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AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Mon June 2 2014 20:23:12

eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners

By: Brian Cohen
Sponsored Link
Having a buyer return an item is a bother to online sellers and can be costly as well. In a patent filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office, eBay acknowledged that how to handle buyers who frequently return items was a major concern for ecommerce sellers.

On April 24th the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published eBay's patent application 20140114803, "Returns Frequency Index" - which could also be called, "Bad Buyer Invisible Listing Feature." The application was filed back in October 2012 but was just announced via the USPTO filing. The patent abstract explains that it is "A system and method of determining whether to make an item listing visible to a user…"

Following is an extract from the patent application which gives background and context for the filing:
    
"One of the biggest concerns for c-commerce (sic) sellers is how to handle buyers that frequently return items. When a buyer returns an item, the process can be quite involved. The seller typically has to arrange to have the item returned, often in packaging, restock the returned item, and return the money to the buyer. These tasks consume valuable seller resources. Additionally, when it comes to certain e-commerce sites, such as eBay, the seller not only loses the sale revenue that has to be returned to the buyer, but the seller is also typically responsible for the cost of the return label that is used by the buyer to return the item. Therefore, the seller has to pay for the buyer's decision to return the item.

"A problem arises in how to expose e-commerce sellers to potential buyers that are less likely to return items. There are a lot of people who are chronic returners. These chronic returners shop, try something they like, and, even if they do not have any problem with the item, they still return it because they have a habit of buying something and then returning it as soon as possible. This chronic returning creates a problem for sellers, particularly small sellers that do not have the resources of big retailers."

The same month that the patent application was filed, eBay launched a feature called "Report a Buyer" whereby sellers could report eBay policy violations by buyers. For the first nine months that this feature was in place (October 2012 to June 2013) eBay reported that buyer account suspensions increased by 900%.

It's disappointing eBay hasn't a provided a public update after the one year anniversary (or maintain this statistic on a quarterly basis).
  
Since May 2008, eBay removed the ability for sellers to leave negative or neutral feedback for buyers. While this doesn't outright prevent a seller from leaving a "backhanded compliment" for a buyer, it took away one of the most effective means for sellers to control abusive buyers from participating in their listings. Since then it has been more important than ever for eBay to manage bad buyers.

While sellers do have the ability to blacklist buyers from participating in their listings, there is a maximum of 5,000 bans which effectively neuters third party blacklisting services.

Sellers will probably be flummoxed to learn that eBay has been sitting on this Bad Buyer Invisible Listing patent application since October 2012. If it is already "baked in the cake," why not flip the switch? What's even more shocking is that eBay may be considering charging a fee to sellers to block bad buyers who are compulsively returning items to sellers.

It's eBay's responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment for its users. If eBay were to charge a fee for buyer "trust" it would be sending a mixed message about its stewardship.

While the patent application doesn't necessarily indicate that the "Bad Buyer Invisible Listing Feature" is imminent, sellers could use this "Returns Frequency Index" filing as leverage to petition eBay to roll out the feature. What's the point of filing a patent application with USPTO unless the idea is under consideration?

Following is an extract from the Detail Description of the filing:

"The present disclosure provides a way for sellers to protect themselves from buyers that frequently return items. A returns frequency index can be calculated for a buyer. This returns frequency index is an indication of the risk that the buyer will return an item. This returns frequency index can be calculated using data from the buyer's transaction history, such as the total number of items returned by the buyer, the total value of the items returned by the buyer, the total number of items purchased by the buyer, and the total value of items purchased by the buyer. A seller can restrict the visibility of his or her item listing to buyers who have a certain returns frequency index, thereby preventing buyers who do not meet the seller's standard for the returns frequency index from viewing the seller's item listing. This visibility restriction based on the returns frequency index provides the seller with increased protection from the item being purchased by a buyer who is likely to return the item. This program of item listing visibility can be offered to sellers as an option, and in some cases for a nominal fee."

Would you like the ability to hide listings from bad buyers? Let us know your thoughts below.

About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998, and he currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian's reporting on Bitcoin in 2013 has been referenced in numerous publications including The Register, Tech Week Europe, TechCrunch and PC World. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."



Comments (49) | Permalink
Readers Comments

eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Xander This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Jun 2 20:57:16 2014
There you have it folks- If ebay can make a profit from controlling bad buyers whom make frequent returns, they're all set up to do so but only if they can squeeze more money from all those pesky sellers they have.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Dexter Morgan This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Jun 2 22:06:26 2014
eBay may charge a fee to sellers to hide their listings from bad buyers. Isn't that special. Are we suppose to get grateful now? They would probably take your fee and hide nothing. That's eBay.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: froggie This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Jun 2 23:12:47 2014
So, ebay puts in place policies that allows the extortion of sellers by buyers through the defect(ive) rating system, then turns around and extorts sellers further to protect sellers from those same buyers and policies? As I've said before, this just gets worse and worse.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
This user has validated their user name. by: Ric
       
Mon Jun 2 23:12:54 2014
Sellers are well aware that eBay's seller protections from bad buyers is virtually non existent, and that eBay's efforts on behalf of sellers amounts to little more than empty promises as well as empty seller pockets.

It is appalling that eBay may even consider charging sellers a fee to block bad buyers - the very same bad buyers eBay has coddled and allowed to run free for years.

The idea of a fee charged to sellers for protection is no different from mafia like tactics. When the same criminals who commit the crimes against business offer to refrain from such activities for a fee - it is called extortion.

So, it has come to this....

After years of encouraging buyers to return items at the drop of a hat and creating bad buyer behaviors,  eBay now contemplates charging fees to sellers to protect them from those very same bad buyers the company has created.

I guess eBay's plan is to continue to encourage bad buyers to misbehave in order that eBay can monetize their bad acts and extort sellers for protection money in the form of fees.

The total lack of ethics and morality on the part of eBay management is confirmed as plans to extort sellers has become a revenue tool in the eBay tool kit.

It will not take sellers very long to realize there is a sure fire way to avoid eBay's extortion attempts - another round of seller withdrawal from eBay will begin shortly after this extortion attempt is proposed to sellers.

Will this company ever propose a policy which does not result in diminished returns? I guess not since virtually every policy and program eBay has announced has resulted in alienation of sellers in ever increasing numbers.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
       Web Site
Tue Jun 3 00:47:56 2014
Truly laughable! But seriously, eBay needs a patent for this? Actually, when you think about it, this is a patent that eBay could well licence to itself …

Ho, Ho, Ho, it really is long past time for you to go ...

eBay Inc, where the incompetent mingle with the malevolent and the criminal [and the stupid]... http://bit.ly/11F2eas
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless
       
Tue Jun 3 01:40:39 2014
More seller protection from an herr fuerher, Brian Burke.

Stuff it.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Tue Jun 3 06:37:06 2014
Ric nailed it.  They've created these bad buyers over the years and it won't surprise me at all if they try to charge sellers for protection against them.

Reminds me of an episode of Big Valley that I saw where the scofflaws who were hired to protect the town from crime were actually creating the crime and profiting from their protection services.  eBay are like the wild west for sure.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Oldguy This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 06:44:36 2014
Absolutely ridiculous..........

Seems every week ebay comes up with a  stupid idea to line the pockets of the CEO.  Is this desperation time or what ????
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 07:01:57 2014
>>What's even more shocking is that eBay may be considering charging a fee to sellers to block bad buyers who are compulsively returning items to sellers.

It's eBay's responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment for its users. If eBay were to charge a fee for buyer "trust" it would be sending a mixed message about its stewardship. <<

As soon as I saw the title of this thread I immediately wondered about how much ebay would charge sellers to use this program! How can JD and the rest of the thieving board sleep at night?
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 07:14:24 2014
They are considering charging a fee for this protection.
The largest retailer in the word Walmart has systems in place to deter chronic returners.
I wonder if Walmart who stocks their shelves with products from a large number of companies treats these companies the same way ebay treats the sellers on  their site. Shelf space at Walmart is purchased by these companies just like sellers pay for listings, could you imagine what would happen if Walmart did the things to vendors that ebay does to sellers.I think there would be some major players leaving Walmart.
What if newspapers or publishers of grocery advertisements began making policies that punished grocery store owners for running out of stock of an item, or for a customer waiting in line too long to checkout? That is not going to happen is it.
Then why is ebay getting away with policies that are off the charts too strict in rating sellers and has done nothing but create a stressful atmosphere on ebay and ENABLED BAD BUYERS.
At some point our law enforcement and government agencies need to wake up and do something about the deceptive business practices, monopolies, insider trading and the INTIMIDATION they are using on sellers. These things are against the law and yet they continue.
I believe that corruption is alive and well in eBay's dealings and that is protecting them, a individual is not allowed to do these things so why is ebay.
 
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: RCL This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 07:31:56 2014
The home shopping networks have had this technology since they went online. Not sure where the originality is.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Orwellwasright This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 07:52:18 2014

Since ebays new defect system will count cases opened and refunds and returns as a defects,

Failing to suspend and ban buyers who abuse the system is simply verification of ebays policy of directed animosity toward the non-preffered seller base

Actually charging sellers for the privlage of knowing which buyers ebay clearly knows will wreck their ability to sell on ebay , is reprehensible beyond definition

Just when you think these masters of persecution cannot show us any new ways to show how much they despise us, a new kick in the groin comes in


eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 08:10:52 2014
This is called ''Order out of CHAOS.''

Problem, Reaction and Solution.

ebay CREATES the problem, they PRETEND to react to the problem and then creates the solution.

Ric hit the nail on the head.  What ebay is doing is EXACTLY what the mafia does and EXTORTION is also SPOT ON!

Brain Cohen says; ''It's eBay's responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment for its users. If eBay were to charge a fee for buyer ''trust'' it would be sending a mixed message about its stewardship.''

This is very true for EVERY venue that charges sellers in any form.

This is a big problem and issue with all of the ecommerce venues.  They are charging more and more fees to sellers and demanding more and more from the sellers while they are providing LESS and LESS protection and services to their own customers/sellers.

They are taking NO responsibility for their own failures to the sellers and then holding the sellers accountable for their own BAD policies, procedures and the BAD buyers they are sending them.

There is actually no need for a patent like this if these ''venues'' would allow the sellers to dictate their own store policy just like any other store does in the real world and if they followed the rules of contract LAW.

When you really dig deep into the issues you will find that it is the VENUES themselves who are responsible for this out of control BAD buyer behavior and e-commerce THEFT that has becomes so constant and blatant.

The venues are the ones who have encouraged and even created the problem sellers are now PLAGUED with in the form of scams, buyers getting FREE rental of items, at the sellers total expense and the chronic return problems.

ebay and every other venue does NOT need a ''patent'' to address these issues, they just need better POLICIES and to operate with ETHICS and INTEGRITY.

In the real world the LAW states that it is the BUYERS responsibility to KNOW what they are buying, they are responsible to READ the descriptions, conditions, contract etc.

It is their responsibility to ask the questions BEFORE they purchase an item if they are not sure or it does not address their concerns.

If they FAIL to do any of these things then it is at THEIR OWN RISK and PERIL if it turns out to be not what they had hoped or imagined it would be.  It would then be up to the seller to decide if they will allow a return. refund or exchange if it is not stated in their store policy.

This is not to say that the seller is not responsible for not providing the item(s) they have described or offered for sale. In the online world this can be a little harder to prove unless the seller takes the correct precautions. However, there is a quick, easy and very inexpensive solution to this problem and that is to RECORD every shipment, including testing all mechanical items on the same recording of the shipment.

Cameras are so inexpensive now and all a seller has to do is put them in their shipping area/department and if a dispute arises all they have to do is pull up the recording of the shipment and it will prove whether it was a seller error or the buyer is lying.  Very simple.

Once you put the responsibility back where it belongs, which is on the BUYER, you ELIMINATE these problems. And therefore also eliminate the need for such a patent as ebay is trying to get for a problem THEY participated in creating.

Of course anyone who has ever dealt with ebay should also be very aware that ANYTHING ebay creates will be filled with ERRORS and GLITCHES forever and this ''system'' will be no different.

You can count on ebay charging people for it, it constantly FAILING and then ebay adding plenty of loopholes and disclaimers which will make them NOT responsible for it NEVER working correctly and as advertised.

It is ironic that the venues remove all liability from themselves for selling us BAD products, services etc, but DEMAND that sellers PAY for not just their own errors but the buyers as well.

The bottom line here is, there is NO NEED for such a patent. The thing that is NEEDED is for venues to be held responsible for the policies THEY create which creates these problems and their bad and unprofessional services they charge us for.

If the venues were held responsible and not the innocent sellers, you would see these problems virtually eliminated because they would be forced to adhere to the rule of LAW which put the real responsibility back onto the ''venues'' and BUYERS, which in turn would make e-commerce a better, safer and more HONEST place to sell and to buy and everyone wins in the end.

Sellers could charge less and buyers would pay less because they no longer have to add in the high costs of the thefts and the extra costs of dealing with phony returns, item rentals, refunds through FB and rating extortion etc.

Does that mean there would be no theft, scams etc, NO, there are always going to be crooks no matter where or how you sell but the problem would be limited to just the CROOKS and would remove the temptations from the rest of the people who have become CROOKS and LIARS because the venues made it so easy for them to become crooks and liars.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: DVDsandMore This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 08:46:08 2014
Heck, eBay hides my listings now, but from all buyers, because of a bad buyer that, out of the 304 feedback left, 94% were negative.  He's been reported to eBay by most of his victims, but nothing is done.

The inability to leave negative for buyers opens the floodgates for sellers to create accounts to leave negative feedback and destroy competitors, as has happened to me.  

With another round of below standard because of one customer out of thousands (He bought many items, so can ding me many times) I'll not be listing new items for the first time in years.  I'm going to see how things go in the Jungle, which I've never done before.

The above is a good feature for eBay to have, and I doubt they'll charge for it.  But based on the other so called protections they claim to already offer, I doubt it will be applied very well.  Buyer suspensions may have increased 900%, but that doesn't mean much if it was 50 to begin with.

 
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: magpie This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 09:03:14 2014
erm wasnt it once called feedback for BUYERS ?
something that Ebay stopped!!
we are then told ... make your listings clear
but hang on ,,, a buyer can claim 'Not as Described' for a speck of dust or that the colour is giving them palpitations..or as I once got .. 'the internet has too many adverts' .. and now I get a DEFECT for this ..is there no end to Ebays greed and dishonesty ?  
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Tue Jun 3 09:15:43 2014
Moonwishes says " How can JD and the rest of the thieving board sleep at night?"

Sociopaths?  
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 09:37:06 2014
LMFAO

Ive always compared eBay to the mob - and now my justifications have been realized.

First eBay virtually demands that you increase your return days from 7 to 14. Then (2 months ago) they tell you that you need to take back things in 90 "OR ELSE" (or else we yank your discount - that you deserve).

Now that eBay has created the bad buyers - they will CHARGE you a fee to get rid of them for you.

"Don Vito suggests you pay the protection (business consultation) fee or things can happen. You wouldnt want anything to happen to your business WOULD YOU?

Don Donoue says "you may want to pay the "protection", cause BAD things can happen to your seller account .... being hidden, guardrailed, VEROd .... If I was you, I'd pay up so that bad things like that dont happen.

What CON ARTISTS. JD admits they arsonists exist, and will coral them if you pay a "fee for buyer "trust".

Its racketeering, its fraud, where are the attorneys general of CA and other states (Im looking at you NY) ???
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: LinneyPinney This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 10:10:29 2014
" A seller can restrict the visibility of his or her item listing to buyers who have a certain returns frequency index"

"Cassini" already has our visibility restricted and the revelation that this technology exists just proves that they can and do hide our listings to protect their paid advertisers.

Creating a problem and then charging sellers to appear to fix it is an outrage.

I prefer to sell on my new platforms where the policy is simply, "final sale, no returns."

To heck with ebay.
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 10:24:33 2014
Why doesnt ebay file a patent for "LETTING SELLERS DETERMINE THEIR OWN RETURN POLICIES"   ??
eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners   eBay Files Patent for Protecting Sellers from Chronic Returners
by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jun 3 10:36:24 2014
This is just a ridiculous approach to the problem.  Back when we had two way interlocking FB we could block buyers with 2 negs in a year.

If we could block buyers with two returns in a year that would help keep buyers cordial and reasonable, because they can't buy on ebay if they don't behave.

As it is now there is no incentive to behave.

Ebay is going to screw with visibility rather than use this as a method of encouraging good behavior.
''Oh, we didn't think of that''.

Returns of mail order sales are an expensive proposition for every seller, as are store returns.  You think Walmart doesn't track returns?  They sure do!  If you return too many items to Walmart you will find you can't return things at all anymore.  Same at many other large retailers. They just don't want your business if you cost them too much money.

For good reason!



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