A Guide to DSR's (Detailed Seller Ratings)

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eBay has created an extended version of feedback just for rating sellers, known as Detailed Seller Ratings ( DSR's).  Unfortunately, most buyers don't understand how to properly leave a rating.  This guide is intended to educate buyers on what DSR's are and how to use the rating system.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of the subject, let's first discuss what DSR's are and how they are used:

DSR's are given when a buyer leaves feedback.  They leave the normal " positive", " neutral" or " negative" and then leave star ratings in each of four categories to better define their perceived level of service from the seller (with 1 star being poor and 5 stars being excellent).  The categories are as follows:

~ Item As Described
~ Communication
~ Shipping Time
~ Shipping and Handling Charges

One of the drawbacks of DSR's is that they are anonymous.  While this may offer some level of freedom to buyers to speak their minds, it's also a terrible way for vindictive or malicious sorts to exact some type of revenge or to just be jerks, whether the seller deserves it or not.  A buyer can likewise leave a positive feedback and then poor DSR's...and the seller has no idea who has done this or why, which means they can not improve their service or even really understand where there may be a problem.  Hence this guide...a guide to how to leave DSR feedback.

First of all, one of the most important things to understand about DSR's is that it's a rigged system.  eBay tells buyers that a 4-star rating is still a "good" rating.  However, the fact of the matter is that anything less than a 5-star rating hurts a seller's standing!  DSR's are misleading and harmful in the extreme when misused.

You see, sellers must maintain at least a 4.6 DSR rating in all four categories to garner the minimum PowerSeller fee discount, a 4.7 DSR rating in all four categories to maintain a "raised" listing visibility, and at least a 4.6 DSR rating in the "Shipping and Handling" category to receive "standard" listing visibility.  So each and every 4-star rating a seller receives lowers their score!  Only on eBay would "good" to one person (the buyer) be "bad" to another (the seller).

For every 4-star rating that a seller receives, they need two 5-star ratings to bring that 4-star score up to a passing level (i.e. 4.7).  And for every 1-star rating that a seller receives, they need eleven 5-star ratings to bring it up to that magic 4.7 average.  Obviously, one nasty buyer could destroy a small seller's business.

But isn't a 5-star rating only for those who go above and beyond?

The answer is "no"...and I'll tell you why.

Again, we're not talking about a level playing field here.  eBay, in their infinite wisdom, has mandated that sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for a buyer.  So, in essence, they are saying that any buyer who simply honors their agreement to pay for listings they've won gets an automatic 5-star rating (since there is no equivalent DSR rating system for buyers).  But is that fair?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but much of that depends upon how buyers use their power to leave DSR ratings.

So here's how you, the buyer, should leave fair DSR ratings in this rigged eBay system:

Item As Described - Unless the item is quite a bit different than described in the auction, you should leave 5 stars.  Remember, the seller is not responsible for you assuming anything other than that which is stated in the auction.  You should read auction listings CAREFULLY and note details like size, color, features, etc. (and no, the seller is not responsible for your poor monitor resolution). Also, do a little research before you order something to be sure of what you're getting.  Ask the seller a question BEFORE placing a bid if you're unsure.  If they lie or misrepresent the item to you or send something obviously different than the item up for sale, THEN feel free to hammer their DSR's.

Communication - One of the biggest annoyances to any seller is a buyer who sends an email and expects an immediate response.  For any eBay seller who does any amount of volume, it just isn't possible.  Most sellers operate on an email turnaround time of about 24hrs (not counting weekends...some check their email on the weekend, some take the weekend off).  This is especially true during the holidays, when the email volume tends to go through the roof.  If it's important enough that you need a fast response, pick up the phone.  If the seller doesn't have a telephone number and you need a fast response, maybe you should buy from someone else...not complain about it later.  Most sellers are doing the best they can and many eBay buyers have unrealistic expectations.  If the seller get back to you within a reasonable amount of time (usually within 24hrs, not counting weekends), you should leave a 5-star rating.

Shipping Time - Here is a HUGE problem with the DSR system: buyers misuse this rating probably the most of any of the DSR categories.  This rating should be reflective only of the time it takes the seller to get your order into the mail.  They are NOT responsible for the time it takes the package to reach you.  It's entirely out of their hands.  Be aware of your location in respect to the seller.  If you live on the west coast and they live on the east coast, it will naturally take longer for a package to reach you.  If the seller says they ship within 24hrs of cleared payment - and they do so - then leave a 5-star DSR.  If the seller says they only ship on certain days of the the week - and they do so - then leave a 5-star DSR.  If you want something faster than it seems that seller will provide, then buy from some other seller...don't buy from them and then penalize them for doing exactly what they said in their auction they were going to do.

Shipping and Handling Charges - This is the category that buyers seem to know the least about.  Ask yourself: do you know how much your package shipped through whatever carrier the seller chose actually costs?  The answer is likely a lot more than you think as shipping rates have been rising steadily (the U.S. Post Office is now adjusting rates annually).  And whatever your guess, it won't include other costs that go into the fee, including the envelope or box, packing materials, the shipping label, the invoice (including paper and ink), business cards or other information included in the order.  So be aware of the actual cost of a package arriving to you BEFORE leaving less than a 5-star DSR rating.

And finally, most buyers tend to leave nasty DSR's in all four categories if they felt slighted in any one of the categories.  Again, this is wrong and only caters to the natural tendency of people to be nasty when given the opportunity.  Even if the nastiness is unthinking, the harm it does is no less real.  That's not to say that everyone falls into this category, but many do.  Have a bad day at work?  Why not take it out on a seller's DSR's! 

Basically, think before you act.  Also, contact a seller before leaving feedback.  If you have a problem, communicate with them.  The time to get your issue resolved to your satisfactions is BEFORE you leave feedback, not after you slam them with a negative.  If you contact a seller and still can't get your issue resolved, now you're entitled to leave substandard feedback and DSR ratings.

So that's it for this guide.  Hopefully you learned a little something and hopefully more buyers will decide to help - rather than hurt - those sellers who gave them good service and a decent product.  No one is suggesting that you let a malicious or unreasonable seller "get away with it".  Instead, this guide is merely suggesting that you become an educated consumer and be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt.  Most eBay sellers are small-time operations working out of their homes and generally doing the best that they can.  eBay is getting to be a rather harsh, expensive, and demanding place to do business.  Sellers are stretched to the limit and making less and less money all the time as eBay fees and all associated business expenses continue to rise.  Those low prices you're getting on eBay are coming at a price - just like shopping at Wal Mart has destroyed the value of most goods sold in stores.  Keep hammering sellers and you'll soon find eBay to be an ugly flea market where only con artists and scammers can flourish.

As always, be educated and courteous...a little of this goes a long way and will help improve the eBay community for everyone!
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