958: Hotels

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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'Rating: 1/5. Room filled to brim with semen, and when front desk clerk opened mouth to talk, bedbugs poured out.'
Title text: 'Rating: 1/5. Room filled to brim with semen, and when front desk clerk opened mouth to talk, bedbugs poured out.'


In this comic, Black Hat is giving all the hotels he has stayed at, likes, and wants to stay in again bad reviews, in order to lower demand for said hotel. He is simultaneously putting good reviews on bad hotels to steer other people there so there are more vacancies at good hotels. He also claims he is not influential enough to personally put the good hotels out of business. But even if he didn't put the hotels out of business, the market would certainly still be affected, and all so he could enjoy a lower price, once again proving he's a classhole.

Cueball objects that, if this practice became widespread, the good hotels would all go out of business. Black Hat responds by invoking the tragedy of the commons. The tragedy of the commons is a classic thought experiment which posits a group of farmers sharing a common grazing field. It would be in each farmer's self interest to graze as many cattle as possible to make as much money as possible. If all the farmers did this, they'd overgraze the land, ultimately making it useless for grazing. The "tragedy" is that, assuming self-interested farmers and nothing to restrict their actions, this outcome would be inevitable. Even knowing the dangers of overgrazing the land, each farmer would know that others would overgraze it, and therefore would want to profit as much as they could before it was all destroyed. Black Hat uses this to explain his own reasoning: his actions don't determine what other people do, he clearly rejects the notion of an implied social contract, and so he's simply going to act in his own self-interest, regardless of whether other people do the same.

In the last frame, Black Hat references the invisible hand which is the term coined by Adam Smith and used by economists use to describe the self-regulating nature of the marketplace. Black Hat appears to be taking advantage of this invisible hand by cutting it with a knife and eating it.

The title text is an example of Black Hat's negative reviews, which in itself is a surrealist joke about the hotel. A somewhat believable (if exaggerated) set of complaints about an awful hotel would be : "Room filled to brim with bedbugs, and when front desk clerk opened mouth to talk, semen poured out". However instead, the objects of focus are reversed, creating a ridiculous scenario for the reader to enjoy, if they are not too disgusted by the imagery of the text.


[Cueball is sitting at a desk with a laptop, looking at a review website]
Cueball: What's with this negative review? You liked that hotel.
Black Hat: I have a script that posts a bad review for every hotel I stay at. It reduces demand, which means more vacancies and lower prices next time.
Cueball: What if the place sucks?
Black Hat: I change the review to positive to steer other people over there.
Cueball: You punish companies you like!
Black Hat: The odds of my review putting a hotel out of business are negligible.
Cueball: If we all did that the system would collapse!
Black Hat: Doesn't affect my logic. Tragedy of the commons.
Cueball: That's not even the tragedy of the commons anymore. That's the tragedy of you're a dick.
Black Hat: If you're quick with a knife, you'll find that the invisible hand is made of delicious invisible meat.

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I hardly ever visit the same place twice, so I'd have to give hotels bad reviews ahead of time so that I get lower prices when I get there. Hell, why doesn't Black Hat do that? That way, he can avoid paying full price on his first visit to the hotel, which is what he wants, isn't it? The dishonesty of writing a bad review before he visits shouldn't be a deterrent to a person like him, so why not? Davidy²²[talk] 08:39, 9 March 2013 (UTC)

How did cue ball find out he liked it. Although it is only one person, knowing him directly gives him extra influence. I would say it is about the amount of influence of a review.-- 02:02, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Cueball seems to be friendly enough with Black Hat, so quite likely Black Hat simply mentioned that to Cueball before. Arifsaha (talk) 19:51, 21 November 2014 (UTC)
While lying to Cueball about the quality of a hotel would reduce the overall demand, it is unlikely that both Black Hat and Cueball would both be travelling to the same city over the same date range, effectively meaning they are not competitors. Furthermore, if they were travelling together it is more likely that they would share a room, rental car or other resource, so having Cueball know his preferences benefits Black Hat. 20:44, 12 December 2014 (UTC)
Because he doesn't know how good the hotel will be yet. Beanie (talk) 13:05, 7 May 2021 (UTC)

Is the title text a reference to a scene in a horror movie? Arifsaha (talk) 19:51, 21 November 2014 (UTC)

Highly unlikely, unless you can actually find a horror movie that incorporates those elements (I really hope you can't) -Pennpenn 02:59, 4 March 2016 (UTC)

"Confirmed buyer" tags exist. Maybe Black Hat thinks that reviews without that tags wouldn't be convincing enough to be effective.

On the tragedy of You-are-a-dick: this is the real Tragedy of the Commons. Indeed quite different from Black Hat's tragedy of you-are-a-dick. My uni has a well-drawn version of this image on posters all over. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-r-IYVLEtd7c/Te-HBryOP6I/AAAAAAAAANs/RC9LTMLSp9o/s1600/GDP+as+Tragedy+of+the+Commons.JPG (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)