Sellers need not be so upset about eBay's changes


eBay has announced sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback for buyers. This remarkably simple change has caused a lot of consternation. Sellers are upset. Should they be?

While it seems to be an even-steven sort of thing, what is the purpose of feedback for buyers, other than noting if they pay promptly? (eBay will still allow sellers to mark non-paying buyers.) Sellers say they need it to have the power to give negative feedback to buyers who are too demanding, who complain about things that were clearly stated in listings and so on. But what it means in reality is the ability to give revenge feedback as a way to stop buyers from leaving negatives. The vast bulk of sellers don't leave feedback first, even after the buyer has discharged 99% of his duties just fine.

Fear of revenge feedback was hurting the eBay system. It stopped a lot of justly deserved negative feedback. Buyers came to know this, and know that a seller with a 96% positive rating is actually a poor seller in many cases. Whatever happens on the new system, buyers will also come to notice it. Sellers will get more negatives but they will all get more negatives. What matters is your percentile more than your percentage. In fact, good sellers may get a better chance to stand out in the revenge free world, because they will get fewer negatives than the bad sellers who were avoiding negatives by threat of revenge.

As such, the only sellers who should be that afraid are ones who think they will get more negatives than average.

To help, eBay should consider showing feedback scores before and after the change as well as total. By not counting feedback that's over a year old they will effectively be doing that within a year, of course.

There were many options for elimination of revenge feedback. This one was one of the simplest, which is perhaps why eBay went for it. I would tweak a bit, and also take a look at a buyer's profile and how often they leave negative feedback as a fraction of transactions. In effect, make a negative from a buyer who leaves lots and lots of negatives count less than one who never leaves negatives. Put simply, you could give a buyer some number, like 10 negatives per 100 transactions. If they do more than that, their negatives are reduced, so that if they do 20 negatives, each one only counts as a half. That's more complex but helps sellers avoid worrying about very pesky buyers.

Feedback on buyers was always a bit dubious. After all, while you can cancel bids, it's hard to pick your winner based on their feedback level. If your winner has a lousy buyer reptutation, there is not normally much you can do -- just sit and hope for funds.

If eBay wants to get really bold, they could go a step further and make feedback mandatory for all buyers. (ie. your account gets disabled if you have too many feedbacks not left older than 40 days.) This would make feedback numbers much more trustable by other buyers, though the lack of fear of revenge should do most of this. eBay doesn't want to go too far. It likes high reputations, they grease the wheels of commerce that eBay feeds on.

One thing potentially lost here is something that never seemed to happen anyway. I always felt that if the seller had very low reputation (few transactions) and the buyer had a strong positive reputation, then the order of who goes first should change. Ie. the seller should ship before payment, and the buyer pay after receipt and satisfaction. But nobody ever goes for that and they will do so less often. A nice idea might be that if a seller offers this, this opens up the buyer to getting negative feedback again, and the seller would not offer it to buyers with bad feedback.


I commented and expanded the topic on my blog

I had one negative feedback after a buyer neg feedbacked me three days after the auction ended saying I never shipped the item. My feedback was 100% until then. I tried everything to plead my case and Ebay would hear nothing of it. I closed my account and am done with Ebay. I had the proof showing that the item had been delivered with delivery confirmation. I sent it to Ebay and still they said they could not take the negative feedback off my account. I saw how this was going to be for sellers and closed my account never to return to ebay again. There are too many other ways to get deals on the internet buying and selling things without being treated poorly by a company that hides behind the sellers and buyers and place blame elsewhere but themselves. Stay away from Ebay, there are too many scammers and criminals. I have been ripped off on ebay in the past and lost money and never recieved the items I bought. Ebay is a company that will rip you off without thinking about it and not take responsibility that a reputable company will. Avoid Ebay at all costs.

Some great ideas there Brad and valid points, but you're missing some of the implications the feedback changes has on sellers..

Sellers are now frequently being subjected to feedback blackmail and extortion and although eBay has a policy on this, from my experience as a Powerseller of some 7 years trading experience, it's not very well enforced by eBay and they will often side with buyers.

Sellers are now also banned from leaving even negative comments in feedback which I think is basically a gag on sellers and appalling. This can only serve to create a bias and unsafe marketplace where rogue buyers and general troublemakers go undetected.

If we as sellers can only leave positive comments when the transaction was not a positive one or the buyer showed unreasonable or offensive behaviour, how is that supporting a fair and realistic marketplace? Shouldn't sellers have the right to know who they are trading with and see a true history and conduct of buyers?

There are some great ideas here, unfortunately I think we are all missing the much bigger picture. eBay DOES NOT NEED SELLERS. They've become so big, they've bought their own. When was the last time any of you took a good look at the site? It's getting harder and harder to find the little guy with the fun stuff. And eBay's new system steers you away from them. By putting emphasis on stores and "buy it Now" they're ignoring auctions. Which are getting fewer and fewer. (remember them? they MADE eBay the greed monster it is today) Personally, I'll still bid on eBay, but I refuse to buy. I'd rather cut my nose off to spite my face and spend more elsewhere than give eBay so much as penny to help validate their horrific policies.

Brad, we respectfully disagree. An eBay buyer's responsiblity doesn't end after payment. Things can go wrong on the payment,commmunications and much more. Let me unravel the mystery for you from a Platinum PowerSeller's perspective:

1. DID THE BUYER PAY ON TIME? Prompt payment is a buyer's responsiblity. If the payment was late, perhaps the seller had to file an unpaid item report. Incidentally, all sellers should file this report, but it does set them up for risk of neutral or feedback. If the buyer gets enough unpaid item strikes or does not respond to the unpaid item strike, the seller can get the feedback score removed.

2. DID THE BUYER PAY USING THE CORRECT FUNDS? DID THE FUNDS CLEAR? Perhaps the buyer sent a Western Union money order, though the seller's terms stated that only a U.S.P.S. Money Order would be accepted. U.S.P.S. money orders are fast and easy to cash. There are a myriad of fraud problems on money orders. What's more, buyer error can cause problems for the seller if the amount in words is not the same as the dollar amount (this is difficult to follow up on if there is no address of the bank on the check itsef). Funds may also not clear if the money order mis-spells the name of the recipient or if the date is incorrect, among other issues. If the money order was invalid for whatever reason it is difficult to recover funds.

3. DID THE BUYER PROVIDE A FALSE OR FRAUDULENT PAYMENT? On a money order, did the client pay with Canadian, New Zealand or Australian dollars for an item sale specified in U.S. dollars? (Incidentally, New Zealand uses the Dollar, in a decimal system.) Is the money order worthless and fraudulent? This may take weeks for the seller to discover.

4. DID THE CLIENT REVERSE THE FUNDS OR DID THE BANK REVERSE THE FUNDS? Bank reversals happen, for example, when a buyer is overdrawn on the account. Chargebacks happen when the buyer claims s/he did not authorize the transaction. This may happen when the name on the buyers statement does not match the eBay ID of the seller and so the buyer does not recognize the transaction when it appears on statements. Whatever the reason, chargebacks and bank reversals cause agony for sellers who have already paid the shipping and released the goods -- who are now spending hours to recover the funds.

5. DID THE BUYER PROVIDE ACCURATE AND UPDATED CONTACT INFORMATION? False or missing contact information is a leading concern for sellers who may not be able to reach the buyer or fufill the contractual obligation. False or Missing Contact Information is also a reason for dismissal on eBay -- and sellers should try this option whenever possible.

6. DID THE CLIENT REQUEST SHIPMENT TO AN UNCONFIRMED ADDRESS? Sellers are required to send to the location specified in the contract. If a buyer requests another address, activity may be fraudulent, but worse yet, the seller may suffer an unwarranted negative or neutral because of the buyers indescretion on policy.

7. DID THE BUYER READ THE DESCRIPTION ACCURATELY? A buyer can give the seller a negative because they are unhappy with the size, color (e.g. "bigger or smaller than expected") -- even if the information is listed accurately in the description. A picture may appear to make an item look orange, but if the listing clearly states this "picture looks orange, but it is actually cherry red." then why should the seller suffer a negative if the buyer didn't bother reading the information in the listing? This my friend, is unfair!

8. IF THE ORDER WENT WRONG, DID THE BUYER GIVE THE SELLER THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AMENDS? How did the buyer conduct himself/herself after the sale. Is s/he reasonable? Did s/he allow the benefit of time? Firing off a negative without the opportunity to first make things right is patently unfair. Sellers occassionally goof in not shipping the correct order (or on a description because s/he used a template), but in the end if the seller does the right thing the buyer should have a heart and forgive. (TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO FORGIVE DEVINE!)

9. DOES THE BUYER HAVE A HABIT OF COMPLAINING? Sellers should be warned of serial complainers. Documenting serial complainers would go a long way to thwart fraudulent claims. Currently eBay does not have a system in place to protect sellers from serial complainers. And for newbies, complaints are often a result of not being educated with regards to the transaction. Incidentally, eBay has no vested interest in educating buyers as decreasing the feedback score benefits eBay in that it will pay fewer PowerSeller discounts. A buyer can give bad feedback just because they had a bad day! We received a negative from a buyer who broke up with her boyfriend -- she was kind enough to use the Mutual Feedback Withdrawal process to remove her unwarranted remark. Sellers today do not have such an option.


>> buyers often don't know they have a contractual obligation to pay -- that's because the rest of the internet world has shopping carts (and Amazon goes one step further with wish lists). Shopping carts allow buyers time to think about the purchase. Buyers sometimes want to renege the sale and can't. As a result buyers have remorse or anger that they are forced to pay for something they no longer want. Why should the seller suffer a neutral or negative because the buyer goofed up? We've had numerous buyers tell us their under age child navigated eBay and purchased. It's a buyers responsiblity to hold the eBay passcode from a minor child.

>> buyers often don't know that eCheck delivery takes 4-5 days to clear, and sellers are not required to mail before the payment clears. Why should the seller suffer a low Detail Seller Rating on shipping time, when the buyer selects a payment method that delays shipment?

>> buyers may pay for first class or media mail and yet expect priority mail service? Why should the seller suffer a low Detail Seller Rating on shipping time, when the buyer selects a slow shipping method?

>> buyers may not realize that seller often pays more postal costs than the buyer actually paid for? They also do not factor ink and labels, packing materials and labor into the equation. Why should the seller suffer a low Detail Seller Rating on shipping and handling charges, when the buyer paid less than the actual cost for the transaction? (Incidentally if buyers get FREE SHIPPING, they should not be able to rate the Shipping Charges as anything but a perfect DSR score.)

The list is endless of scenarios. We hope we have illustrated that buyers have a responsiblity that far surpasses their obligation to click the pay button. We feel eBay has a resonsibity to even up the playing field! eBay is not invincible and if their indescretion persists, they may face class action by the sellers who are eBay's #1 CUSTOMERS. It is eBay sellers who pay the fees and make eBay thrive. Their arrogance on this matter may be the downfall of the company in the coming years.

FALSE HOPES FOR SELLERS ON FEEDBACK: eBay has not put any tools in place for sellers to combat malicious and unwelcoming buying:
1. eBay has set procedure before policy in retroactively allowing neutrals to be counted as -1 for offenses occurring before May 19, 2008.
2. eBay given PowerSellers who have an established track record the false hope of allowing a cooling down period for buyers who wish to leave them negative or neutral feedback. We qualify and have had no such luxury.
3. eBay encourages sellers to have seller terms, but will not enforce these terms unless the items listed are bids. After the listing is closed, the transaction unwelcome buying will not be considered for removal and the buyer is free to provide negative feedback.
4. eBay Feedback has a vested interest in reducing the feedback scores of its buyers as feedback scores affect PowerSeller discounts -- lower feedback scores = fewer discounts.

I too was a seller on Ebay for a few years. I have become totally disenchanted with it for most of the reasons stated above. If you are honest you get treat like you aren't as a matter of course. Its a metaphor for the legal system favoring the dishonest.

Also it has just become a shop oriented seller site which appears to be a lot more expensive compared to when it started out. Sellers who onlt want to sell small amounts of stuff often at bargain prices have mostly disappeared off the ebay radar. I am not surprised as it is a real time consumer to actually list stuff on the site now, also ebay take a cut, paypal take a cut so i just cannot be bothered with it anymore.

I used to sell 10k+ on ebay a i have left and found a GGREAT place....Ebay is a joke. The idiots need to realize that WE the sellers pay the bills...I also am an investor and if you have stock with them GET IT OUT...heed that or it will be a I TOLD YOU SO. This company will sink...Google auctions will be the final straw...Good bye FEEBAY I hope you sink HARD!

This is an old topic but I thought I'd share my experience on why taking away negative-feedback ability from sellers is a bad idea:

1. Sold an item. I put duct tape around the package because the manufacturer's tape would not hold in shipment.
2. Item arrived. Buyer (jhogan616, AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE) complained about the duct tape, said it would affect her ability to resell the item. I got in touch with her on the phone, she was rude, cursed at me, told me to "shut up" several times, and hung up on me. All I was saying was that I wanted to find a solution, and insisted the item was BNIB and wasn't opened and that the duct tape was put on the box to safeguard in shipment.
3. Buyer filed Paypal dispute. She lied about things I said on the phone and said the item was not BNIB. It certainly was BNIB.
4. Paypal sided with the buyer (surprise!). Took away my money and buyer was instructed to send back the item.
5. A few days later jhogan616 decided to keep the item all of a sudden (likely because she found a buyer). She reversed the dispute and Paypal gave me the money back.
6. She leaves me negative feedback.

I have no recourse whatsoever. I spent hours on this issue, got cursed at, hung up on, and now have negative feedback (had 100% before) FOR AN ITEM SHE KEPT ANYWAYS! When my current auctions end I will be shutting down my account and bringing my selling business elsewhere.

You all are right guys. I am selling on ebay for 2 years now, and it's hard, I still don't understand how is it possible that such a big company like ebay can f*ck around with their customers. Who pays them 10% from each sale? WE, who pays them paypal fees? WE, who makes them money? WE, but when some idiot leaves negative feedback because he don't like package material, even product is OK, and was shipped for free, ebay don't want to hear about it, they cannot revise feedbacks.

Where you gone after you left that stupid site? Where else you can do great business instead of ebay and amazon?

Amazon at least cares about sellers and protects them.

I've been let down by ebay too many times to continue working with them, I want to close my account as well.

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