Could a statistical blip put you out of business?
There’s an interesting thread on the PowerSeller board (PowerSeller log in required) which TameBay reader Paul sent my way. It discusses what happens when an account is suspended and the affect on related accounts. The seller in question has decided to stop selling their private goods on eBay as if their private eBay selling account is suspended then other accounts may also be suspended and this would be the end of their business.
The rule in question is the suspended accounts policy and in particular the question “Can I or a family member open a new account while my account is suspended?” which is answered “No, you can’t register a new account or use an existing account while your account is suspended. We may also suspend new or existing accounts that were opened by anyone in the same household as, or associated with, a suspended user.”
eBay are actually very good at linking accounts and will probably already have linked your business account with your private account and those of any close family members. However the good news for sellers is that in recent times eBay are much less likely to suspend an account and more likely to apply selling restrictions to the offending eBay User ID.
The thing that is of interest to me however is the apparent uncertainty that sellers feel when trading on eBay. In order to run a business a company needs a level of certainty that they’ll be able to continue trading and currently eBay still don’t appear to be able to provide this.
For many sellers it only takes one or two buyers to leave a low DSR and your account will receive selling restrictions. In reality it takes a minimum of three buyers to scupper your DSRs, although if you already one or two low DSRs then you may be on sudden death where just one more unsatisfied buyer can kill your account.
Feedback has always been the most emotional part of eBay trading and always raises strong feelings when discussed in forums. The problem is that you may be a superb seller giving fantastic service and yet the odd buyer may disagree with every other buyer purchasing the same product receiving the same service.
Then there are the buyers who it appears are almost impossible to please. The feedback shown here is from a real buyer who is new to eBay. They seem to be exceptionally unlucky as 4 out of their first 13 transactions have resulted in them leaving non-positive feedback. In the general scheme of things these buyers are few and far between, but it’s certainly not an uncommon situation to see buyers leaving a high incidence of neutral and negative feedback which is outside the expected norms for the sellers involved in the transactions.
Sellers have to be sanguine and accept that sooner or later they will meet a buyer who simply can’t be pleased. It might happen once a week, once a month or once a year depending on the volumes you sell, but sooner or later a buyer will leave non-positive feedback or a low DSR. The lack of business certainty arises from the fact you can’t ensure the few poor feedbacks you receive aren’t evenly spread out over the course of the year.
Whilst you might be a fantastic seller if you’re unlucky enough to sell to three or more buyers in a short space of time who all leave non-positive feedback and low DSR scores your account could be in danger of selling restrictions. The law of averages says that the feedback won’t always be spread out evenly and sooner or later an unusually high number of poor feedback scores will be bunched together.
Sellers need certainty on eBay. Sellers have mortgages to pay, warehouses to run, employees to take care of and bills to pay. Sellers often have to order stock months in advance and they need to know that they will still be in business when the stock arrives and invoices become due.
Whilst eBay has come a long way in providing a more stable business environment for sellers in recent years they still need to do more work to reassure sellers. Business continuity and the certainty that you’ll be able to trade next month are what sellers need in order to invest in their eBay business.
What else eBay could do to reassure sellers that their businesses on eBay are safe I don’t know. Feedback has to remain the opinion of the buyer, otherwise it’s worthless. However a statistical blip on your feedback record shouldn’t be enough to put your business in jeopardy.