A company is selling $10 for $15. Here's why it might work

Peter Spence
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Washboard is offering a solution for the time scarce (Source: Getty)

Making money isn't always easy, but one company may have found a way to make it grow on trees. They're convinced that they can get people to buy $10 of cash from them for $14.99.

The idea may sound ludicrous: why would anyone want to buy cash for more than its face value, and in the same currency?

To economists the answer is obvious: it's all about time preference. Washboard is offering to sell its customers a roll of quarters because it will make trips to the laundrette far more convenient.

The $4.99 cash they pay as a premium is worth less to them than the convenience of having the quarters they need, when they want them. So they'll forego that $4.99 each month to make their lives a little easier. What shapes that time preference is down to the individual, but this might be a service that's useful for those with very limited free time, and who have such high salaries that the $4.99 they pay isn't worth that much to them.

Less obvious forms of this already exist. There are laundry services that will collect shirts from your home, before returning with them cleaned and ironed. Washboard faces one big challenge: if its target customers are time poor, but with high enough incomes to afford convenience luxuries, why wouldn't they prefer to use a collection service?

One thing is for sure. As incomes rise, businesses that offer ways to free up their customers' spare time will be on the ascent. Because as you earn more, your spare time becomes more valuable.

If you don't have enough cash to pay for any entertainment, then you may care less about your spare time than if you could be spending your weekends jetting off around Europe.