One-to-One Pricing Using RFID Tags

Again, hat tip to Chris Forsman, Sales Consultant with Accounting Micro Systems, who referred me to a company that “are installing RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags on shelves in supermarkets and are able to control/change pricing of product at will through an access point connected to a central computer. If it is warm and soft drinks are moving fast at $3.00/six pack, they can at a click of a mouse, change the price to $4.00/six pack.”

This is an excellent example of how pricing strategies are always innovated by sellers, not buyers, as I’ve discussed before. The use of RFID tags in this manner is reminiscent of when Coca-Cola put thermometers in its outdoor vending machines that raised the price of a drink as it got hotter.

They retreated from that strategy when there was a public backlash. It would have been far better for them to lower the price when it got colder, as that’s perceived as being more fair, much like a high-end resort discounting its room rates from a premium “rack-rate” rather than raising room rates during “on-seasons.”

The use of RFID tags for pricing is in its infancy, but I assure you that professional pricers will be innovating strategies in order to price discriminate, segment customers, and charge different prices to different customers based on ability and willingness to pay—in other words, based on value.

The company Chris referred to is Altierre in Silicon Valley.


  1. James Mason says:

    Greetings. This might be a novel application for RFID tags, but it’s hardly an innovation in pricing. The ability to change pricing on the fly, particularly in a grocery store, has been around since the dawn of UPC codes, which is, of course, part of the reason they
    were so quickly, and so readily accepted by grocers in the first place. You don’t really think it was an accident that the very first ever UPC code was placed on a pack of Wrigley’s gum, do you?

    RFID is great, and, depending on whether you’re using active or passive technology, it can do a lot of things, but changing prices on the fly isn’t made any easier by RFID technology than it was by barcoding, (of course, as delimited by the platform, the access point, and so on), and until you can point at an item and say “price change, increase ten cents” and go on about your business, it isn’t likely to get all that much easier.

    But won’t that be something?

    Warm Regards,

    James E. Mason

  2. James,

    Good point, and you’re right it’s not really an innovation in pricing, but I do believe RFID tags could evolve in interesting ways to segment and price discriminate, strategies beyond just merely increasing prices, based on what I’ve heard being discussed.

  3. James Mason says:


    Thanks so much for the reply. I totally agree with you, and here’s what I’m waiting for: Back in one of my thankfully forgotten lives, I used to be a waiter (they used to call us “food servers”, I guess to be more gender-neutral, or something, but a waiter I was, nevertheless). It was a pretty fancy place, I guess, at least to the extent that fancy means a real chef and high check averages.

    On busy nights the chef would “expedite” by which I mean he (yes, HE) would assemble orders for us, put them on a tray, and slide them to the side, ready to go out to the dining room. Sadly way too often the wrong food server would pick up the wrong tray and take it to the wrong table. Even more sadly, hilarity would rarely ensue.

    Given the level of electronic sophistication available these days, I cannot understand why somebody somewhere isn’t combining electronic order-taking, production management, RFID, and order delivery in such a way as to ensure that, if the wrong waiter picks up the wrong tray, or starts to deliver to the wrong table, bells go off, whistles start to whistle, or cattle prods start to prod, so that, at Point Of Service, when it really starts to count, I can count on getting my Little Buckaroo Petite Steak For The Delicate And/Or Infirm, instead of the Monster Meat For Monstrous Meaty Men.

    That would go a long LONG way toward improving things on the “Perfecting Service” front. And it would ease, considerably, my relationship with my internist. I’m just saying.

    Warm Regards,


    James E. Mason
    Managing Partner
    Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting

  4. Ron Baker says:

    Hi James, Great point! I did just recently see a show (on the travel channel I think) that showed a restaurant that has their menus on touch screens at each table, featuring tempting pictures of each dish, full descriptions, dietary information, etc.

    But I guess that doesn’t solve your point about the waiter bringing the wrong dish, but it still looked neat and they claimed it turned tables much faster, less errors, etc.

  5. nice

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