Lemon Complaints: When Online Auctions Go Sour

Judy E. Scott, Dawn G. Gregg, and Jae Hoon Choi
Information Systems Frontiers, Vol 17 Issue 1, January 2015, pp. 177-191.

“Lemon” complaints reveal that online auction experiences can turn sour. Theory on information asymmetry explains how “lemons” could drive high quality items away from a market leaving a dominance of poor quality goods. In this paper we analyze “lemon” complaints using content analysis and hierarchical logistic regression. In the data collection of 306 complaints from 8 product categories in online auctions, the results show that compared to standard products “lemons” are much more likely if the product category is for functional items, such as computers and consumer electronics; non-standard items with product description complexity, such as collectibles; and fragile items, such as pottery and glassware. Contrary to expectations, clothing and jewelry, representing sensory products, did not have a statistically significant impact on the frequency of “lemons”. Although two seller negative feedback rating measures did predict non-receipt of goods, seller and buyer ratings and experience did not predict “lemons”.