Could a statistical blip put you out of business?

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There’s an interesting thread on the PowerSeller board (PowerSeller log in required) which TameBay reader Paul sent my way. It discusses what happens when an account is suspended and the affect on related accounts. The seller in question has decided to stop selling their private goods on eBay as if their private eBay selling account is suspended then other accounts may also be suspended and this would be the end of their business.

The rule in question is the suspended accounts policy and in particular the question “Can I or a family member open a new account while my account is suspended?” which is answered “No, you can’t register a new account or use an existing account while your account is suspended. We may also suspend new or existing accounts that were opened by anyone in the same household as, or associated with, a suspended user.

eBay are actually very good at linking accounts and will probably already have linked your business account with your private account and those of any close family members. However the good news for sellers is that in recent times eBay are much less likely to suspend an account and more likely to apply selling restrictions to the offending eBay User ID.

The thing that is of interest to me however is the apparent uncertainty that sellers feel when trading on eBay. In order to run a business a company needs a level of certainty that they’ll be able to continue trading and currently eBay still don’t appear to be able to provide this.

For many sellers it only takes one or two buyers to leave a low DSR and your account will receive selling restrictions. In reality it takes a minimum of three buyers to scupper your DSRs, although if you already one or two low DSRs then you may be on sudden death where just one more unsatisfied buyer can kill your account.

Feedback has always been the most emotional part of eBay trading and always raises strong feelings when discussed in forums. The problem is that you may be a superb seller giving fantastic service and yet the odd buyer may disagree with every other buyer purchasing the same product receiving the same service.

Then there are the buyers who it appears are almost impossible to please. The feedback shown here is from a real buyer who is new to eBay. They seem to be exceptionally unlucky as 4 out of their first 13 transactions have resulted in them leaving non-positive feedback. In the general scheme of things these buyers are few and far between, but it’s certainly not an uncommon situation to see buyers leaving a high incidence of neutral and negative feedback which is outside the expected norms for the sellers involved in the transactions.

Sellers have to be sanguine and accept that sooner or later they will meet a buyer who simply can’t be pleased. It might happen once a week, once a month or once a year depending on the volumes you sell, but sooner or later a buyer will leave non-positive feedback or a low DSR. The lack of business certainty arises from the fact you can’t ensure the few poor feedbacks you receive aren’t evenly spread out over the course of the year.

Whilst you might be a fantastic seller if you’re unlucky enough to sell to three or more buyers in a short space of time who all leave non-positive feedback and low DSR scores your account could be in danger of selling restrictions. The law of averages says that the feedback won’t always be spread out evenly and sooner or later an unusually high number of poor feedback scores will be bunched together.

Sellers need certainty on eBay. Sellers have mortgages to pay, warehouses to run, employees to take care of and bills to pay. Sellers often have to order stock months in advance and they need to know that they will still be in business when the stock arrives and invoices become due.

Whilst eBay has come a long way in providing a more stable business environment for sellers in recent years they still need to do more work to reassure sellers. Business continuity and the certainty that you’ll be able to trade next month are what sellers need in order to invest in their eBay business.

What else eBay could do to reassure sellers that their businesses on eBay are safe I don’t know. Feedback has to remain the opinion of the buyer, otherwise it’s worthless. However a statistical blip on your feedback record shouldn’t be enough to put your business in jeopardy.

57 Responses

  1. IMO feedback should be removed, but it’s unlikely that’s going to happen. Perhaps eBay shouldn’t take any action at all with regards to negative feedback etc.

    Think about it, if you saw a seller with loads of negs etc you wouldn’t buy from them right, so that seller would soon be gone.

    Or perhaps only in the most extreme cases should eBay step in.

    Feedback only represents that buyers experience of their transaction…it shouldn’t be put across as an opinion of your business as a whole.

    In fact, there has always been a little voice inside me that questions the whole legality of public feedback/comments/negs etc

  2. Well it happened to me Chris, Sue in fact did a piece on it for Tamebay!

    Lost all our accounts, even an account I was helping another business with was suspended. At the time 90% of our business was on Ebay!

    Since then I have never been able to hold must trust in ebay and always considered it a small part of my business as I just can’t afford to rely on the money from it after nearly losing the business when it happened!

    I think the biggest issue with it is the fact that you can’t speak to a human to try and resolve any issue, they are just not interested in helping.

  3. We have just been given a neutral for “slow postage” as the item didn’t arrive in time for the buyer’s holiday. It was ordered on the evening of the 27th April and posted the following morning by the buyer’s chosen method of 2nd class post (ignoring the 49p first class option) with no indication of any urgency. The following day was bank holiday due to the Royal Wedding, which was followed by another on the Monday. I don’t think anyone could say that was our fault that it didn’t arrive in time, but this buyer it seems would blame us for it raining the entire time he was away. He’s a seller too, so should know better.

    As usual, there’s nothing we can do: “eBay’s delivery estimates don’t take account of bank holidays” so we just have to wear it. One neutral and low DSRs Could cost our business £300 a month under the current system – and that’s a conservative estimate. I can’t believe that eBay thinks it acceptable that one buyer should have such a disproportionate impact on a business and I’m sure such manipulation of the market place is in direct contravention of EU law.

  4. You do make an excellent point about stability. Investment requires some confidence in the future – particularly where one is taking personal risks to fund staffing growth and warehousing.

    EBay is a coral reef – teeming with life, it bonds a huge ecology of businesses together and provides a locus where they settle.

    Coral reefs change extremely slowly, and don’t up-sticks and move overnight. If they do, then the fish are all lost at sea and die. Sure, they do change, but they evolve gradually and slowly, but not in sudden and drastic steps.

  5. All eBay UK have to do is announce that they will no longer ban UK business sellers.

    They should continue to ban private sellers and those from outside the UK where appropriate. Banning a seller from outside the UK does not restrict that seller in their own home territory.

    I want business continuity. My website has been going for 8 years and has been developed over that time and is highly regarded by google search and others.

    I am not going to waste time developing my presence on eBay as it could all be a complete waste of time due to the random DSR feedback effect. And ebay keep changing things and creating work for those who use html templates. They do not create a rule and stick to it ad infinitum. They introduce a new rule whilst at the same time altering an old rule.

    Use ebay to sell stuff and keep things simple. The moment you try and develope a unique presence by offering more is the moment you trip up.

  6. same for all would be a big help, not unbalanced by those that badger support.
    at one time feedback was set in stone you needed to work a miracle to get bad feedback removed,
    now if you know the ropes with the right support rep you can get a lot of feedback removed,
    we take it on the chin though having received more bad feedback in the last 12 months than we have in the last 12 years,

  7. The question that should be of serious interest to eBay would be how differently would you act as a seller if eBay altered feedback arrangements so that random statistical blips did not put your business at risk?

    Say ebay announced that DSR counts for a rolling 12 month period only would be taken into account in future and that there would be a 12 month period after a statistical blip to get your house back in order without any loss to TRS status if you have this?

    Would this provide a stable business environment and would you act any differently as a seller given the increased stability this may bring?

  8. Some long time TameBay readers might remember when I quit one of my eBay businesses.

    It’s probably worth reviewing what happened after I quit. When I hadn’t been selling for six months I regained Top Rated Seller status as low DSRs dropped off. After nine months I was still Top Rated. Now just over a year later I have an account not used for a year with no DSRs and currently the account is a “Standard” rated seller, albeit no longer a PowerSeller.

    I’m not going to restart selling on that account even though I could. The stock is still available, some of it still in my warehouse a year later but I’d sooner throw it in the skip than go to the effort of relisting it on eBay when I can’t be certain if I’d still be trading in three months time.

  9. Yes private sellers, theres an whole topic on its own.

    This is the problem with the whole ebay thing, and yes i know where ebays past has come from, but its the private sellers in general who give ebay a bad name, they sell a product, and they dont have to accept returns and they dont need to comply with distance selling regs and ebay business sellers regs like returns, i am not saying all private sellers, but i think they need to be kept a eye on much more than most of the business sellers, I buy a wigget from a private seller and then when i get it its not as described, or simply not what i wanted, iv got no come back at all unless the seller is good and will accept a return, but its up to them.

    Much more policing needed for private sellers, if they had to stick to the distance selling regs would make ebay a better place, trust is an issue and this would go a long way to resolve some of ebays issues

  10. DSR’s put you into a catch 22 situation. Due to the uncertainty of ebay as a trading platform I have deliberately diversified since Christmas. Having less sales puts you in a more vulnerable position as one or two low DSR’s can lead to selling restrictions and with less stock and time available to devote to ebay it is harder to trade your way out of any low DSR’s that you may receive. It is wrong that a small percentage of buyers can affect your business so drastically.

  11. One of my accounts was indefinetly suspended last month, 100% positive feedback and DSRs of 4.9, 4.9, 4.9 & 4.8, it was below standard, the account is now above standard despite not being able to sell anything for the last month.

    Because I didn’t sell enough to get rated over 3 months it was too difficult to turn the low ratings around, although I did nearly do it, just not quick enough.

  12. There was one time in the past — right around when the DSR stars first reared their ugly head where I ended up with 4 negatives practically in a row. They are like blood in the water — one undeserved neg(person requested a $2 item be shipped in a non-safe way to save postage(it was $1 to ship as they wanted it instead of $4 the way I wanted to) — it was sent as asked and the post office mangled it to get it in their mailbox — I gave a refund — upon getting the refund they gave a negative with all 1s) makes the person who hasnt recieved their order yet leave you another without ever contacting you and then recieves the item the next day(priority mail took 6 days with it mailed the day after payment oh well), etc. This was when they were going on pure numbers and I went from 4.95 as my worst dsr to 4.50 as my worst # for 30 day dsrs and yes I was concerned but at least back then I wasnt suspended although it did generate automated emails that if I hit 4.2 or something bad things would happen. Had that streak happened today I would be off ebay.

    After a few months they left the 3 month thing, and at the end of the year all 4 negatives fell off the bottom and I was a wonderful guy again.

    Nothing substantial changed about how I did business before the negatives, during the period, or after the negatives.

    Now I have been on ebay since X months after they opened when they were auctionweb and the one thing I can tell you about red dots is they practically NEVER come as singles.

    There is like a surface tension that holds back potential negatives when you have 0, and when you have a couple recently nobody gives you the benefit of the doubt on anything. Plus it is like in the kool-aid.

    Lets give an example of a potential disaster… You mailed a batch of packages and something happened to the truck they were on… In essence you have 7 or so items all of which get there but take an average of 15+ days to reach their destinations despite it being priority mail. Yes I have had this happen ONCE before about 8 years ago.

    So long as you can avoid getting the first negative, you are probably fine. The minute someone drops a negative on you — at least 2 other people will follow suit.

  13. I think the worst thing you can do is sell on one channel, you should be selling on as many platforms as possible including your own website.

  14. It always baffles me why there as still so may out there who take all the c**p ebay throws at them and then go back for more.
    We still use them but they are the last in a long list of sites we sell on and without exception we don’t get any of the hassle on the other that you get from ebay.
    In the “good old days” they were the first. As a former major seller on there we were also a former major buyer. Not any more, we always look elsewhere first and in the vast majority of cases not only do we find it but it’s cheaper than ebay.
    I wonder why ( fees maybe )

  15. I have recently received 4 low DSR’s for item description, is it is possible to find out for which items these were given?
    Thanks in advance.

  16. Like many sellers we have two selling accounts. The first and primary account is for selling New products only. The second account started off as a buying account, but in a moment of complete daftness I started to use it as a selling account (second hand products and items which didn’t fit our first selling account profile).

    I contacted CS about the logistics of running two accounts; in particular I asked if we could list the ‘Exact same product’ on both accounts without breaching the duplicate listing policy.
    We were told that as the accounts were in different names there would be no breach of the duplicate listing policy. We decided not to list the same products on both accounts because on reflection it didn’t seem like a good idea.

    Now my point is this – “If eBay considered these two accounts to be separate, how can they then suspend linked accounts. They are either separate or linked – cant have it both ways”

    If eBay are going to suspend linked accounts then surely those sellers selling the exact same products on different accounts are circumventing the duplicate listing policy.
    I’m not saying its wrong to list the same product across different accounts – but what is wrong is the ambiguity about what constitutes a linked account.

    It appears that some sellers have had their first account suspended on spurious allegations and ebay use that very same dubious (unproven information) to suspend a family member implies guilt by association, which is completely against the law.

    Can you image the situation that if your partner committed a crime, major or minor you would also face the same punishment solely because of your relationship to them?

  17. Hi-please can anyone tell me what the percentage is for the 4 DSRs- before you become below standard (red ink) – ie is it 4.60 ,4.65 etc
    Many thanks

  18. I have just read the eBay thread and it is shocking!

    My family members with their own personal eBay accounts selling on their personal goods no longer required can have a cuasal effect of getting my eBay business account of 10 years banned!

    And if I choose to sell personal gear on a different account no way related to the normal niche products offered on the business account then the feedback on those products can result in a total ban for all accounts!

    There should be absolutely no link between the actions that happen on a registered business account and those of accounts for personal use and sales.

    It only needs another Michael Jackson type event and half the sellers on eBay would be banned!

    Is this all a consequence of the eBay buyer protection scheme launched in the last year or so?

    Maybe eBay are taking some big hits, the scheme is costing more money than ebay planned for, and eBay have decided to tarnish all sellers in a household with the same brush as a result.

  19. I’ll say it again, no sellers = no eBay.

    If in some alternative dimension everyone decided overnight to switch to say eBid instead, eBay would cease trading… which I why I fail to understand it’s poor attitude towards sellers.

    eBay is only a platform for selling but I’m not sure the people who run it see it that way, far too boring.

    This why they bought Skype for no particular reason – and they were incredibly lucky to get out of the deal without losing their shirts too!

    I would ask Mr eBay to just stick to what he’s good at, providing a site to sell stuff and stop acting like some irrational overlord especially when it comes to the nonsensical DSR ratings.

  20. Hi-please can anyone tell me what the percentage is for the 4 DSRs- before you become below standard (red ink) – ie is it 4.60 ,4.65 etc
    Many thanks

  21. Foot note from me… if you want to see heart-warming serious bad feedback for a seller who hasn’t been banned, checkout the Argos Outlet page on eBay, it’s breath-taking!

  22. A friend of mine once told me he never leaves positive feedback on eBay only neutral if the transaction was good.

    I said he was a bad man and I would have to reconsider our friendship.

    However, he said ‘Positive is running off to your friends to tell them about it, neutral is when the item does what you thought it would do/be’

  23. Hi-please can anyone tell me how many low (1 and 2) scores you receive before you become below standard (red ink)

    Many thanks

  24. We have 2 accounts both separate addresses,visa cards,isp’s,computers,paypal etc. All because of the dolphin days on ebay. However due too the amateurish way ebay is run we will be shutting down one a/c.

  25. Although eBay appear to be favouring the ‘Big Boys’ and forgiving any and all breaches it appears some fairly large sellers have also fallen foul of the suspension of linked accounts policy.

    Now these sellers clearly have a major problem to resolve and some have succeeded outside of eBay, but the thing that that interests me, is the effect on those companies which provide services to sellers i.e. Channel advisor and other multi channel management service. What about couriers?
    The loss of a large client must have a knock on effect.

    What do the managers at Paypal think when a previously lucrative stream of cash dries up?

    Although operating side by side, Paypal will have different priorities to eBay.
    Many sellers will block trouble some customers, but I have yet to block one who is putting money into my account. Are Paypal happy to let EBay turn off these cash flows?

    I started buying on ebay, then sold a few items and now run a successful business. It appears unlikely that we will grow much bigger than we current are, but potentially we could. Suspending accounts not only cuts off the current cash flow, but damages the potential of the seller to grow.
    I really can’t understand ebays mentality. They appear to be on a self destruct course and refuse to listen to those who want ebay to succeed because they earn their living from it.

    I really can’t see any mass exodus to ebid happening, but I don’t thin ebay is as secure as they think they are.
    Anybody recall Gerald Ratner speech in 1991 when he referred to his stock as ‘total crap’, and the Ratners’ group plummeted by around £500 million overnight?

  26. I think we and eBay should stop thinking of buyers and sellers as two seperate groups.

    I would wager that a very high percentage of buyers also sell on eBay more so vice versa.

    I would also wager that a person that sells on eBay also spends more on eBay than someone that doesn’t sell, therefor by alienating sellers they are really alienating buyers…

  27. Ill keep selling untill the ship sinks.

    Some of the things ebay put in place are so childish and downright stupid. And you just know they are going to be a bad idea.

  28. We had Royal Mail lose the entire days posting from the first day back after new year after a cock up with the modernisation in Manchester, this affected all orders. Amazon were understanding after seeing the letters etc from Royal Mail, we lost buy box but were allowed to continue trading, ebay simply didnt give a toss and suspended the account for a month, luckily we have plans in place through distrust of ebay and we had an unlinked ebay account to continue trading on, had we not we would not be here today. One days posting didnt seem like it would have an effect but with the falling sales after the xmas rush and the scattered feedback times it created a perfect storm. The feedback received for the issues did not align with the volume of sales for the same period so it looked on paper alot worse than it was. Our Amazon account is now as good as its ever been metric wise, we are TRS on the 2nd ebay account and the main account on ebay is still buggered 5 months later. Most of this is simply down to the way the service stats are calculated working against us, sometimes they will work for us but when the maths works against you ebay will not care regardless of being told before the problem was evident on feedback and being kept updated. IT amazes me how 2 similar venues can react so differently.

  29. the main problem is feedback is an opinion.
    Ebay treats it like an opinion too and for the most part doesnt get embroiled in refereeing spats between buyer and seller EXCEPT when a cas has been opened about it.
    DSR scores are a different matter – WHILE they are also opinions Ebay treat them as facts AND apply draconian measures against sellers who get hit in those ways.
    There are people out there who live in a very black and white world; its either brilliant or awful and nowt in between.
    You can have four of the same items go missing in the post,Unlikely,I know, but one guy had a whole bagful of mail -82 items – go missing just before xmas last year) and one guy will let you know , and be grateful that you send another one out straight away; leaving you five star feedback across the board .
    A second will also let you know and ding your speed of delivery stars, not because of the speed you sent the replacement, but the speed overall of the transaction as he may well have waited a fortnight before he was sure the item was lost.
    The third guy asks for a refund and leaves a positive but dings all your stars because from his point of view YOU didnt deliver SO he cant rate your postage and packaging (which naturally MUST have been rubbish as the item was lost , so also, he cant tell how accurate your description was, and you didnt communicate with them for 12 hours after they left a WIMI message at 10 pm one night – and your reply to them , although sent to their email , went into their spambox as they have their threat level set too high by their AV and they didnt find it till two days hence.
    The fourth guy has just had a row with his Mrs , as the item missing was for her birthday , which was today , and he had to rush round looking for another present as your item didnt turn up n time – he negs you and dings ALL your DSR’s
    FOUR DIFFERENT SCENARIOS .
    four completely different results, none of which were directly the sellers fault , but that one bad day can not only stay on your feedback for 12 months but can quite easily lead to a restriction or even a selling ban.

  30. I remember visiting a large modern shopping town centre with just about every kind of shop , is was bustling and full of people , it had everything under the one roof and there was no vacant shops .
    This huge centre only last about 20 years from when it was opened because a larger shopping centre opened not far away and all the tenants went to the new shopping centre and the once bustling shopping became a decayed building and an eye sore which was pulled down .
    The only thing between Ebay and it’s customers is a web page .
    From what I have heard is that new technology will replace how people shop on line and Ebay’s web page will be like a petrol station that had to close because a new road opened up that didn’t past their door .
    In New Zealand ” Trade Me ” is the top Auction site that attracts the highest traffic from buyers and Ebay has never been able to compete with Trade Me in New Zealand so it shows that a really good site can do better than eBay if set up properly .

  31. had a negative last week item not received even though not paid for ebay refused to remove it,buyer kept promising but admitted no funds in ebay messaging, now in my 9th year it gets worse by the year 13000 feedback 1 negative and still not top rated because of communication my ebay supporter who offered to help sort this never rang me back

  32. Well, here’s a statistical blip for you. A customer was ticked that 6cm was larger than she thought. Come to find out, she thought the knotch past 1/2″ on the ruler was 6cm, not the 2.36″ that 6cm actually is. The shocker was that when this was posted on the seller board, other ebayers actually debated the size of a centimeter, whether or not there was a valid excuse for the buyer to be confused, etc. Since a few months ago, a tiny bisque doll, which was described properly as “Missing the hands, so just for parts” was “missing the hands”, and the buyer was obviously confused about what that meant, I already had a 2. I also had a 2 (across the board) from a competitor last June who was extremely upset with me for not shipping on Memorial day. This was the last one I needed to go down the drain.

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