back to article No tit for tat, or should that be tat for tit ... Women selling stuff on eBay get lower bids

It's no secret that women tend to be paid less than men across many professions, and now researchers say the pay gap even extends to goods sold online. A pair of academics in Israel studying eBay auction results over a three-year period found that when selling the same items, both new and used, female sellers got a lower …

  1. matchbx

    Please explain to me

    how in the world anyone can know if the seller is male or female based on the crazy user names I've seen?

    I call bullshit on this study.....

    I have another idea, how bout men are more competitive and have higher exceptions as to what they can sell their crap for....

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Please explain to me

      "Brad" and "Alison" don't really leave that much doubt, do they?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please explain to me

        I'm "Alice", cause it makes the punters more polite. And they pay me handsomely, I think ;)

        1. x 7

          Re: Please explain to me

          "I'm "Alice", cause it makes the punters more polite."

 you're that bloke whose profile I saw on last week..........confused the hell out of me, made Alice Cooper look normal

    2. ukgnome

      Re: Please explain to me

      Well the explanation was in the article, you do read the article right, or are you just a clicker?

      To demonstrate the claim, the two researchers conducted a pair of experiments, the first demonstrating that users can positively identify the gender of a seller based on factors including the types of goods sold and user names, about 56 per cent of the time, while being unable to make a determination 35 per cent of the time and wrong just 9 per cent.

    3. Marshalltown

      Read, read , read

      Please reread the article and note what it actually says. It is sexually biased behaviour patterns that does all the work - that is "women" reveal themselves. So do "men." Women *tend* exhibit *more* of a series of patterns to protect themselves from risk. That behaviour depresses their ability to actually profit. The research also notes biased patterns of ad wording that may reveal gender. I rather doubt that has much significance, since the other behaviours will very simply tend to "force" buyers to not prefer them. eBay is a world where knowing what you are after is key to getting what you really want. And, what you really want is something really good at a really low price.

  2. Old Handle

    So what kind of price do the (more typical) androgynously-named sellers get? Based the Github study I would guess that it might be even higher than "Brad". Although of course different factors may be at work so I can only speculate.

  3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge


    I wonder if they did not design the study to find what they want. This seems to be a problem in social studies, the study design can influence the results. Truthfully I have no idea what bidding is like on Ebay, never have used it. I cam think of many ways the results could have been skewed.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Study?

      I agree with you amid your concern about self biasing 'studies'. Since sponsored studies never find anything bad about the sponsor's product

      Alison selling an item that might appear to have once belonged to Brad would likely fetch lower offers. Or selling a more male oriented product might well generate the feeling that there was something not quite right.

      In this case the offered item appears to have gender neutral but was it and was all of the advert wording, its placement along with all other factors genuinely 'right'. Could a female selling a gift be seen as a distress sale item? So reverse sympathy got applied.

      The item should have sold for very near the face value, less any postage or other costs, I wonder why no one got bids that were closer to its apparent value? That for me is a real aspect generating doubt.

      1. Robin Bradshaw

        Re: Study?

        Richard Jones 1, one possible reason for the lower bids than face value is gift cards are into the more shady end of stuff being sold on ebay, with a not unreasonable chance it was a card purchased with stolen credit card details then being auctioned to launder the money, so i imagine there is a reduction in perceived value for it being potentially iffy.

        Their paper states one of the items they tracked were auctions for a new “Bulova 18K Gold 95G07 Wrist Watch for Women.” which makes me wonder if they tracked any auctions that didn't scream someone cashing out credit cards, buying a gold watch from the online tat bazaar the only thing your likely to end up with is green stains on your wrist when the lacquer comes off the brass.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: “Bulova 18K Gold 95G07 Wrist Watch for Women.”

          If the women are preferentially selling stuff like this, they are handicapping themselves and men have nothing to do with it. Everybody in the world knows the markup on jewelry is at least 50%, sometimes as high as 80%. So at best you'll be offered 50% of its retail price. On the other hand, if you're selling appliances and car parts, you'll get 80% of retail for current stuff. Older stuff is more of a roulette wheel with a range of 30%-200%

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: Study?

      It also doesn't mention the gender of the buyers. While I don't know if it translates to online behavior, I do know lots of gents, like me, who don't so much as shop as buy stuff where our wives/girlfriends love to shop.

      My wife has her price trackers set up for several merchants and will wait until the deal she desires appears while I check the usual suspects, typically three but sometimes four online shops, and buy the cheapest at that very moment. When I go to the supermarket it takes me only a few minutes and I hit one store but when my wife does the shopping it's an adventure that lasts the better part of a day.

      Maybe it's a chauvinist Neanderthal hunter/gatherer thing. "Look! There it is, kill it now!" vs. "These berries aren't ripe yet; there are probably better ones over the hill on the sunny side."

    3. Tannin

      Re: Study?

      I'd love to see a proper double-blind study instead of this mickey mouse psudo-science.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Study?

        The study conclusively proves anti-alphabetism where people with names at the beginning of the alphabet get lower bids than those later

      2. Old Handle

        double-blind study

        How do you propose they double-blind this exactly? Will it involve placebo genitals?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wouldn't buy shit from someone named Brad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who do you get your shit from?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The sociology department. They have loads.

    2. stucs201

      But anyone who has seen Rocky Horror knows that Brad is an asshole, and therefore a perfect source of shit.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        And who is this Alison person?

        Where is Janet?

        1. Neanderthal Man

          Janet move in with me. Brad even bigger asshole than any neanderthal

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Where's Alice and Bob?

    Paris - I wouldn't be able to afford her wares

    1. Andy Non

      Re: Where's Alice and Bob?

      Eve stole their goods.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where's Alice and Bob?

        No idea about Alice .. Bob would be with Rita and Sue too.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well its obvious

    Despite political correctness, everyone knows that, broadly speaking, in general women are consistent habitual and better liars than men.

  7. FatGerman

    Not real life

    This appears to be the reverse of what happens in real life. I went into a shop to buy a cheap laptop but the pretty female sales assistant convinced me to buy a MacBook. Be interesting to see what happened to the eBay prices if the seller posted their "own" photo alongside the listing.

    1. Ali Um Bongo

      Cuts Both Ways

      *"...Be interesting to see what happened to the eBay prices if the seller posted their "own" photo alongside the listing..."*

      Oh. That happens quite a lot. It's not unusual to see "gorgeous pouting models" [or "duck-face selfies", if you're feeling uncharitable] in the photos where clothing is being sold. I've quite often seen even men's gear like combat jackets being modelled by bright young things, apparently topless under the item in question and showing a fair bit of thigh or cleavage.

      Given that most men are incorrigible pervs, I wonder if bidding is higher on such items, given the buyer can see photographic evidence that some pert young nipples once rubbed against the lining?

  8. inmypjs Silver badge

    "It's no secret that women tend to be paid less than men across many professions"

    It is no secret that is claimed all the time.

    Lesbians average 7% more pay than straight women - what does your gender equality calculator make of that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "It's no secret that women tend to be paid less than men across many professions"

      The conflation of a pay gap and a wage gape is half the problem. Comparing life for like, women and men earn the same for any given position when working the same hours. The problem is that men tend to occupy different fields to women (even in highly socially equalised societies like Norway) and are willing to work a great deal more overtime, whereas women tend to stump for lower-paid professions, tend to work shorter hours and often have to take a significant chunk of time off for maternity leave - which leaves their wages behind peers of a similar age who don't have that time off. It's worth noting that, when men take the same amount of time for paternity leave, their wages also stall in a similar fashion.

      The wage gap myth only appears if you average wages by gender and don't account for occupation and circumstances. If you account for these things it completely disappears.

      The wage gap myth also ignores that, while a lot of men occupy very highly paid positions, a lot more occupy very low-paid positions compared to women. The extremely high wages of a relative few men skew the average up significantly. Normalise that and you'll find the pay gap disappears too, and in fact might open up slightly in the other direction - until you account, as I said, for the other relevant factors.

      However it might be spun, the wage gap is complete and utter tosh.

  9. toughluck


    Less competent sellers sell for less money than more competent sellers. How would they propose this is resolved? Charge men 10% sales tax and distribute it among women sellers?

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Shocker

      I wouldn't say "less competent". I'd go with "more risk averse".

      The problem appears more clearly when you study the investing habits of women. By definition, mutual funds can't discriminate against Sandy in preference to Tony. So they'll both get the same rate of return on a given mutual fund. I'll stick to the US, but I imagine most of Europe is the same. Most people get their retirement plans through work. So Sandy and Tony are both given the same options, almost always a selection of mutual funds. The funds will be a mixture of stocks, bonds, and treasuries, with varying asset mixtures for both stocks and bonds. All will rate the riskiness of a given vehicle, but all are relatively safe as they have to pass some government tests to be offered. Despite having a shorter life expectancy and therefore probably less need for money after retirement, men prefer risky investments and therefore typically get a higher rate of return in spite of the occasional capital loss. Despite having a longer life expectancy and therefore a greater need for money after retirement, women typically invest in the less risky investments and wind up with a lower rate of return despite rarely loosing capital. Over a lifetime of investment, the divergence is frequently hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      So it looks to me like the authors of the study correctly identified the primary component of the differential (Women were more likely to set a higher starting price on the online tat bazaar, pay to set a reserve price minimum, and opt for a "buy it now" option over a "best offer.") then blew right by it because it didn't meet their predetermined outcome for the study. I'd bet the next most important component is how the types of things the two groups sell breaks down. My mother would be likely to sell flowers and baked goods. My dad* would be more likely to sell car parts and appliances. Assuming both have the same sales skills, who do you thing will make more money?

      *Full disclosure: My dad's first sales job was actually working as the delivery guy for a bakes goods company. He made pretty good money at it, almost always finishing as the top salesman in the company. After that he sold cars for a short time, but despised how shady the business model was, and he chose a "reputable" car dealer to work for. Then he sold appliances in preference to jewelry when he had a retail franchise. He finished his career selling HVAC installations.

      1. toughluck

        Re: Shocker

        The study found better returns for the men and I doubt that the men were selling car parts, and women pastries, otherwise this is totally not a controlled study.

        Assuming the study was controlled and the inventory of goods was the same, time to put up auctions was the same, and sellers only got to control the prices and buyitnow options, my earlier comment about competence still stands -- in case of eBay, men get better money than women simply because they appear to understand it better and their willingness to risk pays off much better on eBay.

        So then it appears that eBay tends to punish risk adversity. Shall I rephrase my proposal? Should eBay provide incentives that promote and reward risk adversity just because women sellers are getting lower returns on their sales because of it?

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    I use eBay quite a lot, apart from a couple of occasions where the photo of the item has been held in a woman's hand, I would have no idea or care whether the seller is male or female (or lesbian or gay).

    Is this something that is peculiar to Israel? I have noticed that the page format for different countries differs, perhaps something about the Israeli site makes gender more obvious and Israelis differentiate more.

    Shirley, if the bidders want an item they will bid until they reach their maximum and stop, what would make them choose a lower maximum in the case of a female seller?

    Sounds like the usual 'Let's do some statistical research just to get a paper out there'.

    Cheap (science?)

    1. Tom 13

      @Chris G: what would make them choose a lower maximum in the case of a female seller?

      Well, there is one possibility, but again it flies in the face of the predetermined "men discriminate against women" outcome they wanted for the story.

      I've noticed women are some of the most viciously stingy shoppers out there. (A female friend recently helped her sister buy a house here in the US for under $12K including taxes and closing costs. They're planning to renovate it for about the same amount of money, then rent it for $500/month. And they already have a potential renter lined up.) So if you are selling merchandise primarily aimed at women, regardless of your sex you're in a business where you'll get low bids. If you're a woman, and focusing on merchandise for women because that's what you feel most knowledgeable about, you'll be in a market where your primary buyers will be intentionally choosing lower bids. Granted, it isn't the sort of direct discrimination the study is trying to imply, but it is a result of the seller being a woman.

  11. Crazy Operations Guy

    Scope of the study

    What geographical regions did they study? If they were just studying Amazon and eBay within Israel, then I'm surprised that the gap was only 20 cents on the dollar.

    A proper study would've broken it down by region, if not country. Gender inequality is definitely a cultural thing and ignoring that make the data less than useless. Who does it help when you combine gender data from a place like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, where you're likely to see an eBay auction -for- a woman; and a place like Sweden or Germany, which were founded on the concept that if you can cleave a Roman's head in two with a battle, you're a warrior no matter what is in your pants.

    Funny how there seems to a correlation between sexism and how theocratic a country is...

  12. x 7

    "Study finds men get higher prices in cyber-auctions"

    I thought Ebay refused to allow slave auctions. So who are the men being sold and who is buying them? Rich women? Gay men? Or is there a resurgence of the unspeakable Barbary trade?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "new products carried a more pronounced sales gap, with women sellers getting about 80 cents for every dollar men got at sale. For used products, the difference was less pronounced, with women getting 97 cents on the dollar"

      Clearly experienced women are worth more than virgins...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would be interested in a follow-up that uses identities that don't easily reveal the gender (such as "Jack" (could be short for "Jaqueline") or "Sammy" (short for "Samantha") or something completely genderless ("MyMyselfAndI") or nonsensical ("Tableau1234"). Then repeat the gift card experiment, only with two users with "gender-neutral" names so no one knows whether the seller is male or female.

    Or does the experiment above touch on this and reveal buyers are able to correctly discern the seller's gender even with genderless user names?

  14. Kar98


    Of the 100 most recent entries on my eBay feedback page, buyers and sellers, two members have a user name that identifies gender. All the rest have names like gadgetshop, racers2015, or thedoodahcollector.

    Somebody started with a foregone conclusion and went from there with this study.

  15. John Deeb

    Risk-averse women unite!

    It's no surprise then since if it's true that they indeed found "women tend to be more risk-averse than men when conducting auctions", as the study duly notes, that this knowledge would also be known by the average, experienced trader. Hence no surprise that there's a bit more pressure. a slightly bolder attitude, to get even a better deal when a female gender is being spotted.

    It's unclear what the study tries to measure though. Obviously if women on average would be indeed worse sales people, this would be culturally common knowledge (although perhaps not explicitly stated like that) and being reflected in all market places including the job market.

    While this might have been more historical so than in a "modern" present, the study still notes women tend to be still more "risk-averse" with auctions, indicating the gender difference here is real enough to justify a market response based on those differences. Hence no indication of gender bias, just hard calculation and how statistically weighing our options influences our wheeling and dealing.

  16. Graham Cobb Silver badge

    Could be a useful study

    Next time I bid for something on eBay I will decide how much I am willing to bid and then make sure I only bid on auctions posted by women. If they get lower prices I am less likely to have to go to my top bid! Sounds great to me.

    On the other hand, maybe the study is just crap.

  17. Domino

    What's in a name?

    If both auction items were shown and I had to choose which to bid on..

    Brad and Alison - I'd have gone for Brad..

    Brad and Brenda - I'd have gone for Brenda..

    I've no explanation why, the names feel different somehow but gender doesn't seem to be the decider for me.

    Alison and Brad - somehow feels like a closer decision than the other way around.. How strange..

    1. Brenda McViking
      Paris Hilton

      Re: What's in a name?

      But you'd pay me 7% more if I got with Alison, right?

      Paris because she's also a naughty girl.

  18. tiggity Silver badge

    Some used goods might get better bids

    I'm willing to wager a few quid that used panties sold by "Alison" probably get better bids than if sold by "Brad"

  19. SoloSK71

    You appear to have not read your own site, especially the article debunking the "paid less than men" reality-distortion that we are expected to believe in and never question.

    When adjusted for taking maternity leave (and child raising time beyond that) and looking at like for like comparison (no comparing male engineers to females nurses) male-female earnings are not that far apart.

  20. Asterix the Gaul

    The reverse argument must logically be that male sellers get more,well...NO.

    It's the 'MARKET' stupid!

    Anyone that's used e-bay for any time, will know that it's not the market place that it used to be.

    Prices in general are higher,why?

    Firsly, more items than ever are sold by trade sellers who use their own set prices,not prices determined by demand,that deters buyers from making purchases,which,in turn means that they go elsewhere on line to buy.

    Less items are sold by private individuals selling their old items.

    The cost of postage is a negative to buyers,that reduces activity in the market,well done 'royal mail'.

    'Gender' has nthing to do with it, Israeli's ought to know that more than anyone, it's simply the market mechanism operating, females are more reasonable by making compromises in order to make a sale & that is market realism at play.

  21. tekHedd

    Methodology? Yeah, just more clickbait.

    So... once you normalize for starting price and reserve level...what happens? Right. Clickbait title on a moderately interesting article.

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