An Online Seller’s Dilemma: How a User’s Claim About Comment Deletion Affects Product Evaluation and Purchase Intention via Seller Disliking
With the increasing possibility to spread negative rumors online, online sellers find ways to control user comments on social media. Based on warranting theory, this study examined whether a user’s claim of a seller’s comment-deletion behavior affected observers’ perceptions of a seller’s information dissemination control (IDC) over user comments. It also tested how such IDC perception affected two mediators—seller liking and comment trust—which would influence product evaluation and purchase intention. A 3 (negative rumor vs. deletion claim vs. neutral comment) × 2 (individual vs. company seller) experiment demonstrated that a deletion claim increased IDC perception compared to a neutral comment and a negative rumor. IDC control perception negatively influenced product evaluation and purchase intention more through lowered seller liking than through lowered comment trust. Results supported the warranting principle and emphasized the explanatory role of affective judgments toward sellers for the effects of IDC perception.