The paper provides evidence from a study of online DVD rentals that when a choice is made for the future, in comparison to the present, customers find goods with more should characteristics (what they refer to as highbrow films) relatively more attractive than goods with more want characteristics (lowbrow films). The authors’ results suggest that rental companies may be able to forecast how long customers will borrow different types of items based on the extent to which those items are shoulds versus wants. The authors predict and find that should DVDs, such as documentaries, are held significantly longer than want DVDs, such as action films by the individual customer. Similarly, they predict and find that people are more likely to rent DVDs in one order and return them in the reverse order when should DVDs are rented before want DVDs. A 1.3% increase in the probability of a reversal in preferences (from a baseline rate of 12%) ensues if the first of two sequentially rented movies has more should and fewer want characteristics than the second film. They find that as the same customers gain more experience with online DVD rentals, the extent to which they hold should films longer than want films decreases.

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