Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Trade Barriers and Television Shows

So, while you're all probably still reeling from Tim Tebow's amazing overtime pass against the Steelers in the play-offs, it's time for another Adventure in Business Casual! In other important news, we've all  lived to see the stupidest celebrity baby name to date: Blue Ivy, daughter of the oh-so-normally-named Beyonce and Jay-Z. Poor kid never had a chance.

Today, I accomplished something on my unofficial bucket list. Right up there with "move to New York" and "give my kids a viable first and/or middle name," was "work for What Not to Wear." It is the stuff of legend. My dad calls it the female equivalent of working for ESPN. It's like finding out you're actually related to Milton Friedman ... or Coco Chanel. And even though I'm only a lowly intern, today I walked through those hallowed doors, and felt the surreal exhilaration of working for What Not to Wear.

Now, don't freak out. Most of the cast and crew were out of town filming, so it was a fairly quiet office day. This meant making spreadsheets and running errands; nothing too big. See, in Manhattan, space is precious. So sometimes offices are on different floors, or even in different buildings. In the case of "different buildings," sometimes they're in different zip codes with lousy subway access between them.

That means that when someone in production needs to send material to someone in A/R, they can't just get on an elevator. They can't just stick it in the manila folder. They can't even mail it. They send it via intern. We are the Pony Express of Manhattan offices, swiftly traveling through daunting streams of humanity that flood the Times Square subway station. I safely delivered all sorts of office supplies between offices today, battling chilly New York winter drafts, over-eager New York winter heaters, and the always-pleasant people also riding the subway.

It's kind of important that the two offices be able to talk to each other, and short of carrier pigeon, sending something "via intern" is sort of the only solution for that. The distance between the two offices is a barrier to a sort of "trade" that happens between departments in any organization. This trade may be information (usually solved by an email, phone call, or carrier pigeon), or something tangible (usually solved by an intern). In the second case, the more distance exists, the harder it is for the two parties to work together and trade. In international economics, this is expressed by the equation Tij=(A*Yi*Yj)/Dij. Based on the formula for gravity, the amount of trade (Tij) between countries i and j is the product of a conversion factor (A), times the size of country i's economy (Yi), times the size of country j's economy (Yj), all divided by the distance (Dij) between countries i and j.

In other words, the larger two economies are, the more likely they'll trade with each other, and the farther apart they are, the less likely they'll trade with each other. This makes intuitive sense - larger economies have more to offer each other, but transaction costs increase with distance (shipping and time add extra costs that may negate the gains of either party in the transaction). Similarly, the various departments at What Not to Wear "trade" more with each other if they have important info. If they weren't so far away, there would be fewer transaction costs, and they could "trade" even more. After all, even accomplished blogger interns can only travel so quickly. Even still, it's a pretty good system - and I, for one, am certainly glad there's a demand for interns.

I started interning in:
Black below-the-knee pencil skirt, purple long-sleeved blouse with ruffle neckline, gray small-fishnet hosiery, purple and blue bead earrings, stacked silver rings, and black stilettos with bow details.*

*I also brought some gray flats out of consideration for my rubber-tipped stilettos. For tales of the economics of getting my shoes re-heeled, please see my earlier post "Even if the Shoe Fits, It Still Needs a Heel."