We argue that a contract provides a reference point for a trading relationship: more precisely, for parties’ feelings of entitlement. A party’s ex post performance depends on whether he gets what he is entitled to relative to outcomes permitted by the contract. A party who is shortchanged shades on performance. A ﬂexible contract allows parties to adjust their outcomes to uncertainty but causes inefﬁ- cient shading. Our analysis provides a basis for long-term contracts in the absence of noncontractible investments and elucidates why “employment” contracts, which ﬁx wages in advance and allow the employer to choose the task, can be optimal.