tuned for The Economics of Everyday Things, hosted by Zachary Crockett.
1/19/202340 seconds