Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri Mar 16 2012 12:01:19

eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

By: Ina Steiner

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One of the biggest pet peeves I hear from buyers is the inability to ask certain eBay sellers a question. A buyer who writes to me regularly wrote today to say he encountered an eBay listing for a $550 camera lens. "Well, isn't this cute - Seller has ONE item listed, has feedback for 7 sales over the past year - and a buyer can't contact them to clarify condition? Pass this foolishness along to the new eBay guy!"

He wrote back after contacting eBay and said a customer service agent confirmed that the seller had blocked questions.

eBay began allowing sellers to change their settings to block shoppers from asking questions a few years ago in response to higher-volume sellers who did not want to get bogged down corresponding with eBay shoppers. The following screenshot explains the process for asking sellers questions and states, "Note: Not all sellers accept questions before you buy an item, but all sellers accept questions after you've bought an item."



When you go through the "Ask a Question" process for one of these sellers, if their FAQs don't answer your question, you receive the following message:

"We're sorry we couldn't find an answer for you. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of messages this seller receives, they are unable to respond to your specific question right now. We suggest reviewing the item again to see if your answer is in the seller's listing."

The buyer who contacted me wrote, "First, the "High Volume ..." is dishonest and misleading. Nice lady (the eBay rep) says more and more sellers use it and doesn't think most eBay buyers mind the block. When I suggested an auto bold red insert in the listing "This Seller Does Not Accept Inquiries" she thought that might hurt sales."

I receive buyer emails like his periodically. If you're an eBay seller who blocks questions from shoppers, could this be hurting your sales without you realizing it?

Is it a bad buying experience if you can't ask a seller a question, and are sellers who do accept questions from shoppers hurt by those who don't? Is this so very different from policies on other marketplaces? Let us know where you stand, as a buyer and as a seller.




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Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Fri Mar 16 12:40:37 2012

For my situation, I don't block communication from potential buyers. My exposure on eBay is minimal, so even the occasional repetitive ''dumb question'' (you know... the ones requesting information that's easily available to someone who reads the first paragraph of the listing) don't take up too much of my time.

Although I can understand how having a LOT of questions could be a tedious and time-consuming task, for me, it's also a good way to get an early indicator for potentially troublesome buyers. (eg: scammers, chronic complainers, or unable to tie their own shoelaces) When I suspect there's going to be trouble, I'll quietly block.

For the other legitimate questions...they often turn into sales. They frequently turn into off-eBay sales! :o) AND... in the beginning, the questions helped me to fine-tune and improve the amount of information (and the clarity of information) contained in my listings.

It doesn't always work to my advantage. Sometimes my early-warning radar isn't as fine-tuned as it ought to be, and troublesome buyers still sneak through. But on occasion, I feel that I've made the right choice to block.

Ina asks: ''Is it a bad buying experience if you can't ask a seller a question, and are sellers who do accept questions from shoppers hurt by those who don't?''

It doesn't seem to have hurt Amazon sellers. (Unless there's a secret ''ask-seller-a-question'' link at Amazon that I've overlooked.)

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: 10 year seller This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 16 12:45:51 2012

Even though I buy a lot on Amazon , I often pass on certain items that don't have enough info, such as size or ingredients.
Some eBAy sellers who are ''just too busy to answer questions from stupid buyers,''
will someday, when they lose out to competitors who aren't so cock sure of their continued success,  wish there were more questions from interested buyers, dumb or not.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Fri Mar 16 13:24:54 2012

I welcome questions, even questions that could be answered if the buyer would simply read the description in the listing.

Many times, a buyers question has alerted me to details left out of my listing and afforded me the opportunity to improve my listing details.

I would rather resolve a buyers question before a sale and avoid the hassles and expense of accepting returns.

The ability to turn off pre sale questions was indeed done to accommodate John Donahoe's preferred class of Diamond Sellers. Big sellers can not be bothered with pre sale questions and would rather accept returns than provide proper customer service.I believe that the accommodation was a miscalculation on eBay's part as part of a tradeoff to persuade big retailers to come aboard.

Allowing sellers of any size to block pre sale questions frustrates potential buyers, leads to increased return rates, negative feedback, or Low DSR scores hidden behind soft positive feedback.

The fact that this was done to accommodate big sellers illustrates how eBay contributed to their own demise in making concessions to accommodate Diamond Sellers.


Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 16 13:34:17 2012

One of the worst things a seller can do is cut himself off from a potential buyer.  That's downright foolish...or suspicious!

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 16 13:36:05 2012

@10 year seller....Amazon sellers seem famous for not giving out all the details on their items.  I was thinking of buying a footstool from them and couldn't find the size anywhere. Lucky one of the people who bought and reviewed the item thought to put the dimensions in her review!  That's really poor work on the part of that seller!

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
Web Site

Fri Mar 16 14:31:47 2012

@Anonymous Annie
>>>Unless there's a secret ''ask-seller-a-question'' link at Amazon that I've overlooked...

There is :)  But it's not obvious.    From the item page, when you click through to check out the list of sellers that are offering that item, click on any  sellers name.  It's a link to their profile page, and waaaaayyyyy down at the bottom on the right, there is a 'contact the seller' link.  It opens a form pre-populated with the item name.  And the email is anonymized.

Amazon sellers get timed as to how fast they answer a buyers question.  So you will most likely get some sort of response.
Even if it's to say 'thank you' they will answer 'you're welcome' so the contact is not left open or unanswered.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 16 14:32:11 2012

I don't block buyers from asking a question. BUT  if the moron is to lazy to read the ENTIRE description and asks a question that the answer is in the description I won't answer.

To many of these morons ask the stupid questions like what color is it when all they have to do is read the title or description.

If that makes the buyer upset well he can just buy from someone else. I'm busy enough with the buyers who can and do read.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Fri Mar 16 16:14:22 2012

@BetterThingsToDo,

"to lazy", "To many" of these morons ...

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 16 16:59:00 2012

Some of these buyers... Well, you really have to wonder how they can function in this world at all.  And while I frequently wonder how anyone can be that stupid, blocking all of the questions seems dumb too.  Answer the stupid questions (or ignore them/block them as needed), learn from the valid ones, and provide good customer service and many will follow you wherever you sell.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Mar 16 18:36:48 2012

While I don't block buyer questions, most of the time I'd like to. More than 90% of them are either answered in the item description which many buyers are too lazy to read courtesy of ebafia's encouragement of bad behavior, are offers which are cloearly not stated not accepted, or they have nothing whatsoever to do with the item.

For all we know, the percentage of questions we answer or don't answer and the speed questions are answered could be one of ebafia's double secret algorithms.

Buyers who are too lazy to read product descriptions are also likely to be too lazy to read the star definitions, tracking information, and expected arrival times.

This kind of lazy or semi literate buyer represents a far greater danger to your TSR status and star ratings than those who don't send questions of this nature.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

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

Fri Mar 16 18:49:39 2012

Let us bifurcate!

Chinese crap-o-la, mass marketed widgets, Fruit-of-the-Loom medium sized blue boxer shorts - who needs more information?

Collectibles, antiques, industrial parts and the like? If you don't answer even the most stoopid (Hi Philip) question, you could lose a sale. No question is stupid, only the answer.

Peace, love & Firesign Theatre

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: dans parts This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 16 22:07:48 2012

@ming - That's exactly how I view Buyers who ask stupid questions.  My very first thought is whether to block them to prevent damage down the line.  Stupid questions give an insight into the person's thought processes - not always a pleasant thing to see.

That said, people who do ask a question that turns out to be something I should have included in the description are always sure to get a big thank-you from me.

@Patricia ''That's downright foolish...or suspicious!''  Also brings to mind Buyers/Sellers with Private Feedback...

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Fri Mar 16 22:14:39 2012

Regrettably, Donahoe's preferred sellers don't want any questions and so it naturally follows that his preferred buyers will not want to ask any questions.

This is simply another demonstration of the fact that ultimately used or collectible goods are not wanted on the eBay marketplace. It’s being moved towards being a new product mall.

But, when you consider that the eBay marketplace has been stagnant since this turkey took the helm, and that all the new national brand merchants that he has brought on board have done no more than fill the hole caused by the departure of an equal amount of business from sellers, sellers that actually helped make eBay what it used to be, it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that this man is a fool.

As Meg said, even a monkey could have driven this train. How come then that she handed the driver’s job to this headless turkey?

And as for the latest stuff from eBay, PayPal at Home Depot, the PayPal Debit MasterCard and PayPal Here, etc, this is all clunky stuff straight out of the rabbit hole from Wonderland.
 
eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Sat Mar 17 08:39:42 2012

Have not purchased anything on eBay since February 2008 but I found that asking sellers a "stupid" question for items that cost more than a fancy cup of coffee would often provide a good indication of seller attitude if/or when the purchase might go South....

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

by: lamplady This user has validated their user name.

Sat Mar 17 15:04:51 2012

I have had another problem asking questions for the last couple of months and have not solved it yet. I can't ask a seller a question using Firefox. I type in the required number but it does not send the question just tells me incorrect number when it isn't. I can ask using IE and it works.  

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Mar 17 16:07:30 2012

Purchases that "go south" are covered by PayPal Buyer Protection so that is NO reason to take up a seller's time asking a stupid question to gauge seller "attitude."

Stupid questions allow sellers to gauge buyer "attitude" from which there is little or no protection.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

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

Sat Mar 17 17:15:28 2012

@lamplady

Firefox works for me just fine.

It may be a plug-in which causes problems.

The most sure way is to be at the latest version or uninstall/re-install it.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

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

Sat Mar 17 17:20:25 2012

Hey Philip:

You might have the answer. You say there are more national brand merchants replacing the old time sellers who got sent off-world.

Has the newer sellers per-unit sale matched the older sellers per-unit sale amount, - and - , are the overall dollar amounts the same.

The shovel more crap out, but make it up on volume. But the Diamonds pay less per listing & most likely less per sale.

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sat Mar 17 17:31:55 2012

@Nan... Thank you!

Perminate Link for eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question   eBay Buyers Pet Peeve: Can't Ask Seller a Question

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sat Mar 17 17:34:55 2012

@Lamplady...

I agree with Al G, it might be a plug-in issue. I had an ad-blocker plugin that was a bit over-aggressive on some things and it ended up blocking web page functionality that I actually wanted to use (and that was not an ad).

Try turning off any ad-blockers, or tweaking your ad-blocker to be less aggressive.

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