Sunday, April 30, 2006

eBay Buyers: Tips for Secure Buying from eBay PowerSellers

When we first started selling on eBay, an aquaintance who looked at our MittART Mart shop remarked:

"It's a wonder people are buying from you. You aren't a PowerSeller yet. I only buy from PowerSellers, that way I know I can trust them."

Fortunately our worries that people would not buy from us because we weren't PowerSellers at the time were relieved when we saw our sales shoot up around Christmas time, and within a short time, we were granted the coveted eBay PowerSeller status.

In order for an eBay seller to qualify for entry into the elite PowerSeller programme, and display a PowerSeller icon, the seller has to have a proven track record. As eBay puts it:

"They are exemplary members who are held to the highest standards of professionalism, having achieved and maintained a 98% positive feedback rating and an excellent sales performance record."

Which is why we received the shock of our life when we were almost scammed by a PowerSeller from whom we made a purchase many months ago.

We had won a wholesale lot of scissors from a particular seller and paid immediately, as we ALWAYS do.

The scissors did not arrive after a couple of weeks. We sent messages to the seller who did not reply. When we finally read the seller's feedback, we found that others had had the same experience as us. We wrote again to the seller, warning that we would cancel our order if we did not receive the scissors within a week, and pointed out the negative feedback he had received from others.

The seller finally replied that the item had been dispatched by DSL and was on its way. We waited another week but nothing arrived, so we gave him negative feedback and applied to paypal for a refund.

He never replied to the paypal dispute we opened, but the day before the deadline when we should have received the the refund the goods miraculously arrived, so we withdrew the paypal complaint.

Upon opening the package, we found that the handles of the scissors were damaged, the packaging was all stained, and the blades had rust marks, but since the price was good, and they were usable, and we figured we could sell some at car boot sales in the summer, so we did not complain or ask for a refund – also because we didn’t want to waste any more time dealing with bureaucracy and having to pay postage costs for a refund.

A week later the seller contacted us through the eBay messaging system, saying now that we had received our goods, would we please retract the negative feedback we had left for him.

We felt that the best course would be to ignore the request. A few days later, we received another request to retract the negative feedback, threatening that if we did not withdraw it, he would give us negative feedback! We replied that we had no intention of doing so, citing all the above reasons, and saying that other ebayers need to be warned about him. We told him to stop bullying and harassing us.

Within minutes we found that he had given us negative feedback as a buyer!

A) We don’t deserve negative feedback. We see ourselves as a model eBayers, both as a seller and a buyer. We always pay immediately for anything we purchase, and we always dispatch our products immediately in good condition and well wrapped – you can read feedback that has been left for us.

B) Although the seller had gained PowerSeller status, he was a bully. His feedback showed that others had given him negative feedback, and then retracted it after he requested them to do so.

This seller was a power seller – supposedly someone who can be trusted, but neither his goods nor his behaviour towards other eBayers was trustworthy. We know people are often afraid to give negative feedback for the exact reason that they will unjustly be treated to retaliatory behaviour, which is what has happened to us, but something had to be done about this seller.

Although we contacted eBay to request that the unfair and retaliatory negative feedback be removed from our profile, eBay informed us in an email that the negative feedback we received is "Part of the battle scars honest ebayers get along the way!"

Here is the text of the letter we received from eBay:

In fairness, eBay cannot prevent a user from leaving a retaliatory negative comment, whether or not it was deserved. Please remember that most users will look at a bidder's or seller's complete history when deciding if they want to conduct business with him or her. A user who is conscientious, helpful and honest will always have many more positive comments that will overshadow a few obvious retaliation feedback comments. Unfortunately, if good honest users do not leave negative feedback when warranted, out of fear of receiving a negative comment in return, they are essentially letting the bad guys win. Most eBay users understand that honest users will acquire a few "battle scars" in the fight to expose the less then honest users of the community.

We contacted eBay again, explaining that the seller needed to be stopped: Why should people who buy from us see there is a negative feedback? Some people don't bother scrolling through the pages to see why. It just turns them off immediately. And we wanted to know why this seller could continue being a power seller (supposedly trustworthy) while we had to suffer retaliatory negative feedback from a bully?

If ebay doesn't back up honest ebayers then the honest ones will continue being afraid to give honest negative feedback, and that is not how the system should work.

We never did get closure on the matter. Just a lot of "unfortunately's" from every eBay customer service represenative we complained to. So we finally gave up, and therefore, if you are planning on buying one of our recliners, and see 1 negative feedback in our profile, it is from a bully from whom we bought honestly, not something that we sold.

The point is:
  1. Even if you see a an eBay PowerSeller icon next to a seller's ID, check the seller's feedback before you buy!
  2. Read a seller's feedback BEFORE you bid or buy!
  3. Never let a seller bully you into retracting negative feedback when it is deserved!

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