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Why are books sold for fixed prices?

My sister doesn't like minimum wage, and shared this sob story about a sci-fi bookstore that says it's closing because of San Francisco's rising minimum wage. One line jumps out:

"I can't increase the prices of my products because books, unlike many other things, have a price printed on them,"

Books do have prices printed on them as do newspapers and comic books; why is this the case? Why do we expect books to sell at the same price in downtown San Francisco and suburban Topeka, with no change for variable overhead like labor and rent?

By contrast, see this story about a mall split between two minimum wages because it straddles a county line. As might be expected, the pretzel store with higher wages raised prices a bit and cut profits somewhat. (The shoe store at $8/hour has trouble attracting decent employees given $10/hour alternatives.)

So why don't books get the luxury of a "convenience of buying books in downtown" surcharge? I wonder how many of the industry's woes can be traced to this perceived inability to set prices at the storefront. (Including trouble coping with Amazon. Say I had the choice of selling 100 books at $1 profit or 40 books at $2 profit; clearly I pick the former. If competion means a choice of selling 100 books at $0.10 profit or 40 books at $1.10 profit, I pick the latter. But if my business model means I don't actually have a choice...)

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 6th, 2015 03:33 am (UTC)
Sob story or not, it was an outstanding bookstore. Great selection, employees who really knew their material, superior customer service. They bent over backwards, including daily trips to FedEx when FedEx proved a bit incompetent, to get the maximum possible number of Bujold hardbacks for her to sign for me. (This was before I knew about Uncle Hugo's.)

Interesting question about list prices, though.
Feb. 10th, 2015 03:12 pm (UTC)
Books are typically sold on consignment, for one.

Secondly, you're not going to sell anything with a price printed on it if your own price is higher than said printed price, save for secondary/collector markets where such things might appreciate in nominal (and possibly inflation-adjusted) value.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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