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Information Acquisition and Refunds for Returns

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  • Steven A. Matthews

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Nicola Persico

    ()
    (Department of Economics and School of Law, New York University)

Abstract

A product exhibits personal fit uncertainty when its consumers have idiosyncratic and uncertain values for it. Often a consumer can learn her long-run value quickly by obtaining the good for a trial period. Money back guarantees of satisfaction are commonly used to lower the cost to consumers of learning their values this way. Increasingly, however, consumers can instead learn about their values before they purchase by, e.g., reading product reviews or consulting experts. We study the effect on a firm’s optimal price and refund of this competing source of information. An efficient outcome would be achieved by setting the refund for a return equal to its salvage value. But a monopoly will, for some parameters, induce consumers to stay uninformed by promising a refund that is greater than the salvage value. This generates an inefficiently large number of returns, which the firm finds worthwhile in order to eliminate the information rents that consumers would obtain by becoming informed. This finding is consistent with the observation that for many products, money back guarantees are generous, as they commonly refund the entire, or almost the entire, purchase price of a product.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 07-021.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: 16 Jul 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:07-021

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Keywords: information acquisition; refunds; money back guarantees; personal fit uncertainty;

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References

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  1. V. Padmanabhan & I. P. L. Png, 1997. "Manufacturer's Return Policies and Retail Competition," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 16(1), pages 81-94.
  2. Heiman, Amir & McWilliams, Bruce & Zilberman, David, 2001. "Demonstrations and money-back guarantees: market mechanisms to reduce uncertainty," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 71-84, October.
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  7. Bergemann, Dirk & Pesendorfer, Martin, 2001. "Information Structures in Optimal Auctions," CEPR Discussion Papers 2991, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Dirk Bergemann & Juuso Vaimaki, 2000. "Information Acquisition and Efficient Mechanism Design," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1248, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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  14. Pascal Courty & Li Hao, 1997. "Sequential screening," Economics Working Papers 224, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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  17. Steven A. Matthews & Nicola Persico, 2005. "Information Acquisition and the Excess Refund Puzzle," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-015, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  18. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
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  22. Marvel, Howard P & Peck, James, 1995. "Demand Uncertainty and Returns Policies," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(3), pages 691-714, August.
  23. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Peitz, Martin & Inderst, Roman, 2012. "Informing Consumers about their own Preferences," Working Papers 12-07, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.
  2. Inderst, Roman & Peitz, Martin, 2008. "Selling Service Plans to Differentially Informed Customers," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-125, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

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