How My Son's Birthday Party Proved the Inherent Functionality of Markets

The market proves fair and functional even in the unlikeliest of situations.

A couple of weeks ago, I booked a laser tag party for my younger son, who just turned nine.  When we arrived at the venue Sunday, it seemed completely closed.  I nervously checked my confirmation, but all was in order.  Then I double-checked the hours on Yelp and discovered, to my dismay, that the firm that booked the party sold this location long ago.  Frankly, it looked like full-blown fraud.  The website was selling parties it had no ability to supply.

At that moment, anti-libertarian laughter erupted all over the internet: “Ha ha, Bryan trusted the free market.  Now his son’s party is ruined!”

By this point, my wife was rushing to book another party at a competing laser tag place, but it wasn’t open yet.  Kids were arriving from all over the area, and we were stuck in the parking lot.

When all seemed grim, the door of the laser tag place opened up.  I explained to the puzzled gentleman inside what had befallen us.  While his firm had nothing to do with the website that sold me a phantom party, he was eager to help.

After inviting all the kids and parents inside, he immediately got the owner on the line.  What a relief!  They were more than happy to open two hours early to save the children.  A couple of workers dutifully arrived early within minutes.  The laser war began on schedule—and at the normal price.

When the party ended, I called my credit card company.  Within five minutes, the bogus charge was reversed.

All’s well that ends well, but what do we learn?

When one business was negligent, another business bent over backward to undo all the damage.  Nor did the wrong-doer earn a penny of profit.

I would have preferred a system where the original business behaved properly, leaving me with no tale to tell.  But no system is perfect, so we should also study what happens when something goes wrong.  When one business was negligent, another business bent over backward to undo all the damage.  Nor did the wrong-doer earn a penny of profit.  I call that fair—and functional.

P.S. The heroic business in my story is Ultrazone Loudoun.  I withhold the name of the malefactor lest I ruin my own happy ending.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Library of Economics and Liberty.