There’s a Seinfeld episode in which Kramer orders some Cubans. Jerry thinks he’s ordering cigars but Kramer actually brought three Cuban men over so they could roll cigars for him. He didn’t get cigars because they were illegal.
When America cut ties with Cuba after Fidel Castro took over, it became illegal to do business with Cuba. Whenever something is banned or difficult to get all of a sudden people want the banned or difficult to get things even more. That’s the principle of scarcity at work on the human psyche.
Here are just a few examples.
There was a point in time when you could only get Coors beer west of the Rockies. As a kid I remember my dad and his brothers talking about how good Coors was when they could get it. None of them drinks Coors now.
Yuengling is another example of a beer that was hard to come by, at least in Ohio, until recent years. I recall traveling with a friend who made it a point to stop at a conveience store in West Virginia just to buy a case of Yuengling.
Twinkies started flying off the shelf when it was announced Hostess was discontinuing the cake-filled treat.
Back in 2001, Oldsmobile exceeded it sales goal by a higher percentage than better-known brands such as BMW, Kia, Porsche, and many others, when it was announced the car line was being discontinued.
I’m a Scotch lover and asked an expert at a tasting event his thoughts on aged Scotch (25 years and older). He said he tries a glass but doesn’t buy a bottle because age doesn’t necessarily mean better taste. He said the reason the price is so much higher for aged Scotch is just because there’s less of it.
Why do we naturally feel compelled to take advantage of scarce resources or opportunities? From Influence Science and Practice:
“One prominent theory accounts for the primacy of loss over gain in evolutionary terms. If one has enough to survive, an increase in resources will be helpful but a decrease in those same resources could be fatal. Consequently, it would be adaptive to be especially sensitive to the possibility of loss.” (Haselton & Nettle, 2006)
Now here’s the interesting thing – once something is no longer scarce we don’t want it as much. There’s a good chance we’ll see this play out with Cuban cigars. Now that relations between the U.S. and Cuba have been normalized it’s a sure bet Cuban cigars will be easier to get. In all likelihood there will be a rush to get them when they initially hit the store shelves. However, as they become more commonplace it’s likely people won’t value them as much.
Humans are not always predictable so there’s no guarantee I’m correct in my assessment of what will happen with Cuban cigar prices. Only time will tell. However, given how scarcity works on the human mind and surveying similar scenarios from the past, if I were a betting man I’d bet on a price fall shortly after Cubans – cigars that is – hit the U.S. market.