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Should buyers be rated on eBay?

By Chris Dawson February 13, 2012 - 5:04 am

There’s been some interesting commentary on Tamebay over the last week about feedback and ratings for buyers. Sellers can be rated by buyers not only with a positive/negative/neutral comment but also with marks (stars) out of five on detailed seller ratings.

So goes the argument some buyers are better than others, some pay fast, some pay slowly, some are good communicators and others aren’t – eBay only works with both buyers and sellers so why can’t buyers be rated?

Going back just a few years most sellers will remember being able to leave buyers negative and neutral comments as well as positive comments. eBay did away with this quite simply because when a buyer received anything other than a positive feedback their buying activity on the site plummeted (or they just never made another purchase). eBay does need both buyers and sellers, but buyers are the people who are hard to find – sellers are queuing up to compete on eBay.

The Guardian discussed buyer feedback at the time buyer negatives and neutrals were retired, and dear Sue (who was never shy about telling it like it is) was quoted as saying “Who gives a flying fuck if you can neg a buyer? Does Donald Trump/Richard Branson/Jeff Bezos neg buyers? No. Have a think about why that might be“. Upsetting buyers isn’t great business and rating them with low stars would be just as bad as leaving a big red dot on their feedback.

Now we all know that some buyers are just trouble, but the vast majority aren’t. Every time I’ve heard of people sharing their blocked bidder lists I’ve gently smiled and passed on by (especially the time a PowerSeller discovered to their dismay that they were on another PowerSeller’s blocked bidder list :-D). The thing is I’ve had buyers who couldn’t buy from me because they’d “upset” another seller and had received unpaid item strikes or similar. Every time a buyer has approached me and politely asked if I’d allow them to bid they’ve been the perfect customer. Just because you have a bad experience with them doesn’t mean that I will.

Not only that but there are some sellers out there who quite frankly aren’t up to the job. Some sellers always think that they are right and the customer is wrong and it’s this group of sellers which made it imperative for eBay to protect buyers and stop sellers leaving them feedback.

If a buyer is genuinely trouble then buyer blocks should soon root them out – you can easily block buyers who have more than 2 unpaid item strikes in the last 6 months, who have a negative feedback score (nigh on impossible these days unless they’ve sold rather than bought) or who have too many policy breaches. Plus these days eBay themselves weed out prolific low DSR scoring buyers and do on occasion remove their scores from seller feedback.

Overall we need buyers. The UK eBay market is the most highly penetrated in the world (17 million visit eBay at least once a month – that’s about 1 in 3 of the total UK population!). There aren’t that many new buyers out there to attract to eBay so we need to do everything we can to avoid upsetting the ones we have.

Should we be able to rate buyers? Well no! Firstly because we can’t afford to upset them but more importantly because it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference anyway. I don’t check buyer feedback before they bid or click the Buy It Now button because I can’t. I don’t know who’s about to buy from me next. If I can’t vet my buyers until they’ve already purchased there’s no point retrospectively checking their feedback to confirm I’ve found an awkward customer when I’ve already discovered they’re awkward – I’ll just deal with them to the best of my ability and move on.

  • radroach
    10 years ago

    I fully agreed with the ending of negative feedback for buyers as a small, but significant, minority of sellers did abuse the system.

    However I found the feature useful in one respect – deciding how to react in cases where payment hadn’t been received – I could general tell from the feedback record if it was likely to be an unfortunate case of illness or computer failure etc – or, from the number of red dots already issued, payment was unlikely to be made.

    Though the unpaid item system on eBay is now much better than it was (and can be automatic) maybe some kind of buyer rating system would still be helpful in determining how robustly to proceed in these cases.

  • 10 years ago

    Should we be able to rate buyers? Well no! Firstly because we can’t afford to upset them but more importantly because it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference anyway.

    Chris, while I very much understand your point and you are probably even right the problem is that your hands are dirty (mine may be as well but I don’t make these claims).

    A prime example of a buyer being rated and then leaving eBay never to return can be found here:

    http://feedback.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=userduncan&ftab=AllFeedback

    • 10 years ago

      I make no secret of the fact I used to neg non-paying bidders but the fact is I never had a single retaliatory feedback and I always left feedback first. That’s because I was fair about it insomuch as they deserved a neg and they knew they deserved a neg and before they got it I’d have spoken to them on the phone and given them every opportunity to pay.

      Doesn’t mean it did the slightest bit of good though and it doesn’t mean I don’t agree with eBay’s changes as far as not negging buyers goes – it has no advantage to me as a seller so what’s the point?

  • 10 years ago

    I think the issue is more than about feedback.

    Sellers want protection from scam artist buyers.

    They want to be able to identify those buyers.

    We used to send a lot of items airmail.

    We also used to get quite a few “lost in post claims”.

    But then we made the decision to go to International Signed For only.

    The “lost in post claims” disappeared overnight.

    Some buyers are dishonest.

    I would suggest that Ebay needs to display suspicious behaviour to the sellers.

    A simple way to do this, is to make it so that a buyer is forced to raise lost in post claims through Ebay so they can be tracked.

    Also, they should be forced to go through a returns procedure through Ebay.

    These two simple steps will give Ebay the means to track scam buyers, who frankly do exist.

    This is not so much about the ability to leave negatives, (although some sellers perceive it that way), this is more about protection from serial con artists who very often can be buyers…

  • 10 years ago

    I would have thought the process should be simple, ebay should react to buyers who continously claim non delivery / SNAD etc and stop THEM from defrauding sellers.

    Other than that, I was a victim (on my buying account) of a seller that sold us an exploding Ninendo DS charger and he negged us back and then we got a mutual cancellation within minutes (it was that sort of abuse that forced eBay to get rid of feedback for buyers). We reported this seller to trading standards and they prosecuted the seller in the end.

    So, even if the data is not visible to us as sellers, lets see some action by eBay on the sellers that have houses full of gear they’ve not paid for.

  • Gary
    10 years ago

    What is to stop ebay introducing unpublished buyer feedback?

    They don’t have to publish it.

    ebay could provide more tools for sellers to enable the reporting of buyer behaviour to ebay.

    These tools would cover as a minimum non receipt claims, damaged goods claims and slow payment issues. But of course positive ratings could be given also.

    ebay could then monitor buyers and take appropriate action behind the scenes.

    Whether they would take action is another matter of course.

    At least sellers would able to report behind the scenes and buyers would know that sellers would be providing feedback to ebay which may act as a deterent for those buyers that are dishonest.

    And ebay would gain some useful statistics from sellers about buyers which may help them with their marketing.

    • 10 years ago

      What is to stop ebay introducing unpublished buyer feedback?
      …. as a minimum non receipt claims, damaged goods claims and slow payment issues”

      For dodgy non-receipt I always make buyers open a claim as I know I’ll win as I have tracking – Genuine ones I just fix the issue. eBay already know when buyers pay with PayPal and if it’s an eCheque. They don’t need buyers to leave feedback to get these stats.

  • 10 years ago

    I totally agree that any factor that reduces buyers should be taken out and feedback is one of them which is correctly handled by eBay currently. Few negative feedback is good as it brings attention to the seller that something is not going correctly and after solving the problem with the buyer there is a win-win situation.

    Similarly, anything that brings more sales should be promoted like free shipping. Amazon has tapped it very neatly with its Prime program. I believe eBay will replicate this one day or another. Do they have choice ?

  • Sellers Pay the FEES
    10 years ago

    Of course buyers should be subject to negative feedback , Ebay is a 2 way street.
    I ALWAYS pay by Postal Money Order and I’m very proud of my 100% positive feedback. I’ve been an Ebayer since long before Donahoe came along and terribly messed things up.
    The potential for Ebay to get back to normal, and reach over $60.00 a share is being delayed by the PayPal requirement. Get that out of the way and you’ll have free flowing commerce again.

  • steve elkins
    10 years ago

    Well, I think there are some ‘buyers’ who just want to make ebay their pet hobby and cause problems; have you noticed it always the low cost items that have the serial neggers? Ebay encourage this, so the threat of a negative would be a deterrent – ebay distorted feedback system has a profound effect on a Sellers account, it would be nice to redress the balance.

  • 10 years ago

    I really believe the feedback system is core to eBay and what it does, and it’s why it’s one of the most demanding marketplaces in the world. However for feedback to work it needs to be a serious report of the transaction, not a flippant, unthinking or vindictive record. Currently only sellers need take feedback seriously. Buyers – like Sue is quoted saying above – don’t need to give a flying fuck.

    Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson don’t get thrown off eBay if they deal with unreasonable buyers in a reasonable way — which is the reason they worry only about whether the buyer pays or not. As a seller on eBay, you have to focus on whether you can stay on eBay first and foremost, above and beyond building your business or improving average customer care and experience: you need to focus on jumping the hurdles.

    What’s the problem?
    We’ve all seen them — you get that neg and then you see that half of the feedback that buyer has left are negatives. They are the unluckiest people in the world. And now that they have bought from you, you are the unluckiest person in the world, too. That’s why I keep a BBL and share it with other sellers who want to use it — it’s imperfect: it’s a job the marketplace should do for me.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the marketplace to police buyer behaviour as well as seller behaviour. It certainly can’t do just one of them: if the sellers step outside the norms of what we expect from the community, then the buyers bring them to account. If the buyers step outside of the norm, then they are left untouched.

    So here is the change:
    I’d like to see an average score left being published for buyers. As a buyer, this person has left 98% positives etc. And perhaps even show their average DSRs. This might even have the effect of increasing the rate at which feedback is left — buyers love to build up a trading history. Rather than simply have sellers leave a meaningless positive comment for a purchase going into a combined score, you could see how someone performed as a buyer and how they performed as a seller. the information is right there already in the “left for others” tab — this would be a score based on that.

    Obviously I’d like the ability to stop anyone who has left 50% negative feedbacks and an average of 1.4 DSR from buying from me. I’d like to focus on the vast majority of decent honest buyers and not have to spend time dealing with the unlucky ones.

  • st georges dragon
    10 years ago

    any buyer is a good buyer if their money spends we want them! dont care if its Osama come back to life

  • Richard
    10 years ago

    Well in the main I agree with you: the last thing we want is to drive customers away. But, there is a need to alert sellers to potentially bad buyers and I honestly feel granting experienced sellers the ability to place a limited number of negatives per 1000 transactions would not rock the boat.
    This would help to identify systematic fraudsters. One thing is for sure, nobody wants buyers like them!

    I disagree that there are effective ways to weed out bad customers, current options are too blunt.

    Some customers completely abuse priveleges IMHO.

    • st georges dragon
      10 years ago

      its even easier for a buyer to have multiple ids than it is for a seller so leaving neagtives for buyers is even more futile than leaving them for sellers

  • board_surfer
    10 years ago

    A one sided rating system such as ebay’s is never going to been seen as fair, basically because it’s not.

    perhaps we should go back to the good old days when you could leave anyone feedback even if you didn’t transact with them.

    that would be interesting 😉

    • st georges dragon
      10 years ago

      and in the good old days a negative was a negative it was near impossible to get one removed

  • 10 years ago

    A simply option would be to allow all sellers to be able to view a buyers non receipt claims and non paid items and based on that evidence we can choose which parcels need tracking and going more extreme who we decide we want to trade with….Problem solved

  • Samg
    10 years ago

    Of course Buyers should be rated … why not? “when buyers got a negative rating, business dropped”. … so what happened? All the bad buyers left!

    SELLERS nto buyers produce revenue for eBay – listing fees, final value fees, FREEBAYS (when an ebay rule mandates a free gift to a buyer becuase you didnt dot your I’s and cross your T’s) plus the vig that Paypal gets! Yet its only buyers that have the power to destroy a seller with only a few negatives (do sellers control customs, the post office, or warranty products?) so why shouldnt sellers have the right to know which buyers abuse the eBay system?

  • MickeyFinn
    10 years ago

    As the article states, “buyers are the people who are hard to find” – so ANY disincentive is a bad thing and will affect every sellers’ bottom line by chasing away a hundred UNtroubled purchases from a buyer who has had one bad experience.

    This observation should fall into razor sharp focus when you consider the mobility of the online buyer. They can have six windows from different merchants in front of them, offering the immediate sale of an item. Which seller they choose is a function of many variables – but if they get down to a toss-up between two, the deciding factor may be something as trivial as a free 2 gram satchel of pot-pourri or even just the colour scheme of the website… and they won’t even have to endure the gaze of staff, let alone make excuses.

    So – with such a delicate and sensitive subject – how COULD you get a rating on a buyer?

    I take my suggestion from the method I use to assess a seller. The key element of which has been presented above by David Brackin.

    It has been my observation that, invariably, any critique will reveal far more about the AUTHOR than it does about the subject – so, rather than have anyone else rate a buyer, we simply use the ratings generated by the buyer themselves – that is “Feedback left for others”.

    If they leave 3 Negs out of 10 feedback, they will have a score of 70% on ‘Issued Feedback’. Likewise on ‘Issued DSRs’. (Do we label these ‘IF’s and ‘ID’s?) These will show patterns of the buyer’s attitude and perception – and will highlight those who seem to be terribly ‘unlucky’. It will also show buyers who view a DSR of ‘3’ as being average.

    There is an added bonus to this as well.

    With the diminishing interest in leaving feedback for sellers – and the subsequent increased sensitivity (of a seller’s standing) to Negs – buyers will me more motivated to leave good feedback when it is deserved, since that will make them look good. This same motivation would, I would hope, also influence the leaving of Negs to be more honest.

    The magic of this system is that it is all their own work.

    However, that is also its greatest failing. It requires the buyers to take responsibility for their own actions.

    The other thing is that all the data for these ratings is already being captured – so the only programming change is a couple of simple calculations and a display. I already do a similar mental assessment when I am checking out a seller, so this only makes that assessment more objective. The feedback calculation simply uses information already available in detailed form. The DSRs would be the only extra information, but would be presented as an average per category, just as it is for sellers.

    This is just a thought and I will hearken back to my opening comments … If the powers that be believe this idea holds any disincentive for a buyer, do not expect it to be taken up.

  • Gary
    10 years ago

    Why is it that whenever I get a message of the type saying “please pack carefully as postie in this area is rough” (from 0.5% of buyers) do I get a follow up message that item has been damaged.

    I can gaurantee this!

    Yet the 99.5% of packages that go out without any “pack carefully” message arrive successfully.

    I would like buyers to report any damage directly to ebay so that ebay can monitor how often buyers report this.

    Then if there are any postal hotspots where damage seems above the norm they can feed this back to sellers and the postal services.

  • st georges dragon
    10 years ago

    as a buyer I want to buy , not be judged harrased or insulted

    its buyers that do ebay and its sellers a favour,

    • Gary
      10 years ago

      If buyer feedback is putting off buyers then why have it at all?

      Lets get rid of it altogether as it is clearly a dinosaur from a bygone age.

      All my ebay buyer feedback is automated so it really is pointless. It is simply an excercise to satisfy buyer vanity. It is hardly a personal touch these days is it?

      I don’t give my website buyers feedback and they still make repeat purchases so they are not put off from buying by the lack of a feedback system.

  • Gary
    10 years ago

    ebay don’t send out reminders to sellers to leave feedback for buyers so they don’t see it as being that important.

    The only reminders I get are from buyers.

    Maybe ebay should allow buyer feedback to count towards TRS and seller fee discounts with 5**** equivalent being awarded for each DSR for each purchase made?

    This may encourage more buying on ebay rather than from other marketplaces.

  • PayPaluser
    10 years ago

    Personally I have had no negatives for weeks and then I get two negative feedbacks in the few days, both are from other registered business sellers.

    Why do they do that?

    In the same period we had at least 1000 separate buyers, around 400 or so left feedback that was positive.

    What do you make of that?

    • board_surfer
      10 years ago

      That you probably has 6 unhappy customers.

    • Gary
      10 years ago

      If you show ebay that these negative feedbacks are from direct competitors who may be out to wreck your sales then ebay may take action.

  • ebay_drone
    10 years ago

    We sell a lot on eBay, and do our best to work things out within reason always. That said if a transaction goes bad, say item not as described, it occasionally happens to every seller, if the seller accepts it as a return, pays return shipping and refunds money immediately than there is no transaction and the buyer should not be able to leave feedback of any kind. It seems there is the small percentage of buyers who try to use feedback and threats as leverage against the buyer once they know there have the upper hand so to say. IF a 100% refund has been given and product returned than that should automatically void the transaction and no feedback should be left. WE have 99.9% postive and sell alot on ebay. Or if the seller has offered to full refund the item on a return and pay return shipping and the buyer refuses, the same should be true!

  • Kang
    10 years ago

    Agree with #20 about the voiding of a transaction removing the ability to leave feedback. Good idea; are you listening, eBay (of course they’re not!)

    Anyway:

    1) A system where you can only leave positive feedback is a waste of time. It tells you nothing.

    2) In view of the above, feedback for buyers should be removed. Sure, I know that some sellers need to know about their buyers’ reliability, but by the time the Buyer from Hell has bought from you, then it’s already too late. Sharing BBLs is a good idea; this needs a forum where these can be shared. eBay can’t stop us doing this!

    3) The only real value for feedback is so that a buyer can use it to decide whether or not to risk his money with this seller. Therefore any feedback a seller has received as a buyer will simply artificially inflate his feedback score in a way that is not related to his selling performance, since it can only be positive feedback.

    In relation to this, then, buyers need to be careful to check a seller’s ‘Feedback as a Seller’ tab and not just the overall feedback number. However most buyers do not know this so the system, again, is flawed.

    The only way in which this system can be anything like repaired is to remove feedback for buyers, like Amazon have had all along. As far as I know, Amazon have never asked for buyer feedback.

    For a bad buyer, I will not leave him good feedback if he negs me or neuts me without good reason. And my customer service policy and no-quibble refund policy means that no buyer should ever have such a good reason. Therefore the only way I can get back at an awkward buyer is to not give him anything positive. Let’s face it, if he hasn’t paid, he doesn’t get his goods. Why should he get positive feedback if all he has done is to pay for goods he has agreed to purchase? The only way negative feedback hurts a buyer is if he has a net overall negative score – a very rare occurrence, and if it did happen a buyer would simply go and open a new, clean account.

    Finally, I do also think that the comments buyers make says more about them than it does about the seller. Not that this helps, but we can also use this to turn the tables on bad-buyer negs – the seller’s reply to a neg speaks volumes about the seller.

    Which feedback reply do you think looks better to a buyer who is looking at your one or two feedback points?:

    Buyer: TERIBLE EBAYER RUBBISH GOODS AVIOD AT ALL COSTS!!
    Seller: LIAR! THERES NOTHING WRONG WITH MI STUFF!! BUYER A MORON!!!!!!!!!!

    Or:
    Buyer: TERIBLE EBAYER RUBBISH GOODS AVIOD AT ALL COSTS!!
    Seller: Item was not what the buyer wanted, refund given immediately.

    I think we can all learn lessons here….

    • MickeyFinn
      10 years ago

      The example you give at the end is exactly the sort of thing to which I was referring…. the comments left tell far more about the AUTHOR than the recipient.

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