# Fact-checking Dan Ariely (2008) on Duke basketball tickets story

Economics Asked by Kenny LJ on January 2, 2021

In Predictably Irrational (2008, pp. 127-133), Dan Ariely describes the Krzyzewskiville phenomenon (Duke students camp for weeks to get basketball tickets), and how he and Ziv Camron used it to study the WTP-WTA discrepancy. This is all very interesting — the only problem is that what’s written in that book is completely different from the analyses done in the original academic paper Camron & Ariely (2000). (See summaries below.)

So my question is this: Which version is correct (if any) — the one in Predictably Irrational or the one in Camron & Ariely (2000)? Which facts/results are actually correct? Or did they just make up most of it?

Summary of version in Predictably Irrational:

• Duke students queue up in tents for weeks or even months.
• Those at the front of a line don’t get tickets to the game. Instead, they merely get a lottery number that gives them a chance to win the game.
• Camron & Ariely then personally called up "more than 100 students". For the lottery winners, they asked for their WTA (minimum price at which they were willing to sell a ticket). For the lottery losers, they asked for their WTP (maximum price at which they were willing to buy a ticket).

Findings:

In general, the students who did not own a ticket were willing to pay around $170 for one. … Those who owned a ticket, on the other hand, demanded about$2,400 for it.

Conclusion:

From a rational perspective, both the ticket holders and the non-ticket holders should have thought of the game in exactly the same way. After all, the anticipated atmosphere at the game and the enjoyment one could expect from the experience should not depend on winning a lottery. Then how could a random lottery drawing have changed the students’ view of the game—and the value of the tickets—so dramatically?

Summary of version in Camron & Ariely (2000):

In their "Study 1", their subjects are students who signed up for a lottery. However, there is no mention that these students had to queue or camp for tickets. More importantly, contrary to what’s stated in Predictably Irrational, Study 1 contains no analysis that compares lottery winners to the lottery losers. Instead:

A hundred names of potential subjects were randomly drawn from a list of students, who had signed up for a lottery determining who would be eligible to purchase a ticket to the tournament. Ninety-three respondents (those we were able to locate) were interviewed over the phone by research assistants who were unaware of the study’s hypotheses. …

Participants were first asked to indicate their selling and buying prices. The buying-price question asked for the highest price the respondent would pay for a ticket (to the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament), assuming s/he did not have a ticket. The selling-price question asked for the lowest price at which the respondent would agree to sell a ticket assuming s/he had one

Table 1 (which I presume is where the $170 and$2,400 figures quoted above come from):

It is only in their "Study 2" that there is any mention of campers being recruited as study subjects. Here however, there is no mention whatsoever of these campers entering any sort of lottery. There is certainly also no analysis comparing lottery winners and losers. There is also no hint of the $170 and$2,400 figures in the results here.