James Dean, Chinese Foot Massages, and Opportunity Cost

February 21, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

This amazing piece was written by “the other other Noah,” Mr. Noah Glass. He said if he gets 25+ comments he will write weekly for us. I hope we can comment our hearts out as he has tons of great things to say.

I’m a maximizer.


Today I walked past a Chinese back & foot massage parlor. I’d never indulged in a back or foot massage on the spur of the moment. I decided I couldn’t walk past it and do nothing. I had to go in.

chinese foot massage

I decided on the 20 minute foot massage: the shallow end of the pool.

I got into my massage cubicle, took off my shoes and socks, and laid on my back.

The minute the foot massage started, I wasn’t thinking about how good it felt. I was thinking about how much it was costing me.

Sure, the price was $20, but what was the opportunity cost of that 20 minutes?

I realized that I really had no sense of how to measure this.

First thought: I work so much that I only make about $20 on an hourly basis. Maybe this 20 minute foot massage is costing me $6.67 in my time for a grand total of $26.67 ($20 + $6.67).

But it couldn’t be as simple as that, could it?

To really assess what that 20 minutes was worth, I’d have to understand what was the next best alternative to spending it getting my feet rubbed.

Opportunity cost is defined as the utility of the highest utility alternative minus the utility of the selected alternative.

Challenge: How would you get the most value out of 20 minutes on $20?

Prize: $20 Chinese foot massage on me if you even want to spend your valuable time getting your feet rubbed

Why James Dean?

sexy picture of james dean

He’s believed to have said:

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die tomorrow

If you’re taking notes, he died at the age of 24.

He also loved Chinese foot massages. No, I can’t back that last part up.

If you enjyoed this post, please go comment so we can have “the other” Noah stick around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

29 responses to “James Dean, Chinese Foot Massages, and Opportunity Cost

  1. Joe Budde Reply

    In your last post you wanted marketing advice for gomobo and in this one you have 20 minutes and 20 bucks. Use the calculated 26.67 bucks to invest in the pocket of the doorman at the local radio station, the DJ, and get on the air and get the DJ pumped up about your service. 26.67 dollar advert means more customers & more money, thus higher pay for you, and thus a higher opportunity cost of a foot massage.

    So, it is better to do the foot massage now rather than later since as gomobo increases revenues/your pay increases, the opportunity cost of that 20 minute foot massage increases as well.

    A foot massage right now will be the cheapest foot massage you will ever have.

    Given the EXTREMELY low cost of the foot massage, I find it to be the best use of your 20 minutes and 20 bucks.

    If it were me, where I wasnt a gomobo “big deal,” I would pocket the 20 bucks (high yield savings account of course) and spend the 20 minutes looking for a new job.

  2. Wendy Reply

    I would get the most value out of 20 minutes on $20 by paying someone $20 to do something that would take me way more than 20 minutes to do. For example, dry cleaning 4 blazers and 2 of my nice dresses:

    $20 – what I pay for the dry cleaning
    20 minutes – 10 mins dropping off clothes, 10 mins picking up clothes

    In what would take me something like 2 hours to clean with my steamer at home, I can get it done in $20 and 20 minutes. Assuming I make $40/hr, then I figure out that I lose:

    Dry cleaner – $20, 20 mins
    Do it myself – $80, 2 hours

    Thus I am getting the most value out of 20 minutes with $20.

    Anyhow, I liked this post =) Simple and to the point. Hopefully my response makes sense!

  3. Noah Mittman Reply

    Are you *trying* to make this a Noah party after all? Haw.

    Anyway. Rent a so-bad-its-good movie and buy a box of popcorn. Hold a screening party for some friends. That’s over 4x the time that was proposed! What value!

    (Then again, I’ve been on Netflix so long, I don’t even know if you can rent a movie on disc anymore without doing a subscription.)

  4. Brian Breslin Reply

    I think with $20 you could do a lot worse, if the massage relaxes you and relieves a little stress, then its money well spent.
    that reduction of stress can save you on other problems later.

  5. Noah N. Glass Reply

    I like it Wendy.

    Two thoughts:

    First, I think your comment speaks to the value of specialization in capitalist economies.

    While I was in South Africa, I learned about the many Afrikaaner community that lived in “the bush” (out in the country) and prided themselves on being incredibly self-sufficient. Each family made as few annual trips to the city as possible and did absolutely everything themselves.

    I bet they even rubbed their own feet.
    Seems mighty silly to me. Specialization creates wealth.

    Second thought:

    At $20 for 20 minutes, the foot massage cost way more than I make hourly: over 3x in fact. Is there some sort of comfort/pleasure derived from paying more for something than it would cost to do it yourself?

    Maybe, using logic similar to yours, I was able to convince myself that this was an “expert” massage, at its relatively high cost.

    Massages, afterall, are premium services.
    What else do you overpay for?

  6. Marshall Middle Reply

    Maybe I should change my name to Noah in the next 20 minutes. Is that a requirement to post a comment, whew! The cost of opportunity is a lot of “what if scenarios”. What if you found a $20 dollar bill by being in the right place at the right time.

  7. Noah N. Glass Reply

    True, Marshall.
    But as an abstract theory, there is one “highest utility alternative.”

    Maybe it’s more accurate to think of it as the highest utility alternative with a reasonable likelihood of occurring.

    Finding a $20 bill would be great, but the odds of doing so are low.

  8. Noah N. Glass Reply

    Travel time to get to Chinatown?
    See my last post on the Grade F congestion rating for Silicon Valley traffic.

    Talk about opportunity cost…think about the time you waste commuting. Everyone should work from home.

  9. Devin Reply

    I don’t know what I’d do. I actually like Noah K’s burrito idea a lot.

    I guess the point of this comment is, well, I really ‘enjyoed’ the post.


  10. sri Reply

    Here is an idea: While you are getting ur feet massaged, continue working…either on ur wifi or blackberry. no opportunity cost.

  11. Damon Billian Reply

    Hi Noah G.,

    Thanks for the schwag from the earlier contest;-)

    “How would you get the most value out of 20 minutes on $20?”

    This is entirely subjective. The worth of the massage is probably based on the pleasure you derived from it & not any other hard factors. Being good to your body is being good to the soul.

    Did you know that you can get an awesome massage in Thailand for about 7-10 dollars (LEGIT!). They charge more for foot massages in Thailand because the foot is the lowest part of the body in Buddhism.

  12. Jason H. Reply

    Here is a better question:

    Would you rather spend $20 on a 20 min message or on a 5 min lapdance? Which one has more value?

    “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die tomorrow”

    This is also one of my favortie quotes. But I know it’s a cliche, but if you know you have only one day to live, how would you like to spend the day, and what’s your last meal going to be?

  13. Jon Reply

    There are worse ways to spend your money. For example, you could have for some reason gone to an Indian casino the weekend before and lost around $400 playing blackjack…like my friend.

    Anyhow, i think as long as you enjoy what you payed for it’s worth it. However, you probably payed too much since you couldn’t get past the thought of opportunity cost

  14. Jason H. Reply

    anyway, I hope i didn’t offend anyone with my last comment.

    The point I was trying to make is that sometime we tend to focus too much on the immediate tangible and monetary ROI, but in reality, there is also intangible ROI, such as happiness, pleasure, spiritual gain, etc…

  15. angela Reply

    all of the thinking about the value of the 20min/$20 defeats the purpose of getting a massage…i would wager (but i am not the betting kind) that it cost you even more given that you were clearly not relaxing or enjoying the fact that someone else was rubbing your possibly not that fresh feet and you missed the value of contributing to that person’s livelihood. what is the value and how do you measure it? does it make your $ spent worth more or less?

    just wondering how far we can push this conversation!

    loved the post and all the responses!

  16. James Reply

    Hello from the other side,

    Yes, I do fancy a foot massage ever now and again. And I do likes the ladies.

    If I had 20mins, I would take the porche out for a spin.