Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dear Kate: Signaling alarm

Dear Kate,

I'm a rookie in car theft business. Recently I've been tempted to steal one of two cars always parked not far from my cousin's place. I'm yet to decide which car I'd steal. My tutor told me I should choose one, there's no way I could get 'em both. As I'm just a rookie, I'm nervous. The two cars are of the same class. One is Honda City and the other Toyota Vios. It seems to me they're also of 2006 made. I've also noticed that the drivers of the two cars are of early 40; they're both your average working citizens -- although I'm not sure if this is relevant.

Another thing that I have observed is that the Vios has that sticker telling you it is equipped with an alarm system, but I don't see any such sticker on the City. Again I'm still thinking about this, but something's telling me that you might be interested in this information.

I know you're an economist and have nothing to do with car burglary market. But if you were me, the rookie who needed to prove his talent to the seniors, what would you do?

Rookie @ Cileungsi

Dear Rookie @ Cileungsi,

I have to admit, at first I took offense by your email. But as an afterthought, hey I should probably be proud that even a criminal like you consult with me. And I came up to a conclusion that it is not my position to make a judgment on your profession.

So here you go. It seems to me that everything that is of interest to you has been listed in your email. Those similarities -- made year, class, driver's appearance -- they're not very interesting to me. But they're useful to at least imply that the two car owners fall into the same income level -- at least not very far apart one another.
The sticker thing. Now that's more interesting. We economists tend to believe what people do more than what they say. Sticker is saying. Non-sticker is non-saying, but might be a doing. In a similar income level, attitudes toward risk might not be very different. But similar also means not exactly the same. I would assume the following. One of your drivers thinks alarm is important. The other thinks making people believe it has an alarm on his car is important. The first one would install a very good alarm system and hence wouldn't need a damn sticker. The second would not have an alarm or at most have the less reliable (then cheaper) alarm -- he would need a bright sticker to signal otherwise. You tell me which one is the easier target? Yes, the one with sticker. Take the Vios.

That said, don't blame me if you get busted. I'm just trying to make sense of the information you gave me. And remember, I'm no thief. So you were wrong to ask me in the first place.

But good luck!



  1. i read this again and again ... and still *guling guling*

  2. But the fact that there's an alarm may not guarantee that the thief will be caught.

    The owner of the second car may think "I've put this alarm, but what if a thief manages to turn off the alarm or when the alarm rings I'm not near my car? Maybe it's better to tell people that there's an alarm, for deterrence."

    And the fact that there's no sticker about any alarm on the first car doesn't necessary mean that there's a sophisticated alarm.

    Nonetheless, Kate's reasoning is valid to some extent. But for me I would choose the car without the sticker. The Vioz owner may get the sticker from the alarm company when he installed the alarm.