Ebay Morons Galore!

February 1, 2008

Ebay to sellers: SCREW YOU … Analysis Part Three (Powerseller Program/Star Ratings)

For years, ebay’s Powerseller program was a joke. I was a member for the first few years of its existence, but I literally got nothing out of it, except for a pile of junk mail in my inbox. I got so sick of the junk mail that you couldn’t opt-out of, I actually quit being a Powerseller. Slightly more junkmail-free, I continued selling the way I always have until now.

I’m sure being a Powerseller is useful for novice sellers, because apparently they answer emails and solve problems quicker, but I never had any issues where I had to contact their support team, aside from minor reports of people stealing my photos, etc. However, with ebay’s 2008 policy changes, being a Powerseller is a must, assuming you qualify.

After reading and fully understanding the changes, I quickly emailed ebay support to re-instate my Powerseller account ASAP. Why?

Essentially, if you’re a Powerseller, you will get a discount on your Final Value Fees, which, remember, are the fees that will be going up. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You also need to keep at least a 4.6 minimum average score on each category of the new-ish star-based “Detailed Seller Rating” (DSR) over the last 30 days. A 4.6 average will earn a 5% discount, while a 4.8 minimum average will earn a seller 15%. Got that? Notice all the qualifiers.

A discount on fees? Sign me up. However, I likely won’t qualify, since my star ratings dip as low as 4.3 in some categories. I won’t know how I’ve done in the last 30 days until ebay releases their new Seller Dashboard, which will have a far more detailed evaluation of everything you’ve done over the last 30 days. I like the idea of discounted fees for Powersellers, but basing it on the flawed DSR system is a mistake.

This blog didn’t exist when the DSR system was released in May 2007, but I was pissed and wrote about it elsewhere. In a nutshell, I found the entire system unnecessary. In the past, clueless buyers would leave an unwarranted neg, it’d hurt your average, but you’d move on. No big deal. Now, brain-dead trogolodytes will leave a neg AND give you one-stars across the board, hurting 5 averages instead of 1.

I’ve received a little under 1000 positives since May 2007, but only around 500 DSR reviews. If they’re going to have this system, leaving a star rating must be mandatory. When a buyer is pissed for whatever reason, he’s going to leave you a 1/5 rating for everything, no matter how fast the item was shipped or how well you communicated. It’s also going to make non-unhappy buyers think harder about the transaction. It used to be “Wow, the item came in the mail fast, great!” Now it looks like we’ll be seeing “Well, the item came fast and is as described, but the seller didn’t email me the morning of shipment, and overcharged me $1.09 on shipping. I’ve giving him three stars on everything!”

Some categories are useless, too, and don’t apply to most transactions, namely “Communication.” ~95% of my selling transactions go down without any communication at all. They pay, I ship within a day or two, they receive the item, everyone is happy. Do I get 5 stars for communication even though I didn’t say a word to the buyer?
Hell, I even have proof that the star ratings are BS. A friend of mine sells almost the exact same items, and charges $.50-$1 higher shipping across the board. We mail the items the same way at the same speed, and yet his “Shipping and handling charges” rating is .2 higher than mine.

What the hell is that? This isn’t a small sample size, either; this is ~500 DSR reviews. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about it, because, who cares, really? However, now there is money on the line and I want my ratings to be as high as possible so I can get the FVF discount.

There’s another major obstacle the DSRs present a Powerseller. Starting in July, if a seller has DSRs below 4.5 in any category over the last year, their Powerseller privileges will be revoked. That’s awesome ebay, thanks.

Another nice benefit of being a Powerseller is that beginning on Feb 20, sellers will finally have expanded protection from Paypal chargebacks, notably in international transactions. Well, that’s super, but shouldn’t that protection extend for ALL ebay/Paypal customers? The infrastructure will already be set up; it won’t cost billions to serve everyone the same.

Basically, ebay is lifting their collective middle finger to anyone who only sells casually. They have drawn a line in the sand and are now admitting that they don’t care about protecting that single mom who sells a few books a month, or an artist who sells one painting a week, or any new customer who wants to give selling on ebay a try. Ebay’s relationship with Paypal makes me sick sometimes.

If that doesn’t piss you off enough, how about ebay’s new iron curtain method of displaying search results? Here it is, straight from their website: “Search visibility will be tied to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is reflected in a combination of DSRs, Feedback, and fewer complaints filed of an item being “significantly not as described” (SNAD) or “item not received” (INR). In March 2008, Best Match will become the default sort in search to give more buyers the results they want and will increase exposure for sellers with DSRs 4.6 and above and at least 95% customer satisfaction in the last 30 days; and decrease exposure for sellers with low customer satisfaction or Shipping & Handling DSRs.”

All right, if you want to make this a search method, fine, but why does it have to be ebay’s new default starting in March? Who the hell wants to search this way? It only makes sense to search for items that are ending soonest, have just begun, by price, and by location. Best Match? Best match of what? It’s going to be a jumbled mess of results that simply will not help the seller. Is a seller with a 4.7 rating in the Shipping & Handling category really better than one with a 4.6? Will a buyer spend more on an item in this case? I don’t think so and I see this becoming a disaster.

Even though I (and many other sellers across the country based on what I’ve read) don’t like most of these new changes, ebay is still trumpeting them as a good thing, as something “you’ve asked for.” However, one major, MAJOR change is buried; hidden in the last page of the 2008 Change Overview page, at the very end of the FAQ, questions 27 and on.

“In a small percentage of cases where it has been determined the risk of dissatisfied buyers is higher, PayPal may delay release of the payment funds to the seller until the buyer has left a positive feedback or 21 days have passed without a dispute, claim, chargeback or reversal filed on that transaction.

To determine if a transaction may have a higher risk of dissatisfied buyers, eBay reports to PayPal a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Seller’s % Positive Feedback in the last 30 days
  • Seller’s Detailed Seller Ratings in the last 30 days
  • Final price for the item
  • Shipping & handling fee
  • Seller’s eBay tenure as an eBay member
  • Seller’s total number of Feedback”

Yes, you read that right. In about 5% of transactions (or more if ebay tags you as a potentially bad seller), Paypal will hold the complete payment for 21 days, or less if the buyer leaves a positive feedback before then.

What happens if you need that money right away to pay for shipping, especially if it’s a heavy item, or something going overseas? This is another policy that’ll never affect me directly, but I’ve already heard from several people who don’t have a lot of money in their bank account to pre-pay for shipping.

This policy benefits no one, either. It obviously pisses the seller off, and the buyer experiences no greater security because they will still have to follow through with the chargeback process, which they’d have to do anyway, with the exact same results. There have been no reports that the chargeback process has been streamlined, so it’s the exact same method as before, just now ebay/Paypal gets to collect interest on your money for 21 additional days. What a scam. I’m wondering if this is even legal.

That’s enough writing for one day. Ebay, Paypal and the 2008 rules can eat me.

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January 31, 2008

Ebay to sellers: SCREW YOU … Analysis Part Two (Feedback)

Filed under: ebay is the moron — Tags: , , , , , , — J @ 1:30 am

Yesterday I looked at the changes in the fee structure for 2008 and today I’ll examine the new feedback rules that will go into effect at an undetermined time. Tomorrow I’ll look at the previously unheard-of focus on Powersellers and the star rating system. Good times.

The biggest change everyone is talking about is that buyers will no longer be able to receive negative or neutral feedback. That’s right, sellers can only leave positive feedback once these rules go into effect. That’s ridiculous for a million reasons.

Sometimes buyers deserve negs, too. I’ve always said that there’s more to being a buyer than just paying. What about those new buyers who leave negs after three days, complaining about slow shipping? Or international scam artists who claim their item never arrived for half of their transactions? Or buyers who send daily threatening/vulgar/insulting emails? Or idiots who didn’t understand the auction and thought they were receiving something else? Or trigger-happy buyers who leave feedback THEN explain the problem to you?

Not to mention those special buyers who combine several forms of minor annoyance into one transaction, like paying extremely late, paying an incorrect amount, paying via an incorrect method, expecting you to ship using a service you don’t use, complaining that they paid $8 for shipping but postage only cost $6.50, and sending daily whining emails demanding you give them a tracking number when none exists. Yeah, all buyers are angels.

Apparently, this is being done to give buyers peace of mind when they leave a negative for a seller, since they no longer need to live in a world of fear that includes big, mean sellers leaving retaliatory negs for them. Give me a break. Buyers have never been shy about handing out negative feedback.

How are sellers supposed to be able to weed out the bad buyers? It’s easy to spot a bad seller, because their feedback generally includes many harsh comments. Whenever I have a high-end auction going, I always briefly glance at the competing bidders’ feedback page to see if there’s anything I need to look out for. If I see something particularly egregious, I have no problem canceling their bid and adding them to my Blocked Bidder List. Now it’s going to be much harder to see if a buyer is one of those people who cries about a 75 cent difference in shipping and actual postage, or if they have a history of filing false Paypal chargebacks.

Another new change I don’t understand the point of is that feedback more than a year old won’t count towards your total feedback percentage. So? What is this accomplishing? Who does this benefit? From what I’ve been reading, it helps no one. I just did the math and my personal feedback percentage over the last year exactly matches the percentage over the lifespan of my account. This doesn’t make ebay more secure because an actual scammer isn’t going to last more than a year anyway.

Thankfully, the rest of the feedback changes are a little more positive for sellers. I got excited when I first heard about how now repeat customers who leave positive feedback will count individually. Unfortunately, I later read the fine print, which said “(up to 1 Feedback from the same buyer per week.)” Oh. I was hoping that each transaction would count as one, but I suppose that’s simply wishful thinking.

One change I fully support (!!) is that when a user gets suspended, all their negative and neutral feedback they left gets removed. I have been waiting for this for a long time and this can’t go into effect any quicker.

Another nice new rule is that you will only be allowed to leave feedback within 60 days of the auction close instead of 90. Too often would I receive the random neg or neutral from a user who claimed some inane problem 75 days after the auction closed, to the effect of “i dont like the item can i exchange it” or “i never got it, bad seller” out of the blue. Maybe these’ll still happen, but at least they won’t come out of nowhere.

One policy change that looks better on paper is that, as ebay puts it, “Buyers must wait 3 days before leaving negative or neutral Feedback for sellers with an established track record, to encourage communication.”

Yeah, this will stop the instant negs from buyers who win auctions just to mess with you, but I’ve found a better way to combat them – require the buyer to have a Paypal account. People are less likely to mess with you if you can find their Paypal address and report them that way. I made this change about 16 months ago, and I haven’t been victimized since.

Also, unfortunately, three days seems to be a magic number when morons start complaining about slow delivery. Just last month I got a neg that literally was (this is a direct quote) “shipping said one day it has been 3 days.” Yes, they thought my listed shipping time of one day was how long it would take an item to arrive. Keep in mind that overnight service was available, but was declined. This was not a new user, and the bad feedback is still on my record. Thanks, dick.

Another “feedback change” is “When a buyer doesn’t respond to the Unpaid Item (UPI) process the negative or neutral Feedback they have left for that transaction will be removed.” Wasn’t this the old policy? What’s new about this? Where’s the change?

The final change mentioned on ebay’s page is this extremely vague sentence: “Buyers will be held more accountable when sellers report an unpaid item or commit other policy violations.”

Could ebay be any more ambiguous here? They’re already spilling the beans on all their new policies for 2008. There’s no need to hold back if there’s going to be a new “two strikes and you’re out” policy for non-paying bidders. Could it be that ebay doesn’t really know what they’re going to do, or that there won’t be an set procedure; that every situation will be treated differently?

It’s really hard to judge some of these policy changes until they’re actually put into use for a short while. I am very interested to see if ebay’s going to stick to their guns and hold up their end of the bargain on all their proposed promises. I guess only time will tell.

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