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Odd Prices at Retail Gasoline Stations: Focal Point Pricing and Tacit Collusion


  • Matthew S. Lewis


This study empirically investigates the theory that odd‐numbered pricing points can be used as focal points to facilitate tacit collusion. Like other retailers, gasoline stations in the United States disproportionately sell at prices ending in odd digits. I show that station prices are higher and change less frequently in locations using more odd prices (particularly those ending in 5 or 9), even after controlling for other market characteristics. The evidence suggests that the use of pricing points can be an effective mechanism for tacitly coordinating prices, providing an alternative explanation for the widespread use of odd prices in retail markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew S. Lewis, 2015. "Odd Prices at Retail Gasoline Stations: Focal Point Pricing and Tacit Collusion," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(3), pages 664-685, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jemstr:v:24:y:2015:i:3:p:664-685
    DOI: 10.1111/jems.12103

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Daniel Chaves & Marco Duarte, 2021. "The Inner Workings of a Hub-and-Spoke Caretl in the Automotive Fuel Industry," University of Western Ontario, Departmental Research Report Series 20216, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
    3. Woo-Hyung Hong & Daeyong Lee, 2020. "Asymmetric pricing dynamics with market power: investigating island data of the retail gasoline market," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 58(5), pages 2181-2221, May.
    4. Chenavaz, Régis & Drouard, Joeffrey & Escobar, Octavio R. & Karoubi, Bruno, 2018. "Convenience pricing in online retailing: Evidence from," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 127-139.
    5. David Barrus & Frank Scott, 2020. "Single Bidders and Tacit Collusion in Highway Procurement Auctions," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(3), pages 483-522, September.
    6. Valadkhani, Abbas & Ghazanfari, Arezoo & Nguyen, Jeremy & Moradi-Motlagh, Amir, 2021. "The asymmetric effects of COVID19 on wholesale fuel prices in Australia," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 255-266.
    7. David P. Brown & Andrew Eckert & James Lin, 2018. "Information and transparency in wholesale electricity markets: evidence from Alberta," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 54(3), pages 292-330, December.
    8. Soetevent, Adriaan R. & Bružikas, Tadas, 2018. "The impact of process innovation on prices: Evidence from automated fuel retailing in The Netherlands," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 181-196.
    9. Jeong, Ji Youn & Crompton, John L., 2017. "The use of odd-ending numbers in the pricing of five tourism services in three different cultures," Tourism Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 135-146.
    10. Zirgulis Aras, 2016. "The Impact of Oil Refinery Market Power on Retail Fuel Prices in the European Union," Ekonomika (Economics), Sciendo, vol. 95(3), pages 37-51, December.
    11. Ater, Itai & Gerlitz, Omri, 2017. "Round prices and price rigidity: Evidence from outlawing odd prices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 188-203.
    12. Andreas Freitag & Catherine Roux & Christian Thöni, 2021. "Communication And Market Sharing: An Experiment On The Exchange Of Soft And Hard Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 62(1), pages 175-198, February.
    13. Sylvain Benoît & Yannick Lucotte & Sébastien Ringuedé, 2019. "Competition and price stickiness: Evidence from the French retail gasoline market," Working Papers hal-02292332, HAL.
    14. Bian, Junsong & Zhao, Xuan & Liu, Yunchuan, 2020. "Single vs. cross distribution channels with manufacturers’ dynamic tacit collusion," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 220(C).
    15. Willem H. Boshoff & Johannes Paha, 2021. "List Price Collusion," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 393-409, September.

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