Feedback seems so 1990s, but it's alive and well on eBay in 2021. As sellers know all too well, it's evolved into something that looks quite different from when it first rolled out.
No longer can sellers leave any type of feedback. They're limited to leaving only positive feedback
for buyers, who in turn can leave any kind of feedback they wish for sellers - positive, negative, or neutral.
The topic came up during a podcast
hosted by the grandaddy of ecommerce. The hosts of the eBay for Business podcast, Jim "Griff" Griffith, Rebecca Michaels, and Brian Burke, tackled the issue in this week's episode.
A seller had written to the show asking why eBay's feedback team only gave canned responses when he asked to have certain feedback removed from his account. The seller wrote in part:
"Do either of you have issues with submitting for feedback removal when the feedback given is false erroneous or just downright wrong and not truthful? What about the feedback given as a result of the buyer not reading the description of the item they had purchased? I've had several occasions where this has happened to me recently. I wrote to the feedback team requesting removal. The response was a canned one: "We've looked carefully at this feedback and see that it doesn't qualify for removal.""
Rebecca Michaels responded by stating feedback on eBay was not required to be truthful. "It's the point of view from that particular buyer. It's opinion-based and it's really the chance for the buyer to share what their experience was buying from you as a seller here on eBay," she said. "So it is by design, just one person's opinion, given that, feedback is never removed on the basis of veracity. It's not about whether it's exactly true, but again, it's an opinion channel. It's not really meant to be a source of truth."
Griffith said that's the way it has been since the very beginning, adding, "We never remove it on the basis of its accuracy. To that extent, I want to make it clear that the team that is on the feedback team, they are doing their job 100%."
Michaels compared it to a person telling their friend or neighbor about an experience they had shopping at a local store.
Griffith then asked Brian Burke, "is negative or neutral feedback - does it play a part in a seller's business?"
Burke responded by suggesting sellers look at negative feedback as an opportunity to evaluate their business and business processes. Beyond that, it doesn't really have much of an impact on a seller's business. "Most buyers aren't necessarily looking for that negative," he said.
"Oftentimes what buyers will do is, they're going to look for how does the seller respond to a negative, because then that tells them a lot about the seller and how they'll be treated as a buyer, if something does go awry. And if you sell enough on eBay, at some point, something will not go exactly as planned from a buyer's perspective. And remember, as Rebecca said, it is the buyer's perspective on this. And so that buyers providing you some feedback, take advantage of that."
It no longer has any impact on seller performance metrics, Burke added. "So you don't have to worry about it impacting your Top Rated Seller Standing or anything like that."
Michaels said eBay data shows that occasionally getting a neutral or even negative feedback has really little impact on the seller's business.
In fact, she said, having a 100% positive feedback rating might be suspect: "I think that there's also some research to show that the occasional negative or neutral actually makes an overall store feel a little bit trustworthy. No one out there is a hundred percent perfect all of the time. And so having once in a while an occasional neutral or negative over many years really just shows that you're a human being running a store and is likely to increase the trust that you have in your store."
Michaels said there are some occasions when eBay will remove feedback, but it's not about whether it's true. For example, "if there's feedback about shipping times and the seller did everything right, that's the kind of feedback that may be reviewed for removal," she said.
Some marketplaces are eager to make their sellers look good, but on eBay, feedback is a different beast.