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eBay Buyers: Are They Being Held To Ransom?

Aug 23, 2007
Okay, so no-one is actually demanding money, but there are other ways of getting 'ransom' all the same. Perhaps intimidation is a better word . . .

Having been trading on eBay for some time now, I've noticed a trend that is growing stronger and stronger as time goes by - specifically, the withholding of feedback by sellers. Now you may think that this is of little consequence - hey, they'll leave feedback sooner or later! - but it is in fact a psychological pressure point they're leaning on - the threat of unwarranted negative feedback.

I've just had a look at the 'Items I've Won' section of my eBay account. There are ten lots on there. All are paid for - in fact all were paid for within hours of completing, some within minutes - and I have yet to receive them. No problem there - but not one, not a single one of those ten sellers has left feedback as to my speedy payment! And let's face it, what else should a seller be leaving feedback about?

I used to get it all at one time - 'fast payment, great ebayer' or 'speedy payer, many thanks' - you know the sort of thing. Now it seems that all sellers sit smugly on the feedback fence, refusing to give feedback before you, the buyer, has given them positive feedback.

Unfortunately, this is a huge flaw in the way eBay works. It still operates on the 'great guys' theory - that is, everyone is a great guy who wouldn't cross you, no-way, no-how. Well that might have been fine in the days when most ebayers sold attic junk or stuff they just wanted rid of - but not now. No, now feedback scores must be protected at all costs - hence the present situation.

How does it work for sellers? Simple. If they get bad feedback from you, they give it in return - as they haven't yet left any, which by all rights they really should have done as soon as they were paid, they are then free to throw negative feedback at you regardless of the fact that they are in the wrong! By leaving feedback 'off the hook' until you, the buyer, give positive feedback they are in a win-win situation - dare to leave negative feedback and you're sure to get it in return!

I'm not talking here of the situations where two people just fall out for some reason - no system is going to be able to guard fully against people just being unable to get on together - I'm talking about people with large feedback figures who are hell-bent on maintaining their score. Whilst this may be understandable for a powerseller not wanting to lose their status, it's still no excuse.

Let's face it - if a seller with a feedback number in the thousands gets a negative hit, it isn't going to change their overall feedback percentage much. However, if they can slam the little guy with a feedback of maybe twenty it looks much worse - it can affect their percentage score out of all proportion to the person with the big feedback score.

This problem also has the effect of making eBay seem a much better place to trade than it actually is - although to be fair it's pretty good. However, by perpetuating this loophole for sellers, eBay is not doing their users in general -and buyers in particular - any favours. Surely it's about time that eBay introduced some system whereby sellers has to leave feedback within, say, twenty-four hours of a sale or none could be left at all - and repeat offenders penalised? With eBay's e-commerce savvy this should be a breeze and it would make things better for all - except of course for the ones holding us, effectively, to ransom.

So - for now, at least - the fact remains that as a buyer you are pretty much at the mercy of this type of intimidating behaviour - at least until eBay decide that enough is enough and it's time to get back to it's original values, even if that means upsetting the odd powerseller or two!
About the Author
Steve Dempster writes informative articles for the web and is also a confirmed eBayer. To learn more about levering your eBay sales, take a look at A New Life 4U or pay his shop a visit
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