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Some Hail eBay’s Latest Attempt to Improve Feedback

eBay is finally giving sellers something they’ve been requesting for years: more transparency in the feedback ratings left by buyers. In its early days when auctions ruled, eBay’s feedback system was all that deterred buyers and sellers from scamming each other. Now eBay offers money back guarantees to buyers, and the current feedback system is practically unrecognizable from when it first rolled out as a simple positive, neutral and negative rating system.

More changes are coming in April. eBay announced Monday it would remove anonymity from Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs), which are a set of four criteria buyers used to judge each transaction: Item as described; Communication; Shipping time; and Shipping and handling charges.

When eBay launched DSRs in 2007, it allowed buyers to leave the four ratings anonymously, saying buyers would be more truthful if they knew sellers could not retaliate against them. But in 2008, eBay took away the ability of sellers to leave negative ratings for buyers. Sellers pressed eBay to remove the anonymity so they could use DSRs to improve their business practices – yet eBay left the anonymity of DSRs in place.

In a message to sellers about the changes on Monday, eBay said, “While the current system of anonymous ratings provides sellers a general indication about their service, they need details to address any issues effectively. For example, if a seller’s ratings indicate their packages take too long to arrive, it will help them take the right action if they know the issue is with shipments to a specific geographical region.” And, it said, “With this change, sellers will be able to make much better use of the ratings to continually refine their selling practices – and deliver the great service you expect.”

Some seller reaction on the eBay boards included the following:

“Hallelujah. It is about time. No more stealth DSR dings.”

“This also may explain why reports aren’t working for some sellers” and a reply, “I bet you are right. I can’t get any DSR’s to show up on reports after March 1st.”

“Like I posted on BC, beware and give your head a shake if you think this appears to be a good thing for sellers….. you know better…. keep looking…..”

“Buyers will finally realize that DSR’s aren’t anonymous, and hopefully this will prevent nasty buyers from thinking they can ding sellers for no reason at all and not have nobody know who did it.”

“I think it absolutely will slow down many of the nastier buyers because they simply would not want the seller to know that it is them who dinged them. These are the buyers who leave great feedback with low DSR ratings hidden inside. This change is one of the best changes that ebay has made in a long time, IMO.”

eBay also said starting the week of April 16, sellers would be able to run reports to see which transactions have returns or cases initiated for reasons such as “item was not as described” as well as seller-cancelled transactions and negative or neutral feedback. “Starting in late April, the detailed rating system will no longer be anonymous, and you’ll also be able to see which transactions have low detailed seller ratings for item description and ship time,” eBay wrote.

eBay made the announcement about DSR anonymity 2 weeks after it announced the Spring Seller Update in which it announced it would be making major changes to Seller Performance standards, leading some to wonder if eBay had remained uncertain about whether to remove DSR anonymity.

We asked eBay what buyers would see in April when they go to leave DSR ratings and whether there would be any changes, such as special messaging about the DSRs no longer being anonymous. eBay did not respond to our questions by press time.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.