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Online inflation catches up

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Online shopping used to be a haven for better deals. That might not be the case for much longer.

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Adobe’s Digital Price Index, kind of an online imitation of the federal government’s Consumer Price Index, saw a record increase in November. Prices of clothes sold online were up 17% year over year, appliances up 4%. Historically, retailers have resisted raising online prices as much as they raise prices in stores.

Online, it’s easy to see whether Target or Amazon or Walmart has the best deal. That’s partly what kept prices from rising as much as what’s on store shelves in the past. 

“That old adage consumers had, which is I can find it online and I can get it cheaper online, that’s what’s being turned its head a little bit,” said Vivek Pandya, an analyst for Adobe.

The pandemic shifted so many consumers to e-commerce that prices started rising even before supply chain woes got so bad. 

Steven Tadelis, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, said consumers don’t always get the bargain they think they’re getting online, and retailers know this. 

“If once in a while you get a so-called sucker to come by and buy at that price, maybe it’s just worth doing that under the guise of one website,” he said.

At least when you overpay for something at the mall you can drown your sorrows in an Orange Julius – if you can still find one.  

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