PayPal, graphs and the trouble with feedback

PayPal sent out a marketing email this week to UK-based eBay sellers, trying to encourage them to banish cheques and postal orders from their listings. The justification, they said, is that DSR scores left by buyers who’ve paid with PayPal are so much higher than those for transactions paid in other ways. Here’s the graph:

paypal graph

It’s an interesting discrepancy, because on the face of it, none of these scores should be affected by payment method. Most listings on eBay UK must now offer PayPal as a payment option, so if payment’s made by cheque, that’s by the buyer’s choice.

Frankly, I’m not surprised to see the “dispatch” DSR lower for cheque payments: buyers, often, think of “dispatch” as “the time between clicking the Buy It Now button, and receipt”; they don’t think “oh but it took me a week to put a cheque in the post”, they just think “I had to wait ten days for delivery”. No, it’s not fair – but as my old granny said, whoever told you life was going to be fair.

I can *just* about understand for the difference on the communication score too. With a cheque payment, there is so much more to go wrong. Cheques can not get posted or go astray in the post or be untraceable to a transaction or just not fit into the normal automation of business – so I can understand that communication might be more fraught, and get marked down.

But item description? How does payment method affect whether my item’s like I described it or not? Answer: it doesn’t. It can’t.

And more than anything, how can payment method push the always-worst DSR, P&P, down from a safe-ish 4.74 to a downright dangerous 4.6?

I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it: eBay feedback is a farce. Specificially, the DSRs are a farce and do not do what they were designed to do.

Once upon a time, eBay talked to some buyers and what they found was that those buyers were afraid to leave negative feedback. Some buyers asked for a way to say “the P&P was a rip-off” without the seller seeing the red dot and knowing what they’d done. Others said they wanted to be able to say the P&P was a rip-off without leaving a neg when they were otherwise happy. And so the DSRs were born.

But what PayPal’s figures show is that this granular marking isn’t what buyers are doing. Someone who is annoyed that their cheque payment delayed delivery by two weeks is marking down on *all* the criteria. Someone else who’s annoyed they got a UID before they posted their payment is marking down on *all* the criteria. It’s quite clear from PayPal’s figures that buyers who pay by cheque are generally less happy – but it’s equally clear that some of the things that they’re marking sellers down for cannot possibly be related to the payment method. Buyers are using these very specific scores to reflect their feelings about the transaction in general.

Sellers should take these figures to heart. The pro-cheque argument is often made that buyers should be allowed to pay how they like: well, not at the expense of my TRS badge should be the response to that. If nothing else, cheque buyers need extra help, careful handling, nurturing through the transaction.

But eBay should take these figures to heart too. They show, quite obviously, that the feedback system is not right.