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The Appointment-Book Problem and Commitment, With Applications to Refereeing and Medicine

  • Daniel S. Hamermesh

Markets that involve customers waiting for services or goods in queues whose length they cannot observe are studied. In these markets suppliers truncate queues that become so long that they jeopardize the supplier's future relations with the customer. The length of the queue and the probability of truncation increase with the quality of the supplier, and this implicitly defines the price that customers are willing to pay for quality. Queue-jumping or nontruncation can occur if monetary payments are made or if nonmonetary specific commitments exist between a customer and a supplier. The predictions apply to any activity where the queue is unobservable and transactions costs make contracts or spot pricing uneconomic. The theory is examined on a random sample of refereeing requests by seven economics journals. Quality, measured by experience and citations to the referee's work, lengthens the queue and increases the probability of truncation. Monetary bribes affect queue discipline in the expected way; and specific commitments, measured by past publication in the journal and location at the editor's institution, greatly affect the truncation rate, but have no impact on the rate of servicing the queue. The implications for truncation are also examined on a set of data describing doctors' willingness to accept new patients, with much the same results as in the sample of referees.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3928.

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Date of creation: Dec 1991
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as "Nonprice Rationing of Services with Applications to Refereeing Medicine," Research in Labor Economics, vol. 14, pp 283-306, 1995
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3928
Note: LS
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  1. Laband, David N, 1990. "Is There Value-Added from the Review Process in Economics? Preliminary Evidence from Authors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 341-52, May.
  2. Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "Unemployment Insurance And Unemployment Spells," NBER Working Papers 2546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-79, June.
  4. Liebowitz, S J & Palmer, J P, 1984. "Assessing the Relative Impacts of Economic Journals," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 77-88, March.
  5. Blank, Rebecca M, 1991. "The Effects of Double-Blind versus Single-Blind Reviewing: Experimental Evidence from The American Economic Review," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1041-67, December.
  6. Wilson, Robert B, 1989. "Efficient and Competitive Rationing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(1), pages 1-40, January.
  7. Lindsay, Cotton M & Feigenbaum, Bernard, 1984. "Rationing by Waiting Lists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 404-17, June.
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