"We believe that people are basically good"

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Seth Godin is always interesting, but reading this post was a eureka moment for me: he put into words something that’s been bothering me for a while now. Go read it. I’ll still be here with my half-assed observations when you get back. But pay special attention to this paragraph:

The temptation is to … insist on eternal vigilance against the possiblity of getting ripped off. To act as if everyone online is a criminal. To assume that the moment you are generous or trusting, squadrons of bad actors will exploit your generosity.

As eBayers, we see this every day. The seller’s terms and conditions that guard against every single little thing that might ever go wrong. The buyer who acts like a crazy person because, they say, “I’ve been ripped off before”. The endless argument about who should leave feedback first. As Seth says, “I don’t think that’s the answer.”

I’ve been running an experiment. I had a little selling ID where I was leaving feedback first, just to see if that meant I got more non-positives from buyers. I know, I know – you don’t want to do that, and that’s your perogative. But I just wanted to mention an email I got from a buyer: “Thanks for leaving me feedback straight after I paid. That doesn’t normally happen. I’m going back to your shop to buy some more things now.” And he did – five times the amount he’d bought on the first go.

And I wonder if five times the happy, bringing in five times the money, isn’t worth the risk of the odd neg now and again. I wonder if saying “I trust you” to your buyers isn’t, in itself, a unique selling point. I wonder if, if we all assumed everything was going to go right, it might not do so more often.

15 Responses

  1. Sue, when I was running Glacierbaydvd, we always gave Feedback first. In fact as soon as the item was paid for we gave positive feedback.

    It has always been my belief that the customer had done their part by paying for the transaction. Sure, we occasionally got a neg but our approach helped us build one of the most recognizable brands on eBay.

  2. It’s not *just* feedback Randy, it’s the whole attitude of how you treat your customer. I’ve seen sellers who receive and email saying “I have a problem and wanted you to resolve it prior to leaving feedback” which can be interpreted two ways

    1) If you don’t sort it I’m going to neg you.
    2) I don’t want you to worry about your feedback which is why I’ve contacted you to give you the opportunity to resolve the issues first.

    It’s amazing how many sellers assume the worst and yet in practise buyers on eBay (generally) are nice people that want to be treated nice and treat others nicely!

    It’s all about how you perceive others, and generally the way you perceive them is the way that they’ll act be that for better or for worse

  3. For the first year of trading on eBay we always left feedback as soon as the buyer paid. We received a couple of negatives, which where latter withdrawn by the buyer after we had resolved the problem.

    I think as a knee jerk reaction we changed to leaving feedback after the buyer. It is true most buyers are pleasant and reasonable people who maybe we should show more trust.

    I firmly believe we should treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves.

  4. I dont sell feedback, I dont stock feedback, I dont get paid for feedback ,I dont ask for feedback ,no buyer is entitled to it!
    I dont like being bullied or coerced or intimidated,into what how and when, by ebay, buyers, anyone, or anybody,

    when, how ,and what feedback is my choice, as is my religion, the footbal team I support ,and what I like in my sandwich

  5. and if we are going to play the community spirit thing

    the question is when have you actually been paid! if you ca loose payment via chargeback, [thousands down the slot over the years]

    how then do you leave feedback to warn others

  6. I don’t really believe that negative feedback for buyers warns anyone. I certainly have neither the time nor the inclination to check all my buyers’ f/b before I allow them to buy: I would imagine most sellers are the same. And of course, BIN totally knocks that possibility on the head anyway.

    But North makes my point (and Seth’s point) beautifully. You can treat *all* buyers as though they might be the one in ten thousand who’ll do a chargeback on you… or you can not. I prefer not to.

    It’s not about buying and selling feedback. It’s about giving away a good feeling with every purchase.

  7. I think any strategy where you are treating customers like people is bound to succeed in the long run.

    Although I must admit as a consumer seller I’m rather bad about this. I don;t leave feedback till it’s left for me.

    I am sure this varies by business / consumer seller by some way.

  8. oh what the heck
    I think people are basicly good too!
    we are going to send their items to them before they pay,
    no half measures for us WE BELIEVE
    the leave feedback first thing is easy it costs nowt

  9. Hmmm – read this piece this morning and have been thinking it over during the day.

    I do agree that the very vast majority of people are reasonable and honest – after all, running a mail order business selling low cost items most of which aren’t sent by tracked mail, just couldn’t work otherwise. I’ve certainly never been a fan of those listings which contain T&C which detail every little thing that could potentially go wrong, so I agree on that score too.

    I have seriously thought today about changing my feedback policy to leaving feedback first (the first time I’ve really considered that in a long time). But I’m afraid I just can’t bring myself to do it, especially in the current climate where all negative and neutral feedback is counted as a ‘strike’ against the seller by ebay.

  10. We’ve always left feedback first, just because it suits our process. And we never bother to chase it. In fact I don’t think we have left many negatives either. We will give a strike if we aren’t paid, but will normally just not bother to leave feedback at all, as the item falls outside our system (we leave feedback on receipt of payment, so if it isn’t paid, it doesn’t trigger the feedback.)

    We have always assumed everyone is honest unless proven otherwise, and I would say that 99.999% of our customers have been. Of course, we sell in a category that is known to have fewer scammers than others, so we are relatively safe in this. We get some npb’s of course, but not many, and we assume there are reasons why they haven’t paid other than to deliberately cheat us.

    In the end, it just sits ill with me to treat people as though they will cheat and lie, because of 0.001% of our customers. North and Gill, actually what percentage do you reckon of your buyers have actually sh*t on you from a height? Not as many as have paid on trust, and been happy to do so, I bet.

    It’s all karma in the end.

  11. Does not leaving feedback first really equate to treating people as though they will cheat and lie? Personally I don’t see it that way, but if you do, then I guess I am guilty as charged 🙁

    The bad experiences that I have had do of course comprise a very tiny tiny minority of the whole (as I thought I had already made clear), but they were real nonetheless and are the main reasons why I have decided to maintain my existing feedback policy.

  12. “Does not leaving feedback first really equate to treating people as though they will cheat and lie?”

    Put it another way “Does not leaving feedback first really equate to treating people as though they’ll treat you well even though you can’t neg em back?”

    This REALLY isn’t about feedback although it’s used to demonstrate a point. It’s about not allowing the minute percentage of poeple out there that might con you affect how you treat the vast majority that won’t. It’s about whether you can not only believe that people are basically good but actually act upon the belief.

  13. Sorry , as Chris says it isn’t really just about feedback – my first paragraph was just saying how we treat feedback, and then the rest of my comment was about treating people as honest and good.

    So although the paragraphs followed on from each other, the really were looking at separate ideas.

    In a nutshell, I agree that the actions of a tiny few will not be allowed to colour my attitude to the rest of the world.

  14. if the logic behind leaving feedback first is sound
    and folk are to be trusted .
    why do we have a police force, prisons, courts, alarms, ,why do we locks on doors, why do we have AV programs, Firewalls, and Passwords,



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