How to deal with bad sellers and negative feedback

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This guide is for those of you that have had, or are having, a bad experience with an ebay seller. 

My personal experience with ebay and a deadbeat seller occurred several years ago.  I had bought a vintage t-shirt and paid the seller the same day.  Instructions on the auction instructed the buyer to specify shirt size.  So I did this in the comment section of the auction payment page.  I then specified my address and shirt size to the seller via ebay messenging and his email address.  So fast forward 60 days and 18 un-answered email messages later, I still do not have the product.  So I filed a complaint with paypal asking for a refund and then left negative feedback for the seller describing the absence of communication and no product.  The seller then answers with negative feedback of his own claiming only that I, the buyer, am an "idiot."  Since I don't believe in starting a new account to "erase" negative feedback, I have held on to my account.

This feedback permanently tarnishes your reputation since potential buyers/sellers often only look at % positive and not necessarily the details of the transaction.  (Ebay will never remove the feedback unless a pattern of abuse is blatantly/painfully obvious!) Often you can avoid retaliatory negative feedack from a bad seller by taking the following steps:  (in other words, what I learned from this incident)

1.  Try to contact the seller via the ebay messaging system as well as the seller's email address.  Often after I've thought our method of communication had been settled, the potential buyer/seller will not check that method of communciation for future messages. 

2.  If, like in my case, the seller never responded to any emails/communication whatsoever, first request a refund from paypal stating that the item was never delivered.  Paypal will then ask for verification from seller that the item was sent.  If seller can not provide that, your money will be promptly refunded in most circumstances.  (It was with my incident.)

3.  If you get a full refund from Paypal, I would encourage you not to leave any feedback at all for the seller.  I realize this can create a breakdown of the whole feedback system; but often the seller will leave negative feedback for you in retaliation.  (as occurred in my circumstance.)  If you do decide to leave negative feedback due to the situation not being resolved, do not leave it when angry.  Wait a few days to cool off and think about the situation.  If you leave neutral or zero feedback, this will increase the odds the seller will not leave you negative feedback. 

4.  If after all this, you still are committed to leaving negative feedback, EXPECT to have negative and possibly inflammatory feedback left for you as well.  and ALWAYS write a follow up to the negative feedback on your account so potential future clients can see what took place.  Never leave negative feedback unanswered for.  I also encourage to reply to their reply whenever possible on both buyer and seller accounts. 

There's simply no easy way to deal with this type of situation if you are unlucky enough to get a really bad person on the opposite end of a transaction.  But I hope this can help you in future ebaying.   Thanks for reading!

UPDATE 6/12/08   Ebay has apparently changed their policies regarding feedback in some extravagant ways.  It looks as if now retaliatory negative feedback from sellers is no longer permitted.  Sellers may leave either positive feedback or NO feedback at all.  So now, in effect, buyers can leave negative feedback without fear of retaliation from a dense seller.  I'm sure people will find other ways of exploiting the new feedback system such as leaving negative comments under a "positive" feedback option. 

So this guide I still believe to be useful for sorting out potential problems; but section 4 on receiving retaliatory feed back from a seller is no longer possible.  Also, Ebay has removed old negative feedback from sellers who are currently suspended by Ebay.  My one negative feedback, as described above, apparently met that requirement and was removed automatically in May 2008.
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