Trusting online shopping merchants

My interviewees: Kerry W. Duncan, 62, of Pennsylvania, a retired teacher. He’s my daddy.

Todd R. Duncan, 25, of New York, a data architect. He’s my baby brother.

Sarah Beth Goodwill, 29, of Pennsylvania, a material analyst. She’s my best friend.

  1. Describe your online shopping habits.

KWD: Picks a product and researches it. He buys products ranging from inexpensive to a couple hundred dollars.

TRD: Buys clothing, electronics, cellphone holsters, and even student loans. He buys online every month. He spends a couple thousand dollars annually.

SBG: Buys home products and also entertainment products. She makes purchases between one and three times a month and estimates she spends $600 annually.

        2. How have your expectations of online merchants changed since your first online purchase?

KWD: Has more confidence in online merchants.

TRD: Expects products faster and also expects better product descriptions.

SBG: Is more trusting of shopping online because of success.

            3. How have your expectations of in-store merchants changed since your first online purchase?

KWD: Store merchants are more eager to explain things than they used to be because they know that people his age are techno-savy can buy online.

TRD: They haven’t.

SBG: Expects best price in store or will go online

              4. How has the type, importance and cost of online purchases you make changed since your first online purchase?

TRD: Variety has expanded.

KWD and SBG: No answer.

              5.  If you have ever had a negative online purchasing experience, what steps did you take to resolve it?

KWD: Had problem with a printer. He called the retailer and then the manufacturer. He spent more than four hours on hold. Never was resolved. Will never buy from manufacturer again.

TRD: Had only one negative experience and didn’t try to resolve it because of the low purchase value.

SGB: Received a product with part missing. Called customer service and got part by mail.

        6. Which statement most accurately reflects your philosophy on the trustworthiness of Americans?

        A. If someone tells me he or she will do something, I don’t doubt he or she will follow through.

        B. Generally, Americans are good people, but there are a few bad apples out there.

       C. I don’t like to do anything before getting it in writing.

       D. All Americans are just out for themselves. I don’t trust anyone.




This phone survey showed that the subjects, who buy online, are also generally trusting of Americans. Two subjects said that because of success in buying online, they have grown to trust merchants more and are willing to buy a different variety of products online. KWD went on and on about his negative experience, but he was still the most trusting of the subjects. Without prompting, two of the three subjects talked about how experiences have increased their trust in online merchants. It was unclear from their answers if the trust had a direct correlation with their trust in the folks of the real world.

  1. #1 by Xuerui on October 6, 2010 - 12:06 pm

    My interviews show a lot common results as yours. Respondents stated they were less concerned to shop online if their past experience was positive. But personally, I doubt if generalized social trust is increased due to successful online transactions. Do people actually trust the action of online purchase more or they have more trust to normal strangers behind the Internet curtain? I would say online purchase from companies like Amazon makes me feel safe because I trust the company and successful transactions make me trust online purchase on those companies. In Mutz’s article, social trust is defined as the probability that two randomly chosen people will trust each other in a one-time interaction. But do we really consider about the strangers selling us stuff when we say we feel more secure to purchase online now?

  2. #3 by paulacunniffe on October 7, 2010 - 1:11 pm

    One of my respondents also had a bad experience which she talked quite a bit about. I thought it was interesting that she still shops online – just not from that website. I think your Dad had the same experience.

    I remember working in a store and being told that if someone has a good experience they will tell two people. If they have a bad experience they will tell ten. I bet that was the case with your Dad’s printer. But I find I tell everyone about positive experiences I had shopping online too. So maybe that doesn’t count for shopping online but just face-to-face shopping. We expect more from a store than a website because you don’t necessarily know who the seller is online.

  3. #4 by Mindy McAdams on October 9, 2010 - 1:52 pm

    Your post made me think about how we learn to trust … anyone. Any stranger, that is. If there’s someone we have known for years, we may not remember how we came to trust that person — but surely that did take place, that process. People’s willingness to trust strangers probably depends a lot on their past experiences. I’m thinking now about people who come from an abusive background. Do they tend to trust strangers to do the right thing?

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