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Three Lessons in "Rational" Prices Raising Ethical Questions

1. Mets Play Hardball

More than any other major-league baseball team, the New York Mets have tinkered with variable ticket prices that fluctuate in tandem with "platinum" game times (say, summer weekends) and "bronze" opponents (the Pirates). Amid the recession, fans have bemoaned the "horrifying" strategy on sports radio and blogs. Still, most are shelling out: Individual game sales are on track to double this season.

2. Congestion Pricing Clogs Up

By charging drivers a premium to commute during peak hours, traffic authorities in London and Stockholm have reduced gridlock and air pollution. But in New York and San Francisco, an angry public has dubbed congestion pricing "regressive" and "unfair to working families" who live outside the city center, stalling the proposals.

3. Coke Falls Flat

When Coca-Cola introduced thermometer-loaded vending machines that charged more on hot days (and less on cold ones), it was trying to optimize demand. But consumers were outraged, and major newspapers called the effort "cynical" and "evidence that the world is going to hell in a handbasket." Shortly thereafter, Coke pulled the machines.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.