Price Discrimination Is Good, Part I

Price discrimination involves a firm taking advantage of different elasticities of demand for the same goods by charging different prices relative to marginal cost. Price discrimination is ubiquitous in our economy but remains a four letter word in policy and regulation circles. We observe price discrimination in all sorts of product markets, from small and large firms, and in marketing strategies from brick and mortar to Web 2.0. Its economic definition is relatively straightforward and it is a concept, unlike the complex models and explanations for some business practices in the modern economics literature, that is intuitive for everyday consumers. Airlines charge reduced fares for children or require Saturday stayovers in order to exclude business purchasers. We see this type of price discrimination every day in grocery stores, gas stations, movie theaters, online retail websites, and bookstores. It also exists in markets with which every day consumers might be less familiar, e.g. the tying of ink and printers.

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