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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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
    DOI: 10.1086/589660
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    Cited by:

    1. Levy, Daniel & Snir, Avichai & Gotler, Alex & Chen, Haipeng (Allan), 2020. "Not all price endings are created equal: Price points and asymmetric price rigidity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 33-49.
    2. Lünnemann, Patrick & Wintr, Ladislav, 2006. "Are internet prices sticky?," Working Paper Series 645, European Central Bank.
    3. Daniel Levy & Dongwon Lee & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Robert J. Kauffman & Mark Bergen, 2011. "Price Points and Price Rigidity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1417-1431, November.
    4. Levy, Daniel & Müller, Georg & Chen, Haipeng (Allan) & Bergen, Mark & Dutta, Shantanu, 2010. "Holiday Price Rigidity and Cost of Price Adjustment," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 172-198.
    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, vol. 117(4), pages 1295-1328.
    6. Ray, Sourav & Wang, Li & Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark, 2019. "Pricing Better," MPRA Paper 95654, University Library of Munich, Germany.
      • Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen, 2019. "Pricing Better," Working Papers 2019-07, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
      • Ray, Sourav & Wang, Li & Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark, 2019. "Pricing Better," MPRA Paper 95596, University Library of Munich, Germany.
      • Daniel Levy & Sourav Ray & Li Wang & Mark Bergen, 2019. "Pricing Better," Working Papers 008-19 JEL Codes: M31, E3, International School of Economics at TSU, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
      • Ray, Sourav & Wang, Li & Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark, 2019. "Pricing Better," EconStor Preprints 201843, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
      • Sourav Ray & Li Wang & Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen, 2019. "Pricing Better," Working Paper series 19-16, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    7. 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.
    8. Chen, Haipeng (Allan) & Levy, Daniel & Ray, Sourav & Bergen, Mark, 2008. "Asymmetric price adjustment in the small," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 728-737, May.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    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. Ray, Sourav & Chen, Haipeng (Allan) & Bergen, Mark & Levy, Daniel, 2006. "Asymmetric Wholesale Pricing: Theory and Evidence," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 109-201.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. Edward S. Knotek, 2011. "Convenient Prices and Price Rigidity: Cross-Sectional Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 1076-1086, August.
    18. Hardesty, David M. & Goodstein, Ronald C. & Grewal, Dhruv & Miyazaki, Anthony D. & Kopalle, Praveen, 2014. "The Accuracy of Scanned Prices," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 291-300.
    19. 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.
    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.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. 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.
    24. Fabio Musso, 2010. "Innovation in Marketing Channels," Symphonya. Emerging Issues in Management, University of Milano-Bicocca, issue 1 Marketi.

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    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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