click for ginormous graphic

Source: WSJ

Lucky us! The horror that is airline ticket purchasing
brought to everyday items.

I am beginning to like this Jeff Bezos dude less and less every day . . .

Category: Consumer Spending, Digital Media

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

24 Responses to “Lucky Us: Toilet Paper Priced Like Airline Tickets?”

  1. ex1 says:

    comparing to airline ticket purchasing is slightly off, this is great for the consumer.

  2. kykerkent says:

    why is this good for the consumer? Because we have to get up at the crack ass of dawn to get the best price on a microwave?

  3. jonas says:

    Airline pricing is just another name for oligopoly pricing. Perfect price transparency/competition actually facilitates that.

  4. NoKidding says:

    You mean there are hidden taxes and fees that turn the $744.46 into $3,584.25, but I don’t get to see that until after I click thru three forms and finish entering my credit card info?

  5. dumdedumdum says:

    Is that toilet paper like airline toilet paper?

  6. powersjq says:

    Someone, somewhere (actually, probably several someones in several somewheres) is working on a website that tracks this stuff and helps you buy at the best price. And airline ticket pricing has a lot (though hardly everything) to do with the fact that the airlines deliver future services for current payments. I predict that dynamic pricing will not work out very well for retailers, since it encourages waiting for a better price. The only reason today’s retailers can get away with it is that today’s consumers aren’t yet used to it. It won’t last a generation.

  7. ministerofsillywalks says:

    I call BS on the WSJ reporter. Amazon doesn’t even sell this product themselves… they pass through the prices of multiple merchants (abt, hccost, etc). The Amazon line on the chart is likely just showing that the retailers with the most aggressive pricing don’t keep many of these ovens in inventory, and when they go out of stock amazon returns the next highest price. Best Buy probably just had a sale price unavailable for three hours. Sears never adjusted their price at all. I think the reporter made up the notion of airline pricing for microwave ovens. Amazing how easy it is to be fooled by a good chart though.

  8. jaymaster says:


    You mean something like this amazon price tracker site?????

  9. DSS10 says:

    Although the pricing variance over one day is one issue, its when you find out that your price is different from other peoples at the same time that you start to worry. Facebook, google, and other on-line marketing companies are getting to the point that every customer will receive unique pricing based on the companies ontology and algorithmic as applied to a customers profile. Right now it’s easy to goose the system so that you can lower the price (ie. visit amazon three times and view the same product and you will see discounts) but the future will be when a retailer will know you bank balance when you log on and will price accordingly.

  10. Bob A says:

    a good reason you can’t just rely on amazon as your one-stop shop.
    other sites are easier, more focused, and often have better prices.

    only about one out of ten times do i find the best price is on amazon and
    ended up buying there. but in fairness at some times they have had things i
    can’t find anywhere else.

  11. PeterR says:

    OT — Barry FYI your Log In function is not working on the PM reads post you made at 5:30 PM EDT.

    Fa(r)ceBook is buying shares !!!

    Let the price manipulation continue.

  12. b_thunder says:

    what about “limit orders?”
    wanna purchase a microwave oven (as in the illustration) – get a price tracking app to alert you when the price drops below your “limit” and then you can execute the purchase.

  13. [...] Lucky Us: Toilet Paper Priced Like Airline Tickets? Maintaining maximum browser privacy eliminates some of the customized pricing, as does not logging in when you check prices. [...]

  14. ToNYC says:

    what about “limit orders?”
    wanna purchase a microwave oven (as in the illustration) – get a price tracking app to alert you when the price drops below your “limit” and then you can execute the purchase.

    The internet stuff delivery channel is evolving to
    trading like junk bonds: Fill or Kill, move along.
    A natural reaction to the customer bar code scanning and gps’n the rest of the deal away.

  15. dbrodess says:

    would be interesting to see which one sold the most units. I’m guessing Amazon.

  16. dbrodess says:

    different issue. my guess is the UK portion of this is negligible

  17. Jojo says:

    I posted the article below on this subject here about one month ago. This is not good for most consumers. Remember, for companies, the name of the game is to extract the highest price possible from the consumer.

    I’ve seen Amazon prices change from what someone posted on a deal site to when I happened to get there (and 99% of the time the price was higher).

    As to the airlines that some are talking about above, when are they going to price their seats on weight of the passenger? Weight is a big part of what affects fuel usage.
    August 9, 2012
    Shopper Alert: Price May Drop for You Alone

    It used to be that with dedication and a good pair of scissors, one grocery shopper could get the same coupons — and cheap prices — as another.

    Now going to the grocery store is becoming a lot less egalitarian.

    At a Safeway in Denver, a 24-pack of Refreshe bottled water costs $2.71 for Jennie Sanford, a project manager. For Emily Vanek, a blogger, the price is $3.69.

    The difference? The vast shopping data Safeway maintains on both women through its loyalty card program. Ms. Sanford has a history of buying Refreshe brand products, but not its bottled water, while Ms. Vanek, a Smartwater partisan, said she was unlikely to try Refreshe.

  18. Cato says:

    I am surprised no one has pointed out the insanity of buying a microwave for >$750. I haven’t lived in the US for a while… is inflation that bad?


    BR: You can buy them for $49 or 10x that

  19. raholco says:

    Comparing a $50 throwaway microwave to a Advantium is like comparing a Yugo to a Camry.

  20. [...] The dynamic pricing of toilet paper, and [...]

  21. Sigivald says:

    Cato: That Advantium 120 is not “a microwave”, which is why the comparison is confusing.

    It’s a 925 watt microwave and convection oven. (And also does “speed cook” and has a warming oven mode, but those are just modifications on the other two properties.)

    Plus it looks nice and has a stainless (not enameled) interior, both of which add both cost and legitimate value.

    It’s not comparable to a “normal microwave”, even at basic spec level.

    (It’s also larger than them, being the size of a standard oven, more or less. Certainly it’s far wider than the generic microwave.)

  22. [...] Lucky Us: Toilet Paper Priced Like Airline Tickets? Big Picture [...]

  23. kaleberg says:

    Amazon seems to have some fascinating pricing algorithms. Choose a few products and put them in your shopping cart. View your cart and save those items for later. Now, each time you look at your cart, you’ll get a notification as their prices bob up and down in some mysterious fashion, perhaps the way a fish sees a fish hook bobbing in the water. Sometimes I’ll just dump an item in my cart and save it figuring that one day I’ll see it’s price plummet and, if I’m quick, I might get a great deal on it.

    Amazon’s market place is even weirder. Here, various sellers set their own prices, so really interesting things can happen. Michael Eisen, the evolutionary biologist behind the “it is NOT junk” blog, once told one of his postdocs to grab an extra lab copy of developmental bio classic, Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly. The book was out of print, but still available, and here I’ll quote from the blog entry, “Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).” That’s right, there was one copy for $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping) and another for $2,198,177.95 (+$3.99 shipping). (You’d think that with prices like those they’d throw in free shipping.)

    Being a scientific sort, Eisen decided to track the prices to see if he could figure out what was happening. A simple spreadsheet revealed that the two sellers using an algorithm to set their prices. One seller, who did have a new copy of the book, simply made a point of underpricing the other by a fixed percentage. The other seller, who probably did not have a copy of the book, was willing to buy it from the one guy who did and resell at a price that included a fixed percentage profit. (You often see this with Alibris pricing of ABE book seller books.) The automatic pricing was updated daily and the prices soared. This was a classic bubble, and like all bubbles it eventually broke when one of the sellers decided to actually look at his insane price.

    As Eisen concluded: “But, alas, somebody ultimately noticed. The price peaked on April 18th, but on April 19th profnath’s price dropped to $106.23, and bordeebook soon followed suit to the predictable $106.23 * 1.27059 = $134.97. But Peter Lawrence can now comfortably boast that one of the biggest and most respected companies on Earth valued his great book at $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping). []