I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy so much as a pencil these days without checking eBay, Amazon, or price comparison sites to see what a reasonable base price should be. And if I can’t find the item in a real life store at something close to that price, then I will buy it online (taking P&P and other factors into account, naturally).
But I never used to do this. I never bought stuff by mail order in the past. Before the internet, mail order was a pain in the arse. You couldn’t browse the goods, there was no way of tracking the order, no payback if it turned out to be unsatisfactory, and the delivery companies were not really set up for it, not like today where an average company’s post room is full of Amazon orders that employees have had delivered to their workplace.
I believe economists would call what we have today a “more efficient market”, one in which buyers are more aware of what they need to pay and sellers of what they can charge. It seems to me that this is something of a one-off, step-change in the economy. It should have led to a drop in prices over a relatively short space of time, a few years.
So my question is, have economists looked at this? Is it evident in inflation statistics, or is the effect too small or drawn-out to be noticeable?