‘Cyber-spite’ erodes credibility of auction sites

May 22nd, 2008 - 3:39 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 22 (IANS) eBay’s rating system, which allows users to post positive or negative comments about trading partners, has created a unique set of problems. Sellers who offered damaged or substandard goods and earned a black mark are now retaliating against buyers who have named and shamed them, by posting highly visible and negative comments.

For example, the TV set you ordered on eBay arrives in a badly scratched shape. You return the item but also post a disparaging comment about the seller on the site.

The next day the seller retaliates by posting a nasty comment about you, branding you as a time-waster. Suddenly, no one wants to sell to you and your reputation is in tatters.

Fear of retaliatory “negging” can deter buyers from posting negative comments about their trading experiences. In turn, this threatens to undermine the trust that buyers place in sellers’ ratings.

Given the severity of the problem, this month eBay was forced to change its rating system, preventing sellers from posting negative comments about bad buyers on the site.

For, on a site like eBay, your reputation is your livelihood, a new study concludes.

Economists Daniel Houser of George Mason University and John Wooders of the University of Arizona have shown that sellers with positive ratings are able to sell items at higher prices, because buyers are willing to fork out greater sums just to be sure they are buying from a trustworthy source.

And more people are likely to bid on items offered by those of good standing, they write in the latest issue of the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.

In another study, slated for publication in the Journal of Consumer Research, Amar Cheema of Washington University found that when a seller’s reputation is less than squeaky clean, bidders are more likely to scrutinise additional costs such as shipping charges and quit if they are too high.

When the seller’s reputation is good, however, buyers are less interested in such surcharges, and sellers are more likely to secure a deal.

Various companies are now offering to help, by managing what is written about you on the web. ClaimID, founded by Terrell Russell and Fred Stutzman, is a free service that allows users to collect, annotate and verify information that is either about them, or written by them, such as blogs, websites or news articles mentioning them.

The result is a list of links to websites the users have approved. “You can think of it as an online link resum

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