Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed May 30 2012 08:30:32

eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

By: Ina Steiner

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In an article for Wednesday's EcommerceBytes Newsflash, Dave Saltman writes that consignment sellers are being suspended from eBay thanks to anonymous feedback left by buyers through the DSR rating system. (Link to article.)

I've spoken to many consignment sellers and eBay drop-off store owners over the years - there was a time that eBay was throwing its support behind the model, and many eBay sellers invested in their businesses based on promises made by eBay managers, though management has since lost its enthusiasm for auctions.

I spoke to BikeWerx's Val Snider (featured in today's article) who is different from many consignment sellers, because he uses eBay consignments to supplement his bike shop and online website sales, and is not a long time seller. He started selling on eBay after the CEO-change in 2008, and he was incredulous at the treatment he received from eBay.

Val said his business has a no-questions-asked return policy, but said when one of his buyers wanted a 50% refund on his purchase and demanded "if you don't give me my $50 back, I'll leave you a negative feedback," an eBay rep told Val, "just give him the $50."

Consignor don't have this flexibility, since they're selling items for their clients. They either need to give the client the money or hand them back the item. Val felt the buyer was blackmailing him, but the negative feedback he received from the buyer was allowed to stand.

Val said he successfully sold used cycling gear for thousands of dollars on eBay with no problems, but said it was always the lower cost items where he ran into what he called "bad buyers." Adding to the frustration was the anonymity of the feedback ratings - sellers can't see who is leaving them low DSR feedback.

Many eBay sellers are incredulous that a 4.8 out of 5 stars is cause for concern, and that a 4.7 can get sellers kicked off of eBay. Val said he uses calculated shipping on eBay, meaning buyers were paying the actual shipping costs - but he received an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars for shipping-cost DSR. As Dave Saltman writes, Val said he received warnings about his seller performance but said nothing indicated eBay was about to close his account with no further notice.

All eBay sellers are under pressure to offer free shipping and provide 100 percent satisfaction even to "bad buyers," but consignment sellers face additional challenges. They don't own the inventory they're selling, and their consignors don't see the need to offer free shipping or provide partial refunds, since it isn't their eBay feedback that's on the line.

Dave reached out to eBay in an effort to understand the company's approach to buyer feedback and consignment sales. He asked eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff several questions, including why these sellers seem to think low DSRs aren't a good reason to be shut down; whether eBay feels that in light of these concerns, DSRs do a good job of evaluating sellers; and whether DSRs inadvertently favor certain business models or ways of doing business on/with eBay. She responded, "I'm happy to have our customer service reach out to the sellers you've noted. Please just get their permission and send me their names and eBay IDs."

Should eBay have one set of standards and policies that apply to all categories and both new and used goods? And should buyers expect the same level of service and quality even when they are buying a used item that retails for $200 for $30?

I'd welcome readers thoughts about consignment selling on eBay and the company's policy on DSRs, and would very much like to hear tips from successful consignment sellers about how they cope with these additional challenges on eBay.




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: trickstunt This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 09:07:56 2012

What a shame they don't suspend them more often when there is clear cut evidence of shill bidding.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: Ron This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 09:44:41 2012

"Should eBay have one set of standards and policies that apply to all categories and both new and used goods? And should buyers expect the same level of service and quality even when they are buying a used item that retails for $200 for $30?"

The answer is a resounding yes.  It doesn't make any sense to expect an auction seller to absorb costs (9% fee on shipping, other eBay fees and partial refunds to buyers) when they have no power to cover these costs in the price.  Fixed price sellers can cover a lot of these costs by increasing their selling price - might not make them competitive compared to off-eBay sellers, but at least they have this option.

Describing the condition of a used item can be challenging and a buyer may have a different expectation when they receive the item.  In the case of new items, description of condition is not a problem - it's new.

It's quite easy to replace a new item with other new inventory but with a used item, whether an antique or collectible, that is usually the only one of its type that the seller has.

There are all sorts of other differences between selling used and new items and there are also differences in expectations on the part of someone buying a used or new item.

eBay has put in rules that address the expectations of new sellers and this in order to compete with Amazon.  They've abandoned their other traditional sellers of used items and really don't care if the rules are unfair to them.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

This user has validated their user name. by: TrentDep

Wed May 30 10:24:22 2012

There should absolutely be different standards for new vs used / collectible items.

Free shipping, partial refunds ( @ ebay's discretion no less ) no questions asked returns - yeah - Amazon makes it work so I guess if ebay doesn't mind abandoning what has worked for them, in the hopes of catching up - fine...

But ( as Ron stated ) used / collectible items have their own unique circumstances and need to be addressed separately.  I'm sorry, but ebay deciding that my 1951 Red Sox Team card didn't fit the description of ''Good'' and offering the customer a partial refund is absurd - unless they employ experts in the many fields / categories.

If a customer wanted a card of a specific grade, they should have been shopping for one graded by PSA ( or another agency ).  They did not - they bought an ungraded card, based on scans and a detailed description, at about 1/5th the cost.

You truly do get what you pay for when you go bottom feeding, except, if it is an ebay transaction, you can expect to get a whole lot more - or maybe even get it for free!!

 

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

This user has validated their user name. by: TrentDep

Wed May 30 10:28:50 2012

Even more reason to have an ~ebay light~, or ~ebay classic~...

Let the market determine the value, independent of ebay imposed extra costs ( shipping / returns ).

Back to balanced feedback, and let the buyer / seller work it out.  

Worked fine for a long time - nothing wrong with it - just doesn't fit the Amazon model.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

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

Wed May 30 10:47:32 2012

EBay smugly holds the sellers to a standard that they don't meet  and never could meet and still make a profit.
Paypal will pay for eBay's lack of loyalty to it's sellers with the same lack of loyalty to paypal. As soon as another payment method gets a footing E-pal will suffer.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 11:06:33 2012

I can read the handwriting on the wall.  Ebay doesn't want us to sell things cheap, nor do they particularly like our selling used items.

They want us to list all new items on product pages like Amazon.  Where you can buy the same item from 23 different sellers, but when you get it half of them are fake Chinese knockoffs being sold on the product page of the real one.

At full list price.  With free shipping and 30 day free trial.

Are there any eBay buyers at all who want that? I don't think so. Not many anyway.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 11:32:02 2012

One of our IDs was suspended last year for low DSR's or who knows what other reason. I could never get a straight answer from eBay. They kept telling me to wait a month until my performance got better, well it did, but since DSR's hang on for a year one more bad DSR and POOF, I was gone. The biggest issue is that I believe a string of bad DSR's was left by one disgruntled buyer, and a number of cases were opened by the same buyer for multiple items in the same shipment.

We sell only used, vintage and estate items. This has been our business model for the past 15 years. Only in the past year have eBay policies become ridiculous and impossible to follow.

Unfortunately for eBay, they have lost revenue from me in the five figure amount. Probably more importantly, eBay has lost all of my high end sales of quality merchandise and I relegate only the low end items to their marketplace.

@trickstunt, eBay does heavily enforce shill bidding and I don't know any honest seller that tolerates that behavior. If youy want to see unfair business practices just look at all of the Chinese sellers that rack up hundreds of negatives, get suspended and then just open another account to sell the same cheap junk and continue to provide horrible customer service.  

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 11:35:45 2012

One other thing. I think eBay quickly forgets that sellers are their customers. We're the ones that pay the fees and provide revenue to feed the eBay machine. Buyers don't pay a dime but yet the buyer is always right and any dispute is usually settled in favor of the buyer at the seller's expense.  

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 12:01:13 2012

Essex, I think eBay feels the sellers are safe, they have essentially nowhere to go.  

Buyers can buy on Amazon, or not at all.  

So in eBay's view sellers are available in large quantities and buyers, not so much.  

Anything you think you have a lot of is devalued.  

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Wed May 30 13:06:08 2012

eBay's Buyer Protection Policy has been turned into a Seller Extortion Policy complete with eBay customer service agents who tell sellers "just give them the money".

eBay's feedback system has become a comedy of errors. Once a fair and even two way street, it is now a minefield for sellers. The system as it exists today unfairly allows buyers to negotiate a price after a sale has taken place by using threats of negative feedback as a weapon against sellers.

eBay removed the ability of sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers because, as they put it, sellers were using feedback as a retaliatory way to get back at buyers. Yet the company fails to acknowledge even the most blatant cases of buyers extorting sellers. Seller extortion should be viewed by eBay as being as unacceptable as was retaliatory feedback and needs to address this inequity.

Retaliatory feedback was like sticks and stones compared to the financial consequences sellers face when being extorted by buyers. If retaliation was so bad that eBay needed to act, the question becomes why eBay fails to take action to prevent Buyer Extortion which can be financially damaging to sellers.

With the changes to the feedback system and the addition of the DSR rating system, buyers have been empowered to extort sellers at will.  eBay claims that feedback can not be used as extortion, however they consistently fail to enforce their own policy in that regard even in the most blatant cases.

eBay has become a singularly hostile environment for sellers due to the fact that policy is determined by elitist multi millionaires who have no idea what it is to run a business let alone run a business under the draconian policies they impose.

eBay should address this issue and eliminate Buyer Extortion & post sale price negotiation by simply telling buyers that if they are not satisfied with their purchase, they should return the item to the seller for a refund. No return.... No refund... Period!!! While this does not restore a level playing field, it would be a policy revision that would at least bring some semblance of fairness to the process for all parties concerned by elimination post sale price negotiations through extortion.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

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

Wed May 30 13:16:30 2012

One other thing that makes eBay's DSR policies so insidious is the simple (but often overlooked) fact that UN-happy buyers are MORE LIKELY to express their dissatisfaction than HAPPY buyers are to express their satisfaction.

eBay fosters a hostile and unforgiving climate of intolerance, impatience and entitlement. eBay, quite literally, ENCOURAGES buyers to leave negative feedback. The lead-in messages and help-text provided by eBay almost always begins with the premise that the buyer is unhappy and the seller SURELY did something wrong.

It's wrong for eBay to assume that because a buyer did not leave feedback... then they must have been unhappy. I have dozens and dozens of REPEAT CUSTOMERS who absolutely *never* leave any feedback. ~ But we can safely assume that if they are REPEAT customers, then I must be doing something right. Right?

But a customer who feels slighted, no matter how large or how small their disappointment may be... it's a safe bet that they'll be out for blood. They're already motivated for some sort of revenge (not a solution, not being made-whole... but REVENGE!)

From the outset, the percentage that sellers must meet is unreasonably high. The wording and descriptions of what each star means is INACCURATE... and the punishment doled out by eBay is EXCESSIVE and EXTREME. --- But for eBay to IGNORE all of the perfectly satisfied customers who happened to not post voluntary feedback gives MORE STATISTICAL WEIGHT to the the ones who were unhappy about something.

So, eBay takes and ALREADY unfair formula, and then skews those percentages even MORE by giving EXTRA IMPORTANCE to the negatives while ignoring all of the other problem-free transactions.

Face it... not everyone has TIME to post feedback and 5-star DSR's. Either they don't realize the importance, or they just don't care. --- They wanted something, they bought it, they got it, they're happy. Period. End of story.

I understand what it means to be an ordinarily ''perfectly happy'' customer. I consider myself to be one too. Most retail stores are now adding a toll-free number at the bottom of their receipt with a message that encourages people to call and let the home-office know about their experience.

Frankly, I NEVER call to tell them how wonderful (or how perfectly ordinary) my shopping experience was. Never! Why bother?

On the other hand... I did call the toll-free number to give KFC my feedback and DSR's on a mis-filled order with cold french fries. --- You know, I've eaten at the same KFC for years... and not once did I call to say how delicious the meal was, or to personally thank them for DOING THEIR JOB. (My repeat business should be the clue that they were doing something right.)

I'm pretty sure that the folks at the KFC home office are smart enough to know that their toll-free number is a ''complaint window'' and not a ''compliment window''. They also know that it would be FOOLISH to judge a restaurant to be a failure because they had 1 complaint and 1 compliment. (''Wow... that's a 50% ''dissatisfaction'' rating!! Fire everyone!!!'')

Yeah, I know... my analogy is flawed. But it's the best I can come up with on short-notice.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Wed May 30 13:23:31 2012

Ina's article specifies consigners, I thought. We need to differentiate eBay consigners / drop-off stores from sellers who simply sell used items on their own, as I do. The consigner/drop off format, I believe, has more costs. They have to (in most cases) pay for a drop off point or store, all the usual fees to eBay PayPal, taxes, then pay the customer their percent. Their profit is what is left. These days, that may not be very much.

To be profitable, I would guess they aim for higher end items that are likely to sell (don't we all!) and perhaps, volume.  With volume comes the need for paid help & more expenses. I am guessing there is a charge to the customer to cover listing fees in the event the item does not sell? Some consigners specialize, others sell anything & everything & don't know very much about those things. Auction format has to be difficult now that selling prices are so much lower than the past.

The non-consigner seller of used items has the cost of the item, eBay PayPal fees, taxes & whatever their normal costs of their business are. No splitting what is left with anyone. Most specialize & know their product & can answer questions reasonably well.

I have purchased from consigner sellers on eBay & have had mixed results. Some are professional, answer questions to the best of their ability, & do a good job. Others don't do well in the question department, and are terrible in the description department. The type that makes you want to run screaming if not for the fact the eBay will guarantee your happiness no matter what. So I can see where some would end up with lower DSR's. My experience with buying has been that consignment sellers have higher shipping fees - which again may lead to hits on DSR's. But I don't see how consigners, like the guy in Ina's article could offer free shipping, at all!




Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 14:22:00 2012

This is ebay nowaday's, get rid of everyone selling used or merchandise that is not ready to ship in one day, and small business. GSI Commerce owned by ebay! Why do you think Donahoe made this acquisition? To help his big business buds. All the changes they are making now sync with that.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

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

Wed May 30 15:26:30 2012

Another throughly accurate but disgusting aspect to all of this that ebay once again made a commitment they failed to keep demonstrating yet again that ebay is an unreliable, unstable, untruthful business partner.

Further, they seem absolutely clueless how unprofessional they appear with this Hoff spokesperson.

Hoff is typically sarcastic, spiteful, and condescending when answering questions from ecommercebytes. One wonders how well Ms. Hoff would do as a seller answering buyer questions in a similar manner.

While Ms. Hoff's attitude actually does reflect ebay's arrogant attitude, her lack of professionalism casts an even more powerful light on how poorly this company is run.

As long as the present feedback/DSR policies that most of us have to live with are in bleed sellers.

Doesn't ebay legal understand that when ebay coerces and strong arms sellers into paying extortion money that this makes ebay equally guilty?

Extortion is a crime.

Who's next on the ebay guillotine?

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: used2luv2sell This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 20:28:43 2012

Well spoken everyone!

I got a chuckle where Ms. Hoff said she'd have customer ''service'' REACH OUT to these buyers if she could get their names and Ebay ID's.  You can tell she's chomping at the bit for that info!

Ms. Hoff, don't lower yourself to talk to these folks yourself - pass them on to one of your fantastic customer ''service'' reps who know nothing about the business.  Oh, wait, you couldn't answer a seller question either, because you've never sold!  

If I sound bitter, I am.  I am sickened by the fact that you allow uneducated buyers to leave low DSR's with no contact to the seller, with +FB, and then you ''hide'' it.  As someone else said, sellers hate to see either FB or email on Ebay because it's 50/50 if it will be good news or bad.

Until you change the DSR system, you haven't done a thing to help sellers.  Nothing else has hurt us as badly as unfair DSR's.

Meanwhile, there are bidders we have to block, who are probably on many seller blocked lists, but do you take a look at them and remove them from the equation?  Do you think sellers deserve a fair playing field or are you truly trying to delete us?

If you truly don't want small sellers, then why don't you quit alienating all of us and sell off that part of the business?

If you say oh, no, we love our small sellers (sorry, I know it was as hard to type as it is to read), then why don't you give us credit for the fact that we are actually people with brains and we know how to use them?  Why don't you LISTEN to what we have to say without shaking your head NO while you are listening?  You won't even consider what sellers are telling you, and we are frustrated at dealing with pretentious idiots!

I don't like to name call, but you make me read a blurb every day when I log onto my account, telling me that my account needs attention because I am below seller performance standards.  Of course I am - those unearned 1's I was handed out stay with me for a whole damn year.  

Do you realize that you tell sellers how to do better, which is to make their buyers HAPPIER?  THAT is how my ratings will improve.  What a bunch of CRAP!  Kicking out low DSR's that are blatant lies is what will improve my ratings!  Did I really have to explain this to you?

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 23:28:47 2012

used2luv2sell:
You can get bad DSRs even if you do *everything* right.

In our case it's always for shipping cost. But every buyer knows to the penny what they will pay for shipping when they buy from us.

There is a meeting of the minds.  The buyer agrees when he clicks buy.  It's based entirely on weight and size and distance with the eBay shipping calculator.

But then he can whine to eBay anonymously later ABOUT WHAT HE AGREED TO!

That meeting of the minds is an important part of common law, there has to be an agreement in every business transaction.

The system eBay has made is interfering with that agreement, that meeting of the minds.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 23:29:29 2012

''It's wrong for eBay to assume that because a buyer did not leave feedback... then they must have been unhappy. I have dozens and dozens of REPEAT CUSTOMERS who absolutely *never* leave any feedback. ~ But we can safely assume that if they are REPEAT customers, then I must be doing something right. Right?'' Anonymous Annie

Absolutely.  I get these all the time on Etsy and Amazon.  

I just can't see basing any kind of business model on eBay which has time and again proved to be completely unreliable in every way.

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 23:33:39 2012

Just today I drove past a long standing local antique/collectible shop that USED to have a LARGE professionly painted EBAY CONSIGNMENT sign out side.  Much larger in fact than the sign for the business is!

Well this sign is GONE now.  And the last time I spoke to the owners they were hugely frustrated with the hoops of fire ebay made them (and the rest of us) jump thru.  

Now this store is established and in a prime tourist location and I hope picks up enough business with out needing what  the ebay consigners were paying them.

But I have also noticed a few other shops that are no longer in business---and in several cases the "Ebay Consignment Seller" signs are still displayed in the dusty and dark window.

Makes ya go---Hmmmmmm

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: Ed This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 23:59:49 2012

Why even show the buyer how much shipping and handling charges are. Have it where the buyer only sees the price shipped to their door. If you can sort by lowest cost & Shipping and highest cost $ shipping this is only some thing that hurts ebay and the seller.

When you buy a loaf of bread the store does not show how much the shipping was because buyers only want to know how much it is going to cost them so they can say YES or NO

When is eBay going to stop playing games with the Buyers and sellers.
Show the price and let the buyer say YES or NO

Shipping is not Free and it is only going to go up.

Simple is Best  

Perminate Link for eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings   eBay Suspends Consignment Sellers over Low DSR Ratings

by: used2luv2sell This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 31 00:11:30 2012

@Steevo,

That's why I am so darn frustrated.  Those in charge at Ebay should go spend a day with a seller and see what we go through to give great service.  

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