Thursday, September 15, 2011

The origin of "Confusopoly"

The Surgeon of Crowthorne is an absolutely fabulous book about a mad doctor who was a major participant in putting together the original Oxford English Dictionary.

That dictionary was significant as the first that tried to cover previous as well as current uses and try to identify earliest uses of words. Unlike other dictionaries of the era it was a descriptive rather than proscriptive work.

The word "confusopoly" has its origins in Scott Adams' The Dilbert Future. The word has been successfully used to describe many pricing issues.

Neerav Bhatt provided an excellent summary in a blogpost last year.

He cites the 2005 paper by Joshus Gans given at the ACCC's 2005 Regulatory Conference. I was there and it was the first time I'd heard the term and I have in the past been prepared to credit Gans with the first use.

That was until the Deakin University/ACCAN report Seeking Straight Answers: Consumer Decision-Making in Telecommunications was released. The report cites a 2004 use by Larsen et al. They wrote;

In reality the mobile phone market is a perfect example of Dilbert’s confusopoly. That is, various price propositions are on offer with different combinations of free minutes, texts, and other services, whilst in reality the same level of usage would result in roughly the same cost, leaving the user so confused that they simply choose the product with the name they like the most – a fact most notably recognised by the operator Orange with their animal-themed tariffs, such as Dolphin and Raccoon, and by LG who give their phone’s names such as Chocolate and Shine.

I have also found this use from the USA in 2004.

Does anyone have an advance on 2004?

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

1 comment:

David Havyatt said...

@joshgans replied by tweet

"The Origins of Confusopoly. I used to teach it in class after 1998.

To Scott Adams' credit that is."

So I will probably continue to attribute the first use to Josh....