All You Can Pay: How Companies Use Our Data to Empty Our Wallets

All You Can Pay: How Companies Use Our Data to Empty Our Wallets

by Anna Bernasek, D.T. Mongan


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You don't care who can access your data because you have nothing to hide. But what if corporations were using that data to control your decisions?

As millions of consumers carry on unaware, powerful corporations race to collect more and more data about our behaviors, needs, and desires. This massive trove of data represents one of the most valuable assets on the planet.

In All You Can Pay, Anna Bernasek and D. T. Mongan show how companies use what they know about you to determine how much you are willing to pay for everything you buy. From college tuition to plane tickets to groceries to medicine, companies already set varying prices based on intimate knowledge of individual wants and purchasing power. As the consumer age fades into history, rapidly changing prices and complex offers tailored to each individual are spreading like a fog over the free market. Data giants know everything about us before we enter stores or open our browsers. We may think that the Internet lets us find the best deals, but the extensive information companies have about us means that the price we see tends toward the maximum they know we can pay. In a momentous shift, the economics of information will turn our economy on its head. Fair bargaining is over.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781568584744
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Anna Bernasek writes the Datapoints column for the New York Times and is a writer for Newsweek. She has covered economics and business as a journalist and author for more than twenty years, in outlets such as Fortune, Time, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Australian Financial Review. Bernasek holds a B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Policy from Princeton.

D.T. Mongan is a lawyer based in New York specializing in finance and corporate transactions. He is the spouse of Anna Bernasek and holds a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Fable for Today ix

Part I The Evolution Or Markets

1 The Prize: How the nearly limitless consumer surplus represents the ultimate economic prize 3

2 The Disappearing Mass Market: Dividing markets into ever-smaller segments shifts the balance of power 21

3 The Knowledge Gap: Why the information available to large sellers always outpaces what consumers know 42

Part II What Companies do with Data

4 A Special Price Just for You: Using intelligent systems to set different prices for each customer 67

5 Everything Tailored to You: Gaining advantage by product customization 92

6 The Proliferation of Fine Print: Sellers' power to write the rules puts customers at a disadvantage 114

Part III What Comes Next

7 The New Gold Rush: The race among ten data giants to dominate the economy 143

8 The End of the Free Market: What the power to instantly modify product, price, and terms means to the economy 164

9 Data Environmentalism: Proposing a worldwide movement to understand data and negotiate its use 183

10 Resuscitating the Consumer: The steps to preserve a robust economy 201

Your Own Terms 221

Acknowledgments 223

Notes on Sources 225

Index 233

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