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Information Acquisition and Refunds for Returns

Author

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  • Steven A. Matthews

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Nicola Persico

    () (Department of Economics and School of Law, New York University)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven A. Matthews & Nicola Persico, 2007. "Information Acquisition and Refunds for Returns," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-021, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:07-021
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Schumacher, Heiner, 2014. "Incentives through consumer learning about tastes," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 170-177.
    2. Inderst, Roman & Peitz, Martin, 2012. "Informing consumers about their own preferences," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 417-428.
    3. repec:eee:ejores:v:268:y:2018:i:2:p:504-514 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Inderst, Roman & Peitz, Martin, 2008. "Selling Service Plans to Differentially Informed Customers," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-125, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    5. Jeffrey D. Shulman & Anne T. Coughlan & R. Canan Savaskan, 2009. "Optimal Restocking Fees and Information Provision in an Integrated Demand-Supply Model of Product Returns," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 11(4), pages 577-594, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    information acquisition; refunds; money back guarantees; personal fit uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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