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Designing Pricing Contracts for Boundedly Rational Customers: Does the Framing of the Fixed Fee Matter?

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Author Info

  • Teck-Hua Ho

    ()
    (Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720)

  • Juanjuan Zhang

    ()
    (Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

Abstract

The format of pricing contracts varies substantially across business contexts, a major variable being whether a contract imposes a fixed fee payment. This paper examines how the use of the fixed fee in pricing contracts affects market outcomes of a manufacturer-retailer channel. Standard economic theories predict that channel efficiency increases with the introduction of the fixed fee and is invariant to its framing. We conduct a laboratory experiment to test these predictions. Surprisingly, the introduction of the fixed fee fails to increase channel efficiency. Moreover, the framing of the fixed fee does make a difference: an opaque frame as quantity discounts achieves higher channel efficiency than a salient frame as a two-part tariff, although these two contractual formats are theoretically equivalent. To account for these anomalies, we generalize the standard economic model by allowing the retailer's utilities to be reference dependent so that the up-front fixed fee payment is perceived as a loss and the subsequent retail profits as a gain. We embed this reference-dependent utility function in a quantal response equilibrium framework where the retailer is allowed to make decision mistakes due to computational complexity. The key prediction of this behavioral model is that channel efficiency decreases with loss aversion for sufficiently Nash-rational retailers. Consistent with this prediction, the estimated loss-aversion coefficient is 1.37 in the two-part tariff condition, significantly higher than 1.27 in the quantity discount condition. At the same time, loss aversion dominates contract complexity in explaining the data. Lastly, we conduct a follow-up experiment to confirm the central role of loss aversion as a behavioral driver. In one condition, the retailer becomes less loss averse when we temporally compress the fixed fee payment and the realization of retail profits, which supports the loss aversion theory. In the other condition, the retailer's contract acceptance rate does not decline when we reward the manufacturer a higher cash payment for each experimental point earned, which rules out the competing hypothesis that the retailer rejects contract offers due to fairness concerns.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1070.0788
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 54 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (April)
Pages: 686-700

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:54:y:2008:i:4:p:686-700

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Related research

Keywords: fixed fee; two-part tariffs; quantity discounts; distribution channels; loss aversion; behavioral economics; experimental economics;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Wilfred Amaldoss & Teck-Hua Ho & Aradhna Krishna & Kay-Yut Chen & Preyas Desai & Ganesh Iyer & Sanjay Jain & Noah Lim & John Morgan & Ryan Oprea & Joydeep Srivasatava, 2008. "Experiments on strategic choices and markets," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 417-429, December.
  2. Elahi, Ehsan & Lamba, Narasimha & Ramaswamy, Chinthana, 2013. "How can we improve the performance of supply chain contracts? An experimental study," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(1), pages 146-157.
  3. Avi Goldfarb & Teck-Hua Ho & Wilfred Amaldoss & Alexander Brown & Yan Chen & Tony Cui & Alberto Galasso & Tanjim Hossain & Ming Hsu & Noah Lim & Mo Xiao & Botao Yang, 2012. "Behavioral models of managerial decision-making," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 405-421, June.
  4. Lindsey, Robin & Wang, Judith & Yang, Hai, 2010. "Nonlinear Pricing on Private Roads with Congestion and Toll Collection Costs," Working Papers 2010-3, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
  5. Wu, Diana Yan, 2013. "The impact of repeated interactions on supply chain contracts: A laboratory study," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(1), pages 3-15.
  6. Teck-Hua Ho & Xuanming Su, 2009. "Peer-Induced Fairness in Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2022-49, December.
  7. Robert Meyer & Joachim Vosgerau & Vishal Singh & Joel Urbany & Gal Zauberman & Michael Norton & Tony Cui & Brian Ratchford & Alessandro Acquisti & David Bell & Barbara Kahn, 2010. "Behavioral research and empirical modeling of marketing channels: Implications for both fields and a call for future research," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 301-315, September.

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