This is awesome and scary, and I wish I understood it a bit better.
I opened Overnightprints.com in Firefox and saw that they are offering me 50 business cards for $3.96.
But I don’t usually buy things in Firefox. My internet shopping browser is usually Chromium. So I opened up the same page there and discovered that the price goes up to $4.15 when I use Chromium.
I’ve never bought anything from Overnight Prints before, although maybe I did once create an account.
This is creepy. What’s going on here? My suspicion is that my Firefox profile is me without the shopping whereas my Chromium profile is mostly the shopping. So Firefox James looks like a pauper or a skinflint, but Chromium James is a free spending whale who won’t balk at an extra 19 cents. I bet Chromium James is more fun at a bar.
This kind of price discrimination allows Overnight Prints to pick multiple points on the curve and extract consumer surplus from me. When companies talk about the great benefits of trading privacy for online convenience, this is the stuff they are talking about. This unidrectional transparency (I know nothing about them) lets them push margins 5% by quickly switching the price tags as I walk in the front door. When I notice the switcheroo in progress, though, I feel quite like they are trying to swindle me.
And nobody much cares about 5% on a set of disposable business cards, but it makes me wonder where else I am paying an extra 5 percent.