Análisis: Irracionalidad, el costo del precio cero

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Gratis es una palabra mágica que emociona al consumidor, dado que se obtiene un servicio o producto sin entregar dinero a cambio. Sin embargo, esto genera un grave problema porque cambia las preferencias y sesga la utilidad que se recibe; ocasionando que los objetos se acumulen. Por lo tanto, ¿Es hora de dejar de aceptar el “gratis”?

El precio cero es una herramienta útil para que el consumidor conozca un producto; por ello esta estrategia es usada en el lanzamiento de una marca con la finalidad de fidelizar al consumidor. Lamentablemente, las empresas asumen que el receptor es racional y usará el producto, lo cual es falso. Ejemplo, muchas veces me ofrecieron la Moradita de Inca Kola, nunca la tomé.

Entonces, ¿Qué sucede en la racionalidad del consumidor para aceptar descaradamente el servicio o producto gratuito? El siguiente experimento nos ilustra el hecho:

Según la prueba realizada en el MIT, ante un escenario de mercado donde la calidad se rige por el precio, los consumidores prefieren Ferrero por la utilidad que les brinda; pero si Sublime es gratuito, las preferencias se alteran provocando una nueva utilidad. Este se denomina el efecto de precio cero, donde el consumidor se vuelve irracional ya que deja de evaluar los beneficios en términos absolutos y relativos.

Por ende, al no analizar correctamente la utilidad, aceptamos un servicio o producto sin medir las posibles consecuencias. Esto causa la acumulación de bienes dentro de los hogares, si no se valora lo recibido, la producción sería fabricada para la basura lo cual incrementa los efectos del calentamiento global.

Sin embargo, ¿Qué ocurre en el escenario que se acepta un servicio o producto que es útil? Se altera el mercado por la tragedia de los comunes, ya que la demanda aumenta exponencialmente mientras que la oferta se mantiene constante y se degrada con mayor frecuencia.

En Eslovaquia, cuando se decidió ofrecer el servicio gratuito al transporte de trenes, el Estado enfrentó un grave problema al otorgar subsidios a las empresas privadas y controlar la excesiva demanda. Según los cálculos de la pérdida entre el 2014 al 2017, existe un costo que ronda entre 214 a 254 millones de euros para el gobierno durante ese periodo. Adicionalmente, el servicio presentaba un deterioro constante.

En conclusión, lo gratis altera el mercado de dos formas. Ocasiona sesgos en el consumidor que no reconoce la utilidad que le genera el producto o servicio y en el caso de que lo aprecie, provoca la tragedia de los comunes. Entonces, lo ideal sería dejar de aceptar las cosas gratuitas; no obstante, es complicado que ocurra este escenario dado que somos seres irracionales. Al final, como dijo Friedman: “No existe lonche gratis”.


Willy Mak
Futuro economista, enfocado en la gestión de los recursos naturales. Adicto al multitasking y al psicoanálisis. Detesta el chifa, pero ama la comida china.

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