Ebay Policy, Detailed Seller Rating Is Denying Seller's Rights
DETAILED SELLER RATING
In 2008 eBay changed their feedback policy for sellers, now sellers can no longer leave honest feedback for buyers, but only positive feedback. Sellers immediately protested this new policy due to fears that many buyers would use this new policy to commit feedback extortion, or various other forms of buyer scams that sellers are faced with. Now 2 years later, eBay seller's worst fears have been realized.
Along with the new feedback policy that took away seller's rights to leave honest feedback, the detailed seller rating was introduced. The detailed seller rating is broken into 4 categories : item as described, communication, shipping time, shipping charges. This policy is based on a 5 star rating system, however it is very different than most 5 star rating systems that people are familiar with. In the hotel and restaurant industry, a 4 star rating is something that a business owner can be proud of. On eBay a 4 star rating in any 1 of the 4 categories will almost certainly result in a suspension of a sellers account, possible seizure of the sellers funds and having those funds withheld for 180 days.
The unbelievable truth is, that sellers can have hundreds of successful transactions, with 100% positive feedback, never receiving a negative rating, but 1 low DSR can result in the seller being suspended. The detailed seller rating was designed to improve customer satisfaction, today I am going to explain to you why it actually results in more complaints. The formula for this is simple, if you give people more opportunity to complain, you will get more complaints. I am going to tell you why I think that DSR should stand for : Denying Seller's Rights.
ITEM AS DESCRIBED - This category is fairly straight forward, it gives the customer an opportunity to rate the accuracy of the way you advertise your product. If you are selling cheap knock off goods and marketing them as high end original products, charging high prices, you could expect low ratings in this category. For the most part this category doesn't pose any problems for sellers that are doing business in an honest way. I still believe that offering a buyer a chance to give a separate rating for this is not necessary. If the buyer doesn't feel that the item is what was described, they will likely choose to leave negative feedback, or request a return for refund.
COMMUNICATION - Similar to the category of item as described, this policy usually doesn't pose any real problem for sellers. If sellers answer emails in a reasonable amount of time, and provide shipping confirmation after shipping the product, they can expect to receive an adequate rating in this category. Occasionally a buyer might ask about combined shipping, expedited shipping, or something of this nature, and if they are not satisfied with the answer they could leave a low DSR in this category. Sellers that do not speak English well might have a problem with this category, however that does seem to be fair enough, however buyers that can not speak English also pose a problem with communication.
There is nothing stopping a customer who speaks French, from leaving a poor rating based on the fact they do not understand your English. As a Canadian I often receive emails from French Canadians as well as buyers from France. These buyers send me emails in French and expect me to understand them because I am Canadian. They also in some cases expect a seller to use an online translation service to translate the email, then write a reply and translate that as well. There is nothing stopping a buyer from leaving a poor rating if you fail to do this.
SHIPPING TIME - This is the category that poses the most problem for sellers. This policy heavily favors American sellers, because domestic shipping inside the USA will likely take less than 1 week in most cases. Many buyers come to expect this 1 week delivery time from sellers no matter where they are located. The standard that buyers seem to use to rate sellers on time of delivery is based on a comparison with other items they may have purchased. I often get mails from buyers that inform me of other items they have purchased on the same day or a few days after they bought an item from me. They might say "I bought a play station from Japan on the same day as I bought this t-shirt from you, the play station arrived yesterday, where is my shirt" The fact is that the postal service in different countries offer different services, that may vary depending on many factors.
The buyers are using this category to rate the speed of delivery compared to other sellers, which is not an accurate assessment of how fast their order was processed by the seller. In order to accurately rate the shipping time, buyers need to take into consideration where the item is coming from, and what the sellers policy is regarding time of delivery. Many of my eBay items have written in bold that shipping is from Thailand and delivery takes up to 3 weeks. Buyers consistently leave low DSR when items are delivered in less that 3 weeks, because they may not have bothered to read the item description, they may not be aware of how long it takes for international shipping.
SHIPPING CHARGES - The category of a detailed seller rating for shipping charges is just down right silly! This is one of eBay's dirty tricks. They would like all sellers to offer free shipping, this is something they have been promoting for a few years now. Sellers are charged a sales commission called a final value fee (FVF). The FVF is based on the sale price of the item, so sellers that offer free shipping end up paying more fees to eBay. As more sellers offer free shipping, more customers will begin to expect all sellers to offer this, so in order to receive a decent rating for shipping charges, you may be forced to adopt the policy of free shipping.
The problem is that shipping is not free, sellers have to pay to ship their items, and while this may not cost so much in the USA, it can be very expensive for international sellers. The idea of allowing customers to give a rating on the amount of money they have to pay for something is ridiculous, what is next? Should we allow buyers to rate the final sale price on auctions as well? Allow them to buy items at a certain price and then complain about it later? As ridiculous as that sounds, it is no more ridiculous than allowing buyers to buy an item from overseas, knowing that there will be a shipping cost that is clearly advertised, then allowing them to complain about the cost that they were aware of when they bought the item.
THE CONSEQUENCES - The result of this DSR policy is that many honest sellers are facing restricted or suspended accounts for low ratings for shipping charges and shipping time.Sellers with hundreds of transactions and years of selling history are being suspended, regardless of the fact that some of them may have 100% positive overall rating, and may have never been given a negative feedback. International sellers are at a severe disadvantage due to the DSR for shipping time and shipping charges.The feedback policy the way it is now opens up the opportunity for buyers to use tools such as feedback extortion to get over and above what they have purchased, or in some cases even get items for free. The fact that this can happen on eBay is unbelievable and many people might not believe this when they read it. You might think eBay has a policy against feedback extortion, and you are correct.
The problem is that feedback extortion is impossible to prove. Unless the buyer sends you an email stating that they will leave you a negative feedback unless you give them something for free, then you can not prove any wrong doing. An example of an email from a buyer might be "I purchased this item for my son, his birthday is next week, If you can't deliver it in time I will be disappointed, I will leave feedback based on my satisfaction." Now this seems to clearly indicate that you will receive negative feedback or low DSR ratings unless you upgrade the shipping to a courier service that will deliver in less than a week. This is a common concern that sellers are faced with, and eBay has no system in place to do anything about this.
MY SUGGESTION TO EBAY - I have heard some people say that International sellers should get a lower rating on shipping time and shipping charges. This is a valid point, and my suggestion is that International sellers should not be held to the same standard as American sellers. Currently sellers are punished for having DSR ratings for lower than 4.5, perhaps eBay should take it into consideration that a seller in Asia with the exact same product and the exact same selling practices as a seller in the USA will not receive the same DSR rating. It is simply not possible to live up to the standards that eBay demands as a seller overseas that is being compared to a seller in the USA. It is not logical to expect buyers to make a rational, informed decision when leaving feedback.
In order to put an end to Feedback extortion for good, I recommend to eBay that they allow sellers to dispute feedback and have it removed or edited. For example, when you want to give a buyer an unpaid item strike, there is a process where both parties provide evidence and eBay reviews it and makes a decision. They could have a similar policy for DSR rating and feedback. For example, if you advertise that delivery from overseas takes 2-3 weeks, yet a customer leaves a low DSR rating for shipping time. If that item has been delivered in less than 3 weeks you should be able to provide proof of delivery and have that rating removed.
One of the major problems with the DSR policy is that buyers that are satisfied with the overall transaction, are given an opportunity to complain in one area. Often these buyers have no idea what affect this may have on the seller, if they realized that seller might be suspended from selling all together, they might not be as quick to give a low DSR rating. Most people when talking about a 5 star rating think of a 4 star rating as quite good, and a 3 star rating as fairly average. If you look at how eBay describes the 5 star system, they describe a 4 star rating as satisfied, and a 5 star rating as very satisfied. Now on eBay a 4 star rating equals complete failure, and a 3 star rating simply does not exist, because a seller is removed before they get anywhere close to that. Buyers need to be better educated and need to be more aware of the standards that eBay expects from sellers.
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