iPhone pricing as economic experiment


Back in 2005, Slate's Tim Harford wondered why Microsoft didn't raise the introductory price of Xbox 360 game consoles. With the price set at $300, lines were long and shortages were many. Harford's readers came up with their own theories for resisting the laws of supply and demand and holding to a fixed price.

The Xbox 360 is hardly unique in this respect. When there's a hot product, manufacturers hold to the original price and let the lines grow, the shortages fester, and the customers get more frustrated. Think Tickle Me Elmo or Cabbage Patch Kids. Even though from an economic-theoretical standpoint, a product that has sold out with unmet demand is a product whose price was set too low.

With the iPhone, Apple unwittingly ran the experiment that Harford proposed. There were lines, but by some reports, the lines weren't all that bad. After the initial demand subsided, Apple did what the economists say they should have done: They lowered the price. And the people who bought the phones at the higher price complained (forcing Apple to offer a store credit) and one of them even sued. Slate's Daniel Gross opines on the lessons learned.

Comments (42)
  1. Anonymous says:

    You can demand scarcity prices with cars, though. The Chevy Volt is selling at considerable premiums right now, due to demand. I recall other cases.

    Maybe it's the mechanism: Car prices are always negotiable. MSRP is always just a suggestion. People are used to that. If they set the official price of the iPhone or the XBox at some low level, but allowed sales staff to charge what the market would bear — and put them on commission, so they'd have an incentive to negotiate — and… well, then you'd have to have real salesmen who can play that game effectively, not just minimum-wage counterjockeys, and the economics of selling pocket electronics only justifies that for one week every two years.

    So there you are.

  2. Leo Davidson says:

    The original Xbox went through a similar thing. (At least in the UK; I think in the USA as well but not totally sure.)

    I bought one close to launch at the initial price, then a short time later the price was lowered for whatever reasons. I didn't feel annoyed since I was willing to pay X for Y, that was the deal at the time, and nobody forced me to take it.

    Perhaps had I known what would happen in advance I would have delayed my purchase — the extra few weeks I had with the product were probably not worth the extra I unknowingly paid — but I didn't feel like I had been screwed over by anyone. Prices always drop over time; it just happened a bit quicker in this case.

    MS gave some free games to people who bought at the original price to make up for it. One of them (the 1st Xbox Oddworld game) was great, despite (wrong!) reviews that meant I would have overlooked it otherwise, so it was kind-of worth it just for that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Those original iPhone buyers are just a bunch of whiners.  If the phone wasn't worth $600 to them, then why in the hell did they pay $600 for the phone?

    And if it is worth $600 to them, then what do they have to complain about?  They got what they perceive to be a good value.  Why are they complaining?

    (Rhetorical question; I know why they are whining…it's just that their reason for whining doesn't make any logical sense).

    I wonder what those same people do when they get on an airplane where at least half the other passengers may well have paid significantly less for their ticket than they did.  Same plane, same trip.  Different price.

    Duh.  This is how capitalism works.  Stop buying iPhones if you don't like capitalism!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is the sell strategy, in marketing, called skimming. When the new product is first introduced, the price is high to attract those who willing to spend a big buck for the fad. When the time progressing the product is very common, the maker will low the price to maximize the profit. This is a normal cycle.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Apple's strategy for iPhone is not new or unique.

    Commodore 64 was initially sold at $600. In two months after introduction, the price was lowered to $400. There was a small defect in the computer; consumers used it as a pretence to get refund and buy another Commodore at the cheaper price. (Source: http://www.mayhem64.co.uk/c64design.htm)

  6. Anonymous says:

    The thing about gas is the demand is not flexible in the short term. Unfortunately, the supply can change radically very fast.

  7. Anonymous says:

    @pete.d: I think "people are whiners" is exactly the lesson learned.

    I love how whenever there's an event that lowers the supply of gasoline, people accuse the gas stations raising prices of gouging. Gouging, really? Everything's allowed to be priced based on supply *except* gas?

    I wouldn't be surprised if we're paying higher gas prices than needed 99% of the time so the gas stations can weather the 1% when the supply is low without "gouging".

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dropping the prices makes people feel cheated because it often *is* cheating.  It's cheating to withhold information during a transaction that would make the other party not enter the transaction.  If you know you're going to drop prices, but don't tell the buyer, you've cheated.  Even if you know you only *might* drop prices, if the probability that you will drop them is significant, you're still cheating if telling would have caused the buyer to wait.

    I think most people wouldn't mind if it was explicit, since there's no cheating.  I think Microsoft could have announced that it would sell for $700 the first two days, $650 for the next two, and so on until dropping to a steady $300, and no one would be upset about the initial price except those who would describe it as "privileging the rich over the people willing sacrifice a good night's sleep to wait in line."

    [What if the announcement were merely "We will sell it initially for $700 as long as the market will bear. If demand weakens, we will drop the price by $50 and sell it at that price for as long as the market will bear. If demand strengthens, we will raise the price by $50 for as long as the market will bear. Lather, rinse, repeat." Would that count as sufficient disclosure? How is this different from the implied rules of the market? -Raymond]
  9. Anonymous says:

    The reason people think they're being "gouged" for gas is that changes in prices of crude oil futures cause immediate changes to gasoline pump prices. The gasoline that I'm pumping today has already been bought and paid for by the oil company and the gas station, so how can the price for it change immediately? I've never heard of a bad weather report causing grocery store prices to rise, so why should problems in the Middle East cause fuel prices to rise?

    [By your logic, if you bought a share of ACME stock for $10, and then the price of ACME goes up to $50, you would be price gouging if you tried to sell it for $50. I mean, that share of stock has already been bought and paid for; how can the price change immediately? -Raymond]
  10. Anonymous says:

    Apple's product plans t5ypically involve building enough to handle demand – one thing Apple really hates these days is people buying a hot item, causing shortages, and then having those lucky few resell them at vastly inflated prices (aka scalping).

    Apple hates it, which is why they don't want shortages if they can help it, and do things like credit card only and two per customer. (Which is a surprise how one of the Beijing Apple stores violated this policy and let people walk out with 10 or 20 iPhones… against policy and leading to the whole reservation system).

    Product shortages are bad – good for short term marketing – but bad in general unless you're eBay. As a manufacturer, you want your product in the hands of customers, no resellers. Some shortages happen (iPads had screen shortages and higher than expected demand given the mostly negative reviews after its introduction, iPhone4s were just… strange since they were building 133,000 of them per day, or a million in over a week…)

    As for gas – you're talking about a product with inelastic demand. If gas prices jump a dollar a gallon, the number of people buying won't go down by much, so gas stations really have no incentive to lower prices. The only real thing capping gas prices is desire for alternative fuels and technology – if you make the price too high, then you risk making alternatives competitive. It's why the big energy companies are buying up alternative R&D patents up the wazoo – to keep some upstart from being too competitive (BP has sued an alternative fuel R&D company this week… patent infringement).

  11. Anonymous says:

    You must have missed the fuel price wars that sometimes break out. One guy lowers the price and gets the full market. Then the other guy lowers the price and gets the full market. Repeat until someone gives up.

  12. Anonymous says:

    > Dropping the prices makes people feel cheated because it often *is* cheating.  It's cheating to withhold information during a transaction that would make the other party not enter the transaction <

    It's common knowledge that prices can change up or down. If you choose to ignore that, then that's your own affair.

  13. Anonymous says:

    That's not explicit, does not change a thing. Dates must be set and announced beforehand.

    Generally companies are free to change the prices as they see fit.  Most advertising material comes with fine print along the lines of "Subject to availability.  Price subject to change without notice."  Perhaps if I go to the supermarket they should tell me that the product I want will be on sale next week?

    Pick a product – particularly in the entertainment business.  A game for the XBox 360 in the UK will come out at £40~£50.  2 months later everyone who'd buy it at that price has bought it, so they drop it to £30, then £20, then £10.  Unpopular games drop their price faster.  Popular games drop their price slower.

    The iPhone, in keeping with Apple, was massively overpriced on release.  People bought it because of the logo, ignoring phones with similar features available for a fraction of the cost.  Once Apple had exhausted the supply of people willing / able to pay that price, they dropped it.  I guess there was a shortage of people with more money than sense, so they had to drop it sooner rather than later.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps if I go to the supermarket they should tell me that the product I want will be on sale next week?

    Yes. But they don't do that because they prefer to cheat, their sales prices are artificial traps to lure the clueless.

    I can write tens of pages about this so I will cut it short:

    Price changes, or more broadly price differences may have rational explanations that will be understandable (accepted) by the customer, or not.

    A company is free to set a price for a product. But then, a change means discrimination for buyers separated in time. There are regional pricings that just convert the Dollar sign to Euro and has no rational explanation, these discriminate people by region. I'm just against discrimination without reason. Are you OK with race or gender discrimination (without reason)?

    Things that at first seem like discrimination are OK if you have sound reasons, and you can justify the changes in price. If people are well informed, then discrimination in time is also well tolerated.

    Companies can do segmentation to increase profits, with slightly modified products at different price levels. But selling the same product at a price inversely related to customers IQ, without even disclosing this, is IMO cheating and unethical. In other words "Just because they can do it and it's not illegal" is not good enough a reason I'm willing to accept.

  15. Anonymous says:

    There are regional pricings that just convert the Dollar sign to Euro and has no rational explanation, these discriminate people by region.

    Except of course that you don't HAVE to buy a $600 iPhone for €600. Or do the salesmen in your region hold guns to their customers' heads?

  16. Anonymous says:

    @Burak

    That's an odd position to take. So Gas has been a big cheat. I mean gas prices used to be less than a dollar a gallon!

    Prices Change, saying that changing price after a price is first set is cheating, is rather short sighted.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Except of course that you don't HAVE to buy a $600 iPhone for €600.

    Of course, I can usually live without products priced that way. But I will feel the pain of discrimination.

    You can live with sitting at the back of the bus, but you don't have to feel good about it.

    And some people will still buy such products for various reasons.

    As for Apple products, I wouldn't buy them even at their US pricing.

  18. Anonymous says:

    What a staggering display of poorly rationalized greed!

    Yes. But they don't do that because they prefer to cheat, their sales

    prices are artificial traps to lure the clueless.

    So I take it you send a letter to your grocer every week explaining the prices you're willing to pay for each product over the next month?  Or do you keep the price you're willing to pay secret because you prefer to "cheat"?  How much have you cheated your grocer out of over the years by buying something you would have still bought had the price been higher?

    But since you, like everyone else, is a "cheater" and won't tell what you're willing to pay, the grocer has to discover the optimal price point by guessing.  And they guess by putting the item on sale and looking how well it sold vs. previous weeks.  If everyone know what would be on sale for the next month, that would defeat the point.  This is, of course, neglecting other dynamics like disruptions in supply or trying to move a surplus of perishable goods.  But you know, you made a great point; they should probably just keep the prices high and throw out food when no one buys it and it goes bad.  God forbid they feed you at a better price, the cheaters.

    But then, a change means discrimination for buyers separated in time.  … I'm just against discrimination without reason. Are you OK with race or gender discrimination (without reason)?

    That's really stretching, but sure, why not…  People discriminate all the time, and no one cares.  Toll roads discriminate against larger vehicles.  Computer makers discriminate against users that want game performance from their systems.  And stores discriminate against people that can't wait to buy something.  Discrimination is only bad if it's against something you didn't choose and can't really change (gender, race, etc).

  19. Anonymous says:

    @Burak: If you bring the discrimination argument into this, then I could also argue that keeping the price high would have been a discrimination against people with less disposable income, and lowering the price actually reduces that discrimination.  Whenever you have high value, high cost items like iPhones, you'll get someone somewhere who is arguably discriminated against.  The only way out of that is a post-scarcity economy (en.wikipedia.org/…/Post_scarcity) which we just can't create today.

    (BTW: You must have lots of fun with insurance firms :) )

  20. Anonymous says:

    You underestimate the power of hype, I remember driving around the Island of Oahu 2 days after the Xbox 360 launch looking for one of those things. I think I bought the last one on the Island.

  21. Anonymous says:

    > Dropping the prices makes people feel cheated because it often *is* cheating.

    110% true.

    > we will drop the price by $50 and sell it at that price for as long as the market will bear.

    That's not explicit, does not change a thing. Dates must be set and announced beforehand.

    > It's common knowledge that prices can change up or down.

    It's common knowledge that there are bad people and one can murder you today. That doesn't change facts about murder.

    Cheaters may look successful, in a world you define success by how much money is made.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I distinguish between cases where the seller chooses to preserve information asymmetry about an upcoming price change and other cases.  To sell at "$700 as long as the market will bear" is different from the case where there is asymmetry – "we're going to sell for $700 today and $500 tomorrow and not tell anyone in advance of the drop."

    [How is that different from "Gosh, sales at $700 are slowing down. Let's drop the price effective tomorrow to increase volume." Or "Our marketing models indicate that sales will slow down after one week, so we'll drop the price after one week. (We have to plan this advance because our distribution model requires a 1-month lead-time before changing prices. Printing costs, mailing delays, etc.)" -Raymond]
  23. Anonymous says:

    @Jack:

    > Discrimination is only bad if it's against something you didn't choose and can't really change (gender, race, etc).

    Sorry, I don't have a reply to such a plain wrong argument stated as if it is the absolute truth, because I wouldn't know where to start. (I can't even imagine steps of a false logic that may bring one to that totally wrong conclusion).

    Remember the joke where an American spy to Russia was spotted immediately although he was well educated and spoke Russian without an accent, because he was African-American?

    An act of discrimination may be justified or not. That's all I'm saying.

    @John:

    > I could also argue that keeping the price high would have been a discrimination against people with less disposable income

    You have a point but then you can also argue that a company should inform all potential customers about release of a product etc.

    You have to draw the line somewhere. IMO, responsibility of a company (in this respect) begins with someone becoming a customer.

    I tend to think the company as the parent and customers as the kids. A rich parent can provide expensive toys and meals, a poor parent can only buy cheap toys and meals etc. but each parent treats fairly to their kids. A parent should not say 'hey this kid of mine is a bit fool, I can get away with giving him less allowance than this one' but he can say 'This one is just 6 years old, he should get less allowance than the one going to high school'.

    Sorry I don't have time to elaborate, but I'm pretty sure what I mean can be understood by any intelligent human being (pun not intended) if given a bit thought.

    @Lawrence:

    > "we're going to sell for $700 today and $500 tomorrow and not tell anyone in advance of the drop."

    And is it any different than withholding information about a fatal flow of a product? I don't think so.

    [Just curious: How far in advance must a company announce a future price change? What about releasing a new version of a product? You would not have bought version 1 if you knew a version 2 was coming out soon. And isn't it unfair that you don't tell companies your own purchasing model? (I would pay at most $X for this product.) Isn't that withholding information, too? Or does fairness mean "You tell me everything and I tell you nothing"?
    -Raymond
    ]
  24. Anonymous says:

    [How is that different from "Gosh, sales at $700 are slowing down. Let's drop the price effective tomorrow to increase volume." Or "Our marketing models indicate that sales will slow down after one week, so we'll drop the price after one week. (We have to plan this advance because our distribution model requires a 1-month lead-time before changing prices. Printing costs, mailing delays, etc.)" ]

    I'm OK with the first and not with the second, as per my rule about information asymmetry.  I don't insist on any lead time announcing a price change; I just insist that the seller refund the difference in price for people who bought close to the price change.  (I've seen a number of sellers offer such refunds, so I don't think I'm unique in thinking this is fair.)

    [How about "We are concerned that sales might slow after one week, so we will have plans in place to drop the price if that takes place." Is that acceptable? (And now you're changing your tune. Now you're saying that it's okay to change prices unannounced, as long as there is some "price protection" policy in place. That's a totally different issue from making it illegal for companies to change prices without warning.) -Raymond]
  25. Anonymous says:

    What I find infuriating is price discrimination by region.

    I live in Portugal (*average* wage per month in Portugal is about $1,100 and minimum wage is $650, I kid you not), and I'm still using Office 2003. The other day I looked at prices for Office 2010 Business and Home retail, English version.

    Price in the Microsoft store is $279.99. However, it is sold to Europeans at 315 Euros (about $435, at the current exchange rate). In Amazon US, it's priced at $210.99, but I'm prevented from ordering it from there and have it sent to Portugal (altough I have already made plenty of other purchases from Amazon US).

    Why should Europeans be forced to pay DOUBLE what US users pay for MS Office? I mean, a small price difference I can understand, but double?! Do the Americans think our streets are paved in gold or what, eheh?

    It's not like I'm paying extra for a localized Portuguese version either, as what I actually want is the English version.

    So, there is nothing I can do about the ridiculous price, but, as Bjolling above said, I can choose NOT to buy it – I'll just stick with Office 2003.

  26. Anonymous says:

    @Lawrence and Burak

    All I am hearing is whining. You go to buy a product; the product has a set price; you agree to said price; you obtain the product at said price. If the price drops in half tomorrow, why are you entitled to anything? You made the agreement, you were obviously happy with the deal at the time. If these things upset you, don't look at the prices later. From your logic, all fashion stores that decide to put clothes on sale need to give advanced warning of each product that might go on sale, it's a ridiculous idea. From a rational point of view, your arguments have no grounds. Using impassioned language such as "I'm just against discrimination without reason. Are you OK with race or gender discrimination (without reason)?" is simply inflammatory. If you don't like the present system, petition you local government entity to change it, but at the moment the retailers are doing nothing wrong; either legally or morally.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Raymond: Maybe the people who think raising the price on gas immediately is price gouging are simply confused as to what's a fungible commodity. Those are probably the same people who think that they can replace engineers with decades of experience with those fresh out of college or in countries with a lower standard of living (because all programmers are interchangeable, so the only thing different is the price).

  28. Anonymous says:

    I think if you'll reread my previous comments, you'll see that I didn't "change my tune," but if you'd like, I'll do so now, at least a bit.  I acknowledge a large grey area in between "acceptable" price changes and "unacceptable" changes.  I'll have to use a version of the "any reasonable human being" standard (a variation on blogs.msdn.com/…/10127845.aspx in which the phrase in quotes similarly means "me") to define the black-and-white areas – if any reasonable human being would think it only fair of a seller to either pre-announce a change or provide other compensation, then failing to do so is cheating, and if no one would expect the seller to do so (e.g. standard gas price changes), it's not.

  29. Anonymous says:

    @Burak

    I tend to think the company as the parent and customers as the kids.

    Perhaps this is where we differ – I think of it as a more equal relationship, defined by a mutual choice (company wants to sell a product or service, customer wants to buy that product or service).

  30. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, my yes was ambiguous.  I meant, yes, I only apply my idea of fairness in a single direction.  (My reason is even more off-topic, but basically, I don't really feel that any price between a seller's minimum and a buyer's maximum is equally fair.  My fair price would be the price that would be achieved in a hypothetical market where there were a large number each of buyers and sellers of the same good, with all the necessary caveats to otherwise make this a reasonable model.  I think that actual prices in markets like these consumer goods model the large number of buyers much better than the large number of sellers.  There are certainly markets where I would want the buyer to make disclosures.)

  31. Anonymous says:

    @Boris,

    We were specifically discussing cases where there's only one source for the particular product, e.g. a specific game console.  It's not a regulated monopoly, and there certainly are other game console manufacturers, but pricing is quite different from the case where all the manufacturers made the same console.

    Missing nitpicker's corner for my previous post:  There are lots of exceptions to the general rule, and quite a lot of variation from the "fair price" might be "pretty fair."

  32. Anonymous says:

    @Lawrence:

    It's not entirely true that there's only one source for a games console.  While a particular retailer might only have a limited amount of leeway with regard to price, they do have freedom on things like the bundle options (such as additional controllers, how many games are bundled and the choice of games which are bundled), so the competition for the best deals on a console is still there.  Similarly, different retailers of the iPhone can bundle accessories such as bluetooth headsets and docks, or call time vouchers.

    Even if you don't consider this, there is competition between the different console manufacturer – for example, buyers will compare the (XBox price, features + available games) vs the Wii and PS3.  And finally, they'll balance that (price, features and games) result and decide how much they're willing to pay for it.  When the PS3 first came out, it was £400 in the UK, and Sony said that people would pay that because of the features.  There was no way on earth that I was paying £400 for a games console.  I knew what I would pay and that wasn't it.  Last year, I paid £250 for a PS3.  People who bought a PS3 before the prices came down to a level I was prepared to pay went through some other decision process – I have to assume there was an upper limit for these people, but it was above £400.

    As the old saying goes, "you pays your money and you makes your choice".

  33. Anonymous says:

    I suppose I should have clarified that I'm changing my tune only a bit insofar as I still think that the information asymmetry lies at the heart of "only fair".  I'm merely adding that there's a question of degree.  I don't think that an unannounced $30 price drop on a $300 game console is abuse of the information asymmetry in the transactions before the drop, but a $400 drop on a $700 console would be.  And there's a large grey area between.

    [So if a company wants to drop the price by a lot, it is required to give, say, 30 days notice. The company's sales will drop to zero for 30 days while everybody waits, and some people will get tired of waiting and buy something else. Sounds like companies would have *less* incentive to lower prices! (And what about addressing the opposite asymmetry: Suppose you get a pay rise that takes effect in two weeks. Are you going to tell Apple, "Hey, don't lower prices on the iPhone yet, because in two weeks I'd be willing to pay full price for it!" It sounds like your definition of fairness goes only one way.) -Raymond]
  34. bzakharin says:

    To expand on what John is saying, how far are you going to take your "one source" distinction? Is the iPhone not competitive with other smart phones because iPhone apps won't run on them? Is a supermarket chain not competitive with other chains because the store brand products can only be bought at those stores? Does Pepsi have a monopoly on making Pepsi Cola?

    Would it not be the case that if a certain popular game is not available for the console most people have, the lack of demand would encourage the games authors to switch consoles, even if they make the old console themselves (see Sega and the Sonic series)?

  35. Anonymous says:

    [So if a company wants to drop the price by a lot, it is required to give, say, 30 days notice. The company's sales will drop to zero for 30 days while everybody waits, and some people will get tired of waiting and buy something else. Sounds like companies would have *less* incentive to lower prices!]

    That wasn't what I said.

    [(And what about addressing the opposite asymmetry: Suppose you get a pay rise that takes effect in two weeks. Are you going to tell Apple, "Hey, don't lower prices on the iPhone yet, because in two weeks I'd be willing to pay full price for it!" It sounds like your definition of fairness goes only one way.) -Raymond]

    Yes.

    [I assume you're invoking the "30 day price protection" rule, a rule you didn't put into play until well after the discussion began. And name the last two times you informed a company of your willingness to pay more for a product than they charged. Raymond]
  36. Anonymous says:

    Where does the Windows Phone line start? I want to be the first to buy this precious piece of hardware to which clearly no factories on earth can meet it's demand.

  37. bzakharin says:

    @Lawrence,

    The number of buyers and sellers is immaterial as long as the seller will always adjust price based on buyers' demand (and, of course the costs and availability of the product/material/manufacturing process, etc to the *seller*) and the buyer will make a decision to buy or not based on the price. Natural exceptions to this rule are monopolies (which are regulated to avoid this type of thing), monopsonies (single buyer, which ought to be regulated. I don't know the laws), and things which buyers are forced to buy to a certain degree (e.g. gasoline), which I'm not sure how to regulate in a non-monopolistic situations.

    The unnatural exceptions are cartels which create an effective monopoly (or, I suppose, monopsony, though it's hard for me to think of a case like that offhand). This is really the only situation when things can be considered unfair as the cartel makes unilateral decisions on the price.

  38. Anonymous says:

    @ben

    From your logic, all fashion stores that decide to put clothes on sale need to give advanced warning of each product that might go on sale, it's a ridiculous idea.

    This 'ridiculous idea' is already in place and dates stores can have end of season sales etc. are regulated in some countries. At first it looks bad, I mean, any store should have control over its own prices, right? No. Some stores had all items on sale all year round, which was actually not sales but just plain old cheating and was bad for the competition. That freedom was abused and then lead to the current win-win situation.

    Now, I know when I can buy an item cheaper, so when I find some piece of clothing I like, I consider if I can wait until it will be on sale, how i'd feel if the item is sold out until then, and if i want to go shopping with the crowd etc. It's not like finding out the item is on sale with 50% discount just a day later. There are also many benefits for the stores. A truly win-win situation.

    All I am hearing is whining.

    All I can say is go have your ears checked then. I'm just labeling things as they are, as I see them. You don't need to approve something because it is widely practiced, or if the opposite seems highly unpractical. If you want a better world, first you need to be able to label things correctly as bad/unethical/unacceptable or good/ethical/acceptable.

    If you don't like the present system, petition you local government entity to change it

    Don't you think I can do that and also write a comment here? What's wrong with that? Having correct regulations will take years, and people will suffer in the meantime. If awareness of what is fair, right, correct and indeed can be done is increased, things can get better more quickly.

    at the moment the retailers are doing nothing wrong; either legally or morally.

    I may agree with that. Now please tell me, wouldn't one say the same for slavery just a few hundred years ago?

    But I'm not convinced what I wrote will convince @ben, so I will talk his language as my last resort:

    From a rational point of view, your arguments have no grounds.

    From a rational point of view, your arguments have no grounds.

    Now you have it :)

    @John

    >I tend to think the company as the parent and customers as the kids.

    Perhaps this is where we differ – I think of it as a more equal relationship

    But at other times, I tend to think the customer as the parent and companies as the kids.

    So, I also think this is an equal relationship. But I have a few more ingredients added: mutual respect and love and fairness and openness…

  39. Anonymous says:

    So, I also think this is an equal relationship. But I have a few more ingredients added: mutual respect and love and fairness and openness…

    That sounds like a nice parallel universe.  Can I live there too?  :P

    Joking aside, there probably are customer / company relationships that are like that.  I never think of this as a parent / child relationship because how do you decide whose turn it is to be the parent?  Moreover, in many cases the sheer number of customers involved, as well as the short timescales of any transaction, preclude any kind of bond.  

    The guy (or gal) on the other side of the counter when you bought your iPhone wasn't your best friend, he's just a guy (or gal) who's going to sell you a phone.  Similarly, to him (or her) you're just somebody who wants to buy a phone.  They want to get onto the next customer, you want to get your phone.

  40. Anonymous says:

    @John:

    he's just a guy (or gal) who's going to sell you a phone.

    This is obvious. I'm not buying the phone from him, he's just helping, I'm buying the phone from the company. (He may actually be my best friend, but that won't be of much help – well, maybe if he's the manager).

    They want to get onto the next customer, you want to get your phone.

    The company is fulfilling my need. I'm fulfilling companies need. There is an opportunity for collaboration here. Why fight (try screwing each other over this opportunity)? If we fight, one side loses. If we collaborate, both sides win. Be mutually open and fair, then work together to reach the win-win situation. I believe in Tit for Tat, just start with the cooperative move.

    Bottom line for me: I shouldn't feel bad about a purchase. If I do, then there's something wrong somewhere that needs to be fixed.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Burak KALAYCI: Do you have a link to an English site that explains the laws that some countries have about sales? I tried to find one, but the search terms I tried are too generic.

  42. Anonymous says:

    @Gabe:

    Do you have a link to an English site

    Unfortunately no. I only have some Turkish[1] links but current automatic translations fail with Turkish (very poor quality) and those links are not for scientific papers either.

    Article by a consumer organization:

    http://www.tuder.net/index.php

    This article claims that in EU discount sales dates are restricted in France, Italy and Greece; In Germany and UK no such restrictions but strict rules to protect the consumer; In US there's no such restrictions.

    News about Turkish law, by a major Turkish newspaper:

    http://www.milliyet.com.tr/…/soneko04.asp

    [1] I am Turkish and live in Istanbul, Turkey

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