Is Sniping A Problem For Online Auction Markets?

Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on World Wide Web, 88-96 (2015)
Is Sniping A Problem For Online Auction Markets?
eBay Authors

A common complaint about online auctions for consumer goods is the presence of ``snipers,'' who place bids in the final seconds of sequential ascending auctions with predetermined ending times. The literature conjectures that snipers are best-responding to the existence of ``incremental" bidders that bid up to their valuation only as they are outbid. Snipers aim to catch these incremental bidders at a price below their reserve, with no time to respond. As a consequence, these incremental bidders may experience regret when they are outbid at the last moment at a price below their reservation value. We measure the effect of this experience on a new buyer's propensity to participate in future auctions. We show the effect to be causal using a carefully selected subset of auctions from and instrumental variables estimation strategy. Bidders respond to sniping quite strongly and are between 4 and 18 percent less likely to return to the platform.

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Canary in the e-Commerce Coal Mine: Detecting and Predicting Poor Experiences Using Buyer-to-Seller Messages

Dimitriy Masterov, Uwe Mayer, Steve Tadelis

Reputation and feedback systems in online marketplaces are often biased, making it difficult to ascertain the quality of sellers. We use post-transaction, buyer-to-seller message traffic to detect signals of unsatisfactory transactions on eBay. We posit that a message sent after the item was paid for serves as a reliable indicator that the buyer may be unhappy with that purchase, particularly when the message included words associated with a negative experience. The fraction of a seller's message traffic that was negative predicts whether a buyer who transacts with this seller will stop purchasing on eBay, implying that platforms can use these messages as an additional signal of seller quality.