On his fun and varied economics blog, Grinnell grad Seth Gitter writes an interesting post on the economics of the combo meal, from the starting point of a bundle that Amazon offers.
Gitter's explanation is right on, but regarding the Amazon promotions, I'd like to add one point that I find interesting. Those Amazon discounts are not actually discounts. Hence the brilliance of the Amazon scheme: the bundles convey the feeling of discounts without costing the seller any money.
I can't find the bundle Gitter references anymore, but I'll stick with his example of The Perfect Storm. Here is the bundling language from this DVD:
Buy this DVD with U-571 (Collector's Edition) DVD ~ Bill Paxton today!
Total List Price: $24.97
Buy Together Today: $17.48
The cost of The Perfect Storm is $9.99, so the offer is to get the second item, U-571, for an additional $7.49. The Amazon price for U-571? Yup: $7.49. I've checked dozens of these bundles, and none of them has ever offered a genuine discount; they just let you buy two Amazon items instead of one.
Of course, the language never quite claims otherwise. The key to the promotion is that it a) presumably relies on Amazon's database to choose pairing that will attract the viewer, and b) it uses the language of the discount combo to reinforce the benchmark of the list price and to activate all our associations with other companies' bundled offers--these offers feel like McDonald's combo meals, even if they don't behave like them.
I do hope, reader, that you are now pondering the behavior of the combo meal in the most striking and graphic ways.