Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ebay Gives Scammers the Green Light

Here's what I wrote to Ebay when they announced their recent policy change favoring buyers over sellers:

From what I'm reading, although our fees are going to be reduced, we will be further restricted to how we are allowed to judge our customers, is that correct?

Over the course of years of business on Ebay (both buying and selling) I have only experienced 1 or 2 deceptive sellers. However, I have encountered numerous buyers who feel that this is a great way to take advantage of someone who desperately needs their money and good will.

I have found that there are many more buyers who see the seller as an easy mark.

Now the majority of buyers are decent people - don't get me wrong. But in the course of selling, I have had a man substitute worn out, damaged glasses for the new ones I'd sent him and I was forced to take both the other glasses AND refund him his money. He got an exchange for free - at my expense.

I've also had a man from Australia who ordered and received a watch AND got his money back when he claimed he hadn't received it - even when I had proof of sending it!

I've also had a man who decided his watch needed a new battery, and therefore he demanded half-off an already amazingly good price on a brand new watch!

There are many other examples of buyer fraud that I can give you - this is just the tip of the iceberg. And yet if we are only allowed to give POSITIVE feedback in the future, the buyers will NEVER be accountable for such actions!!! How are you going to protect us? Reduced fees will not be enough!

Ebay's representative, "Matt", wrote back:

Thank you for writing eBay in regard to the site changes.

the fees changes will take place on February 20th, the feedback changes won't take effect until May.

In regards to feedback, i have enclosed quite a lot of information, so i apologize the email is lengthy, but I have included some scenarios with buyers and how you can protect yourself.

The current feedback system will be changed to a new system in May. The reasoning behind these changes are:

1. Current system is not adequately achieving a primary intent because its transparency makes some members reluctant to hold others accountable. Buyers fear Retaliatory feedback!
2. Buyers who receive negative feedback are more likely to leave the site more then any other reason. (Including Item not received or item not described disputes). We want to Retain Buyers to the site.
3. We will continue to evolve eBay's public and Private feedback system as Community makeup and marketplace dynamics evolve.
4. 50% of Sellers have a 10% feedback, 80% of Sellers have a 99.3% and above. The old feedback system is not adequate to differentiate Sellers. Our primary objective with feedback is for Buyers to be able to accurately assess Sellers.

Plus, nothing good comes from unfairly criticizing a buyer publicly. And frankly, I can?t think of another successful ecommerce business or retailer where the customer isn?t always right (at least publicly).

If a buyer threatens negative Feedback to demand more than what was promised in the item description (for example, the person wants overnight delivery but only paid for standard delivery), the seller should immediately report the buyer to eBay. If there is clear evidence
of extortion, eBay will take action. Buyers who show a pattern of such behavior will be suspended. If a buyer is suspended, any negative or neutral Feedback they left for others will be automatically removed.

Sellers should only file these complaints when a buyer asks for more than what is promised in the listing. Filing a false claim is a violation of eBay policy and may result in seller suspension.

If your buyer has failed to pay for an item, you should file an Unpaid Item (UPI) claim. If the buyer fails to respond to the UPI report, then any negative or neutral Feedback they have left for the particular transaction will be removed. If the buyer shows a pattern of such behavior and is suspended for UPI, all negative or neutral Feedback they left will be removed.

Sellers should only file a UPI claim when a buyer did not pay. Filing false UPI claims is a violation of eBay policy and may result in seller suspension.

If you believe you have received negative Feedback because a buyer has purchased an incorrect item and you do not have a return policy, we recommend the following:

- Let the buyer know about your selling policies.
- Review your listings to make sure your items are well described and your terms are clear and concise. Important information mentioned in excessively long descriptions can sometimes be overlooked.
- Remember that you'll never be able to please everyone 100% of the time.
- Some selling policies such as no refunds, limits on how a buyer may pay, descriptions that hide details in the fine print, and so on may increase your likelihood of receiving negative or neutral Feedback from a buyer.

We believe that we will reduce any imbalance in the Feedback system with these changes. Buyers will be able to more accurately assess sellers, and sellers will be protected from buyers who violate our policies (through the Unpaid Item system and other reporting) without risking a
reduction in good buyer activity.

The change in the Feedback system is designed to improve the eBay marketplace which should benefit both buyers and sellers. Improving the Feedback system should increase buyers' confidence making them trust sellers more.

It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing eBay.

Matt I.

eBay Customer Support

So I responded:

Matt (please share this with your supervisor),

WHEN are you guys going to understand that you need the SELLERS too? It is the SELLERS who pay the fees, even if an item doesn't sell, and you're on the side of everybody BUT us. You glossed over the problems I mentioned by breezily saying that Ebay punishes bad buyers IF a pattern is established. Well what if I'm the beginning of that pattern? I just take the hit for the greater good? Or what if they are only crooked SOMEtimes and I get that one time?

And who decides what is considered a 'pattern'? The person sitting behind a desk at Ebay whose pocketbook isn't affected in the least?! How nice to sit there in comfortable glory, dishing out judgements that do not impact you whatsoever.

When a buyer has negative feedback, a seller can make an informed judgement as to whether or not they should do certain things! For instance, I recently had a woman who hadn't paid for 2 weeks after the auction ended. After countless emails to her, and a reminder from Ebay, I closed the sales and she got two strikes. THEN she wrote, telling me she still wanted the goods and would pay if I'd remove the strike.

Luckily I'd already spoken w/ another seller who'd left this buyer bad feedback, and I discovered that this is a common pattern, and that the buyer DID pay the other seller AFTER receiving a strike, received the merchandise, and then lied to PayPal and said she had never received it. Happily the other seller had the delivery confirmation, but do *I* need to go through such a hassle? Heck no! I refused to change the ruling and resold the items to others!

You say you want to retain buyers. At what cost? At throwing the sellers to the wolves? What about the buyers that ARE scam artists? You just threw them the biggest bone in the world! And at whose expense? Ours, of course, because YOU get your money no matter what. You get your money even when there's an incident or problem. And when a problem DOES come up, most of the time you're on the buyer's side because it's EASIER for you guys.

What - do you not think sellers aren't catching on to this? Again, when you don't have SELLERS, you don't have buyers either. Apparently you are choosing sides - how is this right?!

As for the customer being always right - I was a retail manager for Macy's. We tried to believe that trite old chestnut in the early 90s and found, to our detriment and extreme losses, that it wasn't so. That's when we revised corporate policy. We had numerous accounts of customer fraud which affected our bottom line so severely that we had to rework much of our policies. The customer ISN'T always right. Especially when it's in an anonymous forum like Ebay.

You say you'd need 'clear evidence of extortion' in cases of buyer fraud. That would mean you would need to SEE the items sold, SEE the emails exchanged, and neither will usually happen. Also, trying to get someone from Ebay to listen or return emails is a frustrating and slow process at best.

Watch and see - the downfall of your business will be when the sellers finally have enough and you'll get to retain your buyers, but there will be nothing to buy.

What are you guys going to do when the sellers finally find an alternative to Ebay where they're treated with equality and respect?

There will ALWAYS be buyers, there won't always be sellers.

I know for a FACT that there are many sellers who are actively looking for another route to sell online. There are numerous disgruntled comments throughout the web.

Your rating method was the only way to protect ourselves, nominally, from the crooked buyer. Why allow for positive feedback at all then? Why bother with feedback at all when there is no alternative but positive?


The Lazy Iguana said...

E-Bay started in someone's garage and is now a fairly large enterprise.

With that in mind - forget the small peanuts you get as a seller. You are fishing for pilchards when you can be going after swordfish!

Seriously - no shit here. What is involved in setting up your own online auction site? What sort of software is needed? Seems to me that the startup cost would be in reach.

what to start an online auction site? I would be in it till the stock was worth something then I would bail out, buy a sailboat, and be gone. I hear Aruba is nice.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, Me too! But as for what it takes, it's pretty tough because since Ebay there have been a lot of startups that never made it. Even Yahoo tried, and (surprisingly) they failed at it. Ebid is supposed to be an up-and-coming competitor and many sellers are defecting to it. The main problem is getting word of mouth out there, and also... until you get a lot of sellers, you can't get a lot of buyers and vice versa. Starting up is a tough-go.

The Lazy Iguana said...

And E-Bay owns Pay Pal. And E-Bay has the money to advertise on TV, radio, billboards, and print. And Google.

You know what you need to do? Any marketing person would know this!

A PROMOTION!!!! Yes a promotion to attract sellers!

And how would one do this? How about......

FREE LISTINGS! Yes, totally free listings! No seller fees! Totally free!

Of course this could not last. At some point in time the promotion would have to end. Once you had a stable base of sellers of course.

Making a thingie to allow you to do a search of your auction site from the search toolbar thingie in Firefox would help bring in buyers.

Of course there would be some risk. And it is questionable if you would ever be able to get as big as E-Bay. But who knows.

I am watching TV now. I think I am smarter than a 5th Grader. I need to get on that show.

Anonymous said...


Worldwide eBay Boycott February 18th through February 25th, 2008.

We the concerned eBay buyers and sellers on eBay are protesting eBays announced new fee increases and feedback policy changes. We do not believe that these changes will have any positive affect for buyers or sellers and will result in increased prices, less choices and disharmony within the eBay community.

We also are in complete agreement that eBay's policy of allowing dogs and cats to be sold on eBay in China for slaughter purposes is both cruel and inhumane and must be stopped immediately.

We urge all people's to not shop or sell on eBay during this worldwide boycott.

Please spread the word.

Thank you.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

You make good points. Many doll makers and crafters have moved to Etsy. There are other auction sites evolving (as a heavy stockholder in Ebay this worries me a little, so I am watching for a price boost in the stock to create a situation so that I can sell without much problem). Overstock and Amazon are providing auctions from their own inventories, and if dissatisfaction growns on ebay they may shift to outside sellers a bit more.

Two of the local Ebay "stores" or agencies have gone under recently after some years of success, and I think Ebay is flailing a little to try to find a new process.

Uncle Joe said...

I don't ebay at all but I have always believed that "The Seller is the Feller"