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eBay Getting Pushback on Feedback Changes

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If you've ever bought or sold on eBay, then you know buyer and seller feedback is a major cog in the wheels of commerce.

eBay just changed the rules and sellers are n-o-t happy.

New rules (as Bill Maher would say): sellers can no longer leave negative feedback about buyers, only degrees of positive statements.

eBay argues that fear of negative feedback can sometimes intimidate buyers from being honest about a negative purchasing experience for fear of retaliation.

Good point, I say!

Besides, what other business includes the public diss'ing of your customers. I live in Fairfield County, CT, home of Stew Leonards, a regional dairy and grocery store chain that is often voted one of the best midsize companies in the country. It's core company mantra is posted about every five feet as you wind your way through the store: the customer is always right.

Now back to eBay-land, which is not quite like the world the rest of us live in. The way you break into selling on eBay is to first do some buying. Getting favorable feedback as a buyer is the fastest way to establish a good enough reputation on eBay to become a seller. You need a reputation to start selling (that is, if you actually want someone to trust you enough to buy from you). If you've never sold anything, how do you do that? Thus goes the logic making it necessary to be a good doobie as a shopper first.

What is this really about? Here's a couple of theories, off the top of my head.

1. Without effort, anyone can now just buy a couple of things and get enough of a reputation to become a seller. Maybe eBay just wants to make it easier to become a seller. Maybe eBay needs more sellers?

2. What's good for sellers on eBay is also good for eBay. eBay wets its beak everytime a sale is made. A good chunk of buyers on eBay are repeat customers. If one customer gets flamed by a seller, there's a good chance the wounded party is going to take their business somewhere else and never click on ebay.com again. What if that customer shops regularly on any number of eBay storefronts and auctions to the tune of thousands of dollars a year? eBay stands the most to lose in the long run.

Memo to upset eBay sellers: get over it! I read one seller's comment complaining that eBay has now exposed them to shrinkage from naughty customers. Welcome to retail, I say. Shrinkage is part of the bargain. Deal with it.

Memo to eBay: figure out a new way for a new seller to prove their worthiness, other than their reputation as a customer. It was a bad system and now its a bad system that's broken to boot.

P.S. Make sure you click on that link to Stew's core company mantra. It's the famous eggnog story and well worth the read. Every small to midsize business owner should print it out and tack it over their desk.

Last updated: Feb 7, 2008




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