Generic price terms such as cheap, not expensive, not cheap, and expensive are used frequently in marketing, but little is known about how consumers interpret them. In typical consumer contexts, in which lower prices are preferred, we find that not cheap means essentially the same as expensive (i.e., not cheap = expensive). In contrast, not expensive does not mean the same as cheap, in that cheap is associated with lower prices (i.e., cheap < not expensive). As an implication, in a consumer survey we find different response distributions for rating scales that are anchored with endpoint labels of not expensive versus expensive as compared to cheap versus expensive or cheap versus not cheap (the latter two are equivalent). Furthermore, although cheap is associated with lower prices than not expensive, this does not necessarily translate into higher preferences for options that are described as cheap (vs. not expensive), because cheap may also evoke negative quality perceptions. Finally, we demonstrate an interesting reversal in the way price terms are interpreted: when higher prices are preferred, cheap is equal to not expensive (i.e., cheap = not expensive), whereas not cheap is associated with lower prices than expensive (i.e., not cheap < expensive).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology