A Powerseller’s Perspective on eBay’s New Feedback System
By Ty Wigal
We have recently stopped participating in the eBay feedback system after many years of active participation. Many of our buyers want to know why. Well, the answer is quite simple. The new anonymous star system is just absurd and we will not support it.
When participating in the feedback system, buyers can leave a positive, neutral or negative just like always. However, the new system now allows for the additional rating of one to five stars on four criteria. The point of our contention is the fact that this can be done in total anonymity. We feel that, in the spirit of fair play, buyers should be scrutinized in like fashion by sellers.
The eBay Feedback Star Rating System
The first criteria of the eBay star rating system is “Item as described“. This seems to be reasonable in terms of a criteria. I would say that any successful seller understands the need for transparency in representing the item.
Assuming that the seller is honest and forthright, I see a huge disadvantage of allowing a buyer to anonymously comment. After the buyer’s purchase, the seller sends exactly what has been promised. Unfortunately, the buyer didn’t get what was expected. It seems that the buyer misunderstood what the listing was for or didn’t fully read the listing.
The seller is punished because the buyer is upset that things were not as expected though the seller was in no way at fault. The seller has no way to defend himself or remedy the situation that he may not even be aware of. The buyer didn’t read the listing and takes an unjust anonymous shot. Seem silly? It is, yet it happens all the time.
Personally, I describe every item with complete transparency. Do I have 5 stars? Certainly not. How can that be? It is simply because some buyer who cannot read (or refuses to do so) wants to blame me for something they overlooked.
The second criteria is “Communication“. This again seems reasonable in terms of a criteria. I would say that any successful seller found that success in part, by effective communication.
I personally use the eBay Selling Manager Pro, at a cost of $16 a month, to send automatic emails. The choices for automated emails include Winning Buyer Notification, Payment Reminder, Payment Received, Item Shipped and Feedback reminders. These are sent instantly at the appropriate times.
In addition, 99% of email received in a post sale situation are answered well within 24 hours. This is beyond reasonable. I do not believe any of our email in a post sale situation goes past 48 hours without an answer, even when considering weekends and holidays.
It would be reasonable to assume that these efforts and automated system should result in a 5 star rating as the communication is timely and effective. Well, that is not the case with an approximate 4.5 of 5 rating. Why not 5 of 5? It is because I do not have someone sitting at a computer with baited breath to answer every single email within minutes of it being received.
This is not a reasonable expectation but there are plenty of buyers and would-be buyers who demand nothing less. In reality, 48 hours to answer any email is completely reasonable. Hard working people may just be a little busy and may need a little time to respond, especially if the communication needs to be in a custom and specific manner. I hold communication as a top priority and always treat it as such. If I gave the 4.5 rating any credence, I would take this as an insult.
The third criteria is “Shipping Time“. This criteria seems a bit absurd and too general to be practical.
I use USPS First Class Parcel for anything 13 ounces or less. This service generally arrives at the same time or one day later than Priority. The majority of the other shipments leaving from stock are sent via USPS Priority Mail. Shipments that are heavier than 5 pounds will go UPS Ground if the difference in cost goes over $5 when compared to USPS Priority. These take a bit longer but the customers buying these heavier items seem generally content with the slightly slower service.
95% of orders generally ship within 24 hours and the vast majority go Priority. I sometimes have to bring in stock to fill an order causing a delay of 3-5 business days. My listings specifically promise a delivery time frame of 7 to 10 business days. If this cannot be met, I always contact the buyer and issue a refund if needed. The majority of my shipments arrive in 2-4 days. This is a lot quicker than my listings promise.
Again, I have a 4.5 of 5 rating. Why is this when 95% of my shipments leave the same or next business day? I am held responsible for the vast number of delays that can be caused by third party delivery services. I am, of course, also responsible for delays caused by holidays and weekends. It is absurd to hold any seller to factors completely outside of their control.
If I am to be rated on shipping time, it should be the amount of time it takes for me to get the shipment in the hands of the shipping service. This is 0 to 23 hours 95% of the time excluding weekends and holidays. Why is this not acceptable and why blame me when USPS or UPS is in control of the actual shipping time or botches the shipment?
The fourth and final criteria is “Shipping and handling charges“. Again, this criteria seems a bit absurd. All buyers know up front what the shipping charges are to be if they simply read the listing.
They have the choice to walk away if my shipping charges seem unreasonable, which they are most certainly not. I generally charge a flat rate that is less than cost or very near to actual costs. When combining shipments, I charge exactly what the combined shipments cost.
A handful of small loss leader items have a fixed shipping rate per item. The shipping charges are a factor in the total price of these low value items so the buyer has the idea that the purchase price is low. Again, all shipping charges are clearly stated. Even when shipping at a loss, many buyers will still complain. It seems shipping charges will never be acceptable to a certain amount of buyers.
I believe that the shipping costs are well worth the convenience and savings in fuel and time. Instead of holding this view, some buyers choose to complain about the shipping charges, the clearly stated charges, only after purchase is made and the shipment is received. This seems just plain silly.
The importance of feedback.
I do not believe that the importance of feedback for a seller can be argued. A seller needs to rightfully earn and maintain good feedback to assure buyers.
On the other hand, what does feedback matter for a buyer? Especially for a buyer that does not sell? It is all just pure and silly vanity. A buyer with zero feedback can almost always buy the same item as a buyer with a higher feedback number. FEEDBACK DOES NOT MATTER FOR BUYERS. The worthless pretty little stars only make buyers feel good about themselves. Ebay is genius in this simple marketing strategy that appeals directly to the vain nature of mankind: I am just great and eBay has given me the stars to prove it. See how they twinkle?
I learned long ago that feedback does not reflect on me personally. It is just a means to give confidence to my buyers and bears no other importance. Feedback cannot make me do what is right. That lies with my personal integrity. I will not be blackmailed by crooked buyers or pushed around by the .5% (or better) buyers out there that are complete idiots. I will take the bad feedback instead of yielding to either. This has lead to many undeserved negatives and neutrals. So what? Ebay, as well as the majority of buyers, feels that anything over 98% equals a good seller and can even qualify a powerseller. At 99.5% I clearly am adequate to most buyers.
To summarize, eBay feedback is really rather pointless other than giving buyers confidence in a particular seller. Buyers do not need feedback in order to buy, though they may feel a heartfelt need for it. There is no practical use or need of feedback for a buyer.
I will participate in the feedback system only when I have the equal opportunity to rate buyers in the same anonymous star system currently enabled to rate me as a seller.
What do you think…am I being reasonable or absurd? Has eBay gone too far or is it just me?