PLEASE read this guide and vote it into Ebay's field of vision. Show them this is a very serious issue for buyers and sellers alike. If you have ideas about how to add to this that I may not have considered, please do contact me. And I am VERY grateful to those who have already offered praise, support and constructive criticism! This guide was last updated January 2009.
First and foremost - It goes completely against the core principles of the site. 'We believe that an honest, open environment can bring out the best in people' and 'We encourage you to treat others the way you want to be treated'. Anonymous stars undermine the first statement. Responding to legitimate buyer concerns with a massive change, while disregarding the sellers with equally valid concerns who participated in massive campaigns, petitions and active attempts to discuss this at ebay classes, conferences and conventions goes against the second. Creating the public perception that sellers here were largely corrupt and the site needed drastic clean-up efforts only made the site look worse, and made things harder for ebays MANY honest sellers who provide exceptional service, and who want to protect and educate their buyers. eBay - sellers are YOUR customers. Please treat us with the courtesy and respect you say customers deserve, protect us from being scammed and provide our buyers with better tools and education so they can avoid the minority of sellers who are bad.
The star rating system was only tested short-term, in Europe, prior to its US implementation. The two markets are very different, and stars should have tested this more thoroughly before applying it on such a massive scale.
Ratings on shipping time is guaranteed to be most impacted by how long the mail carriers take. We have ZERO control over the speed once we drop it off. No matter what ebays tutorials or help pages say, many people are still going to base it on how they feel about the arrival time regardless of when it was sent.
Rating on shipping costs creates pressure to mislead the buyer by placing shipping costs in the item price, and discourages using proper packing materials.
It strongly discourages sellers from selling internationally, since that is boiling down to picking between losing shipping cost stars (for fast expensive shipping) or losing shipping time stars (for cheaper but slower shipping).
Ratings on communication are going to be affected by ebays system glitches, buyers who don't use or check the email address associated with their paypal account, and mail servers classify ebay messages as spam - none of which the seller has any control over.
The anonymity makes it unhelpful as a tool for sellers to 'improve themselves further' - the person who has to wait three days for shipment may be totally fine with it. The person who pays at 4 pm and wants to know why we didn't leave work early to ship their item the same day, may be unhappy and rate us down. If we get low stars on item description, and don't know WHICH items are in question, we can't even begin to figure out which ones need further clarification. If we don't know what ratings go with what transactions, we have no way of determining which ratings are legitimate concerns and which are unrealistic expectations, and no way of associating it with specific auctions or business habits we may need to improve on. Anonymity also makes it less useful to other buyers because they have no way of seeing who rated us and putting it in context with the item - before if they saw a neutral or neg, they could get a fuller picture of the transaction, like when it was sold or what info was or wasn't in the auction.
A buyer with a grudge or an agenda can easily trash someone's star ratings and they would never know. This is especially serious when it is a competitor, because a large seller can damage a smaller seller's ratings with a few items, but even if the smaller seller were to do the same back, it would never have as much of an effect. If we can't identify and block a vindictive bidders, we cannot effectively protect ourselves here as a sellers, and we can't do anything to tip off other sellers they might deal with in the future.
It degrades the value of existing feedback ratings - Many of your finest sellers have worked hard for years to get and keep excellent feedback ratings. We've worked hard to get not just positives, but glowing positives, and buyers knew those were sincere. Now glowing feedback is now as likely to be a 'dont look at me, im not the one who dinged you' front as it is to be sincere.
It helps protect BAD sellers - The scammers and gougers are not the ones who are upset about this - they know many buyers will still leave a pos and just downgrade stars. Their chances of getting bad feedback are lower now, and their percents are rising. If the bad sellers already weren't deterred by a fear of neutrals or negs, they certainly aren't going to be concerned about having a lower star rating.
The timing was extremely inappropriate. This was implemented immediately after a signifcant rate change in shipping. Obviously, at this time (2009) that isn't a fresh issue, but it does still show the lack of foresight put into this.
The old system could have been made far more effective, with less effort and disruption, by simply creating a filter for viewing neutrals and negs. Giving buyers that tool so they didn't have to invest excessive time and effort doing detective work to find a big sellers real issues, and a little added effort in educating buyers on how to assess that information, would have made a world of difference. I was very active on ebays forums for years - the vast majority of 'stung' buyers either tried to sift through pages and pages of a large seller's FB to view the negs and neutrals and got exhausted, or didn't try because they already knew it would be a lot of work.
Protecting buyers from retaliatory feedback but what about protecting sellers from it? Retaliatory feedback has never been an issue that affects only one side. Sellers are often in situations where some buyers deserve neutrals or negs that we will never give because we don't want an undeserved vindictive hit on our own feedback. And now, instead of balancing stars out by offering some better protection for sellers, we have been left totally open to feedback abuse of various types.
The extreme transparency in showing items and prices is a deterrent to this marketplace. Yes, that information was already available. But there is a HUGE difference between what someone can find out by investing some effort and time when they are motivated, and having all that information broadcast loudly. Some examples that will hurt ebay sales:
- A buyer might feel awkward about many items - for example, does everyone really need to know my pant size, or whether I need a particular type of hemorrhoid pads? If I need a book on surviving abuse, a book I may well have come to ebay to buy because I felt awkward buying it in person? If I buy gifts on an id my family uses? Which kid I spent more on? If I am able to buy solid gold cat statues and may have a small fortune in my home? Many of your buyers object to this on principle even though they have never bought a single item they personally feel self-conscious about.
- Consider this common scenario: Many people surf eBay at work for items they don't care at all about being seen but have bought items in the past that they wouldn't browse for at work. Now, anyone who surfs ebay from work to shop needs to be concerned that their employer may see more personal purchases (NOT made from work) from a monitoring program that captures their feedback page as a whole. Before all they had to do was not shop for such things at work; now, they may well not do ANY ebay shopping from work.
- A casual seller collects props for shows and movies, or seeks out complete collections of books or magazines. They may find all the individual items fairly cheaply - after investing hours researching exactly what they need and more hours sifting through all the possible auctions, as well as paying shipping each time. And now that they have their lot together and want to sell it, their potential buyers look at the list of prices they paid, with no regard for their time and effort, and lower their concept of what they are willing to bid.
- A store seller who used to accept lower than desirable Best Offers, whether due to a financial crunch or trying to cut a deal for a great return customer, will now need to reconsider - because future buyers will see that price and refuse to pay more for a similar item. Likewise, it will discourage use of the sale function. (Please note: This issue HAS been addressed by eBay, thank you! It remains with this note both to give eBay credit for listening, and as a gentle reminder to those who say there's no point objecting that we can make a difference!)
- A seller who has several items with similar or identical titles but at different price levels will have the same problem, people will see the sold prices for the lower end ones and refuse to pay more for a higher end version thinking they are identical.
- A crafter or reseller buys materials/bulk on ebay, a choice you should certainly support. They have competitors who want to know exactly what materials they used so they can create ripoff copies, or offer identical items. Now they have a simple, one-glance commonly known way to see exactly what we bought and from who. Likewise, if a seller is suddenly selling a lot of a specific colour or style - why should their competitors be able to use their feedback page to have a one-glance shortcut to finetuning what to offer themselves?
- Why create pressure to make more auctions private when shill bidding is such a serious issue? Or more private buyer ids when they make many sellers nervous?
What can you, the people who make up ebays 'constituency' do? This is the biggest problem I have seen in over seven years here. There are many possible approaches and ideas for how to communicate your feelings, and I urge anyone who wants to discuss those to go to the feedback forum and participate, as well as contacting eBay directly.
What I do NOT support - Do not refuse to leave feedback for your buyers - this isn't their fault. Do not punish buyers who rate your stars low - they probably aren't even sure how this is all supposed to work yet. Do not assume we can't possibly have an effect - some of the issues from the first versions of this guide have been addressed, and I believe that when the overall effects are better understood, eBay will see this differently than they did going into it, and either remove it or alter it substantially so that buyers, sellers and eBay itself can all benefit :)