Numerous eBay sellers have reported seeing their status change for the poorer in a span of several days on and around May 20, 2011, and I wondered if eBay had decided to crack down on sellers in May.
Some sellers saw their status drop from Above Standard to Standard due to a new eBay policy, and other sellers reported a drop in seller standards or change in PowerSeller/TRS status due to a fall in transaction volume. Other sellers found eBay began placing restrictions on their accounts, and one seller said eBay's Trust & Safety had manually placed restrictions on their account for unknown reasons.
Selling on eBay has gotten complicated, but what's clear is that eBay is relying heavily on DSR feedback ratings in order to make decisions about sellers that impact their exposure in search, their seller fees, and how many items they can list.
eBay classifies sellers using two programs: PowerSeller status (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium) and Global Seller Standards (eBay Top Rated Sellers, Above Standard, Standard - which is new, and Below Standard).
I asked eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff if eBay had made any changes with regard to Powerseller and/or TRS status aside from the new global standards. She said:
"We changed to the 100 transaction/$3,000 GMV requirement in April 2010. (http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/Details/index.html#1-2.)
More broadly, since the launch of Top-rated seller status for PowerSellers, there had been inconsistencies in the way eBay evaluated sellers, such as focusing on Transactions requirements for the Bronze level, but maintaining Sold Item requirements for higher tiers.
So, starting May 18 (2011), PowerSeller criteria has been changed to simplify the program and make it easier for sellers to understand and track.
- Removing the 100 Feedback since PowerSellers must already have 100 transactions to qualify
- Changing Sold Items requirements for Silver, Gold, Titanium, and Platinum levels to Transactions requirements, as Bronze requires 100 Transactions
- Removing the three-month GMV and Transactions criteria and using only the 12-month GMV and Transactions criteria
It's important to note that no sellers lost their status during the change. Some sellers switched tiers inside the PowerSeller program (Silver to Bronze for instance) but benefits aren't linked to tiers in the U.S."
I asked her for clarification on the second bullet point, and she replied, "We have made requirements for Silver, Gold, Titanium and Platinum levels consistent with the requirement for Bronze level they are now transaction-based, as opposed to sold items-based."
Johnna provided additional information about the new Global Seller Standards:
"As part of our Seller Release in March, terminology around standards was aligned globally. (Previously, the U.S. didn't have Standard level in the dashboard.) The update impacted only a certain population of sellers, and no seller lost eTRS status as a result, so we included the information in an FAQ that was part of the spring (2011) announcement: http://pages.ebay.com/sellerinformation/news/globalstandards.html.
I want to especially highlight that whether sellers have an "Above Standard" or "Standard" performance rating, they are meeting eBay's minimum selling standards and are in good standing. There are no consequences for moving from Above Standard to Standard.
Q. What is the difference between Standard and Above Standard seller performance?
A. If you look at the Global standards preview in your dashboard right now, you may notice the addition of the "Standard" performance level. This will be coming to the main dashboard in May for US, UK, Germany and Global standards.
Both Above Standard and Standard seller performance levels have the same requirements for the rates or counts of 1s and 2s on DSRs. However, Above Standard also requires a minimum average DSR of 4.60 across all four DSRs, as well as 100 or more transactions over the past 12 months. Whether you have an "Above Standard" or "Standard" performance rating, you are meeting eBay's minimum selling standards and are in good standing. There are no consequences for moving from Above Standard to Standard."
eBay has been raising the bar for sellers, which on the surface sounds commendable. Two of the obvious drawbacks is that low-volume sellers can not become Top Rated, no matter how many years they've been selling on eBay (as of April 2010, you must have 100 transactions AND $3,000 in sales over the previous 12 months from U.S. buyers only). The other is eBay's reliance on anonymous DSR ratings, which is troublesome since eBay has yet to find a way to rid the site of bad buyer behavior.
Sellers have also been reporting within the last week new restrictions on their accounts - see some recent letters from seller on the AuctionBytes Letters to the Editor blog, for example.
An AuctionBytes reader has an explanation for why Powerseller status and TRS status change complaints seem to arise around the same time:
"What I have documented is that feedback updates on a daily basis, but DSR counts are frozen from the 1st or 2nd of the month through about the 20th or 21st of the month. After that, DSRs update on a daily basis until the end of the month. Once the first on the following month rolls around, DSR counts are frozen again.
"I believe eBay did this so that sellers would find it more difficult to run reports and get granular transactional details by lumping 20 days of DSR scores together and posting them in a lump sum. This creates a sudden change in status when a sellers monthly evaluation takes place and the effected sellers are taken by surprise by a bunch of low scores which might have appeared all at once. Sellers are led to believe dashboard is updated daily when in fact only feedback is updated on a daily basis."
It's not only low- to medium-volume sellers who are running into eBay's into issues with seller standards and account restrictions. A high volume seller told AuctionBytes Trust & Safety manually downgraded their account. The seller said they were told it's been happening to other top accounts as well.
The seller says the account has not seen any increase in buyer complaints, but because eBay downgraded their account's Global Seller Standards status, sales have plummeted due to less exposure in search results.
"Regardless of whether you meet the performance standards that eBay has set in place, they can manually descore you, and that scares the hell out of me," the seller told me.
Leave a comment and let us know if you're experiencing any of these issues.
I found this chart helpful in reviewing some of the changes eBay has made to the PowerSeller program since October 2009.