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

Author

Listed:
  • Mark Bergen

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Daniel Levy

    (Bar-Ilan University)

  • Sourav Ray

    (McMaster University)

  • Paul Rubin

    (Emory University)

  • Benjamin Zeliger

    (Cornell University)

Abstract

We study item-pricing laws (which require that each item in a store be individually marked with a price sticker) and examine and quantify their costs and benefits. On the cost side, we argue that item-pricing laws increase the retailers’ costs, forcing them to raise prices. We test this prediction using data on retail prices from large supermarket chains in the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Tri-States offer a unique setting—a natural experiment—to study item-pricing laws because the States vary in their use of item-pricing laws, but otherwise offer similar markets and chains operating in a close proximity to each other in a relatively homogenous socioeconomic environment. We use two datasets, one emphasizing the breadth in coverage across products and the other across stores. We find consistent evidence across products, product categories, stores, chains, states, and sampling periods, that the prices at stores facing item-pricing laws are higher than the prices at stores not facing the item pricing laws by about 25¢ or 9.6% per item. We also have data from supermarket chains that would be subject to item-pricing laws but are exempted from item pricing requirement because they use costly electronic shelf label systems. Using this data as a control, we find that the electronic shelf label store prices fall between the item-pricing law and non-item- pricing law store prices: they are lower than the item-pricing law store prices by about 15¢ per item on average, but are higher than the non- item-pricing law store prices by about 10¢ per item on average. On the benefit side, we study the frequency and the magnitude of supermarket pricing errors, which the item-pricing laws are supposed to prevent. We quantify the benefits of the IPLs by conservatively assuming that they successfully accomplish their mission of preventing all price mistakes. Comparing the costs of item-pricing laws to their benefits, we find that the item-pricing law costs are at least an order of magnitude higher than the benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy & Sourav Ray & Paul Rubin & Benjamin Zeliger, 2004. "When Little Things Mean a Lot: On the Inefficiency of Item Pricing Laws," Law and Economics 0405005, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 02 Jun 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwple:0405005
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    Cited by:

    1. Levy, Daniel & Snir, Avichai & Gotler, Alex & Chen, Haipeng (Allan), 2020. "Not all price endings are created equal: Price points and asymmetric price rigidity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 33-49.
    2. Lünnemann, Patrick & Wintr, Ladislav, 2006. "Are internet prices sticky?," Working Paper Series 645, European Central Bank.
    3. Daniel Levy & Dongwon Lee & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Robert J. Kauffman & Mark Bergen, 2011. "Price Points and Price Rigidity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1417-1431, November.
    4. Levy, Daniel & Müller, Georg & Chen, Haipeng (Allan) & Bergen, Mark & Dutta, Shantanu, 2010. "Holiday Price Rigidity and Cost of Price Adjustment," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 172-198.
    5. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis, 2002. "Sticky Information versus Sticky Prices: A Proposal to Replace the New Keynesian Phillips Curve," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1295-1328.
    6. Ray, Sourav & Wang, Li & Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark, 2019. "Pricing Better," MPRA Paper 95654, University Library of Munich, Germany.
      • Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen, 2019. "Pricing Better," Working Papers 2019-07, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
      • Ray, Sourav & Wang, Li & Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark, 2019. "Pricing Better," MPRA Paper 95596, University Library of Munich, Germany.
      • Daniel Levy & Sourav Ray & Li Wang & Mark Bergen, 2019. "Pricing Better," Working Papers 008-19 JEL Codes: M31, E3, International School of Economics at TSU, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
      • Ray, Sourav & Wang, Li & Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark, 2019. "Pricing Better," EconStor Preprints 201843, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
      • Sourav Ray & Li Wang & Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen, 2019. "Pricing Better," Working Paper series 19-16, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    7. Emmanuel Dhyne & Jerzy Konieczny & Fabio Rumler & Patrick Sevestre, 2009. "Price rigidity in the euro area - An assessment," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 380, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    8. 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.
    9. Guglielmo Maria Caporale & Alessandro Girardi & Marco Ventura, 2012. "The euro changeover and price adjustments in Italy," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(4), pages 379-382, March.
    10. Emek Basker, 2012. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," NBER Chapters,in: Standards, Patents and Innovations National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. James G. Mulligan & Daniel J. Wedzielewski, 2012. "Government Intervention to Prevent Bankruptcy: the Effect of Blind-Bidding Laws on Movie Theaters," Working Papers 12-03, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    12. Snir, Avichai & Levy, Daniel & Chen, Haipeng (Allan), 2017. "End of 9-endings, price recall, and price perceptions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 157-163.
    13. Ray, Sourav & Chen, Haipeng (Allan) & Bergen, Mark & Levy, Daniel, 2006. "Asymmetric Wholesale Pricing: Theory and Evidence," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 109-201.
    14. Guglielmo Maria Caporale & Alessandro Girardi & Marco Ventura, 2011. "The Euro Changeover and Price Adjustments in Italy," CESifo Working Paper Series 3386, CESifo.
    15. 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.
    16. Levy, Daniel, 2013. "Discussion of "Change at the Checkout: Tracing the Impact of a Process Innovation" by Emek Basker," MPRA Paper 52605, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. James G. Mulligan & Nilotpal Das, 2006. "Item Pricing Laws, Supplier Behavior, and the Diffusion of Time-Saving Technology Innovations," Working Papers 06-11, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    18. Edward S. Knotek, 2011. "Convenient Prices and Price Rigidity: Cross-Sectional Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 1076-1086, August.
    19. Hardesty, David M. & Goodstein, Ronald C. & Grewal, Dhruv & Miyazaki, Anthony D. & Kopalle, Praveen, 2014. "The Accuracy of Scanned Prices," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 291-300.
    20. Emek Basker, 2012. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," NBER Chapters, in: Standards, Patents and Innovations, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. James G. Mulligan & Nilotpal Das, 2004. "Vintage Effects and the Diffusion of Time-Saving Technological Innovations: The Adoption of Optical Scanners by U.S. Supermarkets."," Working Papers 04-06, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    22. Alexander L. Wolman, 2007. "The frequency and costs of individual price adjustment," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(6), pages 531-552.
    23. Emek Basker, 2015. "Change at the Checkout: Tracing the Impact of a Process Innovation," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 339-370, June.
    24. Das Nilotpal & Falaris Evangelos M & Mulligan James G, 2009. "Vintage Effects and the Diffusion of Time-Saving Technological Innovations," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-37, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Item Pricing Laws; Costs of Item Pricing Laws; Benefits of Item Pricing Laws; Cost of Price Adjustment; Pricing Accuracy; Electronic Shelf Label System; Pricing Regulation; Cost of Pricing; Supermarket Chains;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K20 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • M20 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics - - - General
    • M30 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - General
    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General

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