An economics textbook would say this shouldn’t happen. It would say that Bob Viden, who has run the shop for almost 50 years, should respond to the increase in demand by raising prices. But, Viden told me, “We don’t want to do that. We want to be fair.”
Apparently so do some of the best-known ammo sources across the country. At the sporting goods store Cabela’s and at Wal-Mart, shelves are empty but prices are mostly flat. During my conversations at Bob’s Little Sport Shop, the word “fair” came up about two-dozen times. Or, as one customer put it, “There’s no reason to make a profit off of our misfortune.”
To a traditional economist, a shortage is evidence prices are too low. But Viden predicts if he raises his prices, his customers won’t come back because they’ll think he ripped them off.
“Traditional economic theory doesn’t really have room for fairness perceptions,” Margaret Campbell, a marketing professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told me. But about 30 years ago, she says, “people started noticing that there were these kind of quirks.”