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The Dynamics of Seller Reputation: Theory and Evidence from eBay

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  • Luis Cabral
  • Ali Hortacsu

Abstract

We propose a basic theoretical model of eBay's reputation mechanism, derive a series of implications and empirically test their validity. Our theoretical model features both adverse selection and moral hazard. We show that when a seller receives a negative rating for the first time his reputation decreases and so does his effort level. This implies a decline in sales and price; and an increase in the rate of arrival of subsequent negative feedback. Our model also suggests that sellers with worse records are more likely to exit (and possibly re-enter under a new identity), whereas better sellers have more to gain from buying a reputation' by building up a record of favorable feedback through purchases rather than sales. Our empirical evidence, based on a panel data set of seller feedback histories and cross-sectional data on transaction prices collected from eBay is broadly consistent with all of these predictions. An important conclusion of our results is that eBay's reputation system gives way to strategic responses from both buyers and sellers.

Suggested Citation

  • Luis Cabral & Ali Hortacsu, 2004. "The Dynamics of Seller Reputation: Theory and Evidence from eBay," NBER Working Papers 10363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10363
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    Cited by:

    1. Anwar, Sajid & McMillan, Robert & Zheng, Mingli, 2006. "Bidding behavior in competing auctions: Evidence from eBay," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 307-322, February.
    2. Li, Lingfang (Ivy) & Xiao, Erte, 2010. "Money Talks? An Experimental Study of Rebate in Reputation System Design," MPRA Paper 22401, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Klein, Tobias & Lambertz, Christian & Spagnolo, Giancarlo & Stahl, Konrad, 2006. "Last Minute Feedback," CEPR Discussion Papers 5693, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Chia-Hung Sun, 2008. "Asymmetric Information And Returns To Reputation In Online Auctions," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 76(3), pages 336-348, June.
    5. Paul Resnick & Richard Zeckhauser & John Swanson & Kate Lockwood, 2006. "The value of reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 9(2), pages 79-101, June.
    6. Grund Christian & Gürtler Oliver, 2008. "The Effect of Reputation on Selling Prices in Auctions," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(4), pages 345-356, August.
    7. Bjorn Bartling & Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2012. "Screening, Competition, and Job Design: Economic Origins of Good Jobs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 834-864, April.
    8. MacLeod, W. Bentley, 2006. "Reputations, Relationships and the Enforcement of Incomplete Contracts," IZA Discussion Papers 1978, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Gabuthy, Yannick & Jacquemet, Nicolas & Marchand, Nadège, 2008. "Does resorting to online dispute resolution promote agreements? Experimental evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 259-282, February.
    10. Tobias Regner, 2005. "Why Voluntary Contributions? Google Answers," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/115, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    11. Bruce Benson, 2006. "Contractual nullification of economically-detrimental state-made laws," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 19(2), pages 149-187, June.
    12. Heski Bar-Isaac & Juanjo Ganuza, 2005. "Teaching to the top and searching for superstars," Working Papers 05-06, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    13. Wu, Steven Y. & Roe, Brian E., 2007. "Discretionary Latitude and Relational Contracting," IZA Discussion Papers 2879, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Bruno Jullien & In-Uck Park, 2009. "Seller Reputation and Trust in Pre-Trade Communication," Levine's Working Paper Archive 814577000000000330, David K. Levine.
    15. Michael Luca, 2011. "Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-016, Harvard Business School, revised Mar 2016.
    16. Chia-Hung Sun & Kang Liu, 2010. "Information asymmetry and small business in online auction market," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 34(4), pages 433-444, May.
    17. Daniel Elfenbein & Raymond Fisman & Brian McManus, 2009. "Reputation, Altruism, and the Benefits of Seller Charity in an Online Marketplace," NBER Working Papers 15614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. repec:eee:joinma:v:23:y:2009:i:2:p:179-190 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. repec:eee:aosoci:v:60:y:2017:i:c:p:79-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Sun, Chia-Hung & Hsu, Ming-Fei, 2007. "The Determinants of Price in Online Auctions: More Evidence from Quantile Regression," Economics Working Papers wp07-18, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
    21. Kevin Hasker & Robin Sickles, 2010. "eBay in the Economic Literature: Analysis of an Auction Marketplace," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 37(1), pages 3-42, August.
    22. Chen, Liyun, 2009. "What do we pay for asymmetric information? The evolution of mechanisms in online markets," MPRA Paper 22506, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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