Let feedback be feedback : what I’d do with eBay, part 3

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I said, in a recent and rather grumpy piece, that eBay has lost its way, that it doesn’t know what it is any more. I stand by that. It’s not an auction site any more (nor, with fixed price sales increasing quarter on quarter, should it be made to be). In an age dominated by niche and specific branding, saying “we’ve got everything” probably isn’t going to work. But eBay does still have one thing that makes it unique. That thing is feedback.

eBay invented feedback. Pierre Omidyar’s idea for a way to drive out the dishonest from his site was unique at the time, and still remains counter-intuitive for many retailers: if you’ve ever tried to explain to a CEO why, yes, she should let her customers slag off her company on her own website, and no, she shouldn’t delete their comments, you’d know just how counter-intuitive it still is.

eBay feedback has an additional factor that makes it so much more powerful than a standard “product review” on any other ecommerce site: it’s on eBay. The person or company for whom it was left doesn’t get to edit. They don’t get to delete stuff they don’t like. There isn’t even the perception that they might do so. They just have to sit there and take it.

How powerful does that make a buyer? We forget this, when we’ve been trading on the site for a while, but stop and think about it for a minute. There’s nowhere to hide. If you got bad service or shoddy goods, you can tell the world – and it’s right there where the merchant’s still trying to trade. Isn’t that going to ensure that they get it right for you, or if they don’t get it right, they at least put it right?

And by and large, it works. Where else do you have 99%, 99.9% customer satisfaction rates, not as the exception, but as the norm? eBay should be proud of this. They should be shouting it from the rooftops. But they’re not.

eBay has done almost everything it could have over the last few years to undermine the feedback system. Once the possibility of a seller negging a buyer had been removed, buyers were protected from bullying to influence the feedback they left, and were free to leave honest feedback. That should have been the full extent and the end of the system changes.

Buyers currently score sellers five times – for one transaction, is it worth the trouble? It looks more like a census form than a feedback form. Increasingly, buyers say they can’t be bothered. The happy buyer doesn’t click the boxes – and because they think they have to click them all, they don’t click any. Only the unhappy bother with feedback. That’s sad.

But if the system is too complicated for buyers, it’s too consequential for sellers too. We’ve all seen, over and over again in the last year, the nonsense of DSR scores down to a tenth of a point being used to control sellers’ trading ability. You shouldn’t be chucked off eBay or demoted in search or lose a discount because one buyer thought you overcharged on P&P. That’s not what feedback should be for (and if anyone talks to buyers, they don’t think it should be for that either).

Feedback is too blunt a tool to use in the way eBay is trying to use it now. If dolphins taught us anything, it was that. Let’s dump the DSRs and have feedback used for what it’s good at: expressing buyer opinion. If they think I’m rubbish, let ’em say so – but let me use that as a tool to improve, not as a stick for eBay to beat me with.

Last bit, coming up tomorrow…

31 Responses

  1. Nicely put Sue.

    FWIW my opinion on making ebay better is the following:

    “They should remember WHO the customer is” eg the seller NOT the buyer. Excessive control of sellers is a major problem. Like I’ve discussed before with eBay sellers. Could you imagine working on an indoor market selling fruit and vegetables ? Then the market organiser/manager/whatever comes across and puts a screen around half of your “display” ? And the reason for this ? Because another fruit and veg seller’s “wares” in the same hall are supposedly a “best match” for what market buyers want, or the other seller is cheaper etc. This is what eBay is doing to its sellers with best match, ridiculous DSR feedback shennanigans and a sloped playing field (not that I was ever on the so called “playing field”, more like in the ditch round the field.) You wouldn’t tolerate this from the market manager, you’d say his job was to collect the rent for your stall and bog off and leave you alone (which is his job essentially), so WHY put up with it from eBay ?


  2. and if ebay were really interested in customer satisfaction they would target Chinese sellers who are deceptive with location and delivery times

  3. But does feedback work in the way it should?

    I would say not on both amazon and ebay as 90% of our bad feedback is either because the customer has not read something correctly or it’s nothing to do with us… the other day we have a neg on amazon saying ‘The t-shirt was of bad quality and a rip off price’ we don’t sell t-shirts! Contacted the buyer and no response! And this has happend many times on amazon.

  4. I do still enjoy looking at my feedback every now and then – the lovely comments give me a warm feeling inside.
    The stars do nothing for me.

    It seems to me that it has chosen it’s new niche – as a market place for outstanding value on discontinued lines from high street names (with a long raggedy tail). In my opinion this is a very very limiting niche (although I can just about squeeze in on that tail).

    Baby/bath water.

    PS Why does stock become discontinued?

  5. Great post Sue. We waste far too much of our time and money trying to achieve top DSRs. Lower fees, better search standing, & Featured Firsts make this essential.

    We would much rather spend our time trying to run a business. Only eBay give us these problems, thank God Amazon don’t.

    Ebay are obsessed with feedback, but no one else really cares.

  6. Sue this also comes back to your blog posting yesterday about buyer seller communication. Buyers leaving feedback as a way of getting a message to a seller, “Item never received” etc. I think the number of neutrals and negs would be less if it was easier for buyers and sellers to communicate and resolve problems.

  7. since DSR’s feedback left by buyers has dropped, I guess because of the increasing complexity?

    However having the data in the dashboard has allowed me to focus on the worst parts of my business (namely postage prices and speed of delivery – both are now in the 4.9’s. One hope that by doing this repeat business will increase!

  8. Great post, Sue.

    I could always see the argument for removing seller negative feedback, even though it was rather a shock to the system at the time.

    However, eBay obsessing over feedback to the nth degree (whilst apparently steadfastly ignoring any other reports of actual seller problems) is counterproductive. The requirements for maintaining TRS are statistically ridiculous – needing less than one in 200 buyers to leave a 1 or 2 on the DSRs.

  9. I am all for weeding out bad sellers: I am a good seller. I would like to see more done to weed out bad buyers. Bad buyers aren’t just those who don’t pay – they are those who don’t play fair.

    Two points which I made to Patrick at #SB20 to Patrick (before Sue got out of bed):-

    1. DSR anonymity prevents checking
    – The standard response to unfair feedback is that “it will be removed”. It can only be removed if we know it is unfair and complain; with anonymous DSRs we can’t tell. My account manager is great and really helpful at spotting the occasional unfair DSR. I know that I could see more if I could see them all.

    – The benefit of anonymity was that some sellers were sending abusive messages to buyers. Anonymity prevented that. But the solution to abuse is to sanction people who send rude messages, not prevent free and open trading. Baby. Bathwater.

    2. Identify buyer traits – let us choose who we trade with.

    – Help us identify buyers who consistently leave negatives and low DSRs across a range of sellers. At the moment when we get a problem the first thing we do is check their feedback left for others.

    – Anyone can go to my profile and see that I RECEIVED 99.9% positive feedback. But they can’t see that I LEFT 100% positive feedback.

    – I can see currently all feedback left for others in anyones feedback profile: it’s not secret — I’d really like eBay to add it up for me. DSRs too.

    – Buyers might then start to use their awesome feedback powers (which can do us harm) a little more like silver bullets.

    Just a couple of thoughts…

  10. Does everyone think eBay are getting it so wrong?

    They must be doing something right or there quarterly results are misleading.

    I read somewhere (probably here) eBay are saying TSR’s sales are up more than 30% on average and going by my own experience I can beleive it.

    I was a dolphin first month of TRS, then we had postal strike, christmas, and most recently cold weather, so it’s still too early to be sure but my January sales are on track to be at least 30% up on last year.

    Interestingly the increase is coming from higher value sales rather than increased transactions, so could be a sign that TRS increases buyer confidence.

  11. ebay likes to talk about buyer confidence, what about seller confidence?
    Every time I look at my feedback comments and compare them to my DSR scores, I loose just a little bit more confidence in the “system”.

  12. The logical way forward is to scrap feedback in favour of a DSR only system.

    This is the direction I suspect eBay are planning to take us.

    Sooner the better IMHO

  13. The only trouble with your article is that Ebay doesn’t listen to it. They keep on with the childish and immature punishment of sellers. Leaving them at the mercy of one crazy buyer. Its pretty evident that Ebay still believes sellers (both good and bad cause they don’t differentiate) are a dime a dozen. They still believe there is an endless supply of sellers who are perfectly willing to be beaten and pulled around by the nose on Ebay’s whim because they still believe Ebay is the only game in town. However, they haven’t looked far enough down their noses to see that the good sellers are leaving – the bad sellers will stay until they’re thrown off the site 😉


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