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Information Acquisition and Refunds for Returns

  • Steven A. Matthews
  • Nicola Persico

A product exhibits personal fit uncertainty when its consumers have idiosyncratic and uncertain values for it. Often a consumer can learn her long-run value quickly by obtaining the good for a trial period. Money back guarantees of satisfaction are commonly used to lower the cost to consumers of learning their values this way. Increasingly, however, consumers can instead learn about their values before they purchase by, e.g., reading product reviews or consulting experts. We study the effect on a firm’s optimal price and refund of this competing source of information. An efficient outcome would be achieved by setting the refund for a return equal to its salvage value. But a monopoly will, for some parameters, induce consumers to stay uninformed by promising a refund that is greater than the salvage value. This generates an inefficiently large number of returns, which the firm finds worthwhile in order to eliminate the information rents that consumers would obtain by becoming informed. This finding is consistent with the observation that for many products, money back guarantees are generous, as they commonly refund the entire, or almost the entire, purchase price of a product.

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Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 54.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:54
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  1. Cremer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad, 1992. "Gathering Information before Signing a Contract," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 566-78, June.
  2. Russell Cooper & Thomas W. Ross, 1985. "Product Warranties and Double Moral Hazard," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 16(1), pages 103-113, Spring.
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  7. Péter Eső & Bal�zs Szentes, 2007. "Optimal Information Disclosure in Auctions and the Handicap Auction," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 705-731.
  8. Shiou Shieh, 1996. "Price and Money-Back Guarantees as Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(3), pages 361-377, 09.
  9. Cremer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1998. "Contracts and Productive Information Gathering," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 174-193, November.
  10. Crémer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1996. "Strategic Information Gathering Before a Contract Is Offered," IDEI Working Papers 61, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  11. Steven A. Matthews & Nicola Persico, 2005. "Information Acquisition and the Excess Refund Puzzle," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-015, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  12. Marvel, Howard P & Peck, James, 1995. "Demand Uncertainty and Returns Policies," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(3), pages 691-714, August.
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  17. repec:bla:restud:v:74:y:2007:i:3:p:705-731 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Lewis, Tracy R & Sappington, David E M, 1997. "Information Management in Incentive Problems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 796-821, August.
  19. Barzel, Yoram, 1982. "Measurement Cost and the Organization of Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 27-48, April.
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  21. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
  22. Kandel, Eugene, 1996. "The Right to Return," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(1), pages 329-56, April.
  23. V. Padmanabhan & I. P. L. Png, 1997. "Manufacturer's Return Policies and Retail Competition," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 16(1), pages 81-94.
  24. Davis, Scott & Hagerty, Michael & Gerstner, Eitan, 1998. "Return policies and the optimal level of "hassle"," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 445-460, September.
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