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Fair Pricing


  • Julio J. Rotemberg


I suppose that consumers see a firm as fair if they cannot reject the hypothesis that the firm is somewhat benevolent towards them. Consumers that can reject this hypothesis become angry, which is costly to the firm. I show that firms that wish to avoid this anger will keep their prices rigid under some circumstances when prices would vary under more standard assumptions. The desire to appear benevolent can also lead firms to practice both third-degree and intertemporal price discrimination. Thus, the observation of temporary sales is consistent with my model of fair prices. The model can also explain why prices seem to be more responsive to changes in factor costs than to changes in demand that have the same effect on marginal cost, why increases in inflation seem to affect mostly the frequency of price adjustment without having sizeable effects on the size of price increases and why firms often announce their intent to increase prices in advance of actually doing so.

Suggested Citation

  • Julio J. Rotemberg, 2004. "Fair Pricing," NBER Working Papers 10915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10915
    Note: EFG IO

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
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    3. Lach, Saul & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1992. "The Behavior of Prices and Inflation: An Empirical Analysis of Disaggregated Price Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 349-389, April.
    4. Haddock, David D & McChesney, Fred S, 1994. "Why Do Firms Contrive Shortages? The Economics of Intentional Mispricing," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(4), pages 562-581, October.
    5. Rotemberg, Julio J., 2005. "Customer anger at price increases, changes in the frequency of price adjustment and monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 829-852, May.
    6. Martin Pesendorfer, 2002. "Retail Sales: A Study of Pricing Behavior in Supermarkets," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(1), pages 33-66, January.
    7. Cecchetti, Stephen G., 1986. "The frequency of price adjustment : A study of the newsstand prices of magazines," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 255-274, April.
    8. Anil K Kashyap, 1995. "Sticky Prices: New Evidence from Retail Catalogs," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 245-274.
    9. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-741, September.
    10. Benabou, Roland, 1989. "Optimal Price Dynamics and Speculation with a Storable Good," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(1), pages 41-80, January.
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    13. Raymond J. Deneckere & R. Preston McAfee, 1996. "Damaged Goods," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(2), pages 149-174, June.
    14. Vaidyanathan, Rajiv & Aggarwal, Praveen, 2003. "Who is the fairest of them all? An attributional approach to price fairness perceptions," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 453-463, June.
    15. Frey, Bruno S. & Pommerehne, Werner W., 1993. "On the fairness of pricing -- An empirical survey among the general population," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 295-307, April.
    16. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1987. "Competition and the Number of Firms in a Market: Are Duopolies More Competitive than Atomistic Markets?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1041-1061, October.
    17. Dickson, Peter R. & Kalapurakal, Rosemary, 1994. "The use and perceived fairness of price-setting rules in the bulk electricity market," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 427-448, September.
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    JEL classification:

    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy

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