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Feedback Changes at eBay

After years of relative stability the system is radically changed


For May 2008 eBay is changing some of the rules and functionality of their feedback system. Though eBay has been soft-spoken about the changes, some of them are major, in fact, and have been relatively controversial amongst both buyers and sellers. Nonetheless, the time for the changes has arrived, so it's time to explore what these changes mean for you as an eBay trader. Here are the changes and the ways in which they will affect your trades on eBay.

60-day Feedback Limit

Under the old system, members had 90 days to leave feedback about a transaction. Under the new system, feedback must be left within 60 days of the auction's close or the ability to leave feedback is lost.

Earn Multiple Feedback Points from the Same eBay Member

In the past, repeat buyers could leave feedback for their regular sellers as many times as they wanted, but only one positive and/or one negative feedback item from each buyer would actually count toward the seller's feedback score.

This change helps sellers that thrive on repeat business or that are able to maintain dedicated customer communities. From now on, repeat buyers' feedback will count as regular feedback so long as each sale to that buyer is at least seven days apart.

No More Neutral/Negative Feedback from Sellers

In what is perhaps the most controversial change, sellers will no longer be able to leave neutral or negative feedback for buyers, meaning that buyers' feedback going forward will be exclusively positive.

Though this change has sellers up in arms, in practical terms it helps to end the retaliatory feedback war that has been a problem on eBay for some time. Many sellers hesitated to leave negative feedback for problem or non-paying buyers anyway, since many such buyers would immediately retaliate with negative feedback knowing that negatives hurt sellers more than they do buyers. At the same time, many who both bought and sold on eBay have hesitated to leave feedback for their own sellers in fear of the same kind of retaliatory feedback, since negatives would hurt their ability to sell later on. From now on, negative feedback will be a one-way street: purely a way for buyers to complain openly about their sellers.

Buyers aren't totally off the hook, however—under the new rules it becomes more essential than ever for sellers to follow through with the non-paying bidder dispute process to ensure that buyers that are repeatedly difficult to deal with and/or that refuse to pay are banned from eBay. It also becomes more important for sellers to use tools like the buyer preferences tool to ensure that bids from problem buyers are blocked.

Negatives from Suspended Members and NPBs Removed

Going forward, when a buyer or seller is suspended or fails to respond to a non-paying bidder dispute, all of the negative and neutral feedback they left for others will be purged from the system.

This change has been a long time coming and helps both honest buyers and honest sellers, since it ensures that “problem” eBayers that antagonize and harass others without just cause will not be able to continue to harm eBay members once they're banned from eBay or fail to pay for their winnings.

No Quick Negatives Against PowerSellers

Under the new feedback system, buyers will not be able to leave negative feedback against eBay's top sellers for the first seven days. This is really a no-brainer; in eBay time, which typically includes both payment and shipping, seven days is not a sufficient time period in which to become legitimately dissatisfied with a seller.

This change protects high-volume sellers (who typically encounter a wider variety of new-to-eBay buyers) from rash action by confused or overly aggressive buyers and guarantees that a minimal amoung of “neutral time” exists in which payment can be made and shipment can occur.

Feedback Percentage Biased Toward Recent Past

The feedback percentage will experience a major shift, being calculated going forward based on only the most recent 12 months of feedback. Though the feedback score will remain along with all old negatives and neutrals, this change in the calculation of the percentage will slightly alter what it means to be a “bad seller.”

Under the new system, sellers have a better chance to clean up their act and get back into “good graces” with the eBay public. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, it means that there is an incentive for sellers with even checkered pasts to work harder to implement sound customer service policies, since old sins will eventually be wiped from their “record.” On the other hand, it also means that some sellers with truly horrible performances can in a sense “get away with it” simply by waiting a few months and then starting up again.

No More Feedback Withdrawals

With the new system, which puts an end to negative or neutral feedback from sellers and from suspended and non-paying members, eBay is also removing the ability for negative feedback to be withdrawn. The primary reason for this move is to end the tendency for negotiations about feedback removal to turn into something approximating extortion or harassment by one side or the other.

Instead, eBay hopes that this change can be compensated for by the end of negatives from suspended members and sellers, as well as by the "expiration" of old negatives for buyers and/or sellers with regard to their feedback percentage.

Time will tell whether eBay's changes work well or not, but for the moment, they're here to stay.

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