Buyer Beware - Abuse Of Feedback
How do you find the bad sellers? The ones who abuse feedback? Deny responsibility for shoddy goods? Aren't honest in their descriptions or photgraphs? The bullies and charlatans? The ones who tell lies about you? Looking closely at the feedback they've received and left for others can tell you a lot! Here are some things you may wish to consider to allow you to make a more informed decision whether it is advisable or not to enter into a transaction with a seller.
Initially feedback seems pretty straightforward, you look at the positives, negatives and the rating and perhaps see some of the feedback that has been left but there is more to it than that. Even the most honest, trustworthy and courteous eBayer can receive negative feedback; either by mistake or through general ignorance or by nasty minded individuals who use negative feedback to punish the slightest negativity left for them even when they have been left positive or neutral feedback. This has resulted in some cases of the person losing their own 100% positive rating. A really nasty practice when it is deliberate. You can help yourself avoid the nasty ones by really looking into their feedback. I'm sure most of us can spot many an undeserved negative when we see it and therefore ignore it but we have to check it out. We have to look at all aspects of the transaction. The feedback system is based on trust so we have to find out who we can trust. I must stress that the bad sellers are a small minority.
First check to see how many positive, neutral, negative and mutually withdrawn they have, there could be dozens or more. The rating is important because a rating of 99% with sales of 4000 mean that at least 40 people aren't happy. Go through the feedback and find the negatives, the neutrals and the mutually withdrawn and see what has been written. The mutually withdrawn have the feedback type (positive, neutral or negative) removed but there are still comments for you to consider, what is known is at least one person was not happy. You have to use your own judgement as to whether or not the feedback, and/or comments, is fair and honest and subsequently deserved. What kind of language is being used, is it courteous and polite or rude and offensive?
It is also very important to check the Feedback Left For Others. Go through the Feedback Left For Others and click on the eBayers who have been left a negative, a neutral or the mutually withdrawn and find the transaction and see what feedback and comments they left. You'd be surprised at how many people leave positive or neutral feedback only to get an undeserved negative in return, I'm sure many of these eBayers now regret leaving the feedback they did. In circumstances such as this I believe it is acceptable to count it is a Negative for our own assessment of the seller. I know of one Power Seller who has left negative feedback for over 50 people who left them positive and neutral. A really nasty attitude but high volume of positives suggests, on the surface at least, that it is safe to buy.
For some transactions it is not possible to conclude just what has transpired and we therefore have to fall back on what the general attitude seems to be. If the seller seems to suffer from a bad attitude when there is a problem then we may favour the buyer and vice versa. If they both have bad attitudes then they deserve each other.
The seller tends to have the upper hand. The goods usually won't be shipped until a payment is cleared. The buyer tends to leave feedback on receipt of the goods and should be free to comment on any part of the sellers service. The seller then leaves feedback for the buyer but not always on the conduct or attitude of the buyer, often the feedback left reflects the feedback received. The feedback system is supposed to be used to rate the transaction, service, behaviour etc and should not be used to rate feedback. The comments are there to allow you to respond to the feedback. If you have fulfilled your obligations as a buyer or a seller in a courteous and timely manner then you deserve appropriate feedback, anything else is DISHONEST.
Check to see if the same problems are happening with various people, the main one seems to be a lack of communication i.e. people being ignored when they try to contact the seller, if they are then the chances are there is some truth in them. eBay offers a message service and it should be used. If a problem exists with an external email then use eBay's facility. Other aspects to consider are comments and feedback that are rude, offensive, arrogant, ignorant, racist, sexist, mocking, demeaning, hypocritical etc. Do you really want to deal with such a person? Remember it could be you next.
Beware of boasts about a high feedback score, "Buy from me as I have 4000 satisfactory transactions" means 4000 people did not experience a problem but what about the people that did experience a problem? How many people experienced a problem? Were the problems dealt with in an acceptable manner? How were they treated? Remember it could be you next.
Beware of comments such as "I've sold hundreds of these without any problems", again what about the one out of the hundreds there is a problem with? Or comments such as "He got a £200 item for £30 and he's not happy". The price paid isn't what is important but the item matching the description or the photograph is. A £200 item for £30 that is broken or otherwise unusable is worthless. Remember it could be you next.
Beware of comments such as "I did respond, I've got the emails to prove it". How can it be proven to you or any other eBayer that emails have been sent? It can't. Accusations involving extracts from emails are similarly not provable i.e. you said in your email "Give me something for free or I will leave you a negative". Comments such as these are nonsense. Feedback should be factual and honest, not an opportunity to make vindictive allegations against the other person. Remember it could be you next.
Feedback should be seen as something constructive. If you run a business and a problem is pointed out to you what do you do? You certainly shouldn't attack the person that has pointed it out to you, nor should you deny that a problem exists and you can't always blame other people. If someone isn't happy try to sort it out. If there is a problem with your system try to rectify it. You can't please all the people all the time. Some people are never pleased. But correct use of feedback and comments is important for everybody. Too many sellers, Power Sellers included, are only interested in taking your money. They send out ill described goods and then either ignore you or punish you for having the audacity to complain or be displeased. Remember it could be you next.
Some sellers are obsessed with their positive ratings and see the slightest comment as an attack on their business and subsequently leave undeserved negative feedback. They are totally unconcerned that this behaviour has an adverse effect on the buyer's positive rating. They are aware that the majority of buyers don't investigate feedback properly and rely on high numbers of positive feedbacks to secure future business. They abuse, attack and betray decent customers. How long would a shop last if it treated it's customers in this way? Remember it could be you next.
Don't forget that the vast majority of eBay sellers ARE decent and honest but you should still be equipped to help weed out the ones that aren't. The only way to stop people being abused is to identify for yourself the sellers who abuse and refuse to buy from them. SEND THEM A MESSAGE stating your reasons for not bidding or buying from them; if they receive enough messages they may change their attitude. Let others know who they are, tell your friends. eBay is not in a position to take action against abusers of feedback, they remain within the rules but abuse nonetheless. They behave way beyond the spirit of the policies. Through only buying from decent sellers who operate within the rules and within the spirit of the rules can we help diminish the number of sellers who abuse their customers. Check out their feedback and let their own bad behaviour condemn them. I personally would welcome a system where abusers could be named and shamed and prevented from trading, this would need to include both buyers and sellers of course. A fairer system should be where feedback is only revealed once both parties have left their feedback. Comments can still be used and if no feedback is left by one of the parties then the feedback that was left would be void and discounted. I am aware that many decent sellers have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous buyers and a fairer system has to be implemented.
Remember to keep feedback factual and courteous. DON'T respond in kind. If you are called names or accused of dishonesty respond politely and state your case. If you feel you need to leave negative feedback then leave polite factual comments.
With a little care we can enjoy a safer shopping experience on eBay and hopefully over a period of time we can reduce the number of abusive sellers to a minimum.