John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Caveat Vendor

ebay2.jpgSo much for eBay’s Feedback Profile. The online auction pioneer has been getting quite a bit of negative feedback for its decision to ban sellers from leaving “negative” or “neutral” comments about buyers.

Announced last week along with some other changes, the move is designed to eliminate retaliatory feedback. Apparently, eBay believes its slowing growth is due at least in part to dissatisfied buyers put off by vindictive sellers. “… [T]he original intent of eBay’s public feedback system was to provide an honest, accurate record of member experiences,” Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, wrote in a message to the eBay Community Forum. “Over the years, we’ve adjusted the system to add nonpublic means of providing feedback to try to improve its accuracy. … But overall, the current feedback system isn’t where it should be. Today, the biggest issue with the system is that buyers are more afraid than ever to leave honest, accurate feedback because of the threat of retaliation. In fact, when buyers have a bad experience on eBay, the final straw for many of them is getting a negative feedback, especially of a retaliatory nature. Now, we realize that feedback has been a two-way street, but our data shows a disturbing trend, which is that sellers leave retaliatory feedback eight times more frequently than buyers do … So we have to put a stop to this and put trust back into the system.”

Suffice it to say, eBay’s sellers, who view feedback as one of their few means of protecting themselves against shady buyers, are not at all happy with the change. Some are threatening boycotts. Others are just taking their auctions elsewhere. “The feedback is the only carrot a seller has to make sure a person buying from them is fair,” said one veteran eBay seller who’s closing up shop. “Now I’ve got virtually no way to protect myself against negative feedback. … As for the weight or gravity of this situation, it’s a major life decision–right up there with getting married, picking a school and deciding whether to have children.”

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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle