Why Do People Pay $25 for Cards Against Humanity?

The number one bestselling toy/games on Amazon today is a card game called “Cards Against Humanity.”  Almost 14,000 Amazon shoppers have written a review of the game.  Not only does this game hold the number one slot but the expansion pack, which contains an additional 100 cards is ranked number two in this Amazon category.  Card games and toys with massive followings are nothing new in the world (Pokemon cards, baseball cards, etc.), but Cards Against Humanity is special because if you go to the game’s website one of the first things that you see are two buttons.  The left button states “Buy now for $25” while the right button states “Download for free.” Why do people pay $25 when the company makes it simple to avoid paying them even one penny?

One potential reason is that picking the “Download for free” button results in a person needing to do a lot of work and to produce an inferior set of cards.  This is not the case!  The free download button has simple, easy to follow instructions that result in a professional looking deck of cards.  The company even tells you where to buy a box that fits the cards you create.

A second potential reason is that doing it yourself might actually cost more out of your pocket than the $25 the company charges. There are many products where doing it yourself results in a person spending more money than just buying the item off the shelf.  I used to cook my own bread in a bread machine.  I got professional looking results when I used a mix, but the mix I liked cost more than simply picking up a loaf of fresh bread a the supermarket. The Cards Against Humanity website is pretty clear.  It will cost you about 1 hour of time and $10 out of  your pocket to create your own deck so this idea is also not correct.

One of my children said that no one prints out their own deck because owning an official deck is a cheap status symbol.  They said buying a deck proves to your friends that you are not destitute.  The idea of proving status  by buying items which are also available for free can be traced back to Thorstein Veblen’s famous book the Theory of the Leisure class.  (Available for free here and well worth the time to read it)

I think there is a simpler reason than status on why many people pay $25 and don’t print out their own decks.  The company estimates it costs $10 to print out the deck.  This means a person doing it themselves will only save $15.  Doing it yourself takes time.  The company estimates it takes 1 hour to print out a deck.  They also suggest buying a box to hold all the cards at the Container Store.  Unless you live next door to a print shop like FedEx Office or Staples it will take time to get to the print shop.  Add in the travel time to the print shop plus time to get to a store to buy the container and my guess is that it will take most people more than 2 hours to create a professional looking deck of cards.

Dividing the $15 saving by 2 (or more hours) results in the average person valuing their time at $7.50 or less per hour.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and many states have higher minimums.

Few people make their own sets of cards because it is just not cost effective way of spending time to make your own.  Many “Free items” are only free if you don’t put any value on your time.  If you play Cards Against Humanity with someone who printed out their own deck, they are telling you that they valued their own time at less than the minimum wage.


25 thoughts on “Why Do People Pay $25 for Cards Against Humanity?

  1. I paid the $25 because I knew I would also be buying the expansions and I wanted to be sure that all of my cards would match.

  2. Even though you say that the person values their own time at $7.50 an hour, this doesn’t matter if they are making the cards for themselves. Some people find reward in using their time in doing something productive. Most people who print their own cards will use the time that they are already off work and therefore not making any money in the first place. Yes, economist argue this and that, but doing something other than sitting around is important to many people. If someone were to judge me on wasting my time by making these cards, they would be at a loss because they already have an inferior view of the world.

  3. Card stock and 60 pages of laser printed cards will cost about $3. Cutting the cards with a paper cutter, not scissors, takes about 20 minutes. They don’t need to match the bought cards, just your own. It’s a good way to sample the game or not worry about beer being spilled on the deck. There are so many boxes (shoe, Amazon, cell phone) that you can store the cards in. The disadvantage is the cards don’t last as long or shuffle as easy.

    If you like the game and plan to get expansions or 3rd party cards (and I do) buy it. Professionally printed cards are much better in the long run. If you only play once a year (New Years Eve?) print em.

  4. I buy mine because the company that produces the cards does donations to charity. The science pack money goes to a scholarship for women to get into science ($500,000 of scholarship money!). The 2013 christmas pack money goes to under funded schools (mine ended up buying supplies for a school in East Palo Alto). The Christmas subscription packs (limited run stuff) gets money donated to several charities that make good use of the money they get. I also custom make my own cards to add to my deck.

  5. There’s reasons other than economics. For example, I was at a party where everyone wanted to play the game, but since nobody had it with them, someone dug up some card stock and we just made it right there, which didn’t take long since there were at least six people cutting out the cards. Personally, I’m making my own because there’s so many fun custom expansions online, and then I can print out sheets of blank cards to make even more whenever the inspiration strikes.

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