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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. Daniel Levy & Georg Muller & Shantanu Dutta & Mark Bergen, 2002. "Holiday Price Rigidity and Cost of Price Adjustment," Emory Economics 0208, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
  2. Daniel Levy & Hainpeng (Allan) Chen & Sourav RayAuthor-Name: Mark Bergen, 2004. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment in the Small: An Implication of Rational Inattention," Emory Economics 0408, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
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  7. Peter E. Rossi & Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap, 2002. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm291, Yale School of Management.
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  9. 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.
  10. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2003. "The Effect Of Information On Product Quality: Evidence From Restaurant Hygiene Grade Cards," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 409-451, May.
  11. Sourav Ray & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy, 2005. "Asymmetric Wholesale Pricing: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 2005-02, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  12. 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.
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  25. Mark Zbaracki & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy & Mark Ritson, 2005. "Beyond the Cost of Price Adjustment: Investments in Pricing Capital," Macroeconomics 0505013, EconWPA.
  26. Sam Peltzman, 1998. "Prices Rise Faster Than They Fall," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 142, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
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  28. Warner, Elizabeth J & Barsky, Robert B, 1995. "The Timing and Magnitude of Retail Store Markdowns: Evidence from Weekends and Holidays," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 321-52, May.
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