Backing Down From Agreements–Results

March 15, 2011 BY danariely

Imagine that you are shopping for a car, find a seller, and agree to purchase his car in a couple of days. The day before the sale, you find a better deal on a different car. Under what conditions would you renege on your original agreement? Would it be easier if your original agreement was made, so over the phone? Or over coffee?

Last week we put out a survey to find out, and here are the results:

As you can see, people have the hardest time reneging on deals made in person (compared with phone and email), and we have much less of a problem reneging deals made via a car dealer relative to one that was mediated by a mutual friend.


Zooming in on in-person agreements, we see here that agreements made over scotch and golf seem most likely to be reneged on, whereas we see significant improvement over various, even rudimentary, forms of signed contracts (napkin).

So next time you’re out selling a car, make sure at least to bring a napkin and pen with you, and next time you’re out buying a car, don’t sign anything unless you absolutely have to!

p.s here is an interesting academic paper related to this topic