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The price tag hasn’t always existed

3 minutes

How the Quakers became unlikely economic innovators by inventing the price tag

Belying its simplicity and ubiquity, the price tag is a surprisingly recent economic development. For centuries, haggling was the norm, ultimately developing into a system that required clerks and shopkeepers to train as negotiators. In the mid-19th century, however, Quakers in the US began to believe that charging people different amounts for the same item was immoral, so they started using price tags at their stores to counter the ills of haggling. And, as this short video from NPR’s Planet Money explains, by taking a moral stand, the Quakers inadvertently revealed an inefficiency in the old economic system and became improbable pricing pioneers, changing commerce and history with one simple innovation.

Producer: Bronson Arcuri, Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey

Website: Planet Money

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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
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But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon

Essay/
Political Philosophy
What is wrong with tolerance

The ideal of religious tolerance has crippling flaws. It’s time to embrace a civic philosophy of reciprocity

Simon Rabinovitch

Essay/
Law & Justice
Truth is also a place

Throughout history, people found truth at holy places. Now we build courts, labs and altars to be truth spots too

Thomas Gieryn