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The Dynamics of Seller Reputation: Theory and Evidence from eBay

Luis Cabral () and Ali Hortacsu

No 4345, CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers

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 sale 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 favourable feedback through purchases rather than sales. Our empirical evidence, based on a panel dataset of seller feedback histories and cross-sectional data on transaction prices collected from eBay, is broadly consistent will 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.

Keywords: auctions; eBay; moral hazard; quality; reputation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D44 L15 L86 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2004-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-com and nep-mic
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