Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri May 25 2012 15:10:32

eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

By: Ina Steiner

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A reader sent me an email they received from eBay last week, and it was interesting to see what advice eBay offered her. While many users separate their accounts, this reader buys and sells using the same eBay ID - but this letter was clearly addressing her as a buyer.

Dear (user name),
To keep eBay a trustworthy place for all members, we regularly review accounts to make sure members are following eBay policies.

In reviewing your account, we noticed that you've been buying items and wanted to provide some tips to help improve your eBay shopping experience.

Here are some tips to help improve your shopping experience:
-- Before leaving Feedback, sellers would like to hear from you and have the chance to resolve issues before you leave Feedback.

-- Communicate with your seller. If you have a problem with an item, be sure to contact the seller first and try to work things out. You can do this by clicking the "Ask a question" link in the listing.

-- Reduce the number of claims you may have by reading the description fully and asking relevant questions before you purchase the item.

-- Be aware of shipping time. You have 45 days from when you paid to open a case. Please check the estimated delivery date found on the "Order details" page. If no estimated delivery date was given, wait until 7 days have passed after payment.

-- Items shipped internationally take longer to arrive. Not only do they need to travel farther, but they must clear customs when they arrive in the country.

No changes have been made to your account at this time. However, if your account develops a pattern of leaving a large amount of negative comments, or claims and refund requests, then you could be removed from the eBay Buyer Protection, program, or no longer able to buy items, or be suspended from eBay.

For more tips on buying, go to:
http://pages.ebay.com/help/buy/basics.html

Thanks,
eBay

The first three bullets emphasize that the buyer should contact her sellers. Many sellers think this is good advice so they have the opportunity to satisfy the buyer. But it also seems to fly in the face of a brand new policy eBay instituted this year in which it rewards sellers for not having any communication between them and their buyers.

"Most transactions on eBay go smoothly for buyers and sellers without any need for contact at all. Starting in April, you’ll get an automatic 5-star DSR for Communication for these transactions when you specify 1-day handling time, upload tracking information by the end of the next business day, and there is no communication between you and the buyer."

eBay also allows sellers to block questions from shoppers, something I've received complaints about from buyers.

The letter eBay sent the buyer also included a warning about leaving negative feedback: "if your account develops a pattern of leaving a large amount of negative comments, or claims and refund requests, then you could be removed from the eBay Buyer Protection, program, or no longer able to buy items, or be suspended from eBay."

I looked at the user's account, and she hadn't been leaving negative or neutral feedback for her trading partners, so it's not clear what prompted eBay to send this email.

What do you think of the letter, and does it send the right message to buyers?




Comments (45) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: This a joke, right? This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 25 15:40:18 2012

I like the letter but at the bottom they should put in bold, all caps "REMEMBER, Your seller knows your address" :>)

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

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

Fri May 25 16:15:12 2012

I am sick and tired of eBay buyers e-mailing me lowball offers via eBay's message system. I use eBay fixed price listings to sell mostly unique items. I know what I want to get for them. If I want to lower the price, I'll lower it. Every description states in all caps, sometimes bold, "OFFERS LESS THAN THE ASKING PRICE WILL BE IGNORED (AND ACCOUNT BLOCKED AT MY DISCRETION)." Yet I get these offers constantly and many are insulting low. If I wanted offers, I would accept Best Offers! And I wouldn't put this in my description! I have blocked dozens of buyers because of this. If you can't read my description or don't respect my policy, I don't need your business.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Fri May 25 17:39:32 2012

On the face of it, the letter sound like good advice. Maybe the "feedback lawsuit" by a seller has made them a bit pro-active. Once again, my suggestion for eBay would be to have the "contact seller" link be unable to miss, both at the top and at the bottom.

I send my buyers enough after-sale communication about how to contact me that I am almost always contacted directly by the buyer when they encounter an issue.  

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

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

Fri May 25 18:17:58 2012

Yes, it sends the right message. But I wonder why it took so LONG before eBay decided to address the issue.

-- Is eBay feeling the pressure from too many sellers abandoning eBay because of eBay's pro-shoplifter ''get-free-stuff-here'' policies?

-- Are honest buyers becoming too frightened when sellers feel compelled erect a defensive FORTRESS of aggressive terms-of-sale?

-- Are honest buyers frustrated when sellers have been manipulated (for lack of a better word) into literally ISOLATING themselves by shutting-down communication?

-- Are new, novice, inquisitive buyers deciding to shop elsewhere when (justifiably) paranoid and cautious sellers are automatically blocking EVERY buyer who asks a ''dumb question''... or appears to have even the *remotest* possibility of being a ''PITA''?

For YEARS, eBay has been sticking-it to the honest and hard-working small seller. The venue suffered as those sellers were driven out of business... causing eBay to lose its identity... the very thing that made it fun and special.

At first glance, these seem to be a positive gesture. But, in my opinion, they sound more like polite suggestions rather than any sort of official policy or a TRUE change in the way eBay treats sellers.

I'm not ungrateful for the gesture, but I remain skeptical of eBay's commitment. Words are cheap. Ultimately it will be eBay's actions that matter. They've written the words... now I'll WATCH to see if there is any meaningful action to back them up.

At this point, this is an email... and those who receive it will have forgotten all about it by this time next week.

Feast heartily on the crumbs everyone!

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: innerpuppie This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 25 19:22:07 2012

Uhm, I think that letter is standard issue to buyers who leave negative comments (two or more) within a specific time period. How do I know? About a year ago I had two horrible purchases on eBay and left appropriate feedback AFTER communicating with the seller and trying everything imaginable to 'make the sale right'. What happened? I was sent the wrong color and the seller wouldn't believe me - go figure. In the second instance, the item arrived used and not new. Anyway the letter in question is standard and sent out routinely to buyers who leave more than one negative comment within a fairly close time period.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 25 20:13:43 2012

Annie said:
>-- Is eBay feeling the pressure from too many sellers abandoning eBay because of eBay's pro-shoplifter ''get-free-stuff-here'' policies?

I don't know about that but Griff told me in email that buyers were ''leaving in droves''.  I sure have few buyers anymore.  Almost none.

>-- Are new, novice, inquisitive buyers deciding to shop elsewhere when (justifiably) paranoid and cautious sellers are automatically blocking EVERY buyer who asks a ''dumb question''... or appears to have even the *remotest* possibility of being a ''PITA''?

I sure do, it's obviously in my best interest to not sell rather than sell to someone who might be trouble and cost me 10s of thousands of dollars. I sell something for $50 and the low DSRs and FB follow me and affect my sales for a year?  For $50?  Geez!

I suspect eBay sends that letter out to buyers who leave too many negs in a short period, like innerpuppie said.  But the system they have made is untenable, unsustainable and cannot result in selling success.  We used to be very happy with eBay, thrilled.  10 years ago you could put things on eBay and they would *all* sell and for good prices too.

Now, the sell through rate is very low.  
Sales are very low.
Prices unreasonably low.  
Buyer & eBay demands unreasonable.
Complaints about shipping every day!  Even if we are losing money on shipping.  
It's just not so happy anymore.  

I don't think eBay has it in them to fix it.  They are just in way over their heads and have no idea how important it is going to be to their future to have happy sellers who are making money.  Our future too.  

Without profits there will be nothing for sale on eBay but the $1.99 Chinese cellphone chargers with free shipping  from HK. That in itself doesn't seem profitable to me but you know those guys stuck in Red China have to get their stuff to the US at all costs, that's where the money is.  Even if it's not much money!

There may be a new venue emerge to take eBay's place, like Facebook came along and Myspace was dead overnight.

I hope to be working on that one.  

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 25 20:22:19 2012

It's getting to worry me more and more about how eBay is getting to be a bad environment.

This weird message about buyer protection, that is quite troubling.

http://pages.ebay.com/coverage/index.html

10 years ago we used to remark how *nice* everyone was!  Now, everyone is on edge.  

Are there a whole lot of disreputable dishonest sellers on eBay now?  Is that the problem?  It that much worse than it was a few years ago?  

Judging on the emphasis eBay is putting on the buyer protection and controlling sellers they must not trust the sellers anymore.  

They don't trust us to ship promptly, pack correctly, to describe things correctly, to take proper pictures?  

Where does it end?  We don't have any paid items from today that are not shipped, and we mostly never would unless it was something real big that took a while to pack properly.  We are running a business and integrity is important.

Not that I haven't heard song and dance from people on eBay.

One seller couldn't find my item.  I told them ''you better, you sold it now''.  

As a seller I have plenty of buyers with deaths in the family that somehow prevent them from paying.  Heh. There has to be a plague affecting buyer's relatives.  Dropping like flies!  

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

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

Fri May 25 21:11:00 2012

If ebafia were actually serious about reducing unfair and unwarranted negative feedback and buyer fraud, which often go hand in hand, they'd do the following immediately:

1. Restore reciprocal feedback.

2. Expand the feedback field so that fuller explanations can be left.

3. Require buyers to go through a predefined process involving EQUAL seller input before they can leave neutral or negative feedback.

4. Correct the star definitions which are highly misleading to buyers including well intentioned ones.

5. DSRs must no longer be anonymous.

6. Require buyers to have valid phone numbers, physical addresses, and email addresses. Any buyer not having all three registered correctly with both PayPal and ebay can buy but can't leave feedback and must be required to pay reshipment costs.

False buyer claims and the usually resulting negative feedback could be reduced by:

1. Require ALL shipments to have at least delivery confirmation and negotiate with USPS to make it universally evailable for 1st class mail. Yes, it adds to operating costs per shipment but it adds to EVERY seller's costs not just those who do it voluntarily.

2. To reduce phony claims, persuade USPS to make signatures for insured items over $200.01 and signature confirmation items readable online. Insurance information is currently unavailable to the public on or offline although a postal service retail window associate can get it for you.

3. In the case of lost or damaged insured items, buyers must be required to assist the seller in filing the claim before a claim is filed with ebay/PayPal or feedback left. Buyers refusing to cooperate may not leave feedback or file a claim. Seller would validate whether buyer cooperated fully or not.

4. When a seller reports a buyer making an offer in any listing not accepting Best Offers, that buyer should be suspended for 30 days and their user ID added to the seller's blocked buyer list which the seller can remove if they want to. Offending buyers are then warned. Three warnings should equal a suspension.

5. Before ebay or PayPal removes money from a seller's account, the seller must be allowed to present all relevant evidence regardless if it's on or offline. (The best protection for the box of rocks return and similar scams is simply to open the box at the Post Office in front of a clerk and then file criminal charges with the Postal Inspector if anything is amiss.)

6. Ebay and PayPal MUST respect sellers' TOS. First and foremost every buyer should regularly be tactfully cautionned what constitutes the crime of fraud -- from lying about non receipt/defective items to postal fraud.

Buyers often are infuriated when offers aren't accepted, buy the item, and then leave unwarranted and retaliatory negative feedback.

Surely even management as dense and substandard as ebay's is can understand that many sellers accept these offers and take the sale off ebay.

I've had to lowball offers in the last 48 hours, and one of them wants to do an off ebay sale so she can get a lower price. The buyer was smart enough to send me this suggestion to my email address which they had from a previous sale. I haven't decided whether to block this user or not, but I did block the first one.

If buyers are in fact "leaving in droves" as ebay's (gales of derisive laughter here) seller advocate is alleged to have written, ebay need only look into a mirror in one of their men's room -- one that doesn't answer back when these egocentric synchphants ask who's the fairest of them all.

In the brick and mortar world and on the vast majority websites, most any business with a 95% approval ratings would be happy.

Not on ebay. One or two bad customers can put any excellent seller out of business with a five or six mouse clicks.

THIS MUST CHANGE!

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

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

Fri May 25 21:46:25 2012

---''5. DSRs must no longer be anonymous.''

Completely agree with that one! (With your other points too, but this one the most.)

Buyers are already sufficiently insulated against the so-called retaliatory feedback.

However, when buyers are forced to ''own'' their comments, they're likely to be a little more circumspect in how (or when, or if) they choose to lash out. Rather than in the hasty way it often happens now, perhaps buyers will consider actual COMMUNICATION as an option instead of using DSR's as the very first indication that there was a problem.

Just look at the difference this philosophy has made here. In spite of the fact that the Steiners allow anonymous pseudonyms... and even though it's very easy to create an account here (with very little verification)... we are bearing witness to the difference that requiring someone to ''own'' their words can make.

With a few exceptions, the user-to-user hostility has dropped and the level of discussion has generally improved. Of course there are many of us who are still angry and disappointed with eBay/PP, and maybe we rant a little too much and continually beat a dead horse. (I know I do.)

Still, the cheap-shots, insults, hit-and-run posts, drive-by posts, etc etc have noticeably decreased. People are more courteous to each other, and the replies are more thoughtful.

I'm convinced that removing the anonymity of DSR's would result in similar positive changes at eBay.  

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 25 21:55:29 2012

I love blogging, I have been blogging for more than 20 years. Before it was kewl. Way before!

I never make personal attacks. Not that I am not misunderstood sometimes, I am, and that's usually my fault for not writing with clarity.  Annie will tell you!

I agree, this is a cordial blogging environment, more than before.  

Kind of like eBay used to be, everyone was SO nice!  In the old days. The good old days.

Not anymore.  

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 25 22:14:55 2012

I think the whole idea of rating sellers anonymously with 95% perfection being the standard is ridiculous.

We do what we say and we say what we do, always.  This is a business not a hobby, no playing around here.  

We make mistakes, sure we do.  But in general if you read the listing and place your order you get precisely what you expect.  No more no less.  

We say when we ship, how we ship, how we pack, what to expect 100%-- nothing should be a surprise.  

We use actual pictures and tell you what problems there may be.  If we suspect there is a defect we either don't sell it on eBay or we disclose it.

We still get buyers asking if there are secretly extra items that are somehow invisible in the pictures but are actually included.  As if!

We still get buyers asking is this is secretly the newest, latest model rather than the older model we advertised.  As if!

We still get buyers requesting tracking numbers, even though we say right in the listing you *will* get a tracker, it's *impossible* for us to ship to you without you getting a tracker.  There is just no way to do it.

And some buyers are incredibly professional and they realize that when we said we are selling something with only a short warranty it's because we couldn't test it, but we think you probably can.  So we will take it back if it doesn't work. But often people who are professional buyers know they are buying cheap enough it's good for parts, or the problem is slight and resolvable.

Not that we don't get lunatics who buy a used item for 95% off and are shocked that it's not actually brand new and includes all the packing materials and stuff that was somehow not in the picture.  

All those ads ''buy it new, buy it on eBay''.  Ridiculous.

Most eBay buyers want things cheap.

A few have unrealistic expectation, that cheap, generous return policies and fast free shipping always come together.  Unfortunately that is the stuff eBay Inc. is promoting.

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

Sat May 26 04:04:34 2012

@ teddychan

There is a simple solution to yoru problem.  Add Best Offer!  This may be counter-intuitive but eBay allows you to have auto-decline and auto-accept prices.  Just set an auto-decline price that is $0.01 less than your BIN price.  Problem solved.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Sat May 26 08:22:57 2012

Maybe eBay should go to an Angies List type rating process. It is similar to DSR, but you are encouraged to comment on your rating.

For example I recently used a small moving company. They were excellent in all categories except for being on time. They were late, but they had called me. I did give them a "B" instead of "A" as they were late, but I was able to explain in the box that they DID call so I still gave them a high rating. These ratings are NOT anonymous to the company. And the company has the ability to give a detailed response, not just a few spaces.

Something like that would be useful for buyers to pinpoint exactly what their problem was, but also give the seller a chance to respond - with no anonymity.  
Note: Even on the reviews that get nasty, you can usually tell alot if one party is factual and one resorts to a tirade & name calling.  

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 26 17:31:25 2012

Mostly its unnecessary meddling between the buyer and seller.  I saw no reason for that letter to be sent to that particular buyer.  If it was a buyer with several negatives against sellers then it would have been more appropriate!  I guess ebay wants to be seen as "doing something" for the lowly sellers!!!

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

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

Sat May 26 19:31:02 2012

--- "I guess ebay wants to be seen as "doing something" for the lowly sellers!!!"

Your instincts are correct, Patricia. The thing is... we sellers are smart enough to know the difference between insincere, empty gestures--and meaningful changes.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sat May 26 20:23:15 2012

" We heard from buyers and they don't want to be educated. "

Jim "Griff" Griffith

Link: http://blog.ecommercebytes.com/cgi-bin/blog/blog.pl?/pl/2012/2/1330559
084.html

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 26 22:37:20 2012

And if buyers do not want to be educated, then their ''opinions'' should not hold any weight when leaving feedback, especially DSRs.  DSRs should not be used against the seller and in such a harsh manner. Using buyer's opinions to determine a seller's financial income and livelihood just shows how corrupt and twisted eBay has become.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

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

Sat May 26 22:40:03 2012

@ ric

What Graft should have said is this: "We've heard from ebafia management, and they don't want to be educated."

What ebafia is saying is they have no interest curbing the criminal, dishonest, and out of control buyer segment they created.

I see no one else says they received such an email from ebafia so I presume it's either being randomly sent or is targeted at specific individuals who their omniscient bots detect.

Graft is about as useless as an enforceable return policy.

Some 'seller advocate.' Can you imagine how bad things could be if ebafia would made him a senior executive in the 'Seller Experience' department which is the perfect place for ebafia's up and coming sociopathic sadists.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sun May 27 06:32:39 2012

Annie nailed it with "For YEARS, eBay has been sticking-it to the honest and hard-working small seller. The venue suffered as those sellers were driven out of business... causing eBay to lose its identity... the very thing that made it fun and special."

Annie, I have always wondered why eBay have done all that they can to  bust up a community.  Every small seller whom they have driven off of eBay was likely a big buyer.  That is how a community works. Want to know where the buyers are eBay?  You drove them off with your heavy handed and unfair policies.

When you poison an ecosystem, the ecosystem dies.

Perminate Link for eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback   eBay Tells Buyers, Ask Questions, Don't Abuse Feedback

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sun May 27 06:35:04 2012

And another thing, I think eBay have gotten A LOT of bad advice from consultants since JD took over.  Consultants who have never sold one item on eBay.  I'd say that this is one of their biggest problems.

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