Back in February 1996, Pierre Omidyar wrote a letter about feedback: “People sometimes make mistakes. That’s just human. We can live with that. We can deal with that. We can still make deals with that.”
Sadly, most non-positive feedback stems from just such mistakes, and failure to communicate about them: damaged or missing deliveries only notified via feedback, the buyer who misunderstood the seller’s description, the seller who couldn’t post for a week but didn’t let their buyer know. None of this is bad: or at least, not so bad you’d want the offending party thrown off eBay. These are not the people of whom Omidyar said “Here, those people can’t hide. We’ll drive them away.” Feedback was designed to be a safeguard for the eBay community, but right now it’s a wedge driving buyers and sellers apart.
eBay need to incentivise good customer service, but the moment, once feedback has been left, there is little motivation to resolve any issues. Currently, the *only* way to reflect a resolved problem is mutual feedback withdrawal. Sure, sellers who are being scrutinised under the Seller Non-Performance Policy might beg, plead or bully for MFW, but that’s likely to be a miniscule percentage of sellers at any one time. What about the rest of us? Matt Halprin wants to see sellers resolve their problems but MFW offers no carrot to do this. Withdrawn neutrals look exactly the same as withdrawn negs, and “withdrawing” the feedback just tells the rest of the world that the transaction never happened.
A now-happy buyer should be able to reflect that in their feedback: and what better incentive for a seller to resolve whatever issue their buyer has, than the thought that their buyer could change the nasty red on their feedback page can be turned into a lovely green? Why not let them change their feedback?
Traditionally, the argument against making feedback editable is the propensity for blackmail: you left me a neg and I’m going to bully you and bully you and bully you until you change it. But arguably, this is already happening: more sellers than ever, anxious to protect their reputations and their livelihoods, are insisting they will only leave feedback for buyers when they have received a positive themselves. More sellers than ever are espousing “feedback policies” that say that if you neg me, I’ll neg you back and that will be the end of the matter. Feedback blackmail is already here.
But a happy trading partner should be able to reflect that happiness. If a problem transaction is sorted to the satisfaction of both parties, to say that that transaction then becomes worthy of no feedback at all is wrong: transactions where a problem is sorted out amicably are some of the best transactions there are! And if non-positive feedback has been prematurely left, that should *not* be the end of the transaction. It’s time to think the unthinkable, and make feedback editable.