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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Business Research, Volume 65, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 106–116
This study broadly explores consumers' perceived unfairness, negative emotions, internal reference price, and store choice under five common methods of price discrimination using two experimental studies. Study 1 investigates the interaction between discriminating bases and inequality status. Results reveal that discriminating bases only influence perceived unfairness for advantaged consumers, but affect all four responses for disadvantaged consumers. For disadvantaged consumers, direct discrimination that complies with social norms evokes the weakest unfavorable responses, whereas direct discrimination against social norms triggers the highest perception of unfairness and negative emotions but has similar effects on internal reference price and store choice to indirect discrimination. Study 2 examines the effect of information disclosure timing by comparing pre- and post-purchase disclosure policies. Results show that post-purchase disclosure of discrimination information elicits higher negative emotions for indirect discrimination involving coupon and purchase quantity, but is rather inconsequential for direct discrimination or indirect discrimination through membership.
Price discrimination is the strategy of varying prices over time, across consumers, or across circumstances, and has been a common practice in both services and physical goods industries for a long time (Elmaghraby and Keskinocak, 2003). With the advances in internet technology, price discrimination has become increasingly popular and flexible (Haws and Bearden, 2006). The central idea of price discrimination is to maximize the seller's profit by exploiting consumer heterogeneity in willingness to pay. However, price discrimination may produce unfavorable customer responses that may significantly diminish the seller's profit (Anderson and Simester, 2008). Therefore, this study explores consumers' adverse responses to price discrimination. Scholars broadly distinguish between posted price discrimination (i.e., firms set prices and consumers choose to “take-it-or-leave-it”) and participative price discrimination (such as auctions and pay-what-you-want, in which buyers determine prices) (Elmaghraby and Keskinocak, 2003 and Kim et al., 2009). This study focuses on posted price discrimination (price discrimination hereafter), as participative price discrimination is more acceptable to consumers due to their control over prices (Haws and Bearden, 2006 and Kim et al., 2009). Although economics, marketing, and operations researchers have extensively discussed price discrimination (e.g., Armstrong, 2006, Elmaghraby and Keskinocak, 2003 and Farias and Van Roy, 2010), they typically model consumer responses as a hypothetic input variable in prescribing normative pricing. Only recently have behavioral researchers examined the potential effects of price discrimination on consumers (e.g., Darke and Dahl, 2003, Heyman and Mellers, 2008 and Xia et al., 2004). However, most of these studies merely investigate consumer perception of price (un)fairness and neglect other important reactions (see Garbarino and Maxwell, 2010 and Grewal et al., 2004 for a few exceptions). Information about a firm's ability to offer a lower price certainly alters consumers' internal reference price. In addition to cognition, emotions play a critical role in decision making, especially in the face of unfavorable pricing treatment (Campbell, 2007). The prices available to a consumer and the prices made available to others both affect the consumer's store choice (Feinberg et al., 2002). This reason is why disadvantaged and advantaged consumers may have different preferences for stores that apply different pricing policies. Prior research largely focuses on purchase-frequency-based and purchase-time-based price discrimination and pays relatively little attention to other common discriminating bases. Anecdotal evidence shows that despite shared premises and goals, different forms of price discrimination may yield radically different consumer responses. For example, Coca-Cola once made vending machines automatically raise the prices in hot weather. When Coca-Cola first introduced this policy in 1999, many marketing experts believed that this strategy was a smart move resembling the peak-hour pricing concept widely adopted in mass transportation and energy markets. However, this policy turned out to be a disaster, with unexpected unfavorable market responses. In contrast, peak/off-peak pricing in mass transportation systems such as Long Island Rail Road in New York and Metro Rail in Washington DC have significantly increased revenue for decades. Another factor possibly affecting consumer responses is the timing to disclose the price discrimination information. Supermarkets such as Safeway and Whole Foods Market typically provide discounts to their members on various items. Some supermarkets mark membership prices right on the retail shelves, whereas others charge discounted prices only when consumers show their member cards to the cashiers. Similarly, airline companies adopt sophisticated dynamic pricing schemes that change ticket prices hourly. In this case, consumers only know whether or not they overpaid for their tickets if they chat with other passengers after the fact. Thus, information disclosure timing crucially affects consumer acceptance of the pricing policies and constitutes an important strategic decision for sellers (Heyman and Mellers, 2008). In the face of the aforementioned issues, this study provides a unified framework to explain how different discriminating bases, inequality status, and information disclosure timing affect consumers' unfairness perceptions, negative emotions, internal reference price, and store choice in advantaged and disadvantaged consumers. This study first develops a series of hypotheses based on social justice theory and transaction utility theory. The central argument of this study is that a consumer confronted with price discrimination evaluates both prices: the one offered to the consumer and the one offered to others. A consumer cares not only about distributive justice in terms of equality rule, need rule, and transaction utility, but also about procedural justice regarding whether having the freedom to choose to be advantaged or disadvantaged. This study then tests these hypotheses through two experimental studies. Study 1 explores the roles of discriminating bases and inequality status. Results show, for advantaged consumers, discriminating bases only influence the perception of unfairness. For disadvantaged consumers, however, discriminating bases affect all four responses in different ways. Study 2 examines the effects of information disclosure timing. Results show that compared with pre-purchase disclosure, the post-purchase disclosure of discrimination information elicits higher negative emotions for certain types of discriminating bases.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This article provides a unified framework to explain how different types of price discrimination, consumers' inequality status, and timing of discrimination information disclosure interplay to affect a variety of consumer responses. This paper's major contributions are the integration of social justice theory and transaction utility theory to explain the effects of price discrimination on the consumer side and the simultaneous consideration of multiple discriminating bases and several consumers' reactions. In conclusion, this article clearly indicates that the prices offered to the consumer and those offered to others affect the formation of unfairness perception, negative emotions, internal reference price, and store choice. A consumer facing price discrimination not only evaluates distributive justice in terms of the equality rule, the need rule, and transaction utility, but also cares about procedural justice regarding whether having the freedom to choose to be advantaged or disadvantaged. A major limitation of the current research is that, for the sake of ecological validity, this study employs asymmetrical manipulations for direct discrimination complying with social norms (i.e., using elders and students as the discriminating bases for disadvantaged and advantaged groups, respectively). This asymmetrical design may produce some uncontrollable consequences that may bias the results. A more sound design accounting for both sides of ecological validity and experiment symmetry is in great need, but the experiment also seems challenging. Although this study suggests that consumers care about distributive and procedural justice and transaction utility when evaluating price discrimination, the experiments do not measure consumers' perceptions of justice and utility. Collecting justice and utility perceptions may provide valuable clues for directly validating the proposed theory. Thus, collecting justice or utility data to explore the psychological processes underlying customers' reactions to price discrimination is a direction for future research. Another possible study extension is to investigate how the nature of service influences consumer acceptance of the different types of price discrimination. This study only considers two service industries and primarily uses them to support the robustness of the findings. Inherent differences between industries may facilitate different types of price discrimination. Kannan and Kopalle (2001) suggest price discrimination based on purchase time may be more acceptable for perishable products. In a similar vein, industries with high fixed costs typically adopt price discrimination based on purchase time (e.g., last-minute sales by airline and hotels), whereas industries with low fixed costs usually use price discrimination associated with purchase quantity. Future research can examine how the effects investigated in this study differ across different industries.