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Seller Spots a Fatal Flaw in eBay Catalog Product Reviews

Two different eBay sellers selling the same type of coin, a 1918/7 D Nickel. Both listings display a poor review from a buyer who had left the review not for the product in general, but rather, for a particular coin he had purchased from an unspecified seller. “This coin is not a 1918/7-d as the seller claims, just a regular 1918-d nickel.”

How does a negative review about a transaction end up in another seller’s listings?

Everyone is familiar with Amazon product reviews, which are clearly different from the feedback one leaves for sellers. But people are less familiar with eBay product reviews that are displayed directly underneath the title of some listings.

A reader reported the consequence of eBay’s implementation of reviews on the Ecommerce EKG board on Saturday:

“Mass chaos is being caused in the coin category where buyers are leaving product reviews as seller feedbacks. Almost every product review I read in coin categories are actually specific item feedback,” the seller wrote. “In one case a buyer left a “feedback” saying a 1918/7 D Nickel was not genuine. Now every 1918/7 D Nickel on eBay that uses the catalog has a review spammed in the listing saying the coin is a fake. Awesome…”

eBay reviews aren’t new, but as we noted in June, eBay began proactively soliciting buyers to leave reviews and began making them more prominent on some individual listings. eBay seller advocate Jim Griffith explained over the summer that the company was trying to create product pages to appeal to search engines like Google through a catalog approach, an initiative that he characterized as “make or break” for the survival of eBay. And reviews are part of the content eBay feels are important to rank higher in Google search results.

After reading Saturday’s Ecommerce EKG report, we found two different eBay listings that showed the same poor review, eBay item numbers 121856839310 and 351623877453. They’re listed by 2 different sellers – and presumably by any other seller who lists a 1918/7 D Nickel. (Note that the review feature appears intermittently on eBay listings, so you may or may not see it on one or both listings.)

While there’s nothing wrong with a buyer leaving a poor review for an item they purchased, it doesn’t make sense for eBay to then plaster that review on every other sellers’ listings if it implies they’re all scammers.

eBay Catalog and Product Reviews Go Back Several Years 
Back in 2010, eBay had tried a catalog approach to listings and had created “product cards.” These were dedicated pages that were similar to Amazon listings – they described the product, then shoppers could find sellers who were listing those items for sale. For instance, eBay had product cards for the different types of Apple iPod Touches.

While you won’t encounter product cards through a search on eBay, they still exist. You can find them through searches on Google, for example. Here’s one for an Apple iPod Touch 4th Generation White 16 GB.

It has 112 product reviews, the earliest written on March 5, 2013 and the most recent left on January 4, 2016.

In this context, it’s a bit clearer that the reviews are left across multiple sellers, unlike the unlucky nickel sellers who display just one negative review that could lead some shoppers to believe they had previously sold a fake coin.

This June article shows eBay’s instructions about leaving product reviews.

Could it be clearer about the difference between leaving a general product review versus leaving seller feedback?

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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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/.