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Why will people buy you alcohol but not lend you the money?

Why do people offer to buy you alcohol
but not to lend you the money? 
Many people have often wondered why some certain person is always eager to buy them alcohol the whole night, but if you ask the same individual to lend or give this money to you instead, they approach this suggestion with more hostility than Trump’s supporters have against Hillary.

It doesn’t make sense, does it? It’s the same money,  coming to the same person (you) and you are even offering to return it, unlike alcohol which once consumed is non-consumable.

This aspect is well covered in the works of Dan Ariely, especially in his book, “Predictably Irrational”.

Suppose, you wanted to move a large piece of furniture and approached your neighbour for help to move the same. Most of the time, they will go ahead and assist you with little expectation.


But what if you approached this same neighbour,  and offered to pay them KSh. 50($0.5) to move the same piece of furniture. Would they be as eager as in the first instance,  or would they tell you to go do nice things to yourself with that money?

It’s the same piece of furniture, same effort, and instead of them doing it for free,  you are sweetening the deal with some money. So why is it that they are willing to move the furniture for no money rather than for a little money?

Suppose again that this same neighbour is a doctor or a lawyer. We have established their willingness to help you move your furniture at no cost. What if instead of helping us with moving furniture, we approached them with a different proposition, that takes the same amount of time as moving the furniture?

For the doctor, we ask them to offer some medical consultation for free while from the lawyer, we ask them for help to draft a legal contract for our business for free. We promise them it will not take much longer time than moving the piece of furniture would have.

Do they go and do it? Are they likely to agree to this new proposition? Why not?

Welcome to the world of social norms and monetary norms.

Helping you move furniture is a societal norm for which we do out of our own good, expecting no payment.

The doctor, however, expects payment for offering you medical advice, and likewise, the lawyer expects payment for providing you with legal advice. Their professions are monetary norms, for which they expect a certain amount of compensation.

When we offered your neighbour KSh. 50 to move your furniture,  we turned the activity from a social norm to a monetary norm,  where the expectations are different. Your neighbour estimates that least they can charge for moving a sofa is a certain amount,  much more than the KSh. 50 you offered.

Going back to the person who offers us free alcohol but not the money, the same principles apply.

An offer to drown you in alcohol is a social norm,  done out of their own good. However, introduce money here, and it immediately turns into a monetary norm, where you face a different set of expectations.

Similarly, this is why it would not be a good idea to offer your spouse money in exchange for sex, or why a sex worker will still charge their client,  even if the client had bought a few drinks and food.


Like water and oil, social norms and monetary norms are hard to mix.

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