You know that friends who live in different states might pay higher or lower prices than you do on gas, cars, homes, and more. That’s called price discrimination. But when you’re shopping online you probably expect prices to be the same for everyone. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, some online retailers are offering different prices on the same product based on what their data says about the shopper. Is it fair, and is it happening to you?
What is price discrimination?
Price discrimination happens when a company offers different shoppers different prices on the same product based on perceived ability or willingness to pay. For example, gas along a busy highway might be similarly priced to nearby stations, but the only station around for miles might charge a little more because people are more likely to pay it, whether for convenience or because they don’t realize it’s cheaper elsewhere.
Is price discrimination bad?
The term sounds negative, but price discrimination may not be all bad. Senior citizen discounts, which are pretty sweet if you’re a senior citizen, come under the heading of price discrimination. And competitive pricing can be good for the overall economy. But if you’re paying more as a result of price discrimination, it can be bad for your budget and feel pretty unfair.
What can you do about it?
Shop around. Do the research, be on the lookout for studies like the one in the Journal, and if you find a lower price for the same item from the same store, ask them to honor the lowest price available.
Do you think price discrimination is good or bad?