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Tue Sept 3 2013 14:26:30

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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One would think an item's condition would be pretty straightforward. For most products, on eBay anyway, they are either New, NWOT (New Without Tags), or Used (Pre-owned). On Amazon, they can also frequently be Collectible. But there seems to be confusion or perhaps unawareness on the part of some sellers about whether items in a given category meet the specific criteria for a given condition.

For example, in the Books category on Amazon, where it all began for that company, there are specific condition guidelines that include Acceptable, Good, Very Good, Like New, New, and Collectible. But in an Amazon seller community thread titled "Most frequently broken condition guideline," sellers were complaining that they had frequently seen the guidelines broken.

"As I list more books, I am truly amazed by the number of sellers who explicitly break the guidelines," wrote one seller. They clarified with, "I mean the ones in which the condition comment field lists damage that does not match the condition," and said the "most common one that I see is minor writing on a VG (Very Good) book."

But another seller pointed out that while Amazon's condition guideline for "Used - Very Good" is "Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged," they did not think Amazon should use the word "marred" there. "I don't consider a book with a small amount of writing (for example, minor pencil margin notes or underlining on one page) to be a "marred" book," they wrote. (Mar: "To inflict damage, especially disfiguring damage, on."). They thought that "if Amazon means no writing, they should say "no writing." But they don't."

But what about a book that is in what would otherwise be considered "very good" condition, even pristine condition, and the owner has written his or her name in pencil or pen? One seller said an Amazon rep "once told me that a previous owner's name on the flyleaf page was okay and a book could still be listed as "Very Good" as long as the text itself had no writing." They added, "I wish the Amazon answer person would clarify this."

In terms of more clear instances of breaking condition guidelines, the list included:

-  Books listed as "New" with comments like "may contain some highlighting".
- "Collectible" books that don't meet any criteria for "collectible," i.e. "300 other people are selling the book & the "collectible" has no salient characteristics."
- "Collectible" games - a seller reports they see these guidelines broken; note; the "General Condition Guidelines do not apply to Collectible Toys & Games," according to Amazon's Condition Guidelines page.

The seller said they had some items with box damage and weren't aware they could list them as collectible; Amazons's Collectible Toys & Games policy does allow for some signs of wear in the "Collectible: Very Good" and "Good" categories.

The guideline for a "Collectible - Good" toy or game on Amazon is: "Item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition. The original instructions are included and in acceptable condition. The item may be marked, identified, or show other signs of previous use. The item works perfectly and is in good shape  overall."

Confusion about item condition issues are not limited to Amazon, either. Some eBay sellers were confused about whether the Cassini search indexed the words in the item condition box (assuming there were any), and not just the condition Item Specific attribute itself.

How about you? Have you ever been unsure about an Item Condition specific and whether your item qualified for the letter or spirit of it? Do you see other sellers breaking the item specifics rules on whatever site(s) you sell on, and which? Post a comment here!

Comments (14) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Tue Sep 3 17:58:04 2013

Most of the time when I buy used books on eBay they are given the ''acceptable'' rating. When I get them they are near perfect condition.
Since so many under-rate their books, I surmise they do it for good reason.

So, the occasional times I sell my read 1x books, they are deemed ''acceptable''.  Haven't had any complaints.

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

by: booklover27 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 20:46:38 2013

Hi Julia,

It's almost laughable to see where book grading has landed.  The "Mall" management now dictates how booksellers should grade their books.  The ABA standards went out the door and we use this pathetic grading system for rare books and manuscripts, as well as for modern first editions and so on...Meanwhile book stores have been wiped off the face of the earth and the few true booksellers left selling on the internet have to deal with the large ecommerce sites that basically abuse them.  I would say there are bigger issues than the crappy grading system forced upon us...

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Sep 3 23:59:07 2013

Back in the days when I sold books exclusively I remember a discussion on how many times a book can be read and still listed as NEW! Some book sellers had no problems reading a new book and still declaring it new, sometimes reading it by several people and still declaring it new. I couldn't understand that logic. I would much rather see them say very good, read once.

I once got all my money back on a book that was claimed to be in very good condition and was 1/10th the price of the other 2-3 books listed. When I got it, the cover (delicate paper as it was an old book) was ripped in half, not what I would call very good so I wrote the seller. I didn't ask for my money back since I knew I got a real bargain but felt he needed to know what was coming out of his store and that the cover should have been mentioned in his listing. He refunded me in full as he agreed that a book with the cover ripped in half was at most acceptable.

There will always be problems with grading books. I'm just glad that eventually Amazon got wise enough to make collectible books a minimum price as I never could understand pricing one for less than a dollar--what is collectible about that? And then there are those that do not add any description to their goods so you have no idea why they marked something collectible or a 60-70 year old book as new. So yes it is confusing, but with books as with everything else sold on line, there will always be those that don't care if they are ripping people off or not following guidelines.

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Wed Sep 4 06:05:02 2013

50% of the things I purchase on Ebay are broken. Good thing I know how to repair.
When I see something I want on Ebay, the first thought is "What's wrong with it ? ". The second thought : "Sure it's new, but china makes garbage."
BUT > I've NEVER had an issue with things purchased elsewhere.

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Sep 4 07:39:45 2013

Like The End has experienced, I notice spurts where 3-4 purchases in a row have significant issues that were not described. It is frustrating & makes me hesitate about buying after it happens.

Clothing is also a category where ''used'' needs further explanation.

''used'' can run the gamut of being undistinguishable from new. Or it can be stained, smelling of smoke, torn, flawed etc…

Most used clothing falls somewhere in the middle - Has been worn & laundered, doesn't show much wear & has no flaws - quite wearable with a good amount of life left.

A big pet peeve is some sellers, likely inexperienced, seem to think that simply calling it ''used'' covers the description of the garment. Wrong!

Seriously, dontcha think buyers might want to know how much time they will be spending on stain removal or seam repair BEFORE they bid?

Scenario:  Receive an item with a significant spot or tear. Email the seller & their response is: ''Well I said it was used!''.  Grrrrrr.  

The condition field is perfect to describe any flaws, smells, stains, etc…. Good for the buyer AND can help protect the seller in INAD claims.

Many pre-owned clothing sellers screen their clothing & try to avoid items with any issues. There are some exceptions in collectable clothing that if issue is described properly, photo'd & described, the item will still sell - but just  not for top dollar.  

ALWAYS better to point out any item flaws, clothing or otherwise.

PS - the worst book I ever received was from Amazon. The condition should have read ''from hell''.  

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Sep 4 08:45:50 2013

I think one of the problems is that "item condition" can be subjective.  One person's "acceptable" might be another's "not acceptable".

I think that the best a seller can do is to describe the item in worse condition that it actually is.   When a great item is in really poor condition we simply sell it and include these words in the listing title-- "for parts".

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 4 09:05:55 2013

I really dislike the condition ''new'' is marked. Then in the seller description states used only one semester. If you purchase an item  a book, stereo, car, and you read the book, play the stereo, drive the car - it is NOT new. By law, once you sign a purchase agreement for a car. you do not even have to turn the key and it is classified as used.
Obvious a lot of sellers want to make a fast buck and just hope it doesn't come back to bite them in the ---.
The picture of the red book in this article I would not even classify as acceptable.
Same applies to a ''new'' cd that has no shrink wrap etc.. Still classified as new???? Which means Amazon ebay or others, you can buy a new cd open, play copy burn to computer, then resell it as new?? That in my opinion is wrong. I have been screwed more than once where item doesn't match description. Great that you get your money back - but do you ?  Time and cost to send back. Plus time to order another etc etc etc. Inquired about a camera that was stated ''new''. New because used only for the vacation trip last year.??? Inquired if everything was in working order. - response - was last time we used it. Also, no manual, box, cd, or power cord.?? New - right...
This is also the reason why I will never purchase am item out of the USA. Not as described or broken - try to return - cost way tooooo much to return. IF you leave a neg - then you get jumped on because returns were accepted but you didn't return.
Why doesn't Amazon and ebay force to have where item is being shipped from, etc...
This is a very touchy subject for me.  

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 4 09:25:39 2013

I agree with Basset about the clothing (which i sell, well very little of, on Ebay). if the item isn't NWT or NWOT, i used to include EUC or GUC in the title. (now it's in the listing description since apparently most new buyers don't know that it stands for Excellent Used Condition and Good Used Condition).

i rated the item EUC if there were no flaws, stains, tears, smells (i wouldn't sell clothing that smelled anyway), pilling, etc. GUC for items that might have some general wear. if a flaw or stain and i still chose to sell it, i always provide a photo of the flaw.

I started listing all pre-owned clothing that had bead accents on it as GUC with a disclaimer that ''some beads may be missing.'' because, yes, i had a buyer essentially ask me to COUNT the number of beads and tell them how many were missing.......

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

by: Tom This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 4 11:35:09 2013

I've had many disappointing purchases, both eBay and amazon, in media categories (both books and music). Sellers do tend to inflate quality. I've bought "new" CDs on amazon that had a couple minor scratches and appeared to have been resealed (shrinkwrap equipment is not that hard to come by), but the seller insisted it was brand new. Amazon gave me a refund anyway when I complained, and I got to keep the "used" CD, but my understanding is that amazon sometimes dumps customers who complain too frequently.

As a seller myself, I have bought new, sealed CDs in music stores that sell both new and used CDs, sold the sealed CD as new on eBay, and then been told by a buyer that it was not new but had been resealed. Clearly I am not going to unseal a still-sealed CD just to verify that it is in mint condition before I list it for sale as "new"!  What can one do in such a situation?

On the other hand, I've browsed the "new" books at my local Barnes & Noble--books that have been examined by other customers besides myself, and have minor dogears or dings on the cover or a coffee stain on one page, and I would think that that book, even by legal definition, would still be "new."

This whole matter of defining condition needs more serious attention from online retailers, because I understand that customers have a reasonable expectation that items match the condition description. When I buy something that is "new," I do expect it to be unused and in mint condition, and still-sealed if it's music or a movie.

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 4 12:18:56 2013

@BASSETT----I am sure Ina could hook us up--I DO sell very nice and accuratly described clothing on ebay!  

What do you need???

I too have my issues tho with the way some describe things---or the rather inflated expectations of some buyers.  I DO feel that used does mean that you might see some wear--and it is up to the lister to both show and describe this--the whole "Our pictures tell the story"  is not exactly what I had in mind as often I can't FIND the alleged flaw in the pics because the pics are not that good.  I also had one person buy a pair of leather in-soled kids clogs and complain that these USED shoes had--foot marks inside!  Really?   Who woulda thought?  And these minor and completely EXPECTED condition marks were clearly shown!  Now I would make a bigger deal over this sort of thing but--I have sold hundreds pf pairs of used shoes.  And NEVER have I been taken to task for NORMAL wear marks.  This person just wanted a free pair of spendy imported Euro shoes.  I actually looked at her more recent FB lately and she has bought nothing over $2 in the 11 months since she negged me!   And even offering her a return and refund BTW got me nowhere--so THAT tells you a lot right there.  

But--when I list I go over every seam;  pocket; astonishing how often I find money etc in pockets--and drugs---hem;  collar; zips work;  buttons on--and I do the repair and NO I don't consider that a flaw they are getting something in BETTER condition this way---I treat and launder and have spent hours on some of these.  Do I get this time value back?  Well--ONLY if my items can be SEEN on ebay!!!!!  Would I try and sell a laundered or repaired item as NEW?  Heck no!  And would I be peeved if I bought something described like this???  YEP!  

I have spent years educating myself on the brands and features of the items I sell---whether that be jewelry or sportswear--and how to know if the item is WORTH it.  I do expect that a buyer knows what to ASK if they have a particular need or want---too often we find this out after the fact.  "Oh the item was GREEN?  I really  WANTED purple.  And a  DIFFERENT size And could you make it longer shorter wider and maybe remove the stripes????"   Yeah there really ARE those kinda PITA buyers--and ebay sponsors them.

And some seem to feel that if you don't happen to have their size or color in your vast warehouse of all items---then YOU are the deadbeat!  USED is pretty much OOAK and if I have ONE pair of Ralph Lauren pants--I probably DON'T have the exact same thing in a different color or size! And you don't get to YELL at me for this! Even Ralph sells out of things!

Makes my head ache.  

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Sep 4 13:43:09 2013

Comet, I think we are cut from the same clothes - er, cloth!

I spend a lot of time on the activities you name - stain removal, repair, button replacement, etc… Stuff the buyer never is aware of when they email with a lowball offer.

I liken that to customers asking fast food workers to take a cut in pay so the price of french fries can be cheaper for them. Sure.

BTW - You may already have something that works, but I recently discovered the wonders of Vodka! Cheap vodka works great as a SPRAY  refresher for Uggs shearling, shoes & insoles that can stand a bit of wetness. Clothing spray, too - although I already have a ton of hunters scent remover spray for clothing that needs it.

I tested it on my own clothes & shoes. I'm sold on it.

Also, a la ''My Big Fat Greek Wedding's'' windex, It works wonders for mosquito bites & Lord knows what else. Oh, and I've sprayed the dog with it too. Flea prevention & refreshing smell. I just don't drink it.

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Fri Sep 6 08:57:58 2013

"hunters scent remover"?

Is that the brand name? Where can I find it.

We have 3 beagles & my wife is getting a little tired of their "odeur de body" & the new-age stuff she uses makes me gag.

Appreciation given in advance.

PS. If I have to go into a sporting goods store, do I have to wear camouflage socks with my camo shorts?  

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Fri Sep 6 10:54:53 2013

Different brands available - depending on where you live it may be a seasonal item, mostly during deer season. Who knew their noses were so sensitive!

Walmart (hunting department), Dicks Sporting Goods, Bass Pro, internet - some of the places we've found it.

The brand I have now is called Scent-A-Way, a laundry detergent. Another detergent is Sport-Wash by Atsko. A good spray on scent remover is Zorb. And, of course, cheap vodka.

On detergents, read the bottle before you buy. Since they are meant for hunting garments, some of them leave a sheen on the fabric. The brands I've mentioned above are sheen-less.

I don't know about the camo-sox, but an ear-flap Elmer Fudd style  hunting hat is quite fetching.  

Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?   Are Item Condition Guidelines Confusing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Fri Sep 6 19:14:55 2013

I'm seeing more and more listings with little or no descriptions on both eBay and Amazon. It might not be so bad if the pictures were really good, but most of these have just basic catalog pics (for used items? really?) or poor quality photos. A discussion I saw elsewhere had some sellers claiming that people searching for their item already know all about it and don't need descriptions. I disagree. I think it's lazy and unprofessional not to describe an item fully, especially when it's used. You don't need to write a novel, but a few item specifics and a vague condition like "good" really aren't enough. It's this kind of listing that makes the rest of us sellers look bad and turns people off of buying from anyone but the big boys.

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