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How Well Does Bargaining Work in Consumer Markets? A Robust Bounds Approach

SIEPR
Aug 2021
Working Paper
21-045
By  Joachim Freyberger, Bradley J. Larsen
This study provides a structural analysis of detailed, alternating-offer bargaining data from eBay, deriving bounds on buyers and sellers private value distributions using a range of assumptions on behavior. These assumptions range from very weak (assuming only that acceptance and rejection decisions are rational) to less weak (e.g., assuming that bargaining offers are weakly increasing in players' private values). We estimate the bounds and show what they imply for consumer negotiation behavior in theory and practice. For the median product, bargaining ends in impasses in 43% of negotiations even when the buyer values the good more than the seller.