A Crash-Course on Ebay Feedback: How to be a Mature Buyer and be Safe as a Seller
If you have used Ebay at all, you know how important Ebay's feedback and rating system is to the buying and selling process. As a buyer, when you buy an item from a seller on Ebay, you have a chance to leave feedback for that seller and rate their services. You can leave positive, negative, or neutral feedback for the item, along with a 100 word phrase to describe why you left the rating you did. You can also rate them from 1-5 stars in several areas: The item description, the seller's communication, shipping time, and shipping and handling charges.
As a seller, you have a few more limited options. You can only leave positive feedback or report a buyer, as well as leave a short summation of your choice. This was implemented several years ago after Ebay had issues with sellers waiting until the buyer leaves feedback as a sort of leverage in the feedback process.
So how is feedback calculated? Pretty simple. Ebay takes your feedback for the last 12 months and then calculates a feedback score, which is a number that represents how many listings you have received positive feedback minus any negative feedback, and the feedback percentage which is simply the number of positives over the total feedback. The 12 month data is helpful if you have a string of bad luck, or something of that nature, it wont be held against you forever.
So with that short Feedback crash course, you know everything you need to know now? Unfortunately, no. There are some pretty important nuances that can mean everything in the feedback and rating system. So here are my list of things to be aware of and remember as a buyer and a seller on Ebay.
As a buyer on Ebay, you really have about 90% of the leverage in the transaction. Ebay is historically very protective of its buyers because of two reasons: There is not another site with the traffic that Ebay gets for sellers to switch to, and large numbers of buyers keep Ebay as the auction powerhouse it is.
Having this power can pretty quickly go to your head. You can rate and leave feedback for a seller and they don't have much recourse to keep you from doing it. On top of that, are there that many sellers that really check out a buyer's feedback? In general, you wont know who buys it until they do – so the seller has to make a complaint retroactively if they don't like the buyer.
So as a buyer, you can just do anything you want, right? In some ways you can, but I would definitely advise this going to your head. Buyers should be aware of the following things:
- Think about it before you leave negative feedback: If you have ever sold anything on Ebay, you know that some things just go flat out wrong. So as a buyer, you have to understand that too. Leaving a negative for something that was most likely out of the seller's hands is not fair to the seller. Let's say shipping takes a really long time for some reason. You contact the seller and they tell you that the shipping was delayed. There are some buyers who, in anger and impatience, leave negative feedback. This is punishing a seller for something they may not have control over – and this is what the ratings are for. If they are apologetic and communicative, make sure you don't unjustly punish them.
- If you consistently leave negative feedback for sellers, they can put you on their blocked buyers list. This is the seller's own list of buyers they don't want to deal with. Buying a lot of one type of product, like Lego sets, makes it inevitable that you will buy from the seller twice. If you happen to give bad feedback to a seller that has quite a few Lego items up for sale normally, you may lose out on some good deals. This is another reason why it is important to only leave negative feedback if the seller really deserves it.
- Along with the last point, some of the bigger Ebay sellers communicate and know each other in an online business setting. You think by irritating one seller, you are ok with everyone else? Unfortunately that is not the case. Buyers that are consistently unfair to sellers may have their account ID's spread around to other large sellers, telling them to block this buyer as they are too much trouble to deal with. All of sudden, you are having trouble getting those good deals you used to find.
- If you are about to leave negative feedback – consider neutral. Neutral doesn't affect their feedback calculations and you still get to write something. Unless the seller was doing something really improper, neutral is a way to get your point across. They don't get a positive rating and you show them you were dissatisfied, but you don't cripple their feedback over a smaller issue.
- Be careful when you rate a seller– the ratings have a big effect on the seller. Ratings determine how high Ebay shows a certain seller's item in "Free-for-all" searches. One rating that can really be a problem is the “shipping time”. If it takes a long time to ship, make sure before you leave a low rating that they didn't state it might take a while in the listing. Also make sure you ask them why it took so long as well. If they used USPS, it probably wasn't their fault.
- If you do decide to leave negative feedback, don't leave all bad ratings as well to spite the seller. As stated, these are a big key in Ebay's search results. More so, if certain ratings get low enough, Ebay may even suspend them as a seller for a period of time. Try to always rate the seller correctly whether you left them negative feedback or not.
- Make sure you always leave feedback and always rate the seller. Believe, me it is very nerve-racking for sellers to wait for positive feedback and ratings, as these help their Ebay listings appear at the top of searches (or not appear a the bottom). It is only respectful that you leave them feedback for their trouble. A while back I was selling quite a bit and trying to get my feedback rating up. This was before Ebay automatically rated people 5 stars in certain cases. I had a few customers in a row that rated me low on shipping time and shipping price – even though it was free shipping! After that, I had several who never left feedback or never rated me. My ratings were much lower than they should have been. I was just as irritated at the people who didn't leave ratings as the people that left low ratings.
As a seller, feedback is much more important to your life on Ebay. Where as sellers aren't really aware of a buyer's feedback, most buyers are well aware of a seller's feedback when they look at a listing. If you have low feedback or low ratings, you can expect that you are going to have a much harder time selling items. With low ratings and feedback, Ebay starts to limit your sales, lower your items in searches, and even suspend your account. So what are some things you can do as a seller to limit your chance of receiving negative feedback?
- Make sure your item is exactly as described and take clear pictures
You may think that taking pictures and having a really good description is something that is just imperative to get the best price. It affects more than that. If a buyer receives an item with an issue and it was completely spelled out in the listing, the buyer will have a harder time leaving negative feedback. For example, I bought a laptop charger for my laptop by just glancing at the listing and clicking Buy it Now. The title was a little misleading, but in the listing it stated it was just the end cord – not the power brick. I was irritated when I received it, but when I looked back at the listing I knew I had made the mistake. So I still rated the seller highly and gave them positive feedback.
- Communicate with the buyer throughout the process.
Ebay only allows someone to rate your communication if you actually sent them a message. Some people think it might be better to just avoid that so you don't have a chance for a bad rating. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Being a buyer, you are always waiting – waiting for the item, wondering when it will get there, waiting to see if it was as described. If a seller just sends a short message at each part of the process, this can make the buyer feel much more informed. My process is this: Send the buyer a short message congratulating them and thanking them when they purchase it, along with details about when you will ship it. Send them a message again the day you ship it, letting them know. After they should have received the item, send them a message asking if they received it and if they are satisfied, would they mind leaving you feedback and ratings (don't be pushy though as that can really be irritating to a buyer). This always works really well for me and a lot of times they respond and are very thankful. If a buyer is satisfied, the may follow the seller's account meaning they see new items that are posted. This could get you more future sales quicker!
Also, make sure if anything does go wrong – you have a delay in shipping, you can't ship it the day you were going to, etc. - that you tell them. They will know anyway when they receive it. Being upfront can help the buyer understand that you were doing your best and will reflect when they rate you.
- Make sure you use tracking and add a tracking number
This pretty much costs you nothing ($.20 if using USPS and free with the other two big carriers) and can really make a big difference to a buyer. If a buyer just purchased a $400 Lego set from you, they want to know when it is going to be there. A lot of sellers have tracking, but they never add the tracking number! This can irritate a buyer and, if anything goes wrong, could encourage them to have ill feelings towards you as a buyer, which you don't want.
- Respond to the buyer's messages as quickly as possible
If the buyer has a question and needs to send you a message, the longer you leave them waiting and in suspense, the more impatient and irritated the buyer may get. You don't want them to feel like this because it could reflect when they rate you. If they ask a question you don't know the answer to, just send them a message right back and let them know you will look into it. If you are actively selling things on Ebay, make sure you are checking your messages often. Chances are, if you have a smart phone, you can get notifications when you receive a message.
- Include a letter in your shipment
This is a very easy one to do and can make a big difference. It wont be too hard as as a seller to make up a small letter and copy it 1000 times to send out with items. Simply put your ID on it and let the seller know you are very grateful for them buying your item. Also, make sure you let them know if they need anything at all, or are dissatisfied, to contact you immediately. Let them know you have more Lego sets for sale as well! The buyer will feel a lot better about the transaction and may even purchase more from you.
- Offer free shipping when possible
People love free shipping – whether the price is the same or not. Also offering it automatically gives you a 5 star rating in that category. It is an easy way to boost your ratings. If you don't want to offer free shipping, always do calculated over a flat rate and then make it very clear in the listing you only charge them exactly what it costs to ship so they know you are not making money off shipping. If it costs $.20 less, refund them that $.20. It is a very easy way to get on their good side.
- If something goes wrong with the shipping, consider refunding them part or all of the shipping
If you are worried there is a delay or problem with shipping – I recall during Hurricane Sandy a while back, mail was delayed for over a week – consider refunding their shipping to them. This may offset any anger they have at you, whether it is your fault or not. It is a cheap way to make sure you get good ratings.
- Make sure you pack the shipment as well as possible
This is a really easy way to get negative feedback. We all know, even if you put “fragile” on a box, it still probably goes through the proverbial dryer during the shipping process. If you pack your item poorly, you are going to eventually get burned. Yes, maybe you smooth it over by refunding the order, or you have an insurance claim, but it doesn't stop the buyer from leaving you bad feedback. Don't take the chance.
So, as a seller, these are the things to do to help prevent poor ratings and feedback. Does this mean you will never get another negative? Unfortunately, no. So what do you do when you do get one?
- Contact the seller and resolve the problem
If you resolve the problem, you can lobby to Ebay and the seller for feedback revision. A lot of times, if you fix the problem with the seller, they will relent and at least change their feedback to neutral which wont hurt your rating. A lot of sellers receive negative feedback and are angry. They don't want to try and figure out what was wrong and just move on. This is a mistake, as most people are reasonable if you fix their problem.
- Always respond to negative feedback
I don't understand why sellers don't do this more. Most buyers looking at an item want it. They look through feedback to be sure they wont get burned. If they see a negative feedback, that takes a toll. However, with human nature, if we really want to buy something, we will make excuses like “well maybe that was a bad buyer”. What better way to put that though in than to respond! You can respond to the negative feedback and refute what they said. Don't be mean or disrespectful, just try and say what you did to fix it and apologize. For example:
Negative feedback: Item arrived damaged and had to be sent back
Rebuttal: Unfortunately item was damaged during shipment. Immediately refunded customer, very sorry
This type of thing will make a buyer feel better about the fact you got negative feedback.
- Use the block buyer list
Some people are just flat out unfair with their feedback. Don't believe me? Go look at a feedback profile from an account that has 1000s of feedback a month. Every once in a while, they will get someone who leaves a negative with “item was too expensive” or “didn't like item as much as I thought”. It is pretty outrageous.
Don't dwell on it. If you can't get it removed, just add them to your blocked list so you don't have to deal with them again. It will avoid future problems and you can get on with your selling. At one point, pretty much everyone gets a negative feedback whether it was your fault or not. Don't always take it personally or freak out about it.
That is my set of info today. Again, I implore people: Think before you leave feedback. Never do it in haste and only leave negative when the seller really deserves it. Because if you are a seller, you know how it feels to receive it when it isn't your fault.
Note: All of the information here are my own opinions and are pulled from my experiences. You may or may not have success with these methods. Thanks for reading!