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eBay Says Two-Way Feedback Is Not on the Table

Some sellers who learned of eBay’s latest plans to make changes to the feedback system said they hoped eBay would reinstate their ability to leave negative or neutral feedback for buyers. But an eBay manager has made it clear that two-way feedback is not on the table.

While eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s feedback system had allowed for buyers and sellers to leave a positive, negative, or neutral rating for each other, eBay made a series of radical changes to feedback in 2008, including limiting sellers to leaving only positive feedback for buyers.

Many sellers have long complained that the change led to an increase in bad buyer behavior and gave buyers the upper hand in transactions – one seller recently called it “lopsided” feedback.

Soon-to-be CEO Devin Wenig acknowledged the problems of buyer abuse of sellers and irrational feedback when he disclosed to analysts his plan to look at redesigning feedback at eBay’s shareholder meeting on May 1st. And last week, eBay confirmed it was running tests of the feedback system – one that caught many people’s eye was the test that hid the link to sellers’ feedback on listing pages.

But a thread on the eBay discussion boards dampened hope for some when the head of community Jeff Terrelle posted, “We’re not going back to allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers. It’s not going to happen.”

In response to a poster who said sellers needed to be able to leave negative feedback for buyers as well, Terrell said, “In what situation would a seller want to give a buyer a negative feedback (sellers can already leave positives, or no feedback at all), that isn’t already covered by another process? If the buyer doesn’t pay, the seller can open a UPI case. If the buyer makes a false claim on a return, the seller can dispute that. What else is there that isn’t already covered?”

Terrell provided additional information as he answered other questions from eBay users. He explained that eBay runs A/B tests frequently in which one group sees experience A and the other sees experience B. “eBay runs tests on various features of our site all the time. Unless the test is impacting a significant number of customers, we usually don’t pre-announce them.”

However, eBay typically does not release the results, he said. “It tips our hand to our competition.” He also said eBay tries to announce all changes that directly impact a seller’s business at least 60 days prior to the change taking effect.

“Devin Wenig announced at our recent shareholders meeting that he is interested in taking a look at the feedback system. I can guarantee you that we will not revamp the entire feedback system without testing those changes first.”

It’s the kind of messaging that makes followers of eBay suspect there is a lot more site testing on the way.

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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/.