I've been reading these forums for a few weeks now and it's amazing to read the posts complaining about the character of individuals charging "unreasonable prices" for toys (or any elastic good) here or anywhere else.
On Amazon, or anywhere else, nobody wants to pay more than they have to for anything. Likewise, sellers want to get as much as possible for their items. Assuming parties enter into these transactions freely, this maintains a relatively harmonious equilibrium - until stock gets low and prices (and tempers) get high.
I think we have gotten used to goods and services being consistently priced. Big chain grocery stores, manufacturers and retailers tend to "fix" the prices of most items even though their margins are constantly shifting. As a result people come to expect that X has a static cost of Y. We are all well accustomed to the fact that long-term prices tend to shift upwards and most of us have at least a peripheral grasp on concepts like inflation, but in the end we tend to think that something costs what it costs and that's that.
If the cost of rice goes up, for example, companies like Kellog might just absorb the increased cost to keep the price of their various cereals constant at the expense of profit per unit sold. This keeps consumers happier and in the long run is better for profits than constantly shifting prices on a daily basis. It also centralizes pricing and simplifies administrative burdens and therefore minimizes cost. The only time retail prices go up (or less often down) is when producer/retailer costs change for a longer period of time.
So people get used to the idea that a box of Rice Krispies costs $3 unaware and unconcerned with the fact that the profit margin for Kellog is constantly changing. So what happens is we are no longer thinking "I would rather have that box of Rice Krispies than my $3 so I will enter into the market and make this trade." Instead we think "a box of Rice Krispies is worth $3"
Put simply we have become used to being told what something is worth or more importantly, what it should be worth to us.
With the internet we have gotten back to a more traditional free market - and as a result of such a huge marketplace prices have become consistent on most goods but for a different reason: competition.
While the end result is similar, this equilibrium is more "susceptible" to being rapidly affected by changes in supply and/or demand. So at high-volume times or with hot-button items, you see highly variable prices that reflect the changing value of these items in terms of how their valued by us consumers. The thing is, we're just not used to this phenomenon any more - especially when it comes to money.
Currency is just a way of standardizing trade. On Monday you might be willing to trade a pound of flour for a pound of corn. This might change later in the week depending on your needs and that pound of corn might only be worth half a pound of flour to you. Currency just makes trade easier so that we're not paying for movie tickets with 3 chickens and 2 pounds of oats. It's no different than trade and barter on a microeconomic scale. However if we were buying a movie ticket with 3 chickens and 2 pounds of oats we would have no trouble accepting the fact that the worth of that ticket might change dramatically depending on any one of a million reasons. We need more eggs tomorrow because family is coming over. There hasn't been a good rain in a while and oats are going to start costing me more home-made scarves and I don't really want to sit down and make 30 scarves again this weekend because i'd rather go fishing. Why is this any different when we've simplified our system of trade, not to mention improved the smell of our vehicles, by using little green pieces of paper? That piece of paper is just as valuable as those 30 scarves, chickens or oats otherwise you wouldn't have traded all of them for it.
I think herein lies the source of some people's inability to understand basic economic concepts of supply and demand, opportunity cost and the very simple yet undeniable truth that if someone pays X for Y then by definition Y is worth precisely X.
As a result we see the emotional arguments when it comes to price fluctuations in the various internet markets. That's why people are quick to throw around terms like price-gouging or rip off on items they think are "over priced" when in reality the only item that is over-priced is the item that doesn't sell.
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