It's time to stop disputing unpaid items

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street fight
Creative Commons License photo credit: ernop

A few days ago, Chris wrote about handling unpaid item disputes, and how to get your fees back without getting poor feedback from your NPB. Great advice for sellers, but it shouldn’t have to be like that. eBay has changed, and this should not be about how individual sellers handle the process.

I suspect if we ran the ‘what puts buyers off returning to eBay’ now that bad feedback has gone, UIDs would be somewhere up there in the top five. In my experience, the vast majority of non-paying bidders have what they consider to be a totally legitimate reason for not paying. If we can get rid of negative feedback for buyers because it upsets them, we should do the same for unpaid item disputes. It’s time this process was made much less antagonistic, and much easier and quicker for all involved.

  • Change the name This is the single most effective thing that eBay could do to take the sting out of a UID: stop calling it a ‘dispute’. Change it to ‘potential order cancellation’ or ‘friendly reminder about payment’ or ‘hello, did you change your mind?’ – anything that doesn’t sound like I’m about to sue you for not paying me.
  • Buyers should be able to cancel BINs Buyers in the UK and Europe have, after all, the legal right to cancel an order: I’m rather surprised the OFT isn’t looking at this one. If a buyer BINs an item and then changes their mind, they should be able to cancel the order in a click. The item could then be simply returned to a seller’s unpaid items, the fees refunded, and the item relisted as the seller chose.
  • We need immediate payment required for multiple items eBay is the only website, in fact the only retail outlet I can think of where an item can be sold and yet not paid for. At the moment, the reason that many sellers don’t use immediate payment required is that it’s only good for single items. Giving sellers the ability to require immediate payment for multiple items could – at a stroke – reduce unpaid BIN items to almost nil. And if eBay need an additional incentive, think how this would push sellers even more towards PayPal.
  • eBay should refund all the fees for unpaid items not just the FVFs. Insertion fees and any listing upgrade fees should be refunded to the seller too. eBay have talked about ‘aligning fees with seller success’: this more than any fiddling about with IF/FVF balance would achieve that. Why should sellers take the risk that eBay’s buyers won’t pay? That risk should be eBay’s to take. And if eBay bore the fee loss, then sellers would stop feeling quite so antagonistic towards buyers who didn’t pay.
  • The whole process needs speeding up By the time I’ve figured out my buyer isn’t going to pay and filed a UID and waited to see if they’re going to respond to that UID, nearly a month has gone by with my inventory gathering dust on a shelf and no money in my PayPal account. Something must be done to speed up the process: perhaps a seller option ‘I’m not waiting for this buyer any longer, I’m cancelling this transaction’ which immediately cancelled the whole thing, just like the buyer option above.

eBay’s argument against all of this is likely to be that unscrupulous sellers will use any or all of the above options to get out of paying their eBay fees. But lets face it, fee-avoiders will find ways of avoiding their fees whatever eBay do. I think it’s time that the site stopped being run to stop this tiny minority, and started being run for the benefit of the vast majority of eBay sellers who are honest, and willing to pay their eBay fees so long as they are charged under fair and reasonable terms.

37 Responses

  1. Refunding all fees and removing the ability to leave feedback in the case of a cancelled order would surely go a long way to dealing with the spate of auction wrecking that has happened recently, if they can’t do any damage then it should hopefully discourage the practice.

    Refunding all fees woulf of course, as you point out, also make the whole unpaid item process less frustrating for buyers and sellers, although I’m sure ebay would be frustrated about it!

  2. Change the name!!!! I don’t have disputes with my customers and can live with everything else!

    Mind you… while they’re changing the name the other four all win my vote for essential improvements as well 😀

  3. Quote Sue … “If I only got to pick one option, Immediate Pay on combined orders would be my choice”

    And the UPI, deffo anything that says dispute makes people prepare for a fight.

    Agree with those big time … good post!

  4. Great post, Sue, I do hope Ebay takes it on board and makes some changes to the process.

    I’d like to add another suggestion which would really only have an impact on sellers, but then, sellers are Ebay’s customers too…..

    Don’t allow non-payers to leave feedback. So if a sale is cancelled either by mutual agreement or as the result of a UID, the buyer can’t leave feedback. This might cut down on malicious feedback and it would also help sellers who don’t open UIDs at the moment for fear of copping a neg.

  5. “Change the name”
    This one I have to agree with!

    “Buyers should be able to cancel BINs”
    Ughh, don’t agree with this one. When someone uses a buy it now, they have a choice, to cancel it, before they confirm their bid. When they do BIN’s, they take your item off the market. If you had other watchers on it, they all see that it is gone and start to look elsewhere. Who know how long you have to wait to relist it, depending on when they decide to tell you they are not paying and by then all your previous watchers, probably have other tickets. Plus, it they see your item again, they may be hesitant to buy it, wondering why the first bidder, didn’t want it.

    “We need immediate payment required for multiple items”
    Don’t agree. Some buyers may see an item they want, that is going off on Thursday night, but don’t get paid til Friday. This could drive away potential higher bidders.

    “eBay should refund all the fees for unpaid items”

    “The whole process needs speeding up”

    Why is it now that it seems ALL sellers are scammers and they need to protect the buyers. This is ebays fault to begin with. All accounts should have been backed up with a drivers license number, a social security number or a government issued ID number and we wouldn’t be in this mess with BAD buyers or SELLERS.

    You failed us ebay!

  6. Change the name, change the in your face wording, yes.

    Re: Randy + Sue: Immediate pay with combined shipping….cart cart! CART! is needed, otherwise transactions will be abandoned. (Can’t really call it “cart abandonment,” can I?)

    I have one right now that I don’t know what to do with.

    Small amount of money, buyer from Germany.

    Checked out indicating payment by money order….I don’t accept money orders outside the U.S. This is in my checkout notes because you can’t set it as an option in eBay (accept in US, not outside US).

    I explain PayPal to German buyer. I want to say send US dollars cash, but I can’t.

    I don’t hear back, I open dispute. Buyer says they want to pay, can’t figure out how to pay. I reply, that’s fine, will see what I can do to help — I send PayPal invoice. Unpaid. I say please let me know if I can do anything to help.

    Finally I say, please reply–if you don’t want the item just let me know, I’ll send a mutual agreement form to end the transaction. No hard feelings.

    No reply.

    What to do? Report the buyer and collect the UPI money? It’s a small amount I don’t care about, I’m going to risk getting negged over money that I care less about? Relist the item? What if it sells and the German buyer finally sends payment?

    So, basically in a rock and hard place over an $8 item. I don’t get paid. Buyer doesn’t get item. Item isn’t relisted for other buyers to purchase.

    eBay limbo.

  7. eBay’s argument for most things, past the point of sounding like a broken record, is that unscrupulous sellers may do this and may do that. It has moved beyond resembling fact or possibility to a mantra that would make Joe McCarthy proud.

  8. @Cliff – you know I agree with you about the cart 🙂 FWIW, “we should have a cart” was left out of this post because it caused what I thought was a surprising amount of disagreement last time I suggested it, and “we should have multiple instant payment” seemed like a way forward that more sellers would agree on.

    @Judy – I’d like to see the option added to mutual cancellation that says ‘neither of us will leave feedback’ – sometimes that’s not appropriate or necessary, but it should at least be an option. As for eBay taking it on board, the last thing I suggested they do (make “or continue shopping with this seller” after a BIN into a link back to the seller’s shop), it took them about three years to implement, so please don’t hold your breath!

  9. All of the above is unlikely to happen as it currently makes ebay a lot of money and therefore is unlikely to change.

    The second advantage is that if power sellers do file UPI, then they standard a better chance of getting a neg and low DSRs which lessen the chance of PS discounts making ebay even more money.

    We’re back to the discussion the other day, if ebay WANTED to, they could easily change the system so that there is no option to leave feedback if the payment hasn’t been completed.

    It can be discussed to death, but there is no incentive for ebay to change it, it works very well for them at the moment.

  10. I would love to see the ideas in Sue’s opening post (including a cart system) come to being, but like Road_Hog says (12) ebay are doing very well out of the current situation of keeping failed listng fees. With increasing amounts of sellers following Scot Wingo’s advice of not filing UPI’s for fear (YES, that’s the word, FEAR) of risking a neg, the ebay purse fills rapidly without them having to lift a finger. Since ebay doesn’t give a stuff about the customer who pay for their services, I am not even hopefull of change.

  11. As Lorrie Norrington and Stephanie Tilenius say they want to prove that eBay’s new management is different, in the light of Road_Hog and Larrylackpants’ comments, this would seem like a great place to start. I suspect that the immediate loss in revenue would not be all that huge, and would easily be made up in additional listings from sellers confident that rogue buyers couldn’t cost them money.

  12. ^^ wot those guys said.

    Sellers of low value items will eat the fees rather than risk a neg and the big ticket sellers can’t afford to risk even one hit unless they are going some with number of items sold.

    Fewer UPIs means more revenue for ebay and that is entirely what drives them.

  13. 100% total agreement. Everything makes perfect sense….
    …now just got to get ebay to listen…..

  14. Yes! Change the name, it is very contentious, I am fed up with opening ‘friendly disputes’ (any oxymoron if ever I heard one) to mutually agree to a close when a buyer backs out out of a sale, ‘Order cancellation’ seems a reasonable name. What is also odd about mutually agreeing to close is when the buyer doesn’t we lose our fees they are off the hook.
    We feel there are good reasons that NPBs without a genuine case for not paying (how do you make that judgement) should have some form of censure, otherwise what is the disincetive to keep messing sellers about, sometimes you owe it to the wider ebay community to tackle problem buyers.
    Thanks Sue for highlighting another thorny issue

  15. have to admit to a spike in unpaid items just recently
    unfortunatly it seems to be buyers from the US
    to early to tell if its just a blip , or if its buyer attitude changing because of the current situation
    but its a tad irritating

    we send reminders now though at one time we just filed UPIs we take the attitude that
    they know if they paid or not

  16. Agree that the ideas are all great (for me and my business!) but I think ebay would prefer to assume buyers need protecting from all us “scammer” sellers and ebay will protect their revenue above anything else (because that’s business)

  17. its the dispute bit that gets up a buyers nose,
    it makes me cringe too

    because I am not disputing bugger all, I am not really asking them to cough up either! I dont really want to send expensive goods to some awkward sod who needs their arm twisting ,
    what I really want is my Fees back from ebay,

    its a little naughty of ebay to make it so difficult

  18. #21

    It is deliberate. Also where a buyer had a complaint, before ebay would bring up a screen telling the buyer to communicate with the seller, now it takes them to the paypal dispute.

    As a buyer as well as a seller, another trick that they are using, that came in the same time as the fee restructure/ps discounts, was the bit in the Won section of my ebay.

    If you haven’t left feedback after about 4 weeks, you get this lovely message,

    “eBay Note: You haven’t left feedback yet. Problem with the item? Don’t miss the deadline for filing a dispute .”

  19. Well said! And framing it as a buyer-related improvement means that eBay might listen. Just don’t tell them it might also be good for sellers, that’ll just kill the whole idea in eBay’s mind.

  20. I currently have a young girl who bought a pair of jeans on June 13. She immediately responded that she’d send a money order. Ten days later, I filed an unpaid dispute. She immediately answered that she needed a few more days then she’d send payment. I told her to please have payment to me by July 1. On July 2, I asked her if we could do a mutual withdrawal agreement. Oh no, she said, she definitely wants the jeans. Just a few more days please, and she’d would send the payment.

    Obviously, I want to close this dispute and relist them, but I can’t for fear I’ll get a negative which I certainly don’t deserve. I loathe Ebay!!

  21. Lisa, I believe if you close that dispute and give the buyer her UI strike, and she then goes on to neg you, you can get that neg removed. Lorrie Norrington said that negs left by NPBs who have “not specifically called out problems with the seller or the goods” in the UID thread, can be removed. I know a lot of people doubted that eBay would follow through on that, but I have seen negs be removed under those criteria. So go for it 😉

  22. I wholeheartedly agree with the post! It’s high time eBay refunded all fees, not just FVFs.


  23. Sue @25

    The problem is that the computer generated restriction/suspension kicks in almost immediately, long before the neg will be removed. The damage is done for the low volume seller and it’s not worth taking the risk.

    Richard has said that there will be a warning period first before restriction but there is nothing concrete there yet.

    eBay have created a very unsettling situation for many small sellers, and it’s totally wrong that any seller should fear doing what is right.

    I have just started the NPB process for one item. Whether or not I close it and reclaim my fees will depend on how much feedback I have in the last 30 days. If getting a neg will get me restricted then I’ll just have to swallow the fees.

    It’s not a happy place to be.

  24. Owen, obviously if you have such low volume that one neg would kick you into the danger zone, you’d want to tread more carefully – though frankly, if you have such low volume that one neg could do that, eBay is not the place for you anymore: make an exit plan at the very least. (That’s a general point about low-volume sellers, and not aimed at you personally. I know you know what you’re doing 😉 )

    Your point about fear is crucial – and it’s also what eBay don’t understand about what they’ve done. A question came up in one of the Live ‘meet the execs’ sessions, where one seller asked “why are we being punished by neuts now counting as negs?” and the reaction from Griff and co. was universally that “we didn’t mean to *punish* anyone”. They don’t seem to appreciate that, when they are messing with people’s livelihoods, there are real negative emotions going on. I don’t know how we get that through to them without taking their salaries away for a month. eBay employees seem so often to think that because they have done a little buying and selling through the site, they know what it’s like to be a full-time seller. But we all know, they don’t.

  25. I take your point, Sue, and I have made other plans.

    As you say, the trouble with eBay is that they have never had to live in the real world and they think that they know it all.

    Thankfully online selling is only part of my business and Ebay is now only part of my online activity, but it would hurt to lose it. I really feel for those who depend on it totally.

    I really do wonder why eBay expect 95% satisfaction rate from their sellers, when major retaillers run at 70 to 80% satisfaction rate. I realise that they are trying to improve the image of the site, but the targets are unrealistic compared with most retail outlets.

    In some ways they have shot themselves in the foot, by alienating sellers and making it much more difficult for the three new ones who will replace each one that leaves. I did have plans for a new eBay ID, selling niche items. It would have again been low volume, highish value. That’s now a website, so eBay have lost some potential fees.

  26. Sue, it’s not that the ebay execs don’t understand what all this is doing to sellers, it’s that they don’t care.

    I saw that Q&A from Live 2008 on YouTube where someone asks Brian Burke to justify counting neuts as negs and he reads from a script about not impacting score (just %) and hey, surely you wouldn’t want to get rid of neuts, would you rather your buyers left you all negs? he says.

    It’s a shameful performance but at least it’s an honest one.

  27. The hell with it, I just finished two UPI and got my fees back.

    One was the German buyer mentioned above who hadn’t responded to me since June 25, even when I offered to file Mutual Agreement.

    The other was a buyer who never responded and the friggin’ item was bought in mid-May.

    If I read the eBay policies correctly I should be okay if either negs me. Let’s see what happens.

  28. Look at how much work all of this is. Just divide the money you make each month off of ebay by the hours you spend jumping through hoops on eBay; just to stay on eBay. What’s your hourly rate? I bet it isn’t pretty.

  29. Randy,

    If I didn’t have the time I wouldn’t have bothered. 2 buyers, no big deal. I’ve always filed, was just a little nervous this time around since they’re the first I’ve had to file for while feeling unprotected by the feedback process. I mean I probably only re-cooped a buck, maybe two, but I think it’s fair to ding the buyers (mainly because they ignored me, all they had to do was ask out and it would have been no problem).

    This process will probably feel a lot more comfortable in the future.

    It took less time than posting this comment.

    And it still beats working for the man!


  30. #25

    Nope, if the buyer responds to the UPI dispute then ebay will not take any action and you get to keep the neg.

    The best quoted response so far, by a buyer was, my monkey eats bananas.

    BTW ebay don’t entertain neuts (now known as negs) so if a buyer gives you a neut then that is okay.

  31. Excellent post and all suggestions are beneficial to buyers who will save big time on the cost of shipping with multiple purchases from one seller. Offering the ability to edit the cart will delight buyers by offering more choice.

    Did I hit all the right current buzzwords?

  32. I had a situation recently where a buyer who never paid left me a negative.

    I don’t do UPI’s because it isn’t worth my time but I filed on this one hoping to get the neg removed.

    As soon as I close the dispute the neg was automatically removed.

    Here’s the problem. It took 8 days to close the dispute and during those 8 days, the negative killed my buyer satisfaction rate to where it said “Needs Work” and I was lowered in the searches for 8 days.



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