Remain silent and ye shall suffer: seller exploitation of reticent buyers in an experimental reputation system
By providing incentives for sellers to act in a trustworthy manner, reputation mechanisms in many online environments can mitigate moral-hazard problems when particular buyers and sellers interact infrequently. However, these mechanisms rely on buyers sharing their private information about sellers with the community, and thus may suffer from too little feedback when its provision is costly. In this experimental study, we compare a standard feedback mechanism to one in which sellers can inspect a buyer's feedback-provision history, thus providing the buyer with incentives to share private information even when costly. We find fairly high trust and trustworthiness levels in all markets, with buyers showing a willingness to provide costly feedback, especially negative feedback, sufficient to induce seller trustworthiness. While we find, ceteris paribus, evidence that the availability of feedback-provision histories increases buyer trust by reducing missing feedback, it did not improve overall trustworthiness as this information enabled sellers to discriminate and act in a trustworthy manner less frequently with those who share information less frequently.
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