Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Take on Feedback! Your Online Reputation.

Since eBay announced feedback changes, which will go into force in May of this year, it seems that these changes have become an obsession for sellers. Many outside of eBay cannot understand this, so I thought I would just give you my thoughts about eBay feedback.

Before you go discounting my opinion in this matter, here are a few facts about my understanding of feedback:

As the owner of Glacier Bay DVD, on eBay from 2002 to January of 2006, I attained a 268,198 unique positive feedback rating, which is calculated by deducting the number of unique negatives from the number of unique positives. Neutrals are not counted in the total. In the summer of 2005 Glacier Bay passed JayandMarie as the top feedback seller on eBay. I was very proud of this accomplishment and it really helped promote the Glacier Bay brand.

To put this number in perspective, Glacier Bay DVD is still the #18 highest ranking seller by feedback ranking on eBay Worldwide and I haven't sold an item in 2 years. We also had a total of 539,703 positive Feedback received, 4590 total negative and 9180 combined negatives and neutrals.

When you realize that feedback is left on only 70% of eBay transactions you can see that Glacier Bay had over 700,000 transactions on eBay in 4 years. During those 4 years we received 3168 unique negatives. This gave us a feedback rating of 98.8%, which is calculated by eBay: "Your Feedback Score is calculated by adding all of the unique positive Feedback comments that you received and subtracting the unique negative Feedback comments you've received. For example, if you have 100 unique positive comments and two unique negative comments, your percentage would be 98 divided by 100, or 98 percent.
Note: Your percentage doesn't include neutral comments."

A feedback rating of 98.8% is considered low in the world of eBay, but unless things have changed since I was in school, it is still considered an A+ by the rest of the world. The rating improves even more if you take my total negatives and total positives and use the formula above, which would have put my rating up to 99.1% and if you took my total negatives and my total transactions that would make my rating 99.3%

Why did I go through this exercise? Because sellers are complaining about losing the ability to neg a buyer, mostly in retaliation for receiving a negative but other reasons being to warn other sellers, etc. Jus to put this reason in perspective, at Glacier Bay we never looked a buyers feedback. The reality is the ability to neg a buyer allowed sellers to control their feedback rating. With the changes eBay is making, this control goes away, at least the perception of that control.

In 4 years of selling on eBay, I maybe gave out 100 negatives. As a matter of policy we gave buyers positive feedback as soon as the items were paid for. For non-paying bidders we just blocked them using our BBL (Blocked Bidder List) and moved on. I believe this policy helped increase the number of positive feedback we received because we rewarded the customer for doing their job --paying us.

Sure getting negatives was not enjoyable, but our customers certainly didn't have any fear about giving us a neg because we might retaliate and our feedback did not take a hit. Feedback extortion was minimal and basically anybody who tried it was added to our BBL and we were done with it. As Donald Trump would say "You're fired" -- we didn't fire everyone who gave us a neg. I know this will be hard for you to believe, but we were responsible for a great many of those negs that we received (not all but a lot). In the 4 years we sold on eBay I never filled my BBL, which I hear was limited to 1,000 and is now being increased to 5,000

Under the new rules, good sellers may see their precious 100% rating go away but really in the scheme of things is a 98.8% that bad. Small sellers will experience the greatest feedback volatility because their numbers are so small. 2 negs in 100 transactions will give them a 98% (still an A+ in my book) so the percentage will move around a lot in the early days of your business and not so much as you add more transactions.

Many sellers are concerned about the drop in Feedback rating affecting their visibility in search and their reputation on eBay, but I believe this won’t be a problem. As feedback ratings decrease across the platform, the rating becomes more useful and a 98.8% becomes, just what it is a very good rating. Unfortunately perfection will take a hit and the sellers with 100% may be a thing of the past.

I know my view of this issue is in the minority on eBay and this post isn't likely to change any opinions, but I thought I would give it a shot.

Just my 5 cents!


eBayMinx said...

I am a seller (and buyer) in favor of the feedback changes, and I always leave a positive once I've been paid. I'm tired of all of the whining on the web over this issue. I am looking forward to buying on eBay once this change takes effect, I think it will be much easier to judge a seller's customer service prior to making a purchase. As far as buyers sabotaging sellers out of spite - I have far more faith in my customers than that.

Randy Smythe said...

eBay Minx, I've been listening to eBay management and it doesn't look like they will budge on this so sellers need to decide how much it means to them.

Suzanne Wells - The eBay Coach said...

Hi, Randy. I totally agree with you on this one. The whining and complaining is coming from the small sellers - those who will be impacted by one or two negs here and there. Many of these smaller sellers don't have return or refund policies so that hurts them when it comes time to make it right with the customer. They claim, "I am not WalMart. I don't take returns." That will have to change if these people want to survive on eBay. (And what's wrong with being WalMart - I'd love to have that customer base.)

Some of the smaller "hobby" sellers just don't have the business mindset or skills to last on eBay, and those are the ones who are making so much noise. I agree with ebayminx - if the sabotage was going to happen, it already has. There has been nothing to stop competitors from opening buyer IDs and doing business with their competitors and then negging them - that trick is rather old news.

As for the strike/boycott - someone on my forum said it well, "It will have the same effect on the water level in a swimming pool as when a skinny person gets out. No one will really notice."

Frank Ross said...

Randy, I think the thing that looks worse in this is that eBay is only leaving the "positive" option on for sellers. Why not just remove the ability for sellers to leave feedback completly? Doing it this way makes it look lopsided and rigged. The reality is a lot of online portals don't let sellers leave feedback for their buyers. But to just leave the + option seems like a job half done. What do you think?

Randy Smythe said...

Frank, they address this in the PeSA conference call. Buyers enjoy getting postive feedback from sellers and nice note. Positive feedback is part of their experience on eBay.

If sellers choose not to leave feedback for thsie buyers that solves the ptroblem. My question is why penalize the good buyers. Just don't leave feedback for the buyers that cause problems.

Leaving feedback is still optional.

Tony P. said...


I understand what you're saying and it does have merit, but (there's always a BUT)due to the varied business models of the *multitude* of sellers, no One Size Fits All.

Some people are a bit miopic about why sellers are upset about the feedback issues - not addressing YOU, Randy - just saying 'some people'.

For instance, a Small Seller might be construed as one that has less than 10 feedbacks per month. Even using your figure of receiving only 70% that are left for buyers, that is still only 14 or so feedbacks.

What if that seller has items in the $750 range - still considered Small? What about items for $2500?

And on another note, if all of the Hobby Sellers were to leave, the site would suffer. Some folks don't think so, but they also have no concept of the Long Tail business model. Just like ebay didn't - but now they do - next quarter they won't - etc.

If that Small Seller of $2500 antiques ($35K per month!) is disadvantaged, in all the ways that can happen, by scamming buyers, Best Match placement, impaired reputation, s/he may just start selling somewhere else.

That will be fewer quality goods on the site to bring in buyers. On the bright side though, that should open the door for more in-experienced, hobby-type, newbie sellers that will add *something* to that all-important Buyer Experience.

Hey, at least they will be potential candidates for somebody to charge-them/coach-them in the ebay way!

Randy Smythe said...

Hey Tony, you get the award "most frequent poster" Anonymous hasn't been saying much lately.

You are right, just like everything at eBay and the rest of the world for that matter. One size does not fit all.

Small sellers will have to watch their percentages but they also don't have as many orders and can hand hold the customers if need be. When I started, I just gave everybody the best service possible and tried to negotiate away negs.

The vast majority of eBay buyers are easy to deal with, the hard cases just take the most time and are the most frustrating. If you are small you have to deal with them if you have 265,000 FB you just block them and move on.