How To Have Negative Feedback Removed For Under $500An Ohio eBay seller named med_express_sales has found an innovative way to get negative and neutral feedback removed. This article explains how they get buyers to remove or alter feedback.
Removing Feedback Is Pretty Simple. . .Step One:
Med Express Sales started out by finding a desperate and ethically challenged lawyer who will work cheap. . . maybe the lawyer is a relative working for free. . . maybe the lawyer has some ethics, but is being blackmailed into writing some letters.
Whatever the hook is, the lawyer has to be ethically challenged.
I say this because I doubt any of the lawyers I know socially would do more than advise me to just go on with my life. I do know from being somewhat involved in a lawsuit over online statements, that it is nearly impossible to win a lawsuit that claims true statements have damaged your reputation.
Actually maybe the lawyer who hangs out at the local pool hall and spends a lot of time in the bathroom might help out. He always has a runny nose and could certainly use my money to see a doctor about his frequent colds.
It cannot be that hard to find these lawyers because there are so many people using them. I guess it depends on the people you hang out with, or how much time you're willing to spend shopping for a lawyer that will say "Let's run it up the flag pole and see what happens. . . make your check out to Brown and Amodio."
Anyway, once Med Express Sales hooked up with the lawyer James Amodio they got down to business.Step Two:
They send a letter threatening a lawsuit if the feedback isn't changed to the complaining buyer. I'm not sure this is part of the system being used by Med Express, because there is no public evidence of this, but it would surely lower costs and probably cause some buyers to agree to remove feedback just to avoid being dragged into a suit.
I don't have numbers, but I know the threatening letters would work to get the feedback changed or removed part of the time. This is because many buyers would quickly cave at the threat of a lawsuit. A threatening letter sent by registered mail so it looks more important might cost $100 for the first one, and then the names and details could be pasted into a template for future threats so they'd be much cheaper - maybe about $30.Step Three:
If the buyer doesn't agree to remove or change feedback after being threatened, Med Express then files a lawsuit. As part of the lawsuit they ask the judge to order eBay to "temporarily" remove the feedback in question.
I put quotation marks around the word "temporarily" because it's called a temporary order, but there is never any order rescinding the order meaning it's actually permanent.
The judge then orders eBay to "temporarily" remove the feedback, and the person being sued either ignores the suit, or agrees to remove the feedback to make the suit go away.
The Negative Feedback Is Now Gone
Based on court records and Med Express Sales feedback revisions this procedure has been working pretty well for them. A lawsuit is even more frightening than a threatening letter, and the fear surely causes buyers to change their feedback rather than get involved in a legal fight in a far flung state.
The cost to file a lawsuit and serve the papers on the buyer is about $325. Any lawyer that would actually file a sure looser case like this must be cheap so let's say he charges
Unfortunately, There Is A Downside. . .
The trap here is once Med Express found a way to coerce buyers into removing or altering poor feedback, they continued to treat buyers poorly. This means poor feedback continues to roll in resulting in more trips to see the lawyer.
Even worse than failing to address the reasons buyers complain is sooner or later a buyer is going to get a lawyer and fight back.
If you live in North Korea or England you might be surprised by the laws here in the United States concerning free speech. Here in the U.S. saying something that is true does not give a person reasonable grounds to sue you. This is why I spent a few paragraphs above explaining that it would require finding a lawyer with low ethics and/or a cocaine habit.
In the case where the buyer fought back, Med Express filed suit against Amy Nicholls because she left the following feedback:
"Order arrived with postage due with no communication from seller beforehand."
Note: This feedback is stupid. By itself any other eBay bidder would ignore it. After all, how would the seller be expected to know the package was mailed without enough postage. The buyer should have emailed the seller and asked for a refund of the postage due amount.
This has never happened to me, but I wouldn't think twice about giving the buyer a refund. I might even give the buyer a few extra dollars as a way of apology. (Next week's article will explain some of the things I've done in the past few months to convert buyers with problems into happy repeat buyers.)
Looking at the lawsuit it looks like Nicholls did notify Med Express that the package came in postage due before leaving negative feedback.
From the lawsuit:
7. When notified of the problem, Med Express immediately offered to reimburse Nicholls for the postage due amount. Despite this offer, and before giving Med Express a chance to reimburse her, Nicholls on February 26, 2013, apparently as a result of the $1.44 postage due, posted negative feedback and comments for the transaction. . .
This is poor behavior by Med Express Sales
When a buyer emails to complain that a package came in $1.44 postage due, you don't open negotiations with her. You do a partial refund through PayPal immediately - maybe giving her a few dollars extra for the hassle.
The wording of the lawsuit sounds like Med Express took the package to a post office where it was weighed and postage was applied by the post office. If this is true, then I'd also ask the buyer to send me a scan or photo of the label showing the postage and the postage due stamp so I could complain at the post office. But even if you didn't try to get the $1.44 back from the post office, you don't delay the refund.
Once the buyer decides to fight back two things happen:
Firstly, people will start writing about your behavior online and embarrass you further. Rather than managing to hide the statements that hurt your feeling they become even more public.
This is called the Streisand Effect in honor of Barbara Streisand who sued to get aerial photos of her home removed from the internet, and ended up causing hundreds of thousands of people to look at pictures only a handful of people had seen before she sued.
There are sites like Popehat that publish these kinds of stories. I read Popehat regularly because it's entertaining. (If you have a blog, you'll like the pony stories.)
Once a site like Popehat picks up the story, it spreads quickly.
The second thing that happens when a buyer decides to fight back is lawyers volunteer to help out. This is actually a great thing.
If I was a lawyer, I'd do these cases just because it sounds like fun to fight against these people Popehat calls "Censorious Asshats."
But the lawyers are volunteering their time for a more noble reason. They are setting precedents.
You see, once they beat back an attack on free speech in a jurisdiction, it becomes easier to fight future claims in that jurisdiction.
Let's get back to Med Express Sales. . .
Personally, I just move on when I get poor feedback from buyers. Historically I average one negative feedback for every 300 transactions. In most cases, it has nothing to do with my behavior so I just tell myself the buyer was having a bad day (or life!) and took it out on me.
But the people running Med Express are certainly different from me.
I've been running my own businesses for almost 40 years now and have never sued anyone or even threatened a lawsuit. But that's me.
The Med Express Sales people have sued people over the past few years for leaving both negative and neutral eBay feedback. They've sued shipping companies for real or imaginary problems, and filed other lawsuits for various reasons.
This is a company or a man calling himself a company who is nothing more than an "asshat." It's not just the lawsuits that demonstrate this. The feedback is a good indicator.
This means whoever is running Med_Express_Sales has serious problems not just logistically, but emotionally.
Think about this. . .
According to their eBay listings, Med_Express_Sales offers a 1 day handling time and a 14 day return period.
On the other hand, I offer 3 to 5 day handling and NO returns.
My policies seem worse than theirs, but I do twice as many eBay transactions as Med Express, and get 1/5 of the negative feedbacks.
This means I write better descriptions so my buyers are less likely to be disappointed, and it certainly means I do a better job of solving problems when they come up.
In a future article I'll explain how I convert a complaining buyer into a happy buyer who then makes repeat purchases.
Until then, I have a few requests for you.
What Med Express is doing is disgusting. There is a high probability the suit they filed against Amy Nicholls will be dropped once Mr. Levy files some motions.
But just getting the suit dismissed won't stop this behavior.
Widely publicizing this case may cause other eBay sellers to think twice before abusing buyers by filing frivolous lawsuits again. So spread the word.
Tell people about this page or the Popehat article. Write a blog article, or post links on forums that you participate on.
Here's easy to use buttons so you can tell your Facebook friends about this lawsuit:
Another way you can help out is by donating some money to the organizations that fight this crap. Public Citizen's donation page currently says your donation will go to the "Doe v. Carreon" fight, but that was just a really well publicized case and the page also says the money raised on that page will be used for "other online free speech cases."
PS. I had a few paragraphs here about how Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group helped a friend out when he was sued over a review I'd written about Salehoo, but removed them because this article isn't about me. The whole story is here if you're interested.
Levy is the lawyer representing Nicholls. He has lawyers in Ohio helping him for free.
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