Napoleon, eggs and capturing consumer surplus

On campaign in the early 1800s, Napoleon approached a hostelry on the slopes of  Col du Pin Bouchain near Roanne. (BTW: the Col du Pin Bouchain at 759m was the first mountain ever used in the Tour de France in the 1903 edition.)


Napoleon was shocked at the price of eggs, and so he asked the owners of the hostelry

“Are eggs so rare in this region that they justify such a bill?’

The owner of the hostelry replied.

“It’s not the eggs that are rare, it’s Emperors.”

Supply and Demand in action!

This is an example of a monopoly seller capturing the consumer surplus of Napoleon – assuming an Emperor would have deep pockets and would be willing to pay more money to get some eggs, rather than walk to the next village.

Just imagine if shop owners could always know the income of the consumer and how much they would be willing to pay. They could make up a price depending on the consumer.

The only thing is I don’t know how this story ended. Perhaps Napoleon said.

“Since there is only one Emperor, I’m going to make a new law that the Emperor is allowed to requisition all eggs to help fund his military campaigns.”

Still you’ve got to admire the guts of the hotel owner for trying to capture Napoleon’s consumer surplus.


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