Online shopping

Three subjects: Two UF graduate students that major in Public Relations and Civil Engineering(Ying and Wei) and an Ohio State University graduate student who majors in Gender Studies(Brena). Wei is male; Brena and Ying are females.

1. Have you ever purchased anything online? If you did, do you remember the reason why you decide to purchase things online the first time?

All three subjects have purchased products online. The reasons that triggered them to purchase things online the first time are: a) cheaper; 2) they cannot buy certain products in the near store. They all had a good experience at the first time.

2. How often do you buy things online? What kind of product do you usually buy online? What of product you will never buy online? Why?

Wei (once a month): I won’t buy clothes online (difficult to know the size). I would rather buy stuff in the store so that I won’t need to wait for a few days to get the products.

Brena (twice a month): I usually buy books online. I won’t buy clothes online because I cannot feel the texture.

Ying (not often purchase online): I will buy whatever things that is cheaper. But I like to go to a store where I can really see the products.

3. Before the first time you purchase things online, how did you feel about the word “online-shopping”? How do you feel about the word online shopping now?

Wei: Before (distrustful, reveal personal info); Now (cheaper, a way of purchasing)

Brena: Before (distrustful, fraud, reveal credit card info); Now (distrustful, cheaper, convenient)

Ying: Before (fraud); now (convenience, cheaper)

4. Have you refund products of the online purchase? If you did, please describe the reason you refund the products, and how you felt about this online-refund experience.

Wei: The swimming suit is too small for me; and the headphone does not work right so I refund them. The seller of the headphone asks me to bill the shipping fee and I was not happy about it.

Brena: No, because I think it take too much work if I refund things. This is why I never purchase expensive things online.

Ying: Never.

5. Do you choose to purchase only in certain store or not? Why?

Wei and Brena: I only go to the online store I trust. Less risk.

Ying: I buy stuff if it is cheaper, I don’t care which store.

6. Will you purchase things on the online-store that you never heard before? Why? Will you purchase anything from an online independent seller? Why?

Wei and Brena: I will check their rating before I purchase their stuffs. But I seldom buy things from an independent seller. (Brena also noted that she only purchase stuff from the store which has a phone customer service)

Ying: I will buy if it is cheaper. If the product didn’t meet my expectation I won’t care, for I only purchase cheap stuff online.


First of all, I think Muts should define what “social trust” is in this paper. The idea of “social trust” is so broad that it is difficult for me to grab her point sometimes when reading this paper. She mentioned that social trust is “context sensitive (p.455),” she also wrote a review about the social trust in economic exchange (p.440). So that I guess she sees social trust under the structure of economy.

Musz hypothesized that participate in online purchasing will “stimulate higher levels of social trust (p. 439).” I will say I cannot totally agree with it. I think this issue is more related to “branding” than “social trust.” From my survey, I find that people trust the online shops that are “reputable”, such as E-bay and Amazon. Moreover, they will avoid buying things from independent sellers that they think they cannot trust. Furthermore, they also pointed out that they will only buy very cheap things from independent seller so that if the product got some problem, they will not be too sad. From these answers, I don’t see any higher level “social trust“ were stimulated by the online shopping. Although the respondents do changed some of their negative perceptions toward online shopping after they had the good online-shopping experience (which is same as Musz’s point: low expectation and positive experience), and they are more likely to purchase stuff online afterward; however, I think they changed the perception toward online-shopping gradually because they trust the “brand,” not because they trust “strangers” (gain higher level of social trust). I think it is two different things. One of my respondents also told me that she only buy stuff from the store which has a phone customer service. This action shows that although face-to-face contact is not necessary in purchasing things, which seems like people have higher level of social trust now; however, still, customers will feel more trustworthy toward the online-store that can contact directly.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 21:39:37


  2. ltn0913
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 19:07:32

    I totally agree with you that “because they trust the ‘brand’, not because they trust ‘strangers’. I think it is two different things.” Personally, I don’t think online purchasing and social trust have a cause-effect relationship. I purchased online several times when I was in China and they were all pleasant experiences. Because I trust the brand not that I trust strangers. For most people like in your case, they purchase online is because it’s convenient and the most important factor is that the goods are inexpensive.


  3. joneelauriel
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 19:57:20

    I think you present an interesting point with the concept of branding. The individuals you questioned were lest trusting of individual sellers and more trusting of large corporations meaning they didn’t become more trusting of the greater good of people as a result of making an online purchase, rather the brand itself. I also found it peculiar that our friend Brena still listed being distrustful of online purchases even after making her first online purchase and the respondents said they only purchase inexpensive things online that they wouldn’t be upset if they never received. So they’re taking low risk and also have low expectations.


  4. Kayley Thomas
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 12:47:56

    I had the same problem with Mutz – what is social trust in this context? I’m personally not familiar with the concept of generalized social trust anyway, so a definition would have been helpful. As far as her surveys, she never makes a link to social trust at large – how does the online shopping experience affect real world trust? I inferred that this was her point, but she never actually makes the connection or proves how her tests indicate that. There may be an argument here for greater trust in online buying and greater trust in the internet, but as for anything outside of that? There’s no evidence or discussion from her.

    I think you’re right in that a trust in and loyalty to branding emerges. My survey participants all do most of their shopping on one or two websites – mostly Amazon. That’s trust in a corporation, not in individual people as strangers, so much.


  5. Mindy McAdams
    Oct 09, 2010 @ 14:26:42

    If people trust the online stores that are “reputable,” then perhaps it is not even possible to use online shopping as a measure of social trust. A store is not a person, and vice versa. I don’t think trust toward companies and stores can be equated with trust toward human beings.

    Mutz DOES DEFINE social trust in her article:

    “… when a person decides whether to trust a stranger, there is, by definition, no empirical basis for trust. It is simply a gamble: ‘You may trust your relatives, co-workers, classmates, friends, and even your friends’ friends, but the puzzle of social trust is the idea of trusting strangers’ (Boslego 2005, p. 2).”


    • Carol
      Oct 09, 2010 @ 16:21:36

      I see, Mindy, thanks for telling me this. But I still can’t get how she related social trust to e-commerce after reading her article. The study she did and her argument just seems not logical enough for me; it seems like a puzzle is missing in this article and I just don’t know which part it is . Maybe to me, e-commerce just doesn’t have enough elements to trigger people to “trust stringers.” The definition of the “social trust” in this paper is too broad. Maybe narrow it down will be a better idea I guess.


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