A Buyer's Guide to Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) and How They Impact Sellers
This aticle is intended to be used as a guide for buyers who are unsure how to rate sellers using the Detailed Seller Ratings. It also meant to provide buyers with a true sense of how their ratings impact the sellers they rate.
What are Detailed Seller Ratings?
Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs, for short) were implemented by eBay in order to allow buyers to rate sellers according to how good of a buying experience they have provided to their customers. There are four categories to rate, with one to five stars (five as the best) for each category. The categories are:
*Item as Described
*Shipping and Handling Time
I'll break down each category one at a time.
Category 1: Item as Described
This category seems the most straight forward of all the categories you rate as it is asking how accurate was the item's description versus what you ended up receiving. If the description correctly described the item (or is even better than the condition stated) a buyer should feel comfortable awarding the seller five stars. If the description is completely inaccurate in a negative aspect and the seller refuses to own up to it (or admit a mistake) and make corrections, then the buyer should award that seller less than a five-star rating.
The difficulty for sellers arises when good-intentioned buyers give sellers with totally accurate descriptions (or sellers whose items are even better than described) less than five star ratings. A buyer may believe that they are giving a seller a nice B+ grade by awarding four stars for their accurate description of that plaster vase where every chip and crack was notated, but in reality, that 4 star rating turns into a failing grade for the sellers once the numbers are averaged out (more on this below.) The only possible reason I could see for awarding a seller three or four stars in this category (versus five stars if the description was accurate) would be if the seller missed noting some sort of major damage, but followed up with a refund or return offered to the buyer upon notification. Some would argue that that seller still deserves a five-star rating in this category because of great customer service with the return and refund, but I believe that seller did not describe the item accurately and only their good customer service earned them a better than one- or two-star rating, but not a five star rating.
Category 2: Communiation
This rating is the most personal, as the right amount of communication varies according to each person. What one buyer may consider just the right amount of contact (i.e. one invoice and one shipping notice) may not be enough for another buyer who wants a more personal touch throughout. To most people, the standard ideal of communication consists of one invoice, one shipping notice and one personal email either as a follow-up to the sale or sometime during the sale (perhaps as a notification of payment received.) Other buyers are happy with very little or no communication as long as their item shows up on their doorstep within five or six days of their order. Some buyers become irate if a seller does not acknowledge receipt of payment (even instant Paypal payments) while others feel the subsequent shipping email is their notification of payment received.
So how do you rate something that varies so much according to personal taste? Easy, you rate them according to the essential information received. If you needed the balance due and their mailing address so you could pay for your item, did they provide it in a timely manner? If you emailed them with a question, did they respond in a timely manner with an answer or return questions, if the case warranted it? A timely manner to me is within two or three days. Why two or three days? Because it allows that that eBay seller does have a life outside of eBay and may not check their email more than once a day or may have work or family commitments that prevent instant responses. Most eBay sellers will respond as soon as humanly possible, sometimes within minutes, unless the question posed requires research or thinking about, then it may take longer, but most sellers will email that fact back to the asker. Any seller who responds within a reasonable time frame to questions asked and/or sends the essential data needed to complete the transaction and keep the seller informed should receive a five star rating. The sellers who never contact you (barring unintentional email malfunctions, which happen from time to time) throughout a transaction and seem to resent you when you contact them deserve lowered ratings in this category.
Category 3: Shipping Time
Unfortunately, an inordinate number of buyers unfairly rate down sellers in this category based upon the package carrier's service, which is totally outside of the seller's control. Too many buyers do not really know how long packages take on average to reach different destinations with different carriers. Take USPS media mail for example, a seller mails the package from Seattle, going to Miami, the same day the buyer pays, but USPS takes five weeks to deliver it. That buyer then believes they are 'fairly' rating the seller's shipping time at two stars because it took five weeks, but that is completely unjust to the seller who had no control over how long USPS took to deliver that package. In reality, that seller deserved a five star rating because they shipped the item out the same day it was paid for, which is a very speedy turn-around time anywhere.
How can you rate a seller on their shipping time without punishing them unfairly based upon the shipping carrier they used? Easy, you can look at the date the item was shipped on the package and compare that to the date your item was paid for. (Don't forget to consider holidays and weekends, as many post offices are closed those days.) Before rating a seller, re-check the seller's terms in the listing because the seller might have clearly listed circumstances (vacations, holidays, etc.) that may have delayed shipping and you just missed them. You should not punish sellers on their ratings just because you did not fully read their terms beforehand and then decide you don't like them after you've already completed the transaction. Sellers who drag their feet on shipping, taking weeks or months and offering no explanation nor apology for the unexpected delay should be marked down in their ratings.
Category 4: Shipping and Handling Charges
Honestly, this category is difficult to rate since buyers have already approved of the shipping and handling (S&H, for short) charges required by the seller otherwise they would never have bid or bought the item in the first place. But, since this category has to be rated by buyers, I will offer my suggestions. The only reasons I could see for not awarding a seller five stars in this category are the following:
*the seller inflated the amount of shipping specifically given in the listing after the item was won/purchased;
*the seller did not provide a shipping total in the description and after the item was purchased demanded a shipping cost incompatible with the item being shipped, for example, $20 to ship a 5oz item via USPS first class mail.
*the seller charged more for a faster shipping method but shipped the item via the slower method and kept the difference.
Keep in mind that shipping a large item, such as a lamp, skis, large vase etc. is going to cost considerably more than $10 to ship across country.
If you win or purchase an item with a clearly stated shipping amount, the seller has a right to assume you approved of that shipping amount when you placed your bid or completed the buy it now process. If you think the stated shipping cost was only 'okay' compared to other sellers offering similar items, ask yourself why you bought it in the first place, then please realize that that has nothing to do with this transaction. You should not mark down a seller's DSR just because you chose to comparsion shop after the transaction was complete. If you are unaware of reasonable shipping costs and discover afterwards that the stated shipping charges were considerably more than actual shipping costs, please remember the fact that you were fine with the charges when you placed your bid or made that purchase. If it really bothers you, contact the seller and ask for a partial refund on shipping, but keep in mind the seller is not obligated to refund charges that you'd agreed to with your purchase and payment.
How do DSRs impact sellers?
A seller's DSRs can determine where that seller's items appear in search, with more highly rated sellers receiving more prominent placement and the lower rated sellers receiving less or lowered placement. Sellers can also qualify for discounts on FVF if their DSRs are high enough. (FVF stands for Final Value Fees, which is a percentage of the ending sale price eBay charges the seller.) This sounds like a good idea, but, as I'll explain, good sellers end up getting punished by buyers who think they're giving those sellers great ratings.
A seller's ratings in each category are added up over the last twelve months and the average is taken. This is where what looks like a good grade can turn into a failing grade. Let's say a seller does a good job with accurate descriptions, prompt shipping time, reasonable shipping charges and timely communication His buyers equate a four-star rating with a B grade because to them a B is an acceptable grade (and some of those buyers equate an A rating only when given bonus free stuff and free shipping), so the seller's last ten buyers give him the following ratings:
Buyer One 5*s, 4*s, 5*s, 4*s
Buyer Two 4*s, 5*s, 4*s, 4*s
Buyer Three 4*s, 5*s, 5*s, 4*s
Buyer Four 5*s, 4*s, 4*s, 5*s
Buyer Five 4*s, 5*s, 4*s, 4*s
Buyer Six 5*s, 3*s, 4*s, 4*s (rated down communication because he wanted acknowledgement of his paypal payment in addition to the shipping notification email)
Buyer Seven 4*s, 5*s, 4*s, 3*s (rated down S&H charges because he found an auction later with S&H charges $2 less than what he paid)
Buyer Eight 5*s, 4*s, 1*s, 5*s (rated down shipping time because USPS took three weeks to deliver, even though seller mailed item within 24 hours of payment)
Buyer Nine 4*s, 3*s, 2*s, 3* (rated down all the categories becuause he didn't like the game after he tried it)
Buyer Ten 5*s, 4*s, 4*s, 4*s
This seller's averaged DSRs for these ten transactions are as follows:
Item as Described - 4.5 stars
Communication - 4.2 stars
Shipping Time - 4.7 stars
Shipping & Handling Charges - 4.0
According to eBay's reading of the DSRs, this seller would be considered a bad seller because his stars are below the eBay averages. He would be 'punished' by having his listings lowered in search results, and he would receive admonishments from eBay for his 'poor customer service'. Even though the low ratings given had nothing to do with his service and how he performed, his sales (and his business) will be harmed by them and many buyers will not get to see his listings unless they search for them specifically.
Changes to how eBay calculates a seller's standing are coming in October. Instead of basing it on a percentage, which punishes good sellers as I've shown above, eBay will now only use the number of low (1 or 2) ratings received in these categories. While this change will no longer punish good sellers the same way, there are still a few problems with it. The biggest problem is that sellers are not allowed to see which buyers gave them the low ratings. It is difficult to improve already good customer service in any category when the seller has no idea which customer they've failed nor exactly why they were rated so poorly in any category. When the new system goes into effect, I will adjust this guide with new suggestions for fair ratings for sellers.