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Explicit Evidence on an Implicit Contract

Author

Listed:
  • Andrew T. Young

    (West Virginia University)

  • Daniel Levy

    (Bar-Ilan University, Emory University, and RCEA)

Abstract

We offer the first direct evidence of an implicit contract in a goods market. The evidence we offer comes from the market for Coca-Cola. We demonstrate that the Coca-Cola Company left a substantial amount of written evidence of its implicit contract with its consumers—a very explicit form of an implicit contract. The contract represented the promise of a five cent (nominal) price and adherence to the “Secret Formula”. In general, the implicit nature of such contracts makes observation difficult. To overcome this difficulty, we adopt a narrative approach. Based on the analysis of a large number of historical documents obtained from the Coca-Cola Archives and other sources, we offer evidence of the Coca-Cola Company both acknowledging and acting on this implicit contract. We also make another unique contribution by exploring quality as a margin of adjustment available to Coca-Cola. The implicit contract included a promise not only of a constant nominal price but also a constant quality (i.e., 6.5 oz. of the Secret Formula). During a period of over 70 years, we find evidence of only a single case of true quality change. By studying the margin of adjustment the Coca-Cola Company chose in response to changes in market conditions, we demonstrate that the perceived costs of breaking the implicit contract were large. We argue that one piece of direct evidence on the magnitude of these costs is the aftermath “New Coke’s” introduction in 1985.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew T. Young & Daniel Levy, 2011. "Explicit Evidence on an Implicit Contract," Working Papers 2011-17, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:biu:wpaper:2011-17
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    Cited by:

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    2. Daniel Levy & Avichai Snir, 2022. "Potterian economics," Oxford Open Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 1, pages 1-32.
    3. Levy, Daniel, 2007. "Price Rigidity and Flexibility: New Empirical Evidence - Introduction to the Special Issue," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 28(7 (Specia), pages 639-647.
    4. Daniel Levy & Andrew T. Young, 2021. "Promise, trust, and betrayal: Costs of breaching an implicit contract," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 87(3), pages 1031-1051, January.
    5. Andrew T. Young & Alexander K. Blue, 2007. "Retail prices during a change in monetary regimes: evidence from Sears, Roebuck catalogs, 1938-1951," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(7), pages 763-775.
    6. Snir, Avichai & Levy, Daniel, 2021. "If You Think 9-Ending Prices Are Low, Think Again," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 6(1 (Forthc).
    7. Daniel Levy, 2007. "Price rigidity and flexibility: new empirical evidence," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(7), pages 639-647.
    8. Müller, Georg & Bergen, Mark & Dutta, Shantanu & Levy, Daniel, 2007. "Holiday Non-Price Rigidity and Cost of Adjustment," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 28(7 (Specia), pages 817-832.
    9. Maarten Dossche, 2009. "Understanding Inflation Dynamics.Where Do We Stand?," Review of Business and Economic Literature, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB), Review of Business and Economic Literature, vol. 0(2), pages 209-227.
    10. Daniel Levy, 2007. "Price rigidity and flexibility: recent theoretical developments," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(6), pages 523-530.
    11. Georg Müller & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy, 2007. "Non-price rigidity and cost of adjustment," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(7), pages 817-832.
    12. Levy, Daniel, 2007. "Price Rigidity and Flexibility: Recent Theoretical Developments - Introduction to the Special Issue," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 28(6 (Specia), pages 523-530.
    13. 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.
    14. Söderberg, Johan, 2011. "Customer markets and the welfare effects of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 206-219.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Implicit Contract; Explicit Contract; Invisible Handshake; Customer Market; Long- Term Relationship; Price Rigidity; Nickel Coke; Coca-Cola;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian; Modern Monetary Theory
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco
    • M30 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - General
    • N80 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics

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