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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1796 - May 23, 2008 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 3

eBay Addresses Questions over New Feedback Changes

By Ina Steiner
May 23, 2008

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Many eBay sellers in the US weren't sure what to expect when they powered up their computers on Monday morning to check their feedback. eBay's latest changes to the rating system had already been rolled out in Australia and the UK, and discussion forums in those countries were flooded with posts from sellers whose positive percentage score had been affected by the changes. Some were elated upon seeing their score had risen - many others were left reaching for the antacid. For the rest of the week, questions about feedback and the impact on PowerSellers continued to pepper the boards, and on Thursday, eBay addressed some of those questions in an Announcement Board post.

One question on the top of sellers' minds was how many PowerSellers had ratings fall below the 98% threshold to maintain PowerSeller status. eBay did not answer that question, but did say that the company would provide them with a 60-day grace period. However, "on July 21, any PowerSeller who no longer meets the 98% threshold will no longer be eligible for PowerSeller status and benefits."

There were several factors that changed how eBay calculates the positive feedback percentage score. Most significantly, eBay now counts neutrals in with negatives, the reason why some scores dropped. eBay explained in the post, "By not including neutral Feedback in our calculation, we were actually doing a disservice to our best sellers." Sellers have argued that while eBay considers a neutral a negative, buyers don't necessarily think that way, and they have urged eBay to get rid of neutral ratings altogether.

eBay also said it would remove the negative and neutral ratings left by suspended members retroactively, and in Thursday's post, eBay said it had not yet done so, but that they "should be removed by early June."

Some have begun speculating that eBay will eventually do away with the old feedback format of leaving positive, negative and neutral ratings and keep the DSR ratings, which are similar to Amazon's rating system. Author and PowerSeller Skip McGrath wrote in an article, "I also suspect that over time, Feedback will cease to be important - and in fact eBay may someday decide to scrap it altogether and just rely on the Detailed Seller Ratings" (http://www.skipmcgrath.com/newsletters/current.shtml#one).

Another seller using the handle "roo" commented on the AuctionBytes Blog, "The new policy, by the way, has nothing to do with fixing feedback. eBay is intentionally making it worse to pave the way for removing the feedback system altogether. They are trying to make us all hate it enough over the next year so that when they remove it next year, we will all be relieved" (http://blog.auctionbytes.com/cgi-bin/blog/blog.pl?/pl/2008/5/1211343097.html).

A story circulated on the eBay discussion boards about a 47-year-old Seattle man who died at his computer Monday upon seeing that his score had dipped. Neither the King County Medical Examiner's Office in Seattle nor the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had any record of a person matching the description of the rumored deceased PowerSeller.

While the tale appears to be of the urban legend variety, many users seemed to consider it within the realm of possibility. That's how seriously eBay users take their feedback ratings.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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