Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Pricw gouging or dynamic pricing?

Tim Harford talks to himself about price gouging but makes good sense in doing so.
I don’t think that would have gone down well. Price gouging, don’t you know.

I’d rather think of it as dynamic pricing. I realise people use pejorative terms to describe it, but we’d all be better off if certain products varied in price a bit more.
The petrol stations that did raise prices were vilified.

They were, which shows that some people don’t know what’s good for them. The idea of the “just price” has a long history but very little economic basis. There are some theoretically sophisticated stories one can tell explaining why prices tend to stick, but the truth is that in most cases we’d be better off if they moved more. The latest toys wouldn’t all sell out at Christmas, there’d be fewer hosepipe bans, you wouldn’t need a lottery to allocate Olympic event tickets and I’d have been chowing down on an Easter egg last weekend.

Life doesn’t always respect your fancy economic models.

Indeed not, and thank goodness – although the laws of supply and demand are hardly fancy. But the fuss about price gouging really does make us worse off. There are two problems with prices that don’t rise quickly enough in the face of fixed supply and high demand. First, the goods may not reach the people who want them most. Second, even the lucky customers who get the cheap product may lose out because of the non-monetary costs of getting it.

Such as?

Such as queueing for hours to get the latest iPhone or a day pass to Wimbledon, for example. Many, surely, would happily pay a little extra to sidestep these wholly avoidable costs.
Now if we could only get non-economists to see the logic we wouldn't have to worry about stupid laws like anti-price laws or even anti-ticket scalping regulations.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Should that be "anti-price gouging laws" at the end there?