eBay consider automatic positives when buyers pay?

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Auctionbytes has a story this morning which is sure to provoke some controversy among the eBay community. eBay are apparently conducting a survey on feedback (again!) amongst US users, and one of the questions is:

As a buyer, how would you prefer to receive Feedback?

  • I want sellers to leave me Feedback rating and comments as they do today.
  • When I have quickly paid for my item, sellers can only leave me positive Feedback.
  • When I have quickly paid for my items, eBay will automatically leave me positive Feedback.

If eBay is seriously considering this as a change to the feedback system, then they ain’t seen nothing yet from sellers angry that the system is becoming more and more about them, and less and less about buyers. Many sellers can tell you that paying quickly is only the beginning of a transaction. How about the buyer that does a chargeback the minute they get their dispatch notification? The one who sends a rubber cheque? The one who orders at 9pm on a Friday and goes ballistic because they don’t have their item Monday morning? The one who deliberately damages an item to get a refund? Fortunately these buyers are few and far between, but they do exist, and sellers surely should have the right to comment on them.

Happily, most buyers don’t appreciate all the things that can go wrong with a transaction. And it would undoubtedly – if I can borrow eBay’s current catchphrase – improve the buyer experience for them if they knew they’d get a positive the second they paid. I know this because they tell me so.

eBay’s thinking seems to be moving more and more towards an Amazon-style feedback system where only the seller’s feedback counts. The problem with this, of course, is that buyers like feedback: I know a few people who keep buying from eBay almost solely because they like seeing their score go up. With Amazon sellers’ feedback, it’s difficult to get buyers to even leave it, because they have no incentive to do so: there’s no reciprocal public praise for them, so why should they bother.

A new feedback system that automatically left feedback for buyers on payment would get around this. Buyers would have their feedback incentive to buy, while sellers could still be left whatever feedback the buyer chose, honestly reflecting their level of service. It might just improve the buyer experience; sellers aren’t going to like it, but since when did feedback pay the bills?

42 Responses

  1. The comment that seems to be being left on eBay boards at the moment is that this is a charter for scammers to get the feedback and the item, and then claim it was damaged/lost in the post/not as described and get their money back.

    Frankly, if eBay sellers think that feedback protects them from this, they are deluded. If I wanted to scam someone, the threat of a negative would not put me off in the slightest little bit: I’d take my neg and abandon the ID (and start another ID and do it again). The fact is that eBay do nothing at the moment to protect sellers from scamming buyers, and this change wouldn’t alter that one little bit.

  2. It’ll make very little difference to me bar the fact that I leave feedback on despatch and not on receipt of payment. Thing is I leave the same feedback comment for every single buyer anyway 😉

    The thing I do find interesting is how eBay will manage my expectation of what “quickly paid” is, with what buyers think is quick and what eBay think is quick. Is it within hours? Same day? Same week? or something else?

  3. Another thought…. I think if feedback for buyers was to be automated with no input from the seller why not automate it when the BUYER leaves feedback for the seller? That way buyers would have every encouragement to leave feedback, and a lot of sellers automate feedback with SMP to achieve this anyway.

  4. … but if you want to get the question about automatic pozzies as a buyer, don’t say that feedback as a buyer is “not important at all” to you. 😀

  5. I think the survey makes it pretty obvious what eBay’s thinking is on this: it’s all about retaliatory negs. The annoying thing is, they only ever seem to think about retaliatories given from sellers to buyers – but it really is a two-way street.

    If it got more bad sellers negged and therefore kicked off the site, would the sellers who remained still be complaining about it, I wonder?

  6. As a buyer, would you prefer to:

    1) Have a fair system

    2) Have your cake & eat it

    3) Have your own secret volcano lair with death ray thrown in

    Gosh, I wonder how many will pick #3?

    This could be seen as a cynical move to further encourage PayPal payments (as if that were needed). Presumably it’s the only payment method by which eBay will be able to verify when/if the payment has been sent?

  7. my opinion is,buyers dont buy feedback, I dont sell feedback. buyers are entitled to nothing unless, they pay for it,
    that said

    its ebays game and their rules, I dont really care what, who, when or how feedback is left ,
    as long as buyers buy, I can live with anything ebay comes up with,
    when their buyers stop buying I stop doing ebay,

  8. I have a suggested solution to this. When I wear my “buyers hat” I want instant feedback if I paid immediately. When I wear my “sellers hat” I’m a little more reluctant to leave positive until I get positive feedback, because I am worried about retaliation. I have to admit that I have left a neg of my own in response to someone leaving me an undeserved neut! (I do regret doing that now and I decided afterwards that I would never do it again because it made me feel so bad!) But it obviously alerts one to the reality that “retaliation” happens, if I could do it surely others would too.

    So my suggestion – if buyers are to receive auto Positive, maybe they would have to go through a simple qualifying period before they could enter the “Auto Feedback Program”. This could be a say once a buyer has reached a feedback score of at least 25 with 100% positive and been registered for 3 months. That way hopefully the buyer will have “learned” the eBay process and that feedback is not a way of contacting the seller with a query and also hopefully stop scammers just setting up accounts with the intention of scamming. The qualifying 3 months might avoid the scammers would buy loads of e-books quickly to get to the 25 feedback score.

    What’s interesting is having had this “debate” (sometimes in my own head 🙂 ) has confirmed to me that I should start to leave positives for fast paying buyers immediately.

    Overall I would support a auto positives for fast paying buyers whether I’m wearing my “buyers hat” or my “sellers hat” as I now think it is fairer that a fast paying and genuine buyer should only get a positive.

  9. I am a two headed monster, I wear both hats Buyers and seller
    as A buyer I want what I pay for asap. and could care less about feedback, feedback its not what I want or need,
    as a seller I send what I am paid for ASAP and only care about feedback because it buggers up my selling If I am not careful,
    feedback is far! far! far! far! more important to me as a seller,

  10. Does anyone ever think that Ebay are envious of Amazon and are trying to be a “grown up” website just like them?

  11. I just re-read my comment above and it seems I was suffering from the “still packaging at 4.00am because I left it so late and now because I am tired I am typing codswallp-itus!”

    Does anyone else suffer with that?

  12. Personally I would rather have the Amazon Feedback system. The few that do leave feedback are objective, rather than picky, childish or rude. So far as e bay feedback is concerned the whole system is a joke, manipulated by those who do not get their own way, unprofessional rude comments and a complete waste of time in assessing the quality of the buyer or seller, whatever e bay do to it can only make it more of a joke. Sellers are afraid to leave info on non paying bidders, scam artists and the likes because they know they will get a negative in return, so bring it on e bay, I like many others sell on ebay to make a profit, when that does not happen, bye bye e bay

  13. Whether its auto positive, or allowing on positives for buyers who paypal paid, eliminating buyer fb, or “Double blind”, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it eliminates the automatic retaliation the feedback hostage sellers ALWAYS do. That is the single easy thing ebay can do to improve shopping on ebay and clean up the problem sellers.

    You just wonder why its taken so long for them to move on this. If some of those whining about this actually do follow through and finally leave (as most of them were going to do many times before)…just more money available for the rest of us 🙂

  14. I definitely agree with Jean, and I pretty much agree with Toby. But what I would like to see if they are going to have this new “tighter” system, is something that more strongly encourages buyers to contact the seller if they have a problem.

    As some of you know, I’ve been leaving feedback first on all my seller accounts for a while now, and I am pretty sure that it does not increase the number of non-positive feedbacks I get: I still get positives from people whose problems I’ve resolved, and negs and neutrals which come straight out of the blue, normally for things that I could have resolved instantly if the buyers had bothered to contact me. Frankly, I find it hard to justify why I shouldn’t neg/neut those buyers for their non-communication, especially with the new seller non-performance policies. Their inability to send email advising me of the problem is potentially damaging my livelihood.

  15. next thing
    will be that sellers need to send first and allow buyers to be happy before payment is made !
    and to those that think thats daft its no dafter than leaving feedback just because a buyers paid ,when theres every chance they will charge back

  16. This is basically removing the ability for Sellers to leave Feedback.

    Ebay really do seem to not care about the seller base.

    When will they learn?

  17. Hi all!

    Especially hi to Chris and Sue, havent spoken with you guys for AGES! Though Mountie did just ring me and try to bag a new free pen 😛

    OK Free pen for all Tamebay Moderators 🙂 Use my contact page to send me your address 🙂

    I wrote an essay on this and then hit refresh and it had been mostly all said!

    Auto feedback will improve buyers experience, and the built in “non sellers necessity” to grow their feedback score where applicable will incite them to buy at the thought of another star! Yippee! more sales? or more scams?

    Meanwhile sellers get their mouths firmly closed, because selling is all about getting paid quickly (?) and community court. Thats a good idea, but will turn into a sellers Kangaroo Court with applications for feedback resolution every minute.

    My feedback is that. Its my right to speech. My freedom.

    I am sure not going to accept ebay writing it for me or dishing it out.

    Its not all about payment, there are many other stages of a sale for a seller!

    Strange ebay want that community court run by sellers, thats one expense they do not want! Just how many requests can they expect from sellers……

    If auto feedback happens ill set all of my feedback comments to:

    “This isnt true feedback – this is Ebay Feedback – Dont trust it”



    or perhaps a bunch of expletives so it has to be removed……… 🙂

    I want to retain my freedom of speech. Who else does?

  18. I have always left feedback as soon as the buyer has paid.
    Had a couple of bounced cheques for under a fiver each, but never any real problems – so what’s the fuss all about????

  19. Hey Nick! Good to speak to you today.

    I’ll be very interested to see the auto feedback comments left if eBay decide to go ahead with this. Maybe it’ll be similar to:

    “Fast payment 37 seconds after the end of the auction”
    “Fast payment 46 hours after the end of the auction”
    “Fast payment 5 days after the end of the auction”
    “Fast payment 17 days after the end of the auction”

    Wonder just how slow payment can be and still qualify as “Fast”? 😮

  20. Oh, I probably should have added that I still have 100% feedback after 5 years of giving selling feedback as soon as they pay

  21. Thankfully most of our buyers are honest people and there is nothing we like better than to sell to a repeat customer. However every volume seller has experienced the difficult buyer. The one that doesn’t check out, then tells you their paypal account isn’t working or some other wishy washy excuse. Sometimes things do go wrong with a sale, holding back on feedback give us an opportunity to refund or replace before comments are committed to feedback text. We don’t support the tit for tat argument, just that sometimes emails need to be exchanged before leaving feedback. If we need to refund or replace and the buyer leaves a neg then so be it, but very often matters can be resolved and a sale completed satisfactory for everyone. Making feedback automatic removes this important margin for error.

  22. The more I hear other people’s views about automatic positive the more I’m convinced that it is a good thing. At the end of the day we are in retail and the customer IS always right or at least in successful business they are. When you consider what Des said about still having 100% even with an auto positive policy speaks for it self, he is obviously offering a good service, or else he would have more negs right?

    Sometimes maybe we forget we are a service and that without buyers we would have no business anyway, ebay policy or no ebay policy, if it wasn’t for the good old paying customer this conversation would not be happening. So I guess any policy that makes the whole experience better as a buyer has to benefit the sellers also?

    I’ve been auto-positiving all purchasers since yesterday after payment and it feels good, I’ve even written to that guy I neg’d once for bad comms and asked him if he’d like to withdraw it. From now on I’ll let the customers judge me on how well I look after them, not on how likely they are to get a retaliatory neg! 🙂

    Anyway if a customer hacks you off, we can all head over to the tamebay forums and have a rant it’s very cathartic!

  23. Just have to read today’s comments on the feedback thread on .com store board. Experienced seller with fine fb receives glowing positive from what looks like a great 600 fb buyer…but detects one of their stars falls off “5”…so slams the buyer with a neg!!! And a very large number of sellers on ebay would agree that was a fine thing to do.

    Its fine if that seller wanted to throw away any chance at repeat business, and fine they’ve declared this time is really really the time they are leaving ebay (uh huh)…but the system allowing them to do that has now disgruntled a great buyer for everyone else.

    Someone needs to do a study to see if sellers leaving fb on payment actually encourages a more positive fb response from buyers, as there doesn’t seem to be any evidence at all to support the other sides contention that it increases the risk of receiving bad fb.

  24. Buyers feedback is largely worthless anyway, the only exception possibly being able to leave negs for scammers to warn others.

    Here’s a radical idea. Perhaps it’s time to scrap feedback for buyers altogether, think about it for a moment, what’s the point of it anyway? Let’s face it the big river doesn’t have it and works fine without it. I truely think this would be a much better idea than eBay leaving worthless automated positives which would be a scammers charter for buliding up feedback.

  25. Richard I don’t think there’s a difference between scrapping feedback for buyers and allowing eBay to leave an auto-positive on payment…..

    The one difference is as Sue pointed out it’s a marker towards their next star to keep them happy and buyers do like stars just as much as sellers 😉

  26. Chris, I couldn’t care less about stars, the only thing that interests me is profit. 😀

    I take your point about buyers liking them, but are they really worth anything in this day and age, is there really a need for buyers getting a rating from sellers, some days it all seems so damn silly to me. Feedback is a huge consumer of time and energy in the great scheme of things, ebay perhaps have realised this and perhaps this is why auto feedback is being considered. I wonder how many man hours ebay customer service spend on feedback issues? Time that perhaps could be put to better use……………. Dreaming up the next flippin’ daft idea. 🙂

  27. One thing is crystal clear.

    Ebay have long since disregarded the fact that ebay sellers and themselves are “stake holders” in each others fortunes.
    They do not care one iota about the futures of each and every one of our businesses.

    As long as they can pull in the punters and then grab a few pennies from the advertisers as they shunt them to another site they are happy.

    Ebay only exists for this, and to generate payments through paypal, which is the cash cow of thier business model.

    The barefaced contmept shown while doing so, and still pushing the illusion of “the ebay community” is quite staggering.

  28. I have just thought up a great buisness

    a blog about ebay feedback only!
    ebay feedback gets so much attention and comment ,selling advertising space would be a goldmine

  29. Hi All

    Some very valid points being made here.

    Customers are always right. Generally speaking this is true, its a fine belief to uphold, but there are exceptions…..

    I have had customers that you may consider to be “right” (because they always are) but in effect the problems they have suffered have been the result of failing to read instructions. They come back and tell me its my product. Well its not! All our systems are batch tested! In this case the customer is most certainly wrong.

    Now we see that several times in a month. Its usually novice users who dont bother to read. We publish guides, how to’s, safety, technical all in advance of purchase. Plenty of time to swot up, most dont bother to read and have a bash.

    My product isn’t setting right is the biggest moan – sadly this is usually as people add things in the wrong proportions! This is my fault? The customer is right?

    No the customer is wrong. But we try to help them to resolve their issue.

    Read the darn product label Mr Customer. After all we dont all add a whole bottle of Soy Sauce to our chinese, when the recipie states 10ml…..or was it 10 grams? hmmm best check the instructions!

    Auto feedback in the case of ebay – disaster zone for us. It will be feedback extorition city. “Your product is useless – i want another that works how you say it does or im negging you!”. And i just left you a positive too Mr Customer for paying me quickly……how can you turn on me so?

    We only have 300-500 transactions a month, typically quite high value, so a dozen negs WOULD make a huge difference. Personally with stats like that id find an other seller……

    My market is a little strange, rather niche and complex. I dont sell clothes, shoes, gadgets etc etc. So perhaps auto feedback might work for you guys, for me its a disaster waiting to happen.

    I like my good feedback. 99.9% posi but i do have negs:

    From a customer who never paid and said i had stolen the CASH he had posted……

    From a customer who got only one bag of plaster, not two. A simple mispick or missing box!

    Granted we have a few neutrals, but have found these are generally from the numpties. The non communicators. The AOL Mail users who lose half their incoming mail to useless spam filters and complain of misdelivery, or lack of comms when in fact we reply, they just never get it.

    We have left negs and neuts for customers before that have left us positive. Why? Simple. MY personal experience of the transaction was poor or terrible. It’s not like im doing it for the fun, and 99.9% of those become blocked buyers anyway.

    By using auto feedback we lose the freedom of speech as sellers, cannot comment fully on a transaction (payment IS NOT the only part of a sale!!!!) and are opened to feedback extortion. Its as simple as that IMHO.

    Except of course we do retain the right for a useless follow up comment, where even then the customer can reply and have the last word.

    Businesses are nothing without customers, but some customers are impossible to please 100%. We are perfectly happy to service the 95% that CAN be satisfied fully.

    PS: Chris did ya want the new pen yet 😛 ?

  30. “We only have 300-500 transactions a month, typically quite high value, so a dozen negs WOULD make a huge difference. Personally with stats like that id find an other seller……”

    Why would you expect to get negs at a higher rate then competitors? Completely irrational (if you aren’t doing anything wrong)

  31. Hi Toby

    Its a hypothetical situation we are talking about here. I am being specific to my market.

    I have a lot of customer issues, mainly through lack of understanding of the product, that cause complaints that are no fault of my own. Specifically they are the customers and their failing to read instructions properly.

    Without the ability to open up communications, these cannot be resolved and WILL almost certainly end up as negs.

    With a dozen or so of this type of complaint per month, thats where i get a “dozen negs” from.

    Theres nothing irrational about it……

    I have been selling my items which are pretty unique and not that contested on ebay for nearly ten years. So there isnt much competition! On some products NONE!

    The “customer doesnt read” problem is ongoing and continuous. It wont go away.

    Anyway whatever gets said, whatever gets done by ebay, i dont agree with having my freedom of speech removed at all.

  32. For me the purpose of Ebay is to make money, as much as possible. A higher positive feedback rating does encourage buyers to buy goods from me, so feedback is important. What gets me is when a transaction goes wrong, for whatever reason, and the buyer uses another account to buy your stuff and neg you for some daft reason…

    I have worked in retail management for a number of years and the customer is rarely right! FACT. I am also a customer and my expectations are sometimes too high but that’s because I want a good deal, so I push for a good deal.

    One thing I hate is when a buyer purchases 2 of your items and TELLS (not asks) you they want a postage discount even though no such discount is offered in the listing, when you say no sorry they leave a neg!

    I think that if a buyer does not pay or you have refunded them for some reason that they should not be able to leave feedback because no transaction has taken place. Anyways, it’s late and to be honest I don’t really care what Ebay do, all I do know is that as powersellers we should all be looking for another way to make money because it’s only a matter of time before it becomes impossible to make a living on Ebay.

  33. The whole feedback part of eBay needs revamping. It needs to be fair to both seller and buyer. Right now if a buyer does everything right and the seller send him junk then he post negative to that seller that seller usually will post negative feedback to the buy in retaliation. NOT FAIR at all to that kind of buyer.
    It also needs to only post if both buyer and seller have sent in their feedback.
    I sent a suggestion to eBay but doubt it ever gets used.
    I suggest that both have to post their feedback in order for either of them to receive it. I also suggest that when one leaves feedback the system lets the other know that feedback has been left and they need to leave feedback, but the system should not let either know what kind of feedback was left.
    I think that would give everyone a clearer picture of the person they are dealing with.

  34. In some ways I find the whole concept of retaliatory feedback mildly amusing.

    As a seller most feedback I leave is retaliatory – but no one complains if I return a poss with a poss 😆


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