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Consumer Choice Absent Quality Indicators ? A Pardons Example

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In all markets, whenever there is some successful product or service, there will inevitably be others with an extremely similar if not duplicate offering. Because of this, a very central consumer problem arises: How do they know which version of the product/service to buy? Certainly we speak of things like product differentiation according to price, presentation, and location, but those are all easily controlled by the seller to give an enhanced view of their offering. Some of those categories might offer some insight, but they rarely tell which version of a product is the ‘best’ on their own. This is easy enough to see; take a subpar product, put the price up or down, wrap it in something different and sell it at a classier establishment – it’s still the same product. People need to have some way of determining which form does what it purports to do the best.

In most cases, there are two established ways of doing this: repeated interaction with the group of products/services and word-of-mouth from previous consumers. Continually buying the same product brings increased experience with it and its sector, implying a better knowledge of the product’s own quality and a better knowledge of what makes a related product ‘high-quality’. Word-of-mouth informs potential buyers of the strengths and weaknesses of a product and its competitors from relatively unbiased parties. However, there are markets where neither of these things is possible, either due to it only being possible to consume a product once, or because no one else will admit to having used it. Criminal pardons are just such a market, and we will analyze the aspects of them that lead to this particular problem as well as providing a possible solution.

Canadian criminal pardons are a one-time-use only good. A pardon can only be granted for all convictions on an individual’s record, so once one is received, there is no need to ever get one again. Additionally, those who have received a pardon are unlikely to want to talk about it to anyone, given that the entire point of one is to remove stigma and restrictions from their life as a result of being identified as a convict. The key to this analysis is that the goods (pardons) are identical to one another, but the services resulting in the good (applying for a pardon through a 3rd party) are merely extremely similar. Thus, it appears we are left with a situation where many companies offer the same good through a slightly different process, and no potential consumer has any way of knowing the quality of the service before engaging in it.

This is not strictly true. Simply because successful consumers of the good will forswear any knowledge of it doesn’t mean unsuccessful consumers won’t report their negative experiences widely. In fact, we find that this is one of the best indicators of quality when the other, more prominent signals are absent. Naturally, though, this leads to a related problem: those firms that do not have negative word-of-mouth have no word-of-mouth at all, and thus only the relatively bad firms get any publicity.

Drew Williams is a student of the pardons process and features of clemency worldwide. He craves engaging in meaningful debate with those with well thought-out opinions.

Article from articlesbase.com

Bill C-23 The proposed suspension of criminal record Place of Pardons http://bit.ly/eWB73Gby NCICBackground (JackSmyth)

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