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Don't Take Feedback At Face Value Only - There's More To It Than You Think

Nov 30, 2007
For many eBay users, positive feedback has become the Holy Grail of a member's credibility. But there's more to feedback than meets the eye. This article looks at a couple of points to bear in mind.

Ask most eBayers what they look for when dealing with a seller or buyer and they are likely to say one word - 'feedback'. This magic number has attained the status of a near-obsession matched only perhaps by the kudos of powerseller status. Yet what does feedback really show?

Okay - it shows how many times buyers or sellers have left their vote for a member when they are good eBayers - doesn't it? Well, that's not quite correct. The easiest way I can show you is to go by my own feedback and explain what it means.

At the time of writing, my feedback number - the one alongside my eBay username - stands at 694. I'm not a powerseller and compared to some eBayers I'm a beginner, yet the figures still tell their own story. Say you wanted to find out a bit more about me - you'd click on the number, revealing the Feedback Profile page associated with my username. There's my feedback score - 694 - but hang on, what's this other number mean, the one by the side of 'all positive feedback'?

This number, in my opinion, should also be shown by a member's name. Why? Simple - it shows the true numbers of eBayers who have left feedback for me. In my case it's 1061. This means that customers have made more than one purchase from me - any number of them between 1 and 367.

This indicates that (without blowing my own trumpet), quite a few buyers have seen fit to make repeat purchases from me. Unless they were crazy, they wouldn't do that unless I had won their trust and they knew I sold good items. This figure also includes people I have brought from and here the same applies - by leaving repeat positive feedback they are indicating that they are happy with my buying from them.

So how about my positive feedback percentage score? No secrets there, it's 99.9%. What - not 100%? How can I be trusted if I don't have a perfect score? Truth is that a lot of sellers now - in effect - manipulate their feedback score to avoid negative feedback. How do they do this?

Easy. They simply do not give feedback to a buyer until that buyer has left them, the seller, feedback first. I call it ransoming - they hold the buyer 'hostage' with the threat of negative feedback. Unless the buyer returns positive feedback - regardless of the fact of it being deserved or not - they will not leave at best any feedback and at worst will leave negative feedback in a 'retaliation' strike. Beware of sellers like this!

Personally I always leave feedback for a buyer as soon as payment is received. If they pay quickly then I figure they deserve it! If I despatch quickly, sell good items and give generally good service I expect them to give me the same. However, I don't hang on to that 100% figure as a lifeline - my eBay activities (and yours!) ultimately depend on the goodwill of buyers and sellers. This means that, if I screw up - and it has happened! - I want to know so I can put it right. If I do, I figure I still rate positive feedback. If I don't - I deserve what I get!

So what does that 99.9% figure really mean? It means that I have had one - that's right, just one - bad feedback in over 1,000 transactions. Guess what? It was a 'retaliation' strike when I dared to complain about a faulty item! And let's face it - a seller with a feedback score of 20,000+ won't mind the odd negative strike - it isn't going to change their percentage score worth a damn. However, for a relative newbie with a score of say 10 that single bad result would plummet their percentage score to 90% - to my mind totally and utterly unfair. The big sellers know this - hence 'ransoming'.

So next time you look at a seller's feedback score, don't just take it for granted they're good - take a look instead at their overall rating. You might just get a shock!
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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