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When Little Things Mean a Lot: On the Inefficiency of Item-Pricing Laws

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  • Mark Bergen
  • Daniel Levy
  • Sourav Ray
  • Paul H. Rubin
  • Benjamin Zeliger

Abstract

Item-pricing laws (IPLs) require a price tag on every item sold by a retailer. We study IPLs and assess their efficiency by quantifying their costs and comparing them to previously documented benefits. On the cost side, we posit that IPLs should lead to higher prices because they increase the costs of pricing and price adjustment. We test this prediction using data collected from large supermarket chains in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We find that IPL store prices are higher by about 20¢-25¢ per item on average. As a control, we use data from stores that use electronic shelf labels and find that their prices fall between IPL and no-IPL store prices. We compare the costs of IPLs to existing measures of the benefits and find that the costs are an order of magnitude higher than the upper bound of the estimated benefits. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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  • Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy & Sourav Ray & Paul H. Rubin & Benjamin Zeliger, 2008. "When Little Things Mean a Lot: On the Inefficiency of Item-Pricing Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(2), pages 209-250, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:51:y:2008:i:2:p:209-250
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Levy & Hainpeng (Allan) Chen & Sourav RayAuthor-Name: Mark Bergen, 2004. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment in the Small: An Implication of Rational Inattention," Emory Economics 0408, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
    2. Daniel Levy & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Georg Müller & Shantanu Dutta & Mark Bergen, 2010. "Holiday Price Rigidity and Cost of Price Adjustment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 77(305), pages 172-198, January.
    3. Patrick Lünnemann & Ladislav Wintr, 2006. "Are internet prices sticky?," BCL working papers 22, Central Bank of Luxembourg.
    4. Edward S. Knotek, 2011. "Convenient Prices and Price Rigidity: Cross-Sectional Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, pages 1076-1086.
    5. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis, 2002. "Sticky Information versus Sticky Prices: A Proposal to Replace the New Keynesian Phillips Curve," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, pages 1295-1328.
    6. Avichai Snir & Daniel Levy & Alex Gotler & Haipeng (Allan) Chen, 2012. "Not All Price Endings Are Created Equal: Price Points and Asymmetric Price Rigidity," Working Paper series 69_12, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    7. Emek Basker, 2012. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," NBER Chapters,in: Standards, Patents and Innovations National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Alexander L. Wolman, 2007. "The frequency and costs of individual price adjustment," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(6), pages 531-552.
    9. Emmanuel Dhyne & Jerzy Konieczny & Fabio Rumler & Patrick Sevestre, 2009. "Price rigidity in the euro area - An assessment," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 380, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    10. Guglielmo Maria Caporale & Alessandro Girardi & Marco Ventura, 2012. "The euro changeover and price adjustments in Italy," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(4), pages 379-382, March.
    11. James G. Mulligan & Daniel J. Wedzielewski, 2012. "Government Intervention to Prevent Bankruptcy: the Effect of Blind-Bidding Laws on Movie Theaters," Working Papers 12-03, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    12. Snir, Avichai & Levy, Daniel & Chen, Haipeng (Allan), 2017. "End of 9-endings, price recall, and price perceptions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 157-163.
    13. Emek Basker, 2015. "Change at the Checkout: Tracing the Impact of a Process Innovation," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 339-370, June.
    14. Sourav Ray & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Mark E. Bergen & Daniel Levy, 2006. "Asymmetric Wholesale Pricing: Theory and Evidence," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(2), pages 131-154, 03-04.
    15. Chen, Haipeng (Allan) & Levy, Daniel & Ray, Sourav & Bergen, Mark, 2008. "Asymmetric price adjustment in the small," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, pages 728-737.
    16. Mark J. Zbaracki, 2007. "A sociological view of costs of price adjustment: contributions from grounded theory methods," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(6), pages 553-567.
    17. Das Nilotpal & Falaris Evangelos M & Mulligan James G, 2009. "Vintage Effects and the Diffusion of Time-Saving Technological Innovations," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-37, June.
    18. Levy, Daniel, 2013. "Discussion of "Change at the Checkout: Tracing the Impact of a Process Innovation" by Emek Basker," MPRA Paper 52605, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. James G. Mulligan & Nilotpal Das, 2006. "Item Pricing Laws, Supplier Behavior, and the Diffusion of Time-Saving Technology Innovations," Working Papers 06-11, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    20. James G. Mulligan & Nilotpal Das, 2004. "Vintage Effects and the Diffusion of Time-Saving Technological Innovations: The Adoption of Optical Scanners by U.S. Supermarkets."," Working Papers 04-06, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • K20 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - General
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

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