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eBay Quietly Makes Changes to Feedback

eBay quietly rolled back on Tuesday an unpopular change it had made to its feedback system a year and a half ago. eBay had removed the dates indicating when feedback comments were left in August of 2014. At the time, sellers – and some buyers – were unhappy with the move, complaining it was yet another move by management to limit transparency on the site. See update below.

eBay had previously removed the item title, description and price of the items in feedback in 2013, though it displays that information once again.

Another unpopular change introduced in 2013 remains, however: eBay continues to mask the User IDs of buyers on sellers’ feedback pages.

Both moves were made to increase bidder anonymity.

As for the changes rolled out this week, the move was welcomed by some, though others expressed apathy, and some wondered if it was a glitch, since there was no announcement from eBay that it would be making changes to feedback. “Sounds more like that rarest of rare bugs….one that favors the seller. Wonder how long until they “fix” it,” said one seller.

One EcommerceBytes reader asked, “Could this change have been made in order to assist in verifying shipping and/or delivery dates?” and explained, “If positive feedback has been left on a certain date then a claim could not be made for late delivery after the feedback date.”

The seller was referencing the importance of on-time shipping with the recent introduction of new seller performance standards that puts an emphasis on timely delivery of orders.

Win Bent, who runs the Toolhaus set of tools used by eBay sellers to help assess trading partners, was pleased to see the return of dates to feedback.

“Toolhaus uses the feedback date information internally to ensure that we have reliable and complete data,” he told EcommerceBytes. “When eBay removed that, it was much more difficult to check the data, and it reduced the overall confidence in the results. Needless to say, we’re quite happy to have the dates again.”

In explaining how some eBay buyers use his tools, he said, “Our users definitely benefit from seeing the dates on feedback – it’s not uncommon for a seller to have a bad period, but without the dates, there’s no way to tell whether it was a short or long period. – “Yes, they received a bunch of negative FB, but that was two years ago, and it only lasted for a month, they’ve been much better since then.” – This is the sort of analysis which is easy when you have the dates to check, and impossible without them,” Bent explained.

Followers of EcommerceBytes on Facebook expressed a desire for eBay to go further. “Now return user IDs so we can see who is leaving negative feedback for our fellow sellers,” said one.

“They also need to allow us to search by buyer so we can see who is shill bidding and who are deadbeats etc.,” said another seller.

“Also change back where we can rate buyer,” said another in a reference to eBay’s policy that prohibits sellers from leaving a negative or neutral rating for a buyer, but a reversal of that policy may be unlikely. In May of last year, eBay’s head of community Jeff Terrelle said eBay was not going back to allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers (though 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,” Terrelle said. “I can guarantee you that we will not revamp the entire feedback system without testing those changes first.” Terrelle has since left eBay.

We asked eBay on Wednesday if adding dates to feedback was a permanent change, whether it would bring back the time of day, and why it made the decision to bring back dates, but did not hear back from the company by press time.

Let us know what you think of the change by posting on the EcommerceBytes Blog, and read what your colleagues have to say.

Update: As we noted in the story, eBay did not respond to our inquiry about the return of dates to feedback. The dates have since disappeared, and eBay’s Jim “Griff” Griffith stated during the company’s scheduled weekly chat on Wednesday afternoon that this was a glitch.

He did not elaborate, and we are left wondering, does this mean eBay is working to return the dates and wasn’t ready to roll them out yet? The alternative is rather scary – that eBay could inadvertently display information it had chosen to hide for privacy reasons.

If eBay responds to any of our inquiries or posts an announcement about the incident, we’ll let you know.

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/.