Part Two of this on going series will focus on the reasons why the Ebay Feedback system is treating sellers and buyers unfairly. However, most recent Ebay policy changes with regard to eliminating the capability for a seller to defend his or her own terms and conditions makes it more unfair for the seller. In the past, Feedback was a level playing ground giving both buyers and sellers the opportunity to rate each others performance with regard to the end result of a transaction. In the past, there was no fear on either side of the long arm of Ebay law to punish those who stood in the way of the power of greed. That has changed over time and has been manipulated by Ebay to be a one sided seller’s worst nightmare. Add to that the fact that this same policy will unfairly penalize the seller, snowballing them into loosing search results as well, and this whole idea is becoming just plain stupid! There are many reasons for this as we will outline below…

I would like to start by first stating that no one person is immune to making mistakes, having emotions or acting without thinking. Issues between buyers and sellers are going to happen, even to the Ebay member that has a superb record of positive transactions. And these issues are going to happen to everyone equally, sellers and buyers alike. But that is not the way Ebay’s policy makers think. According to them, buyers can do no wrong. This is one of the reasons why they want to take the control away from the sellers to police buyers which includes the change to the Ebay feedback system preventing a seller from saying anything wrong by leaving a negative comment. Negative feedback comments should be posted for bad buyers because otherwise, how would other sellers know who they are dealing with? They can’t all be THAT good! Ebay may be able to prevent a seller from leaving a negative MARK, but they will not be able to prevent a seller from leaving a negative COMMENT. Sellers can still leave negative comments to express their dissatisfaction with a buyer. Beat Ebay at their own game. You can even put it all in CAPITAL LETTERS so other readers will see it clearly. This sort of thing makes you wonder who really benefits from positive only feedback for buyers to begin with. Could it possibly be EBAY and not the ebay community? I wonder. Come to think of it, there’s no longer a need for Mutual Feedback Removal anymore either, how convenient. Ebay is scared to death of a buyer not coming back to the site because of a bad buying experience. Is it that the buyers are thought of as Ebay’s bread and butter or is there much more than meets the eye when it comes to what would be falsely perceived as a great buying experience? Maybe it’s a bit of both! Either way, the attempts to correct their concerns are poorly thought out and loosing prized sellers on this site. Sellers that are also in affect, buyers.

The main problem and I mean THE major and most disturbing problem with the Feedback system the way it is today is that Ebay rely on a computer based mathematical program to make decisions. And the importance of these decisions has now been amplified to unparalleled heights as a result of policy changes that effect a seller’s account so severely to the point of being restricted or suspended from the site. And for the benefit of none other than Ebay policy makers and CEOs that are reading this right now, it needs to be further stated that these restrictions and suspensions are affecting peoples lives and creating negative welfare. I say this because it would seem that they really just don’t care. Ebay’s policy makers think that by getting a computer to look at statistics and calculate the numbers of disputes and feedbacks, that they can accurately assess the right or wrong doing of an individual account holder’s actions. The problem is that calculators do not see the emotional factors that come into play on the reasons why people say and do what they do. Computers cannot judge a person based on numbers when those numbers have no meaning or calculable explanation for why they exist! Many issues between buyers and sellers are not just black and white. The only fair way to accurately assess right or wrong is by determining the outcome based on what was said and the different actions that were taken between the two parties, and that is something that a computer cannot do! Without this way of assessing a problem, you’ve already given up on any chance of having something that even remotely resembles a fair feedback system. Especially one that has now become so terribly one sided with a seller having no chance of giving their side of the story! The result of going forward with a system such as this is going to abandon sellers on the site and ruin people’s lives, many of which are dedicated long time users. And if Ebay representatives all take the view as was pointed out in my last post by Mr. Alastair MacGibbon, Ebay’s Trust & Safety Director, it seems that Ebay is doing just that, by abandoning it’s sellers. The same sellers that built the company up to what it is today.

As briefly explained in Part One of this series of posts, Ebay has seen fit to remove the capability for a seller to give a buyer a negative feedback. And on January 29th, 2008 in a General announcements post by Bill Cobb, Ebay North America’s CEO, the main reason why they are implementing this policy is because “sellers leave retaliatory feedback eight times more frequently than buyers do.” Does Mr. Cobb know WHY this “eight times more frequently than buyers” figure exists? I’ll bet that he doesn’t! Because if he did, he would not be authorizing this type of feedback policy change, tying a sellers hands behind his or her back without clearly outlining the backup plan for how sellers are going to protect themselves against bad buyers. And even though he tries to elaborate on how they will do this, it is not nearly enough as we outline in detail below. As I mentioned above, Ebay calculates that figure of negative feedback frequency to a buyer via a computer without taking the meaning of the complaints into account. Just because the figure is higher than that of a buyer, it’s the seller that is perceived to be the bad guy and then automatically condemned without trial. Guilty before proven innocent. The only problem is that there’s never a verdict of innocence because the jury, judge and hangman are all robots programmed to vote on a one way street. In order to avoid the labor that Ebay would need to invest into fairly determining the outcome of an issue between a buyer and seller, Ebay’s way is to penalize everyone, bad and good sellers alike, by cutting the head off the chicken and preventing all sellers from leaving a negative for a buyer. This is not a fair way to approach a solution and it is shown time and time again with the way Ebay’s policy makers make decisions. If the seller was given the opportunity to lodge a formal complaint with regard to the reason why they got what is currently and generically being labeled as a retaliatory negative to the buyer, I would bet that the “eight times more frequent” figure would drop dramatically! And if Ebay can’t figure out how to afford to hold a fair determining result for such a situation, then they’d better figure out a way that the buyers and sellers on the site can do it for themselves without blinding, gagging and tying the hands of one side or the other. Or, if Ebay DOES properly police the unfair negatives being given, then that negative should be reverted, not just removed, back to the BUYER. I’ll bet THAT would keep the buyer’s in line! But don’t hold you breath because as I said before, Ebay is PRO buyer. God forbid we do anything to upset them.

In defense for the way sellers were leaving negatives to buyers and the supposed reason why this policy is being put into place, if Ebay isn’t going to police the false reasons that buyers give sellers a negative or open a dispute, then it is only natural that a seller is going to use whatever means they have to defend themselves. And before the imposition of not being able to leave a negative for a buyer, posting those comments would be most obviously effective in a buyer’s feedback rating. If Ebay won’t defend the seller, then what else would Ebay expect?! They shouldn’t expect to have a policy change preventing a seller from complaining about a buyer for the things that they do wrong and then not carefully police the reasons why when a seller has a complaint! By creating a unilateral feedback forum, Ebay cannot continue to take the stance that a court order is needed to remove a feedback comment. I would like to point out that all these years this is what Ebay has been trying to make us believe hiding behind the idea that a court order, obscene language or personally identifiable information is what it took to act on removing a feedback comment. It makes you wonder in general about the bull that they throw at the ebay community for the reasons why they act a certain way. It’s their site! If they want to remove a feedback, just create a policy for the reason why it should be removed and you’re done! Doing that shouldn’t create anymore lawsuits than will be created with the latest brainless policy changes, so what would be the difference? In order to do the feedback system right, Ebay will NEED to get involved in making feedback removals more common place anyway because if they police the buyers correctly according to seller complaints, Ebay is going to find out that many buyers are not the policy abiding innocent angels that they’re being made out to be. I stress this action against buyers simply because the way the policy is currently set up, it’s the sellers that are being treated most unfairly. But I don’t restrict this policy enforcement to just buyers, this goes for sellers as well! ANYONE who breaks policy should be ruled the same way!

Mr. Cobb did go on to say that they will protect sellers against bad feedback by removing it under certain circumstances. But the details that he outlined barely scratch the surface and to understand why his plan will not work, we must review each of these circumstances to be fair to Mr. Cobb. Here’s what he said in that post….

“We will remove, not just de-score, negative and neutral feedback when a buyer doesn’t respond to the Unpaid Item process.”

OK, fine, but usually they do respond and because of the way the current mathematical system works, all a buyer has to do is post a PERIOD. And the way the Ebay system will see it is that they responded. In other words, the buyer can still be wrong and that negative will remain. So thats not going to work.

“We will remove all negative and neutral feedback and comments when a buyer (or seller) is suspended.”

Big deal! So all this means is that the buyer, short of blatantly breaking Ebay policy or laws, gets away with screwing over sellers an untold amount of times before he’s suspended. And while the buyer may be prevented from ever doing wrong on the site again, IF he’s ever caught, ask the sellers who spent years of their lives building up a business on Ebay that just got restricted or suspended because of less than blatant yet unfair actions received by this type of buyer, if that part of the policy helped them! Once a seller’s account is restricted or worse, that remains in effect for no less than 30 days. And if in the interim, Ebay sees fit to reinstate the seller’s account before then, major time and money is lost from the seller as a result before Ebay, who seemingly takes longer and longer to act on issues via email, finally get around to correcting the problem with the seller’s account. Removing bad feedback that a buyer places only after he’s suspended does not solve the issue for most sellers with this problem. The damage has already been done and there is no compensation for that!

“For sellers with an established track record, we’ll prevent negative and neutral feedback within 3 days of listing end to promote communication.”

Promoting communication is not going to help those sellers for buyers who are determined to break seller policy guidelines. If a buyer has made up his or her mind not to complete the transaction or post a negative feedback for whatever reason, that is precisely what he or she is going to do, whether it’s today or a week from today.

“We’re going to reduce the number of days a member can leave feedback from 90 to 60 days.”

While this just trims off 30 days from the allowed amount of time that a buyer can leave a negative, Im not sure how this prevents a buyer from leaving a negative in the first 60 days. In most cases, the issues will happen well before then so this sales pitch is not a very strong one.

“We’ll increase block bidder list capacity from 1,000 to 5,000 user IDs.”

While we’re at it, we can increase the size of our jails too! Oh, yes, and then increase fees to feed the inmates, Ebay’s comfortable with that. C’MON!! All you’re doing with this idea is to accommodate the problem, not solve it!

“We’ll increase our monitoring, and take action based on seller reports of buyers behaving very badly.”

While this sounds like a step in the right direction, Im suspicious of the word “very.” Does this mean that a buyer can behave just badly and get away with it? Whatever the degree of meaning for what is considered bad behavior, this is the first logical thing that Mr. Cobb has stated though I doubt he feels as strongly as we do about the extent as to which this should be taken. Ive elaborated on this in detail in the paragraphs above as to what needs to be done and further detail it below for those Ebay policy makers that need it explained to them in more than one language.

“Feedback percentage will be based on the last 12 months, although the total count remains lifetime. This means that any negative or neutral feedback left for you more than 12 months ago will no longer affect your percent positive.”

This is a good idea and would be more fair in the final percentage for a seller and a buyer. So this gets our vote with no contingencies attached.

But let’s look much more closely at this “action” to be taken against buyers that behave very badly, shall we? Keep in mind that Ebay will frown on making a move that tries to slap a buyer’s hands for doing anything wrong. The problem with this idea is that the sellers on this site have rights as well! Will Ebay’s policy change allow seller’s to defend their own seller guideline policies if they meet up to Ebay policy? Only time will tell, but if it doesn’t then the feedback system will have been made much worse instead of any better. The way things are now, Ebay is fearful of a buyer having a bad experience. Add to this the fact that PayPal is owned by Ebay and therefore something they seem to want to promote at all costs, and you’ve got an instant unfair treatment set up for the seller under the following scenario that chooses not to use Paypal…

A buyer doesn’t read the seller guidelines like they are supposed to, then buys the item anyway. Afterwards, the buyer says, “oops, sorry, you’ll need to cancel my transaction as I didn’t know that you don’t take PayPal.” So now, an allotted time of 7 days goes by and the buyer still has not paid. The seller is then given the right to open a non paying buyer’s dispute. If the buyer responds but still doesn’t pay after that in another 8 days, then the seller can give the buyer a non paying strike, one of only 3 that the buyer is allowed before they can be banned from the site permanently for not paying for an item. Here is Ebay’s stance on this as has been told to me directly from an Ebay representative… “Why don’t you just open a mutual dispute instead of giving the buyer a non paying buyer’s strike?” I’ll state here what I told that Ebay rep… “Because the seller in general works too damn hard to make sales, especially now with all the fees and restrictions that are being imposed, to let them off the hook for not READING the seller guidelines that they are required to read by Ebay policy.” That’s why!! So this Ebay rep., along with who knows how many other of his cohorts, wanted me to let the buyer off the hook so he can go and pull this crap repeatedly on other sellers? My question was, “Why are you making excuses for the buyer when they have the same responsibilities to read the requirements of the Buyer Policy as we sellers are required to abide by the Seller Policy?” You see, one of the problems that Ebay’s people have is the lack of understanding their own Ebay policy guidelines. The following two quotes are taken right from Ebay policy word for word…

“Buyers automatically enter into a legally binding contract to purchase the item from the seller if they win the online auction or use the Buy It Now feature. eBay’s Unpaid Item policy requires buyers to pay the seller for the items that they commit to purchase.”

“When a buyer does not pay for an item the buyer has won or purchased, it costs the seller time and money. eBay’s Unpaid Item policy is necessary to enforce the contractual obligations entered into between buyer and seller by placing a bid or using Buy It Now and helps to facilitate successful trading on the site.”

How much damn clearer do you want it?!

But this scenario is not over yet… Here’s where it can turn into a nightmare for the seller… If the buyer feels that the nonpaying buyer’s strike by the seller is unjustified, the seller in many cases will get a negative feedback from the buyer because of it and make no mistake, this would be in retaliation for the buyer getting the strike for not paying. Many times, and I know this from experience, the negative comment a buyer leaves will cloud over or disguise the real reason why they are leaving that negative. Especially when they know that they have no defense against the seller charging them with a non paying buyer’s strike for not paying for an item. Nonetheless, that negative from the buyer and any negative DSR star ratings or opened disputes from any buyer in an unfair situation such as this will count towards the seller’s customer dissatisfaction rating putting the seller’s Ebay account in jeopardy.

In line with the scenario above are so many other issues including these few quick examples of how sellers could get unfairly hit with a negative that could ultimately get them restricted or suspended… An honest mistake by a seller even AFTER a refund is given; A reasonable handling charge of an amount above anything but the actual shipping cost; A package that arrives by what anyone would think is a reasonable period of time EXCEPT the buyer; A newbie buyer not understanding the responsibility or serious nature of leaving a negative complaining about what anyone else would deem not to be worthy; A simple mistake of clicking on a negative instead of a positive. ALL these things and much more DO happen! And if for whatever reason, communication is not an option which can easily be the case, these negatives may not be removable EXCEPT by Ebay intervention.

If Ebay let’s a buyer get away with leaving a negative feedback, neutral feedback, dispute or bad DSR when what they are complaining about is in direct conflict with a seller’s policy guidelines, has no reasonable bearing on the transaction or is in retaliation to any degree for a seller defending themselves, then Ebay is either defying their own policy which clearly states that a buyer should not buy an item if they cannot abide by the seller’s guidelines or Ebay is not fairly assessing the unfair nature with regard to how the seller is being treated. A seller has now been restricted to unprecedented levels from being able to defend him or herself on this site! The control for defending a seller and a seller’s policy guidelines has now been placed 100% in Ebay’s hands. It is for this reason that Ebay needs to step up that protection to equally unprecedented levels for the benefit of the seller.

Keep in mind that it is not the buyer that needs to stock the hundreds or thousands of items that they offer. It’s not the buyer that needs to pay for the cost of running the business to offer the buyer these items. It’s not the buyer that needs to keep records for the hundreds or thousands of customers that they serve. And most importantly, it is NOT the buyer that stands to loose his or her business, livelihood and years of dedication and hard work due to the result of negligent posts in the form of negatives, neutrals, DSR ratings or disputes. So long as the seller’s guidelines are within Ebay policy, the seller should prevail against a negative feeeback in all instances. This would include but certainly not be limited by the acceptance or nonacceptance of Paypal and any one or more of the examples demonstrated above. Ebay needs to recognize this fact and stop allowing buyers to get away with breaking seller policy guidelines or giving sellers unfair complaints! THIS is what is pissing off sellers more than anything else. Ebay policy makers think that the strikes will be temporary and that the site will recover. They greatly underestimate the sellers who will, after being abused time and time over, look elsewhere and succeed. If you own Ebay stock, now might be a good time to sell. And maybe after the new CEOs come to their senses, you can buy it back at half the price after Ebay gets surpassed by it’s competitors!

JUSTICE FOR ALL

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