I purchased an item on eBay a while back and the vendor has been really great. There was a problem with what they sent me and we’ve been going back and forth on it for a while now. They’ve been very receptive and most of the misunderstandings causing the delay have been on my end.

In another case, I ordered a product. It took longer than expected to get here, but I can’t say that they did anything wrong exactly. They just weren’t as upfront about everything as I might have liked. But they offer a product at a good price and I don’t want to hurt them.

The result: Both get the same feedback ratings.

eBay works on a 5-star systems. The problem is that if you give a seller anything less than five stars, it counts as negative feedback and makes things more difficult for them. So it makes me really reluctant to leave feedback saying “Oh, well they were not great but they were not bad either.” The only thing I can do is just not leave feedback at all. If this is going to be the case, they really should just have a Yes/No on whether or not I would do business with them in the future. There are probably cases where someone has tarred a seller that they generally liked.

But more than anything, I want to be able to actively endorse the first seller. I want to actively endorse another seller from whom I have bought a number of things. I want to give them a special gold star. I want other buyers to know that if there is any problem, they will take care of you. I could put something in the textbox, though they would probably not want everyone to know that they sold a defective product where further action was required. In my mind, that’s no big deal as long as it is made right in the end (if it’s something I am really concerned about, I’ll just get it from eBay or Amazon). But some people expect more from eBay than I do.

That brings me to another complaint, which is that if I leave feedback, I have to leave something in the text box. Sometimes I don’t have a whole lot to say. “They met expectations”? “They sent me the item within a reasonable time frame”? I wish I could just leave that blank because as with the stars anything that isn’t glowing is kinda negative. You should see the feedback they leave for me. All I did was buy the product and pay them, for goodness sake. I would prefer it if the feedback actually meant something. Like in the first case if they had said something like “Buyer very patient with product problem” or something. Instead, those folks left feedback before I even got the item saying “GREAT BUYER!! HOPE TO DO BUSINESS AGAIN!!” or somesuch.

It’s like the feedback system is designed to be as unhelpful as possible. Not even in the sense of covering for bad sellers because eBay is pretty anal about that from what I understand (hence, 4 of 5 stars hurting sellers). Just in the sense of not being able to tell if a buyer is really any good or not. Contrast this with Newegg, where people leave all kinds of reviews of products. There I can see what the negative reviews are (which no one is afraid to leave) and look for patterns and potential problems. For eBay this could mean that “Oh, well they’re not particularly fast on shipping. I can deal with that.” or deciding to move on without their rates being jacked up by eBay for someone leaving negative feedback.

Category: Market

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3 Responses to The Opacity of eBay Feedback

  1. Kirk says:

    I’ve never bought anything on ebay. I just don’t understand why I should send my money to a stranger, only to hope he sends me what he’s supposed to send.

    The whole thing sounds dodgy.

  2. trumwill says:

    Kirk, it’s actually gotten to the point where I trust an eBay sale more than a lot of other Internet sales. They are pretty dependent on customer goodwill and you have an entity to take complaints directly to (eBay itself) and they have action they can take (kicking them off eBay). Compared to Pricewatch.com, that’s golden.

  3. Nanani says:

    Out where I live, Yahoo! Auctions is the giant, not eBay, and one has to go where the action is to get any value out of auctions.

    On Y!A, buyer and seller can choose, at the end of the deal, whether or not to grant the other a karma point, or to take off a karma point. This is in addition to a 5-point rating (that goes from “very bad” through “neutral” to “very good” and comments. Some people don’t care about karma and those who want it (the more active auctioners) will usually say so in their interaction.

    Oh, and anyone with negative karma can be blocked from participating in auctions at the seller’s discretion; there is an option when setting up a sale to refuse bids from negative karma holders.

    Perhaps eBay would do well to implement something like this, assuming it doesn’t exist.

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