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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1991. "The Appointment-Book Problem and Commitment, With Applications to Refereeing and Medicine," NBER Working Papers 3928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3928
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Spells," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(4), pages 757-782, July.
    2. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-679, June.
    3. Nichols, D & Smolensky, E & Tideman, T N, 1971. "Discrimination by Waiting Time in Merit Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(3), pages 312-323, 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 1041-1067, December.
    6. David N. Laband, 1990. "Is There Value-Added from the Review Process in Economics?: Preliminary Evidence from Authors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 341-352.
    7. Wilson, Robert B, 1989. "Efficient and Competitive Rationing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(1), pages 1-40, January.
    8. Lindsay, Cotton M & Feigenbaum, Bernard, 1984. "Rationing by Waiting Lists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 404-417, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Sattinger, 2002. "A Queuing Model of the Market for Access to Trading Partners," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(2), pages 533-548, May.
    2. Trivedi, Pravin K, 1993. "An Analysis of Publication Lags in Econometrics," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(1), pages 93-100, Jan.-Marc.
    3. Thompson, Gary D. & Aradhyula, Satheesh V. & Frisvold, George B. & Tronstad, Russell, 2004. "Does Paying Referees Expedite Reviews?," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 19988, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

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