'Surge pricing' at the store?

Uber introduced the term "surge-pricing" into most of our vocabularies. And that company's success likely contributed to the rise of the surge-pricing business model seemingly everywhere else.

- Uber introduced the term "surge-pricing" into most of our vocabularies. And that company's success likely contributed to the rise of the surge-pricing business model seemingly everywhere else.

"I don't really love it simply because the consumer can't prepare," smart shopping expert Trae Bodge says. "The consumer has no power over this pricing at all."

Bodge looks at Uber and sees a fluctuation in rates for which the consumer can prepare. But with a major retailer like Kohl's, which recently introduced electronic price tags the chain can manipulate in all its stores at the same time, Dodge sees unpredictability reducing consumers to corporate pawns.

"If you're in a store and the price is liquid, we have no control," Bodge says.

Airlines and rental cars have long employed a sort of surge-pricing. But with Internet providers, restaurant reservation purveyors, and Amazon.com now collecting vast quantities of data about the shopping habits of their consumers thanks to online sales, they can now smartly adjust prices -- and do so as often as they like.

"I worry about it affecting consumer trust," Bodge says.

This culture of mistrust might lead to self-conscious or resentful shoppers, which could also backfire for price-tinkering retailers, sending would-be customers elsewhere.

"Retailers can watch consumers coming and going," Bodge says. "They can see them interacting on their smart phones. They can send them messages on their smart phones."
 

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