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The Ebay Feedback System


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I'll tell you about the only neg i recall leaving for anything other than non-payment (and my feedback score is 886-0-0)

This chap bought a good quality Chinese violin outfit (the type that retails for about £600 over here) for £300 on ebay, which is our standard price for this outfit, and immediately he decided he didn't like it. Fair enough so far, he has after all a 14 day no quibble guarantee from us.

Two of the reasons he gave for not liking it were "the bow is not new" and "the case is broken" as well as "the tone is bad". Now tone of course is subjective but the bow and the case surprised me rather. The bow was brand new, checked for straightness, fully haired, all I had done was to rosin it. I do that with all outfits because it is much easier for me to do it here with a used block of rosin than for a beginner to do it with a new block of rosin. I told him I had rosined the bow for that reason, no repsonse. I could not understand why the case was broken, these are tough woodshell cases and we pack them well, so we waited.

When the violin came back, the bow was still tightened and one of the bow retainers had clearly been unscrewed from the case. No way could it have simply come loose, there was no screw in the case and no sign of any damage where it had pulled out. So we asked the buyer to send the screw back ("assuming" it must have fallen out in his house). No response.

We send violins through the post several times a week and we know exactly how much it cost the buyer to return it to us. He insisted that the cost was more than it actually was and scanned in the receipt he received from the post office. There was some item on the receipt other than for the postage of the violin (and it wasn't the insurance payment) so we pointed this out but he still kept insisting that he had paid an amount we knew he could not possibly have paid.

At that point we dug our heels in and said we would refund the actual postage it had cost him only when we had the screw returned.

I left the feedback "buyer from hell"

Unreasonable?

Liz

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Here's another. Fortunately this "lady" left me feedback before all this happened.

Buyer bought two Gliga violas from us at our usual ebay price, one 15 inch Gems 2 outfit and one 16.5 inch Gama 2 viola only. This was in late June. She was in a hurry to get them, such a hurry that she insisted on sending payment through a Western Union money order which would have cost her fees.

In late August she mailed me saying that she had only just had a chance to see the teacher (it just now turned out that the violas were in fact for her two nephews) and both instruments were the wrong size but the teacher was very impressed with them. The small viola was too big for one nephew and he was going to be started off on violin, and the 16.5 inch was too small for the other nephew(!) She was very sorry they were the wrong size, could she send them back please?

I said, not a problem, what size viola do you need? We are happy to simply swap them for the correct size viola and a violin. She says, O but the larger violas are more expensive. That's OK, I said,we won't be arguing with you about the extra.

She then says, I made this mistake and now i want to start again by getting instruments on approval from a local shop. At this point, the bells start ringing and I said to her "this is beginning to sound like a teacher kickback situation. You have said the teacher was impressed with these instruments, why should she want you to go to a particular shop if she liked these?"

Then the buyer starts quoting our terms of service at us. I dug my heels in and said, if you want to talk about what's actually on the ebay listing, it's true that for one of them I forgot to put a time limit on the no quibble guarantee but it is on my "about me" page which is linked to and the other viola has no returns policy specified at all so if you want to play it by what's on the listing there is only on you are going to be able to return. Under UK law you have seven working days to return the goods, this has been eight weeks.

Buyer starts almost begging, "I don't mind taking an £80 loss on this, just refund me so much". I say to her again, this has to be a teacher kickback, you are over-reacting here. What is the name of the shop the teacher is sending you to and what viola are you planning to buy? No reply, she just got abusive.

Then I found an email she had sent us from another ebay ID and looked at what she was selling on ebay ...

The Gama viola was listed as an ENGLISH viola, priced higher than our new price on the Gama, and it was claimed to have been played here there and everywhere, for a performance of the vaughan Williams Christmas Suite, in two major London concert halls, etc (quite impressive really for a player who has never had a lesson and never taken it out of the case). The Gems was listed as "suitable for beginners or professionals", with no maker's name, at vastly more than we sell these for new. Furthermore, these violas were listed before the date she claimed to have first taken them along to the teacher. As well as these two there have been several other violas, of different sizes, bought on ebay and sold on again by her. Now either she is trying hard to find a particular viola (fair enough but why such a range of sizes?) or she has deiced to try her hand at dealing in used instruments on ebay and found, as we did, that it is a lot easier to make a loss than a profit.

The Gems viola was still up there last time I looked, goodness knows how much she must have spent on listing fees. It is at least down to the same as we would charge now, but of course no guarantees and no indication of what the bow is (it can't be the one that came with it because she is getting the bow professionally cleaned before selling it. You don't need to do that with a bow that has never been used)

So i didn't let her know that I knew she was selling the violas on for (as she hoped) profit, I just called her bluff. I said, get the teacher to contact us. If the teacher is willing to tell us the name of the shop, so that we can call them and confirm that they do not offer teacher kickbacks, and if the teacher is willing to send us a letter, with a copy of the approval note from the shop, saying that in her opinion the instruments you have out on approval are a better buy than the ones you have bought from us, and if we can have teacher's phone number to call her and check that she is who she claims to be, we will refund your money in full. Needless to say, all i got was idle threats and a boyfriend phoning up (on a Sunday!) pretending to be a solicitor (we told him to put any complaint in writing, of course it never arrived)

If you are out there lurking on this board, viola buyer, I do have all your emails and copies of the web pages. If this account is at all inaccurate it differs only in trivial details from the order of things. "Fit for the purpose" does not mean "Fit to be sold under a false description for a quick profit on ebay"

liz

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I think the best solution would be for ebay to hide the feedback for a particular transaction until a month or two have gone by. Feedback after that period would not be accepted, and neither party would be able to look at the other party's feedback during the blackout period.

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Right... the idea is that nobody would be able to look at the feedback for a couple of months. The only problem I see with it is abuse by fly-by-night sellers who scam a bunch of people before the blackout period has expired, but that could be addressed by having ebay monitor the number of negative feedbacks against a seller.

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  • 2 weeks later...

eBay could improve the system by making a sharp separation between buyer feedback and seller feedback. Buyer and seller behavior are two different animals. Good buyer feedback is easy to maintain--communicate soon and pay promptly. Seller feedback involves myriad behaviors, including accurate descriptions, a fair return policy and so on.

I might hesitate to purchase from someone with poor buyer feedback, but it's the seller feedback that would clinch it.

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As a seller on eBay, I do not choose my customers, and although my return policy cannot be more liberal, a customer could feel put out having to bid, pay, wait for a shipment, be disappointed, and then have to bear the cost of returning an offending purchase. While most are willing to suffer this minimal inconvenience, I live in fear of the buyer who is so disappointed that they might leave a negative. Once a single vindictive negative is left by a buyer, it forever tarnishes a perfect record. I know that I look for negatives in a seller's feedback when I am buying, and disregard dozens of positives.

A seller's reputation can be blown with little recourse.

Jesse

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I disagree that a negative feedback can blow your reputation. I always review feedback before I bid (and if possible check the feedback of folks bidding on my stuff). I read the "positives" for signs of unhappiness, and of course I read the "negatives." But I always try to read both sides of a transaction gone south. Usually it's pretty clear which party was the crank -- unpleasant people can't seem to avoid unpleasant words. Plus their stories often don't make sense. Bottom line: I never hold it against someone for getting involved with a crank or two. If there is a pattern of "negatives" or unhappy "positives," then I stay clear.

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I can see why Jesse values that 100% feedback rating. However, like you, I look for patterns of behavior. I trace those negative-feedback leavers back through their previous transactions and observe what they bid on and how often they win their auctions. This usually tells me whether they're serious about what they're doing and how much they know. You can usually spot a provocateur or nutcase.

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100% positive is great, but 99% positive is almost as good. I think that most people understand that a few negatives are inevitable, even with a totally homest merchant. I bought my daughter a mandolin from a German ebay merchant who had 800 positives and 1 negative. Most people will see the person who posted the negative as a crank.

John

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If you do ever get a negative, don't respond to it (as the system allows you to respond to your comments), or respond nicely. Then, it will be obvious who was truly caused the transaction to go south. I will generally buy from sellers with 98% or better, though 2 out of every 100 can be a pretty bad rating, it is difficult to please all the people all the time.

Plus, it may just be that they left a - for someone else who then decided to leave a "retaliatory" negative in return. This happened to me many moons ago, and I'm still not happy about it. That is why the feedback system stinks. I paid the guy in about 2 seconds flat, he shipped garbage, I left appropriate (negative) feedback after he was unwilling to resolve the situation, and he went ahead and did the same.

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