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Modeling Money-Back Guarantees As Financial Options

Jinhua Zhao (), David Zilberman (), Amir Heiman and Bruce McWilliams

Staff General Research Papers Archive from Iowa State University, Department of Economics

Abstract: In this article, we model money-back guarantees (MBGs) as put options. This use of option theory provides retailers with a framework to optimize the price and the return option independently and under various market conditions. This separation of product price and option value enables retailers to offer an unbundled MBG policy, that is, to allow the customer to choose whether to purchase an MBG option with the product or to buy the product without the MBG but at a lower price. The option value of having an MBG is negatively correlated with the likelihood of product fit and with the opportunity to test the product before purchase, and positively correlated with price and contract duration. Simulation of our model reveals that when customers are highly heterogeneous in their product valuation and probability of need-fit, and if return costs are low, an unbundled MBG policy is optimal. When customers have high likelihood of fit or return costs are excessive, no MBG is the best policy. When customers have small variance in product valuation, but vary greatly in likelihood of product fit, the retailer may prefer to offer a bundled MBG contract, extracting consumer surplus by charging a price close to the valuation level.

Date: 2002-01-01
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Published in Journal of Retailing 2002, vol. 78, pp. 193-205

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