Leaving Feedback on eBay for Buyers

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At a loss as to what to put in the feedback box? Why leave it anyway? How to decide whether a seller deserves 3 or 4 stars on shipping time or communication? What constitutes "helpful" feedback for other eBay buyers and sellers? These are some helpful tips for buyers on leaving feedback on eBay that is not only fair to both parties, but helpful to other eBayers as well. This guide is intended for not only novice eBayers, but experienced ones as well, and is directed more towards helping buyers than sellers.

Feedback Basics

Feedback is your reputation on eBay. Many local newspapers publish annual lists of "Best Of" local business in different categories. And in a local community, word-of-mouth advertising is very powerful, and fairly easy; if you are looking for a new plumber or landscaper, most people will ask friends, neighbors, or relatives for referrals. Ebay is a little different. However, by looking at a seller's feedback, you can learn pretty easily if the seller is responsible and reliable. This is based on what other customers (buyers) have to say about the seller, NOT what the seller has to say about himself.

When buyers look at a seller's feedback, they are usually looking for a few key pieces of information. Is the seller responsible? Is the seller reliable? Does the seller answer questions in a timely manner? Is the product as described?

If you're seeing lots of "A+++++++++++, good seller, good product," types of feedback, it usually means that the buyer was happy with their transaction. Does it tell you much more than that? Unlikely. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that this feedback is useless. Lots of this type of feedback means that the seller has lots of happy customers, which is still important for you to know!

Feedback that says, "Excellent product, works better than described, arrived in 3 days after purchase," is much more helpful, for both the buyer and seller. Good sellers (this goes without saying for Power Sellers) will check their feedback regularly- sometimes daily. Based on what they see, they may make make changes in their own policies on shipping times, communication, and what they print in listings. Sellers who have earned "Power Seller" status will usually have more stringent standards for themselves than what eBay requires. This is good news for buyers! Our company, for instance, promises to ship a product within 2 (sometimes 3) business days, after payment is received. We are unhappy with ourselves if we do not ship the same or next business day that payment is received. For more information on Power Seller and Top Seller requirements: http://pages.ebay.com/sellerinformation/PowerSeller/requirements.html.

Buyers who are very happy with their product (you may want to consider using the product before leaving feedback, as this is helpful for other buyers) will usually leave something specific about the product in their feedback, such as "works better than described," or "Why did I wait to purchase this item? I love it!" Feedback such as "I don't notice the bad pixel," on a used computer monitor, for instance, may mean that the seller is very particular about testing their items before listing, and will include every available detail they have about an item. This is usually a very good sign for buyers. Sellers who are honest and responsible will always list this sort of data about an item.

Shipping Time

If a listing states that your item will ship within 3 business days after payment is processed, and does not ship for 5 days, you absolutely have good reason to leave lower feedback on shipping time! If your item never arrives, contact the seller, as there may be a problem he is unaware of. If possible, most sellers will replace the product with something identical, or very similar, if it has been lost in the mail. If it cannot be replaced, most sellers are happy to refund your purchase ASAP. If they do not offer either, PLEASE leave negative feedback (and contact eBay!). This is to the benefit of not only other buyers, but other sellers as well. Most sellers want you to be not only happy about your item, but pleased with the whole transaction, and will do everything they can to assure that happens.

Here is a pet peeve of many sellers: say you purchase an item from eBay the Saturday before a national holiday (Labor day, for instance, which falls on a Monday). Your item ships the following Tuesday, which is the first business day after your purchase. You leave one star on shipping time, because your product was shipped on Tuesday, and not Monday. This is NOT a fair reflection of the seller! Is it the seller's fault that they could not ship your item on a national holiday, when shipping services are closed? Certainly not. And while some sellers DO ship on Saturdays, most do not. If your item is shipping internationally, check your calendar for international holidays, or ask the seller about the shipping delay before leaving feedback. There may be a reasonable cause for the delay.

Here is another example: You live in Canada, and purchase an item that is shipping from outside of Canada (or whatever country in which you reside). Most international shipping times are between 6-10 days from the time it is mailed, possibly longer, depending on the shipping service. Your item arrives in 11 days, even though the listing says that shipping time is generally between 6-10 business days. Does the seller have control over this? Again, no. The seller is not hand-delivering your item to you. If it arrives in 11 days because you were not home to sign for the package (if necessary), this is still not the seller's fault. They did what they promised to do in getting your item to you. Your complaint should be with the shipping service, not necessarily with the seller. A seller in England doesn't have ANY control over the US Postal Service. This is a change that eBay will be implementing for fall 2010 in leaving seller feedback in international shipments. However, this is good information for the seller to know, which is best communicated in email or over the phone. If a seller finds that their shipping service has begun to consistently take longer than the shipping service advertised, or that items are consistenly getting lost in the mail, the seller may consider a different shipping service.

How to decide whether to leave 3 or 4 stars on communication, shipping time, etc?

This is a subjective measure. Did you need to ask the seller a question about the item? If not, then the listing was probably pretty clear, and information about the item was probably communicated very clearly. If so, did the seller respond quickly? Answer your question fully? Even offer more information than you had asked for (that you found helpful)? If you had no problems or questions about the transaction, the seller probably worked to make sure that the transaction would be a smooth process, before you even searched for the item. Sellers always appreciate high feedback. If you didn't have to contact the seller, please do not leave one star on communication. Consider the "NA" option instead, as this is much more considerate. The seller was probably happy that you didn't need to ask additional questions due to work on his part in making the listing as clear as possible, so penalizing him for this is just mean.

What about shipping and handling fees?

How can you determine if those are "fair" or not? If you feel like the S/H fees are a little high, you can check the shipping services' website to calculate on your own what the shipping costs may be. For instance, if a seller uses the US Postal Service, go to: www.usps.com. Click on the red "Calculate Shipping Cost" button at the top of the page. You can estimate shipping weight if you need to, or simply ask the seller what the shipping weight is. If they have items listed in bulk, or have several listings for the same item, they will likely know off-hand what the shipping weight of that product is, or can find it quickly.

Say you are bidding on an item that is listed for $0.99. Shipping and handling charges are $20. Is the item worth the $20 S/H charges to you? If you've bid and paid on the item, chances are, it was. If you still feel the S/H charges were a little high, then make sure your feedback reflects that!

What if I have a problem with the seller or the item?

Let the seller know! They can't fix your problem unless you tell them! Will your plumber know that your sink is backed up unless you call him? If you have a problem with the seller or the item, contact the seller first. If you contact eBay directly, the first thing they will ask you is if you've contacted the seller. And then they will contact the seller. If you've lost the seller's user ID or contact information, this may be a good way for you to go (check your "My eBay" tab for a list of items you've previously purchased.) Simply leaving negative feedback is not only incredibly passive agressive, but rarely results in a favorable outcome for the buyer. Sellers always have the chance to respond to negative feedback, which shows up just below the negative feedback for that item.

Leaving Negative Feedback

If the seller has NOT done what they have promised to do in their listings, in getting the product to you, advertising the product, resolving a problem, or answering a question (period), it's time to leave negative feedback. If a seller ships the wrong item and denies it, it's time to leave negative feedback. If the transaction was not easy and not pleasant, it's time to leave negative feedback. Most sellers will do everything they can to avoid negative feedback (Power Sellers are allowed only a very small number of negative feedback per 3 months before they lose their Power Seller or Top Seller status), and will do everything they can to make sure you are a happy camper. However, if you feel they've failed to make a reasonable effort in this (and you've attempted to contact them and given them a chance to reply), please leave the negative feedback! This is to the benefit of the entire eBay community.

Other Reasons Sellers May User Feedback

Aside from using feedback to provide a higher quality of service to their buyers, sellers may check a buyer's feedback if they are having an issue with the buyer. For example, if the buyer won an item up for auction, but has not paid after 3 or 4 days, a seller may check the buyer's feedback, left by others. Most sellers will wait up to 7 calendar days for feedback before requesting a Final Value Fee from eBay and cancelling the transaction. If a buyer seems to have a history of waiting until the last possible moment to pay for an item, based on what the seller sees in their feedback, it may determine whether the seller will wait an additional day or two before initiating the process to cancel a transaction or not. If the buyer has multiple negative feedbacks, the seller may simply cancel the transaction after waiting a reasonable length of time to save themselves time and resources.

If a buyer asks multiple questions about the item, the seller may check the buyer's feedback to learn more about the buyer. If a buyer is new to eBay, the seller will know that the buyer may have eBay-specific questions about how the purchase process works. If the buyer appears to have never bought an item in the seller's category before, the seller may send additional general information about the product for the buyer's information. Usually though, if a seller checks a buyer's feedback, it is out of general curiosity.

Listings are CONTRACTS

When you bid on en eBay item, you are effectively signing a contract. You are agreeing to the terms listed within the item listing. Unless you have asked the seller to provide an alternate shipping service (and he agrees to it), you CANNOT simply expect the seller to overnight an item, especially at his cost, if he offers free Priority or UPS shipping. By bidding on an item, you are agreeing to PURCHASE it, even if you bid on several different items within the same category. If you make an accidental bid, contact the seller immediately, as they may be willing to cancel your bid. Ultimately, if either the buyer or seller fails to honor this listing/contract, you (either as a buyer or seller) should leave negative feedback. If it appears that someone has "goofed," and both parties are in agreement on resolution of the problem, this may be good to note in feedback, but if you are happy with the transaction, your feedback shoud reflect that as well. If you fail to pay for an item you've won, don't be surprised if the seller leaves you negative feedback.

Remember, Feedback on eBay is someone's reputation for others to see. If you are pleased with your transaction and the way the seller manages his listings, make sure your feedback reflects that. This is helpful for the seller, as well as future eBay-ers.
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