February 26, 2012

Why do we spend money on things we used to get for free?

In an earlier article, How do I get rich now - the unusual ways?, we have learned about the unusual ways people got rich. One way to make money from "nothing" is to sell water on bottles to people who can get water to drink from a tap. The comedian Chris Rock made a show with this theme about how we spend money on things we used to get for free - such as ring-tones and water.

One famous brand of bottled water is San Pellegrino from Italy. Those bottles are actually filled in Italy before they have to be shipped by truck, boat, and then truck again to the grocery store. Here are some basic facts about that water and other general facts about bottled water:
  • The bottles weigh more than the water they contain
  • The bottles have to be washed before they are filled. They are washed in the same water that goes into the bottles for people to drink
  • The bubbles in the water comes from another spring. The company has to harvest the carbon dioxide from that spring, purify it, compress it, truck it north to Pellegrino, and inject it into the water again
  • The equivalent of 40,000 18-wheel trucks are necessary to bring all bottled water to the US each week
  • Bottled water is 3000 times more expensive than water from a tap
One recent trend is to prevent companies from selling bottled water at universities in the US. Several universities have begun to give away empty bottles for the students to fill with water from special taps. One thing to remember is that they do not want to ban Coca Cola and other soft drinks. Coca Cola is actually 95 percent water as well and you need 2.5 liters of water to produce 1 liter of Coca Cola. Banning bottled water may result in an increased sale of other products such as these soft drinks.


  1. in the late 80s and early 90s most of us drank free tap water, however it wasn't uncommon to pay $20 or more for the latest compact disc. Now, peer-to-peer networks provide essentially the same content for the price paid out to ISPs for monthly bandwidth while a case of imported bottled water will cost $3 or $4, plus the hidden environmental costs of shipping and so forth, as you point out.

  2. Well, in the case of bottled water, we (people who care) found out that tap water is unsafe to drink. There are three populations here: the wealthy healthy who knew about this in the 70s and gave bottled water its initial mass acceptance in the US. Then the non-wealthy healthy learned of the dangers in US tap water and started purchasing bottled water. Then we have the great American lemming who is drinking bottled water because they want to be like the healthy looking desirable guy/gal who drinks it - at least that's the initial appeal that got everyone drinking bottled water. First is was health from those who knew how polluted our water is, then it was lemmings.

    1. Many (most?) places in America have perfectly safe tap water. Maybe the rest would be less polluted if we weren't burning so much fossil fuel to ship it halfway around the globe.

      No matter where you are on this continent, there are much cheaper and more efficient ways to get safe water than producing it in Italy, putting it in heavy glass bottles, and shipping it across the ocean.

    2. People think that tap water is unsafe, but in reality there have been many more incidences of contaminated bottled water than of contaminated tap water in major metropolitan areas in the the Unites States.

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