EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2278 - May 03, 2010     1 of 5

Editorial: eBay's Opened-Case Policy Is a No-Win for Sellers

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eBay's new policy on Opened Cases flies in the face of common sense. In fact, I wonder sometimes if eBay has a psychologist on staff advising them of how to demoralize their sellers.

Beginning in September, eBay will count the number of customer claims that are opened against a seller, no matter how the case is ultimately resolved.

Post office lost the package? eBay provided the incorrect shipping address? A zero-feedback newbie expected the package 5 minutes after pressing the Buy button?

It doesn't matter whose fault it is or how the seller responds, any time a buyer opens a claim, it goes on the seller's record as a black mark. Accumulate too many "opened cases," and you are kicked out of the Top Rated Sellers program. A few more, and your items are demoted in search. And should you rack up enough claims, your account will be suspended (eBay won't reveal the actual percentage of claims that would result in the ultimate punishment.)

It begs the question, why should sellers do the right thing for buyers once the policy is put in place?

It's worth noting that, either way, with this new policy, eBay saves money. If the Opened Cases rate stays the same, fewer sellers are eligible for discounts. And if there is a reduction in Opened Cases, eBay saves on customer-service costs.

That's why you'll hear eBay employees urging sellers to do what it takes to avoid open claims. "A buyer needing to open up a claim is the ultimate form of dissatisfaction," they parrot.

eBay became a minefield for sellers ever since eBay took away their ability to leave negative or neutral feedback for their customers. eBay's constant changes; tantalizing sellers with monetary rewards for achieving increasingly difficult-to-achieve standards; the threats of punishment for failing to conform (loss of PowerSeller or TRS status, demotions in search, account suspension); they have all led sellers down the path to this latest Kafkaesque policy.

In case you've become desensitized over the course of this surreal multi-year campaign, the message to eBay sellers is this: you can't win.

See also, "eBay's Open-Case Policy Cracks China-Seller's Standing" in the Letters to the Editor blog.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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