The Bright Side of Bad Choices: Evidence from Restaurant Exploration
34 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 16, 2020
The value derived from hedonic goods is affected by reference effects at the time of consumption,
usually in the form of quality standards. Consumption typically involves two steps: first, the consumer chooses a given good, among a pool of available choices; then, the consumer experiences the good and derives a satisfaction from it. We investigate the role of references in these two phases, taking into account potential selection bias in the satisfaction outcome. Using novel longitudinal data from restaurant reviews, we find evidence of quality loss aversion in the choice decision, in accordance with prospect theory. That is, people tend to disproportionally avoid choosing restaurants that are below their quality reference. At the same time, choosing a lower-quality good does not penalize satisfaction in the chosen restaurant as much as one would expect, which is consistent with the fact that consumers adjust their expectations downward when they choose a lower-quality option. This suggests that expectation adjustment protects consumers when they make apparent “bad" choices. Given these results, we show that it may be optimal to visit restaurants in a zigzag that alternates between high- and low-quality choices.
Keywords: Online User Reviews, Prospect Theory, Recommendation Systems, Heckman Selection Correction
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