Perceived vs. Negotiated Discounts: The Role of Advertised Reference Prices in Price Negotiations

Journal of Marketing Research

60 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2018 Last revised: 1 Oct 2021

Date Written: November 19, 2020


Retailers routinely present a posted or sale price together with a higher advertised reference price, in an effort to evoke a perception of the discount the consumer is receiving. If prices can be negotiated though, what impact does this initial perceived discount (IPD) have on the ultimate discount, demand, and revenue? With data from consumers of a large durable goods retailer, in a natural decision-making environment, this study provides evidence that a greater IPD is associated with smaller negotiated discounts. Then, a lab experiment involving negotiation and purchase decisions for multiple products, with randomly assigned values of the IPD, establishes that a $1 increase in IPD lowers the negotiated discount by 5.7 cents. Furthermore, 55% of this decrease can be attributed to reduction in the participants' likelihood to initiate a negotiation. Under bargaining, almost one-third of the increase in revenue from a higher IPD stems from an increase in the negotiated price, which is unlike fixed pricing, in which setting an increase in IPD affects revenue only through changes in demand. Finally, the optimal advertised reference prices a seller would post under bargaining and fixed pricing are similar, but the benefit from posting this price is significantly higher under bargaining. These findings in turn have implications for researchers, retailers, consumers and policy makers.

Keywords: price negotiations, bargaining, advertised reference prices (ARP), initial perceived discount, anchoring, behavioral economics, comparative price advertising

JEL Classification: C7, D9, L68

Suggested Citation

Jindal, Pranav, Perceived vs. Negotiated Discounts: The Role of Advertised Reference Prices in Price Negotiations (November 19, 2020). Journal of Marketing Research, Available at SSRN: or

Pranav Jindal (Contact Author)

Indian School of Business ( email )

Hyderabad, 500032

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