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Fri June 20 2008 12:59:08

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

By: Greg Holden

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Disclaimer: This blog is going up as the session is in progress. There may be some updating (and cleaning up) to this post once the session in over:

I am sitting in the session on the feedback session, which is conducted by Brian Burke. The air is electric with tension and a little bit of hostility toward eBay for changes to the system. eBay's team of six representatives are geared up to defend themselves, as they did at the conference with bloggers yesterday. Nevertheless, fireworks are erupting.
 
After the summary of changes, those in attendance were asked to line up to ask questions. There are now at least a dozen people lined up, many with arms folded impatiently.

 

During the talk, it was stated that eBay removed the mutual feedback withdrawal (MFW) feature because "We felt it wasn't providing a sufficient difference between a seller who provides service right the first time and one who fixes problems." He says, that's an important distinction.
 
"Wrong," said several in the audience. People here dislike the changes. eBay, which said several times in the presentation that the changes were instituted for buyers to be able to leave negative or neutral feedback more easily so they won't leave the marketplace, is facing a hostile audience.

(Questions and answers are summarized, this is not a transcript!)

First questioner: You didn't respond to my emails, she said to Burke. eBay has done nothing to end feedback manipulation. eBay ended the listing of digital goods on the site a couple of months ago? What are you going to do, she asks.
 
Burke: eBay wants to reduce shill feedback through listing of digital goods.
 
Second questioner: The point is your system is broken. Your ebay community is smart. Your buyer community is smart. They aren't going to pay $14.99 that is not a quality item.
 
Burke: We can't have digital goods back in the format they were in two months ago. It's a decision that was made. it was the right decision for the marketplace.
 
Second questioner (cont.): I don't work for you. I work for me.
 
Third questioner (asks to room): How many of you have been affected by neutral feedback, "the new negative"? (Majority of hands raised.) You were saying ony 10 percent, but I don't know anyone who hasn't been affected in some shape or form.
 
Feedback extortion with the new feedbacksystem. What seems to be happening, they get our email address, they say, give us back our money, give us back our shipping. If you don't we are going to leave negative feedback
 
--Applause from the audience--
 
eBay's Burke responds: One, we have created a new seller reporting hub with an extortion policy where you can report the buyer. Since we don't have proof, and it is rare that we have proof.
 
"What's proof?" several ask at once.
 
eBay Representative: "What we have done is we have created the seller reporting hub, and there are two things that happen. Sellers who select the requirement that they don't want bids from buyers who have too many policy violations don't have those buyers bidding on your items. You file the complaint, even if you don't have complete proof."
 
"And then the buyer goes and creates another account."
 
"If you put them on your blocked buyer list, and they create another account to get arond your block, that is a policy violation that is suspendable. I understand the feeling that you have lost control here, but you have other types of control."

Many in the audience are saying that they are seeing the Seller Reporting Hub for the first time.
 
"The system will never be perfect," one eBay rep says.

"It's skewed in one direction," the seller says.

Fourth Questioner: I understand you will remove feedback from a buyer if there is a UPI dispute: what if they leave you positive feedback but give you 1s on all your DSRs? How can they comment on shipping time and shipping cost if they didn't pay?

Burke: A buyer has the ability to leave any level of DSRs they wish. Buyers who leave positive feedback rarely leave all 1s. We are not seeing a whole lot of 1s being left. It's not about one transaction. (He has said that it is the pattern of behavior that counts.)

"Yes it is!" several call out from the audience.

"If the buyer has a UPI strike against them, they can't leave feedback for that transaction."

"You think buyers are out to get you," says Burke. "The vast majority of buyers don't go on the site thinking, 'I'm going to get that seller.' Our challenge with buyers is to get them to leave feedback in the first place. We believe people are basically good."

Much chatter from the audience.

A voice from the back commands: Let conversation flow between the questioner and the respondee."

Laughter: "God has entered the room!"

Fifth Question: Larry Phillips: the Internet Merchants Association has a site LeavingFeedback.com, and our purpose is to educate buyers that based on a new structure, anything less than a 5 is a failure. All 4s, I will lose my PowerSeller status and be disadvantaged in search. The most common question I get is, why didn't eBay do this? My answer has been, I can't answer why, but I spoke to Brian Burke, and he said…

Burke: "The main reason is, most buyers who leave feedback understand positive, negative, and neutral, most understand a 5 point scale, most understand what we have done with DSRs and the five points, the reality is what we're doing with the DsRs is not about what the buyer is doing at that moment, but we are comparing sellers to each other. Every seller is rated on the exact same schedule."

Phillips: "I need to disagree with you on the value of a 4. Prior to this new setup, someone would have to walk on water to rate a 5. According to you, if my description is accurate, I will lose my PowerSeller status, I will be disadvantaged in search."

(Strong applause from audience.)

Phillips: "You need to change the words to make them more indicative of what the numbers mean."

(More applause.)

Burke: We are doing an analysis of the entire feedback flow. So it is not just the words, but what DSRs are asking. The entire flow is something we are looking at.

Sixth Question: Neutral is not positive, neutral is not negative; why not eliminate neutrals altogether?

"Altogether!" Audience cries. (Someone yells, "Look it up in the dictionary.")

Burke: Let me do a poll. Neutral feedback doesn't impact your score. It impacts your percentage. And it shows up on the feedback profile page as gray. How many of you would prefer we completely remove neutrals altogether?

(Perhaps two thirds of room raises hands.)

"I think buyers will make this decision for us over the coming months."

"Where is the seller? " someone calls out.

"We're the ones paying you."

"Seller's remorse!"

Griff: We had to make these changes because, without buyers, there will be no eBay in two years.

"Bullshit!" someone says.

"No bullshit," he responds; "absolutely true. The rate of decline in the growth of buyers…it was ripe for buyers going other places, and if the momentum starts, eBay is over."

Burke: "We are thinking about creating an interstitial page in which before leaving negative feedback the buyer gets a message with all the seller's phone numbers, mail, Skype, AIM, and says, 'Hey before you take this step, contact the seller.'"

(This meets with applause from the audience--)

Alex, a PowerSeller from Chicago comments: "The system you have set up makes me go through more work to file a UPI. Why didn't you talk to sellers beforehand when you were coming up with this system? We have to work together. And we will be more successful if you do."

Next questioner: "I have a few solutions for you. First, on feedback extortion: A seller should always be able to leave a negative if there is a UPI strike, and if they never respond, I should be able to leave a negative. Second, there should be another buyer requirement: I think if the buyer leaves negative feedback for multiple sellers in a 90 day period, I don't want to do business with them. "

(Much applause.)

The next questioner identifies herself as someone who works at the window for the U.S. Postal Service, and also as an eBay seller:

"Thank you to everybody, I am a window clerk at the post office."

(Applause.)

"I am here on behalf of the president of my union, and I was sent here to report on eBay convention. We have some really big mailers, the companies who send out supermarket coupons and credit card mailers, and I am here to tell you that they want to abolish universal mail delivery. They are petitioning the post office to cut mail delivery in small areas to one day a week or three days a week. The only reason they want to do it is so the big mailers who mail out tons of material--I can't say the J word--"

"Junk?" says Brian Burke.

"They want to do this to get further discounts. They are already getting discounts beyond what it costs us to process their mail. As a seller, I wanted to get feedback from you about this to send to my president. I am also hearing of problems with delivery in certain areas."

This very interesting and alarming tidbit is shelved; those in attendance are asked to talk to the postal service employee after the session. I am left to wonder: Is there a danger that the USPS will be hit with restrictions that limit the number of days in which they can ship parcels sent by everyday people like you and me? If they can only ship 3 - 4 days a week, everyone's eBay shipments will be delayed.

The next questioner also has a shipping related point: "With feedback, and shipping, if you're going to have something, the seller cannot be dinged for late mail delivery. You need to do something so that is taken into consideration."

Last questioner asks: "Buyers agree to a cost when they make a purchase Then they come back afterwards and say, "I wish the price was lower." I get really high DSRs on most categories. I suggest, I have a 5.0 on descript, 4.9 on shipping and handling. Why don't you average the DSRs?"

Burke says he heard this from other sessions and it is under consideration.


Greg Holden, who lives in Chicago, is an online business consultant and the author of eight books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's Web site and blog (http://www.gregholden.com).




Comments (74) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Interesting

Fri Jun 20 13:12:47 2008

Keep it coming!

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: RichardC

Fri Jun 20 13:17:33 2008

Sounds like the group is hostile, and rightly so.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: meme

Fri Jun 20 13:41:16 2008

@Griff: We had to make these changes because, without buyers, there will be no eBay in two years.
WITHOUT SELLERS ??  who needs buyers??  I say this as I map my way to another site.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Lisa B

Fri Jun 20 13:42:50 2008

This is the area where sellers feel most wounded and betrayed. If they don't make some constructive changes to appease sellers they'll all flee. I can feel the hostility in that room through this blog.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Leonard Martin

Fri Jun 20 13:55:29 2008

To me, old Griff gave it away right here:

''The rate of decline in the growth of buyers…it was ripe for buyers going other places..''

Note that he didn't say ''the rate of decline in the NUMBER of buyers.''
In other words, Griff essentially said, ''growth of buyers was continuing, it just wasn't happening fast enough for us.''

The only ''us'' that wants constantly accelerating growth is shareholders, because it forecasts ever-increasing company earnings, hence increasing share price.

That's who they care about. They don't care about you.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Beady Eye Guy

Fri Jun 20 13:55:30 2008

Burke did not get what the one seller was saying.  He was pointing out that a bad buyer can leave DSRs regardless if the transaction is paid for or not.  He doesn't get it at all.  If my whole existence on Ebay is hinging on good DSRs, they need to make sure customers can't ding the seller until the item has arrived.

Amazon won't allow for A-Z complaints until 15 days into the sale.  Why can't Ebay make the DSR rating something that can be accessed in 10 days or so?

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Kurt

Fri Jun 20 13:55:39 2008

I've been trying to figure out why eBay in its infinite wisdom is allowing bidders (not buyers) to leave seller's negatives when ebay in 90% of transactions knows that the item is unpaid. I can't think of another place in business where the venue forces the seller to be the collection agent, to threaten the buyer with a ''strike'' and then asks them to rate the seller. Ridiculous. But after hearing that eBay is moving to PayPal-only as a means of payment in Australia I think the motive is clear. eBay is allowing this ludicrous non-sensical loophole so that seller's will be forced to move to PayPal immediate payment only. This will allow eBay to capture more of the transaction and squeeze all money order payments out. Mark my words, it's coming. By the way, I think I'm done. I'm leaving eBay. It was a second gig for me and over the past few years it's taken more time to make less money. I was actually in support of the one-way feedback rule but had no idea that they would be so harsh in the DSR's. I just can't be held hostage by buyers who have no idea what it costs to mail an item any more. The changes have already cost me thousands and it's just not worth it. By the way, I wonder what what ebay's DSR's would be if it asked the seller community????

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Patricia

Fri Jun 20 14:00:18 2008

This should be telling ebay management something...if not, they are incredibly stupid!

http://digg.com/lbv.php?id=7119846&ord=1

Notice the empty seats!

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: John

Fri Jun 20 14:23:41 2008

As a seller and a buyer, I love the new changes. And here's why -

If I have 1000 items on the site, I don't have time to look at every bidder on every single item I have up -- no seller does, unless they have no life.

How did feedback protect anyone? Really?

This reporting tool they created has suspended THREE different buyers.

If I just left negative feedback, they'd be able to hit Buy It Now (more than 60% of eBay business is Buy It Now) on another sellers items.

I think the feedback system was so much more flawed than before.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: John

Fri Jun 20 14:24:28 2008

more flawed before the changes.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: dimes

Fri Jun 20 14:34:03 2008

One-sided feedback in a two-party transaction is like telling a joke without a punchline.

eBay might as well stick a fork in it now and put everyone (including themselves) out of their misery.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Tony P.

Fri Jun 20 14:50:21 2008

All you need to know is this:

For a seller to block a ''bad'' buyer under one of the Requirements, that buyer must have committed 4 - that is FOUR - violations.

FOUR violations to other sellers. Think about that. Ebay could have easily have made the quantity as low as 1 or 2, but they chose 4.

Ebay knows what they're doing; it isn't like they have no idea that 4 violations allows TOO MUCH damage. They certainly will suspend a seller over 1 violation!

It's all BS. They know it and we know it.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Lisa B.

Fri Jun 20 14:58:51 2008

Reading this is a real bummer. It shows that Ebay doesn't really get it and feedback is going to remain a hornests' nest for some time to come.

I've been making provisions to move on and this solidified it. Taking the path of least resistance seems the best plan. Maybe the big sellers will be fine, but smaller ones will suffer and eventually perish.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: ozsomenurse

Fri Jun 20 15:13:09 2008

Griff used to be my idol.  I was an Ed Spec for many years.  All  he is now is a big fat sellout!  Do you see how many items he sells a month?  Almost none.  What does he care...he gets a paycheck either way.  It sounds like they are just try to pacify the crowd.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: steve

Fri Jun 20 15:32:54 2008

The girl who didn't read my listing and backs out after the auction closes and does not pay me still gets to leave me feedback and rate me on my DSR's, even  on the shipping time DSR.  Just brilliant.

The ONLY thing eBay cares about is making more money, and they have and will continue to harm the sellers and do anything they can to bring the buyers back, no matter how bad the buyers are.   Non-Paying buyers mean that items have to be relisted--more fees for eBay.  And greedy eBay never refunds the listing fees back to the seller for the unpaid items.

They truly have earned the name GreedBay.  Nothing will change at that arrogant greedy company until the sellers who pay them outrageous fees on a daily basis leave.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: DisgruntledPowerSeller

Fri Jun 20 15:58:46 2008

You go Boy!
We thought Ina was good at first, until ebay bought her out, but you MY FRIEND, are the real deal.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Kal

Fri Jun 20 16:03:55 2008

What I don't understand, and what I have have sent in as a suggestion year after year is if a buyer does not pay, when the UPI strike goes against the user that EBAY put a RED comment in the user feedback profile indicating they DIDN'T FOLLOW THROUGH ON THEIR OBLIGATION TO PAY! This would be an AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE left by eBay alerting other sellers. I also don't mean a red ''doughnut'' either, I mean red TEXT. My response ALWAYS is ''We're only a venue, we don't get involved in the process between seller and buyer'', and ''We can't pass judgment like that''.

Well let me utter that word that somebody in the room above said: ''BULLSHIT!''

The rules have CHANGED now. If I can't leave a negative feedback against a deadbeat, and you want to be in control of EVERY aspect of the transaction, then YOU eBay, YOU put that warning into the feedback. YOU let EVERYONE ELSE know the buyer is a deadbeat. This only makes SENSE - and NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE. I can see where you'd want to prevent a seller from leaving retaliatory FB for all other stupid reasons, but NON-PAYMENT, being a DEADBEAT, is NOT ONE OF THEM.

If someone stiffs me, costs me fees, doesn't pay, it should be made PUBLIC.

That -is- TRANSPARENCY. It's a word you like to toss around a lot, but you have no idea what the meaning of it is.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: tula

Fri Jun 20 16:16:24 2008

I have supported one-way feedback from the beginning.  I still support it.  No other major retail sites have buyer ratings and this fits with that model.  I think anything that makes it easier and more welcoming to buyers is a good thing (unless it causes undue harm to sellers)

HOWEVER... I don't like the heavy financial consequences eBay is placing on the feedback a seller receives.  I don't like neutral = negative, especially retroactively.  

I don't like the black & white approach to seller "non-performance" - it leaves no room for the random psycho buyer or occasional error. Neither do I like the unknowns in how they determine non-performance, like, where people meet their DSR levels but don't qualify because of some other random factor, like getting too many 1 and 2 star DSRs - things that have not been disclosed to us.

I also think that no buyer should be able to leave a feedback unless they have paid for an item and waited a reasonable time for it to arrive.  Those who haven't paid for their purchase can hardly post a factual rating on delivery times or condition.

The comments from the USPS rep are chilling.  I'm not sure I understand why heavy mail users would push for something like this.  You'd think they would want as much delivery capability as possible to get their items in front of consumers.  I'm probably missing something here.  I suppose it would save on costs, but I hate the thought of junk mailers curtailing a service that I need simply so they can make more money.

I do like the suggestion to average the DSRs.  When even those offering free shipping have less than 5 stars for shipping costs, you know something isn't working right.

That's my $0.02, so far.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Amanda

Fri Jun 20 16:16:48 2008

''The rate of decline in the growth of buyers…it was ripe for buyers going other places..''

It also is ripe for sellers to go other places, as well.

Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session   Live Blogging from the eBay Live Feedback Session

by: Tim Grace

Fri Jun 20 16:25:31 2008

If I don't pay my ebays fee's I can't sell on ebays site. So why do you let deadbets get away with not paying when they win an auction ,an un paid strike means nothing plus they can leave neg feedback for me.Of all the problems with ebay this is one of the worst

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