Mr. Linzmajer, do you think many Germans are putting money aside for another heating bill in the middle of summer?
no It is very difficult to save upfront, even under normal circumstances. There is also a fact right now that after corona restrictions, people actually want to consume again ….
… and go on vacation, go to parties and sit in the beer garden.
Exactly. As a result, we are faced with a real consumer dilemma: we actually want to buy, but reason dictates caution.
When do we buy anyway?
It depends on personality, budget and of course the price.
Prices are rising almost everywhere. That should make surrender easier, right?
Above a certain pain threshold. The place where it is located is again individually different. Basically spending money hurts everyone. When we see the price tag, an area in the brain is activated which is also responsible for pain.
But we see not only the price, but also the product that we would like to have. This, in turn, is processed in the area of the brain responsible for pleasure and reward. Depending on which signal is stronger, we decide whether to buy or not.
You don’t have that choice for all products, do you? Otherwise, no one would probably pay the next gas bill.
Of course, there are products that we need for life, here you have no basic choice. So you have to save elsewhere – or consume more sparingly. Both sound easier than it is. Because when it comes to gas consumption, I do not mean the price per hour of how much it currently costs me. So the pain during heating remains far away for the time being.
How do you still manage to save here?
In any case, it does not seem promising that people will be afraid of a cold apartment in the middle of summer in winter. It’s too far from everyday life. Even the saving effect alone is not enough for many people, because we prefer to consume now rather than save money for later. Social pressure is more helpful.
What do you mean?
There is a field experiment in the USA that really motivates people to save energy. This is neither an environmental aspect nor the fact that you will save money in the long run. But when they see how much they spend on electricity bills compared to their neighbors, they also change their behavior. One option would be to create clever, behavioral economic incentives.
How artisans and traders in the region deal with inflation
Free heat pump for those who save the most gas in the community?
For example. Creative suggestions in this direction can make a difference. The 9 euro ticket shows this as well.
How about grocery shopping. Is there already a price exemption?
Partly. In our research projects, we see that some luxury items such as asparagus have been largely overlooked this season. And consumers are increasingly going to discount stores or buying their own brands in supermarkets because they realize they now have to pay more for the basket at the checkout. Saving money in a targeted way is difficult in a supermarket.
We don’t mean the exact price of any food. This means that consumers cannot really understand what food they are actually paying more for than they used to be. Of course, this makes saving difficult. The only thing that helps is the price comparison. And shop strictly according to your shopping list to avoid impulse purchases.
This usually works until you see the offer …
In fact, red price tags are a very good way to encourage a customer to buy. And you can usually assume that you will save something – provided, of course, that you actually need the product. If the seller were to deceive consumers with offers and they noticed this, the loss of trust would be enormous. And virtually no supermarket can afford it, especially in Germany, because the competition is just so fierce.
Does this strong competition protect customers today from even higher prices?
Absolutely. When it comes to groceries in particular, the Germans have only learned in many years: everything is always cheaper. It hurts all the more now that you suddenly have to pay more. Therefore, trade is very sensitive here, and food retailers are also giving up their income.
However, customers cannot understand most of the prices.
It’s actually a problem, yes. About 70 percent. The Germans would like more transparent prices. There are already examples in the textile sector where the cost composition of a product is disclosed. It would also be possible for groceries via QR codes.
Are consumers getting used to higher prices? Maybe even so much that they don’t have to sink anymore?
At least when it comes to food, I don’t think so because of the high level of competition. And so far we have searched in vain for examples where the supplier takes advantage of the current situation and raises prices for no reason whatsoever. The fear of losing customers as a result is just too great.