IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/kap/revind/v47y2015i3p303-340.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Failing to Choose the Best Price: Theory, Evidence, and Policy

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Grubb

    ()

Abstract

Both the “law of one price” and Bertrand’s (J Savants 67:499–508, 1883 ) prediction of marginal cost pricing for homogeneous goods rest on the assumption that consumers will choose the best price. In practice, consumers often fail to choose the best price because they search too little, become confused comparing prices, and/or show excessive inertia through too little switching away from past choices or default options. This is particularly true when price is a vector rather than a scalar, and consumers have limited experience in the relevant market. All three mistakes may contribute to positive markups that fail to diminish as the number of competing sellers increases. Firms may have an incentive to exacerbate these problems by obfuscating prices, thereby using complexity to make price comparisons difficult and soften competition. Possible regulatory interventions include: simplifying the choice environment, for instance by restricting price to be a scalar; advising consumers of their expected costs under each option; or choosing on behalf of consumers. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Grubb, 2015. "Failing to Choose the Best Price: Theory, Evidence, and Policy," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 303-340, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:revind:v:47:y:2015:i:3:p:303-340
    DOI: 10.1007/s11151-015-9476-x
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11151-015-9476-x
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. repec:bla:randje:v:48:y:2017:i:4:p:877-905 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Benjamin Scheibehenne & Rainer Greifeneder & Peter M. Todd, 2010. "Can There Ever Be Too Many Options? A Meta-Analytic Review of Choice Overload," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(3), pages 409-425, October.
    3. Neal M. Stoughton & Youchang Wu & Josef Zechner, 2011. "Intermediated Investment Management," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(3), pages 947-980, June.
    4. Gabaix, Xavier & Laibson, David & Li, Deyuan & Li, Hongyi & Resnick, Sidney & de Vries, Casper G., 2016. "The impact of competition on prices with numerous firms," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 1-24.
    5. Francesco Decarolis, 2015. "Medicare Part D: Are Insurers Gaming the Low Income Subsidy Design?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1547-1580, April.
    6. Spiegler, Ran, 2014. "Bounded Rationality and Industrial Organization," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199334261.
    7. Allen, Beth & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 1992. "Price Equilibria in Pure Strategies for Homogeneous Oligopoly," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 63-81, Spring.
    8. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    9. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-659, September.
    10. Minjung Park, 2011. "The Economic Impact of Wireless Number Portability," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(4), pages 714-745, December.
    11. Eugenio J. Miravete, 2013. "Competition and the Use of Foggy Pricing," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 194-216, February.
    12. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2014. "Consumer Inertia and Firm Pricing in the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Insurance Exchange," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 38-64, February.
    13. Filip Matêjka & Alisdair McKay, 2015. "Rational Inattention to Discrete Choices: A New Foundation for the Multinomial Logit Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 272-298, January.
    14. Wilson, Chris M., 2012. "Market frictions: A unified model of search costs and switching costs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1070-1086.
    15. Ioana Chioveanu & Jidong Zhou, 2013. "Price Competition with Consumer Confusion," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(11), pages 2450-2469, November.
    16. Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2013. "Salience and Consumer Choice," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(5), pages 803-843.
    17. Lee, Jinkook & Hogarth, Jeanne M., 2000. "Consumer information search for home mortgages: who, what, how much, and what else?," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 277-293, 00.
    18. Howard Shelanski & Joseph Farrell & Daniel Hanner & Christopher Metcalf & Mary Sullivan & Brett Wendling, 2012. "Economics at the FTC: Drug and PBM Mergers and Drip Pricing," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 41(4), pages 303-319, December.
    19. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2011. "Consideration Sets and Competitive Marketing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(1), pages 235-262.
    20. Michael Grubb, 2015. "Behavioral Consumers in Industrial Organization: An Overview," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 247-258, November.
    21. Wilson, Chris M, 2009. "Market Frictions: A Unified Model of Search and Switching Costs," MPRA Paper 13672, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
    23. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Reinforcement Learning and Savings Behavior," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2515-2534, December.
    24. Mark Armstrong, 2015. "Search and Ripoff Externalities," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 273-302, November.
    25. Mark Armstrong & Jidong Zhou, 2011. "Paying for Prominence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(556), pages 368-395, November.
    26. Michael D. Grubb, 2015. "Consumer Inattention and Bill-Shock Regulation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 219-257.
    27. K. Sudhir & Nathan Yang, 2014. "Exploiting the Choice-Consumption Mismatch: A New Approach to Disentangle State Dependence and Heterogeneity," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1941, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    28. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2018. "Shrouded attributes, consumer myopia and information suppression in competitive markets," Chapters,in: Handbook of Behavioral Industrial Organization, chapter 3, pages 40-74 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    29. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2014. "On the Interaction of Memory and Procrastination: Implications for Reminders," NBER Working Papers 20381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    30. Michael D. Grubb, 2015. "Overconfident Consumers in the Marketplace," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 9-36, Fall.
    31. Jean-Pierre Dubé & Günter J. Hitsch & Peter E. Rossi, 2010. "State dependence and alternative explanations for consumer inertia," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(3), pages 417-445.
    32. Mark Armstrong, 2008. "Interactions between Competition and Consumer Policy," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 4.
    33. Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2009. "Search, Obfuscation, and Price Elasticities on the Internet," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(2), pages 427-452, March.
    34. Michael D. Grubb, 2009. "Selling to Overconfident Consumers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1770-1807, December.
    35. Chris M. Wilson & Catherine Waddams Price, 2010. "Do consumers switch to the best supplier?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 647-668, October.
    36. Filip Matejka & Alisdair McKay, 2012. "Simple Market Equilibria with Rationally Inattentive Consumers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 24-29, May.
    37. Roman Inderst & Marco Ottaviani, 2012. "Financial Advice," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(2), pages 494-512, June.
    38. Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Inference by Believers in the Law of Small Numbers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 775-816.
    39. Michael D. Grubb & Matthew Osborne, 2015. "Cellular Service Demand: Biased Beliefs, Learning, and Bill Shock," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 234-271, January.
    40. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-969, July.
    41. Inderst, Roman & Ottaviani, Marco, 2012. "How (not) to pay for advice: A framework for consumer financial protection," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 393-411.
    42. Botond Koszegi & Adam Szeidl, 2013. "A Model of Focusing in Economic Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 53-104.
    43. Matthew Osborne, 2011. "Consumer learning, switching costs, and heterogeneity: A structural examination," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 25-70, March.
    44. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    45. Michele Piccione & Ran Spiegler, 2012. "Price Competition Under Limited Comparability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 97-135.
    46. Ran Spiegler, 2014. "Competitive Framing," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 35-58, August.
    47. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2003. "The Effect of Information on Product Quality: Evidence from Restaurant Hygiene Grade Cards," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 409-451.
    48. Fabian Duarte & Justine S. Hastings, 2012. "Fettered Consumers and Sophisticated Firms: Evidence from Mexico's Privatized Social Security Market," NBER Working Papers 18582, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    49. Matthew Shum, 2004. "Does Advertising Overcome Brand Loyalty? Evidence from the Breakfast-Cereals Market," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 241-272, June.
    50. Crawford, Gregory S & Tosini, Nicola & Waehrer, Keith, 2011. "The Impact of 'Rollover' Contracts on Switching Costs in the UK Voice Market: Evidence from Disaggregate Customer Billing Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 8693, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    51. Yiquan Gu & Tobias Wenzel, 2014. "Strategic Obfuscation and Consumer Protection Policy," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 632-660, December.
    52. Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Excessive Extrapolation and the Allocation of 401(k) Accounts to Company Stock," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(5), pages 1747-1764, October.
    53. Carlin, Bruce I., 2009. "Strategic price complexity in retail financial markets," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3), pages 278-287, March.
    54. Susan E. Woodward & Robert E. Hall, 2012. "Diagnosing Consumer Confusion and Sub-optimal Shopping Effort: Theory and Mortgage-Market Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3249-3276, December.
    55. David Dranove & Daniel Kessler & Mark McClellan & Mark Satterthwaite, 2003. "Is More Information Better? The Effects of "Report Cards" on Health Care Providers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 555-588, June.
    56. Kate Ho & Joseph Hogan & Fiona Scott Morton, 2017. "The impact of consumer inattention on insurer pricing in the Medicare Part D program," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 48(4), pages 877-905, December.
    57. Marco A. Haan & José L. Moraga‐González, 2011. "Advertising for Attention in a Consumer Search Model," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(552), pages 552-579, May.
    58. Alexia Gaudeul & Robert Sugden, 2012. "Spurious Complexity and Common Standards in Markets for Consumer Goods," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 79(314), pages 209-225, April.
    59. repec:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:192-226 is not listed on IDEAS
    60. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
    61. KalaycI, Kenan & Potters, Jan, 2011. "Buyer confusion and market prices," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 14-22, January.
    62. V. Brian Viard, 2007. "Do switching costs make markets more or less competitive? The case of 800-number portability," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(1), pages 146-163, March.
    63. Elisabeth Honka, 2014. "Quantifying search and switching costs in the US auto insurance industry," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 45(4), pages 847-884, December.
    64. Ali Hortaçsu & Seyed Ali Madanizadeh & Steven L. Puller, 2017. "Power to Choose? An Analysis of Consumer Inertia in the Residential Electricity Market," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 192-226, November.
    65. ., 2013. "Debating the foundations: a new perspective?," Chapters,in: Rational Econometric Man, chapter 7, pages 189-250 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    66. Ran Spiegler, 2006. "The Market for Quacks," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 1113-1131.
    67. Ali Hortaçsu & Chad Syverson, 2004. "Product Differentiation, Search Costs, and Competition in the Mutual Fund Industry: A Case Study of S&P 500 Index Funds," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 403-456.
    68. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2011. "On the strategic use of attention grabbers," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 6(1), January.
    69. Stango, Victor, 2002. "Pricing with Consumer Switching Costs: Evidence from the Credit Card Market," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 475-492, December.
    70. Wilson, Chris M., 2010. "Ordered search and equilibrium obfuscation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 496-506, September.
    71. Mengze Shi & Jeongwen Chiang & Byong-Duk Rhee, 2006. "Price Competition with Reduced Consumer Switching Costs: The Case of "Wireless Number Portability" in the Cellular Phone Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(1), pages 27-38, January.
    72. Spiegler, Ran, 2006. "Competition over agents with boundedly rational expectations," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(2), pages 207-231, June.
    73. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104.
    74. Iyengar, Sheena S. & Kamenica, Emir, 2010. "Choice proliferation, simplicity seeking, and asset allocation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 530-539, August.
    75. Shilony, Yuval, 1977. "Mixed pricing in oligopoly," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 373-388, April.
    76. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2014. "When Consumers Do Not Make an Active Decision: Dynamic Default Rules and their Equilibrium Effects," NBER Working Papers 20127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    77. Sims, Christopher A., 2003. "Implications of rational inattention," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 665-690, April.
    78. Barber, Brad M. & Odean, Terrance & Zhu, Ning, 2009. "Systematic noise," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 547-569, November.
    79. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson & Andreas Fuster, 2011. "Expectations as Endowments: Evidence on Reference-Dependent Preferences from Exchange and Valuation Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1879-1907.
    80. Benjamin R. Handel, 2013. "Adverse Selection and Inertia in Health Insurance Markets: When Nudging Hurts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2643-2682, December.
    81. Emir Kamenica & Sendhil Mullainathan & Richard Thaler, 2011. "Helping Consumers Know Themselves," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 417-422, May.
    82. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1986. "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 251-278, October.
    83. Benjamin Bachi, 2016. "Competition with price similarities," Economic Theory Bulletin, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 4(2), pages 277-290, October.
    84. Glenn Ellison & Alexander Wolitzky, 2012. "A search cost model of obfuscation," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(3), pages 417-441, September.
    85. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Chioveanu, Ioana, 2018. "A more general model of price complexity," MPRA Paper 87466, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Karpov, Aleksandr, 2017. "Price competition and limited attention," Economics Discussion Papers 2017-89, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    3. Ulrike Malmendier, 2016. "The Bidder's Curse: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(4), pages 1195-1213, April.
    4. Michael D. Grubb, 2015. "Overconfident Consumers in the Marketplace," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 9-36, Fall.
    5. Michael Grubb, 2015. "Behavioral Consumers in Industrial Organization: An Overview," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 247-258, November.
    6. Peter D. Lunn & Marek Bohacek, 2017. "Price transparency in residential electricity: Experiments for regulatory policy," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 1(2), pages 31-37, September.
    7. Gesche, Tobias, 2018. "Reference Price Shifts and Customer Antagonism: Evidence from Reviews for Online Auctions," Annual Conference 2018 (Freiburg, Breisgau): Digital Economy 181650, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Chioveanu, Ioana, 2017. "Prominence, Complexity, and Pricing," MPRA Paper 81078, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Michael Grubb & Victor Tremblay, 2015. "Introduction: Behavioral Industrial Organization," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 243-245, November.
    10. Lunn, Pete & Somerville, Jason J., 2015. "Surplus Identification with Non-Linear Returns," Papers WP522, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    11. Anna Airoldi & Michele Polo, 2017. "Opening the Retail Electricity Markets: Puzzles, Drawbacks and Policy Options," IEFE Working Papers 97, IEFE, Center for Research on Energy and Environmental Economics and Policy, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    12. Xue, Lian & Sitzia, Stefania & Turocy, Theodore L., 2017. "Mathematics self-confidence and the “prepayment effect” in riskless choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 239-250.
    13. repec:kap:revind:v:51:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11151-017-9575-y is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-18-00463 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Halan, Monika & Sane, Renuka, 2017. "Regulating consumer finance: Do disclosures matter? The case of life insurance," Working Papers 17/212, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    16. Nicola Branzoli, 2016. "Price dispersion and consumer inattention: evidence from the market of bank accounts," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1082, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Behavioral industrial organization; Bounded rationality; Search; Obfuscation; Switching; Inertia; D43; D83; L11; L13; L15;

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:revind:v:47:y:2015:i:3:p:303-340. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://www.springer.com .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.