Document Type


Publication Date



This essay explores the nature and implications of a type of inequality that is widespread but largely ignored. Promises deliver important ethical value, and commercial promises, because they are our most common experience of promise with strangers, are of special value. But not all commercial promises generate that value equally. This paper makes the following claims: (1) while some retail promises are promises either to deliver a good or service, or to pay some compensation, other retail promises are simple promises to deliver a good or service; (2) retail promises in high-end markets are more likely to have the simple form, while retail promises in low-end markets are more likely to be conditional; (3) conditional promises that create less certainty and less entitlement are inferior to simple promises to deliver a good or service; and (4) inequality in the quality of retail promise has implications for how members from different social backgrounds relate to others in their political and economic community.


contract, promise, commercial promise, conditional promise, inequality, take or pay, retail contract, consumer

Publication Title

University of Pittsburgh Law Review

Publication Citation

72 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 467 (2011).