Sun, Feb 21, 2016 - Page 14 News List

Male sellers on eBay have an edge over women, study finds

By Pam Belluck  /  NY Times News Service, NEW YORK

The researchers said eBay allowed them access to data on transactions, sellers and buyers, including gender. They evaluated transactions from 2009 to 2012, focusing on the 420 most popular items in eBay’s broader categories, and on auctions because no negotiation is involved. Sellers considered to be stores were excluded.

EBay did not provide financing for the study, but set conditions, according to the authors and to editors at Science. The researchers’ contract allowed eBay to approve any study before publication, mostly for potential disclosure of proprietary data and trade secrets; the authors said eBay “ended up approving the study without asking us to drop any of our results.”

EBay declined to discuss the specifics of the study with a reporter. In a statement, the company did not challenge the results.

“This study, which was based on data from more than four years ago, was not conducted or commissioned by eBay,” the statement said, adding: “We are passionate about harnessing our platform to empower millions of people by leveling the playing field for them. We do not reveal the gender of our sellers, although they can choose to do that themselves.”

Because the study computed averages, the experience of individual sellers might not match the trend, experts said. Indeed, when the New York Times, in reporting about the study, asked on Facebook if female eBay sellers felt that gender helped or hurt their sales, many people who posted responses said they felt gender was a nonissue on eBay.

“Price, shipping, description ... that’s what eBay buyers worry about,” wrote Susan Butler Carpenter, a former banker who is now a stay-at-home mother in Pennsylvania and an eBay seller for 16 years. “Anyone who says their gender as a woman has hurt or helped their sales is full of it. Why look for an issue where there is none?”

A few female sellers said they believed some buyers reacted differently because they were women.

Melanie Fodera, 21, a senior at Albion College in Michigan and a seller for about seven years, said when selling a Detroit Lions jersey for “US$100 or best offer,” she was offered US$50.

“I countered US$75, and their message to me was: ‘You don’t know what this is worth because you’re a girl,’” said Fodera, who usually sells women’s clothes and has an eBay page decorated with roses.

Another Facebook commenter, Justina Gilliam, posted: “It all depends on what I’m selling, really. I don’t sell often, but I’ve gotten men who think they can take advantage when I list sports tickets/memorabilia and women who get upset if I can’t answer intricate details about a Lladro that was given to me, but I’m getting rid of because I don’t care for it.”

In the 631,516 auctions the authors analyzed, women were about 23 percent of sellers. They received, on average, 0.88 fewer bids for the same items, the authors said. New items, where researchers found the largest gender gap, accounted for 78,350 sales. The biggest advantage for male sellers occurred in categories like new video games (the gap was especially huge for Nintendo Wii).

The authors analyzed the text sellers used, finding that women used slightly more positive language, saying “works great” more often than “never used,” for example, Regev said. However, wording differences did not account for the price gap.

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