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The Anatomy of a Price Cut: Discovering Organizational Sources of the Costs of Price Adjustment

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  • Mark J. Zbaracki
  • Mark Bergen
  • Daniel Levy

Abstract

The fact that organizations find it hard to change in response to shocks in the environment is a crucial feature of the economy. Yet we know little about why it is so difficult for organizations to adjust, and where these limitations come from. In an effort to discover some of these reasons we ground ourselves in the context of price adjustment, and present a qualitative analysis of an intensive ethnographic field study of the pricing practices at a one-billion dollar Midwestern industrial manufacturing firm and its customers. We go into depth on a specific episode, a price cut, which most vividly exemplifies the themes that emerged from our data. In the specific situation, market forces clearly dictate that the firm should cut prices, and everyone in the firm agrees with this assessment, suggesting a fairly straightforward price adjustment decision. Yet when we look deeper, and dissect how the firm implemented the price cut, we uncover a rich tapestry of frictions hidden within the organization. At their core, these frictions relate to how managers, in the context of an organization, attempt to apply the fundamental elements of economic theory. Essentially they face a series of constraints that make sense in the context of an organization trying to make these adjustments, but constraints that are rarely articulated or incorporated into economic understanding of price adjustment. We discover that the largest barriers to price adjustment are related to disputes arising from collisions between "partial models" used by different organizational participants as they confront fundamental economic issues. Often, these issues have not been settled and exist in a tenuous truce within the organization and adjustment requires the organization to deal with them in order to react to these changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark J. Zbaracki & Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy, 2006. "The Anatomy of a Price Cut: Discovering Organizational Sources of the Costs of Price Adjustment," Emory Economics 0610, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
  • Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0610
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kehoe, Patrick & Midrigan, Virgiliu, 2015. "Prices are sticky after all," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 35-53.
    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. 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.
    4. Paciello, Luigi, 2007. "The Response of Prices to Technology and Monetary Policy Shocks under Rational Inattention," MPRA Paper 5763, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. 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.
    6. Levy, Daniel, 2007. "Price adjustment under the table: Evidence on efficiency-enhancing corruption," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 423-447, June.
    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. Georg Mueller & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy, 2006. "Holiday Nonprice Rigidity and Cost of Adjustment," Emory Economics 0612, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
    9. 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.
    10. Richard Dennis, 2006. "The frequency of price adjustment and New Keynesian business cycle dynamics," Working Paper Series 2006-22, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    11. Klenow, Peter J. & Willis, Jonathan L., 2007. "Sticky information and sticky prices," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(Supplemen), pages 79-99, September.
    12. Klenow, Peter J. & Willis, Jonathan L., 2007. "Sticky information and sticky prices," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(Supplemen), pages 79-99, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • M21 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics - - - Business Economics
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing

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