Arbitrage: “exploiting price differences in different markets or in different forms.”
Here’s a price difference worth exploiting if you’re a lawyer who spends money making copies of courthouse records. The state court for New Orleans charges $1.00 per page to make copies of official documents, which is about 20 times what the local copy shops charge. How can they get away with this? Answer: because you can’t take the records over to the local copy shop. And this constraint no doubt applies to many other courts around the country.
But what if you could bring a small scanner into the clerk’s office and scan the documents yourself? A Fujitsu ScanSnap S300 is very portable, doesn’t need an external power connection (it uses the USB connection to your laptop), and only costs $300. There’s even a Mac version. But to use the ScanSnap you need a computer, and if you’re only going to scan a few pages it might not be worth it to lug all that equipment into the clerk’s office. In that case, you could use your iPhone and an application called DocScanner ($7.99) to take pictures of the pages you wanted to capture, and have them turned into PDFs that you can email to yourself or anyone you desire.
In the case of the ScanSnap you’d be saving money after you scanned 300 pages. With the iPhone application your break-even would be 8 pages. So, now you know how to save money at the clerk’s office using arbitrage. But there’s one more thing you need to know.
In Louisiana there are laws that protect the clerk’s monopoly on making copies. For example there is La. Code of Civil Procedure art. 251 which basically says this: you can’t use fixed or portable scanners to make copies of court documents in the clerk’s office. And since you can’t take the documents out of the clerk’s office, you’re pretty much screwed. At least that’s how it is in Louisiana. So check your state laws before you head out to court with your ScanSnap or iPhone.
I would have thought that this law would not be enforced for folks who just wanted to make a quick copy with their iPhone, but I have a lawyer friend who tried to do just that and was chased down by a clerk and told he had to pay for the copies he made. That’s what I love about our modern civilization: even when you find a way to save money or do something faster you often find that you can’t really save the money or time because you
have to pay the troll that lives under the bridge. Troll, thy name is government.