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When Little Things Mean a Lot: On the Inefficiency of Item Pricing Laws

  • Bergen, Mark
  • Levy, Daniel
  • Ray, Sourav
  • Rubin, Paul
  • Zeliger, Ben

Item pricing laws (IPLs) require a price tag on every item sold by a retailer. We study IPLs and assess their efficiency by quantifying their costs and comparing them to previously documented benefits. On the cost side, we posit that IPLs should lead to higher prices because they increase the cost of pricing as well as the cost of price adjustment. We test this prediction using data collected from large supermarket chains in the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which offer a unique setting because these states vary in their use of IPLs, but otherwise offer geographical proximity with each other and similar markets, supermarket chains, and socioeconomic environments. We find that IPL store prices are higher by about 20¢–25¢ or 8.0%–9.6% per item on average, in comparison to non-IPL stores. As a control, we use data from stores that are exempt from IPL requirements (because they use electronic shelf labels), and find that their prices fall between IPL and non-IPL store prices. To assess the efficiency of IPLs, we compare these costs to existing measures of the benefits of IPLs which are based on measurements of the frequency and the magnitude of pricing errors the IPLs are supposed to prevent. We find that the costs of IPLs are an order of magnitude higher than the upper bound of these estimate benefits.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 1158.

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Date of creation: 08 Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:1158
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  1. Shantanu Dutta & Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy & Robert Venable, 2005. "Menu Costs, Posted Prices, and Multiproduct Retailers," Macroeconomics 0505007, EconWPA.
  2. Reis, Ricardo, 2006. "Inattentive consumers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 1761-1800, November.
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  7. Mankiw, N. Gregory & Reis, Ricardo, 2002. "Sticky Information Versus Sticky Prices: A Proposal to Replace the New Keynesian Phillips Curve," Scholarly Articles 3415324, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  11. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap & Peter E. Rossi, 2003. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 15-37, March.
  12. Daniel Levy & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Sourav Ray & Mark Bergen, 2004. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment in the Small: An Implication of Rational Inattention," Working Papers 2004-08, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  13. Elizabeth J. Warner & Robert B. Barsky, 1995. "The Timing and Magnitude of Retail Store Markdowns: Evidence from Weekends and Holidays," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(2), pages 321-352.
  14. Sourav Ray & Haipeng Chen & Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy, 2005. "Asymmetric Wholesale Pricing: Theory and Evidence," Macroeconomics 0503021, EconWPA.
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  17. Peltzman, Sam, 1981. "The Effects of FTC Advertising Regulation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 403-48, December.
  18. Daniel Levy & Shantanu Dutta & Mark Bergen, 2002. "Heterogeneity in Price Rigidity: Evidence from a Case Study Using Micro-Level Data," Working Papers 2002-09, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  19. Mark Zbaracki & Mark Ritson & Daniel Levy & Shantanu Dutta & Mark Bergen, 2004. "Managerial and Customer Costs of Price Adjustment: Direct Evidence from Industrial Markets," Macroeconomics 0402020, EconWPA.
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  21. Mark Zbaracki & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy & Mark Ritson, 2005. "Beyond the Cost of Price Adjustment: Investments in Pricing Capital," Macroeconomics 0505013, EconWPA.
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  24. Robert B. Barsky & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy, 2003. "What Can the Price Gap between Branded and Private-Label Products Tell Us about Markups?," NBER Chapters, in: Scanner Data and Price Indexes, pages 165-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Robert Venable, 2005. "The Magnitude of Menu Costs: Direct Evidence from Large U.S. Supermarket Chains," Macroeconomics 0505012, EconWPA.
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  27. Benham, Lee, 1972. "The Effect of Advertising on the Price of Eyeglasses," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 337-52, October.
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