A test of the revenue equivalence theorem using field experiments on ebay
Tanjim Hossain () and
Natural Field Experiments from The Field Experiments Website
We conducted 80 auctions on eBay. Forty of these auctions were for various popular music CDs while the remaining 40 auctions were for video games for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. The revenue equivalence theorem states that any auction form having the same effective reserve price yields the same expected revenue. The effective reserve price on eBay consists of three components: the opening bid amount, the secret reserve amount, and the shipping and handling charge to keep the overall reserve level fixed. We set no secret reserve price and varied the opening bid and the shipping and handling charge to keep the overall reserve level fixed. When the effective reserve was $4, auctions with a low opening bid and high shipping charges attracted more bidders, earlier bidding, and yielded higher revenue than those with a high opening bid and low shipping charges. The same results hold only for Xbox games under the $8 effective reserve. Unlike the other treatments, where the reserve represents less than 30% of the retail price of the item, for CDs, the $8 effective reserve represents over 50% of the retail price of the item. In this treatment, we find no systematic difference in the number of bidders attracted to the auction or revenues as a function of how the effective reserve is allocated between opening bid and shipping charges. We show that these results can be accounted for by bounded-rational bidding behavior.
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