Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

Improving eBay Detailed Seller Ratings

eBay gives discounts on final value fees to sellers who maintain high seller ratings. This article explains how to get buyers to leave you better DSR ratings so you'll get the discounts. I updated this page in December 2011 to reflect three and a half years of DSR results. See 2012 DSR Advice below.

Before we start, a quick refresher on Detailed Seller Ratings and DSR discounts.

eBay's Detailed Seller Ratings are based on each buyer's answers to the following questions:

QUESTION: How accurate was the item description?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: Very inaccurate, Inaccurate, Neither inaccurate nor accurate, Accurate, Very accurate.

QUESTION: How satisfied were you with the seller's communication?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: Very unsatisfied, Unsatisfied, Neither unsatisfied nor satisfied, Satisfied, Very satisfied.

QUESTION: How quickly did the seller ship the item?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: Very slowly, Slowly, Neither slowly nor quickly, Quickly, Very quickly.

QUESTION: How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: Unreasonable, Neither unreasonable nor reasonable, Reasonable, Very reasonable.

To figure a seller's DSR numbers the answers to each question are assigned a value and totaled up. The total is divided by the number or different buyers who answered the questions.

If a buyer answers the questions two or more times because he made multiple purchases, only one set of answers per week is used in your average. I think only the best answers are used, but couldn't find confirmation of this on eBay.

Each answer is worth between 1 and 5 points. The lower the answer, the lower the number of points. For example an answer of "Very unreasonable" is worth 1 point, and an answer of "Very reasonable" is worth 5 points.

Buyers can only give whole number feedback. You get 5 points if he selects "Very reasonable," or 4 points if he selects "Reasonable." A buyer cannot give you 4.5 points; he must select one or the other.

In 2011 eBay started dropping the worst rating for each category when figuring the score. This means having one buyer with unrealistic expectations no longer hurts your seller rating.

That explains how Detailed Seller Ratings are computed by eBay. Lets look at the DSR discounts now. . .

Average Detailed Seller Ratings above 4.8 across all questions will get you a 20% discount if you are a PowerSeller.

The discount is only on Final Value Fees (FVF). Insertion fees and listing upgrades are not eligible for discounts.

You must have at least 10 buyers answer the DSR questions each month to qualify, and only the answers from the invoice month are used to figure out your averages for the purposes of the discount. A buyer who leaves ratings for you for sales that occurred in the same week is only counted once.

Also, you can only have up to 1/2 a percent and 2 counts of your ratings be one and two stars for any single category. For example my seller rating for November, 2011 shows 0.79% and 2 low ratings for the shipping and handling. While 0.79% is higher than 0.50%, 2 is not higher than the 2 maximum I'm allowed so I got the discount.

Sounds like a great deal, and when the program was announced I sent you a list of ways to keep your ratings high enough to get the discounts.

Suggestions for improving eBay's Detailed Seller Ratings...

When eBay announced the discount for high DSR program, I made the following suggesting to my readers. I also did these on my sales.

  1. Offer buyers a refund if the shipping collected was more than $1.00 above the postage on the box. (This is done with an insert packed inside the box.)
  2. Send buyers emails when the item is shipped. (I send buyers emails when I write the labels by clicking on the paypal receipt and pasting a simple message in.)
  3. Offer buyers a 100% money back guarantee if they are unhappy with their purchase for any reason. (This is also done on the package insert.) If a buyer returns an item without opening a buyer protection case against you, and you ask for a fee reversal, the buyer cannot leave feedback.
  4. Send invoices to buyers quickly after the auction ends. (This is done using the eBay system usually within an hour the auction end.)
  5. Ship quickly. (My auctions end on Wednesday nights and I ship on Friday Afternoons. This means PayPal users get their purchases 4-6 days after the auction ends. People who mail money orders get their items less than two weeks after the auction ends.)

I felt these suggestions would increase my DSR.

I was wrong.

In the first two months of the program, I didn't qualify for the discounts for either month.

There is nothing more I can do to push these numbers up, so it isn't about my efforts. Something else has to be going on here.

I did get emails from a few readers who followed my suggestions and improved their DSR ratings high enough to get the discounts so I know they work for some people.

These suggestions just don't work for me.

I think the difference is the eBay sellers who benefit from these suggestions sell large volumes. I listed 39 items and sold 38 items in April. I had 32 buyers for those 38 items. Only 15 of those buyers left feedback.

I know at least 10 of the buyers answered the questions because I wouldn't be eligible for a discount if 9 or fewer buyers left detailed feedback. (That's what happened in March - I didn't get enough detailed feedback so I didn't get a discount.

The first erroneous assumption is buyers will leave the highest rating. As a seller you have little influence over the seller's expectations. My suggestions were designed to change the buyer's expectations, but didn't work.

The postage guarantee gets them to look at the box and think about the amount charged and the cost. This also gets them looking at the date shipped.

Sending invoices quickly, and sending emails when the label is printed should increase the buyer's opinion of my communication.

The overall guarantee reinforces the desirability of the item especially when it's well packed. In the past this guarantee has dropped buyer complaints to almost zero.

Taken together they should drive my DSR numbers up, and I am sure this process improves most buyers opinion of the transaction.

But it does nothing to address clueless buyers. If you want an example of clueless buyers, just look though the eBay feedback of large sellers. Here's a few neutral I feedbacks found:

  • exactly as pictured
  • Super item. Brand new, just as described! Flawless all the wat! AAA +++
  • advertised as Lionel, actually K-line by Lionel
  • Normally I do not leave feedback until the item is recieved.
  • Could not make seller understand my invoice requirements
  • The price was ok but not a bargain based upon price guide
  • Received on timely basis as promised.
  • Real nice stuff real happy. Grate seller.

I could list of hundreds of these odd neutral feedbacks, but you get the idea. These were taken from a seller I know bends over backwards to make buyers happy.

Read through those again. Either they are completely off base, or the buyer bought something without understanding what he was bidding on, or just took his buyer's remorse out by leaving neutral feedback.

The problem here is some buyers are just unrealistic, or have personal problems and behave passive aggressively.

(Passive aggressive people take abuse from the people around them and then take out their frustrations on people who cannot fight back. People online like us innocent eBay sellers.)

Nothing we do as sellers can influence these miserable people.

I think this is what's happening to me. I get one or two of these people mixed in with my small numbers of happy buyers and they pull the average down far enough to cost me the discounts.

Lets talk about the discounts again. For April 2008, my Final Value Fees were $251.75. A 5% discount would be $12.58, and a 15% discount would be $37.76. (Currently eBay only offers a 20% discount which would be $52)

I mailed 30 packages. (32 buyers minus two local buyers means 30 boxes shipped.) I collected $360 in postage and spent $412.65 at the post office. I also refunded one buyer $3.00 for excess postage collected bringing my total postage costs to $415. (I'm rounding these numbers off.)

I also bought peanuts, tape, and other packaging supplies. These are purchased in bulk and I don't track them back to each month but for a guess I use $20 a month in peanuts and tape. That's $435 in postage costs minus the $360 I collected means I lost 75 dollars last month on shipping.

To put it another way I spent $75 trying to get a $12.58 or 37.76 dollar discount.

Adding insult I also got upset when I saw I didn't get eBay's DSR discount again.

Next month I won't be worry if I'm going to qualify for the discounts because I've decided I'm no longer going to lose money on shipping.

I raised all my shipping and handling prices so I'll make $2.00 per item sold. This means in April I would have made $60 rather than lost $75.

As an aside I bought an item last week and paid a women I met online $35 to go pick the item up, pack it and FedEx it to me because the seller would only do local pickup. The seller could have packed and shipped it for $12. If the item comes in as described I'll be happy. (Note added later - I was very happy.)

That's what I figure will happen with my buyers. My descriptions, clear photographs, and the guarantee will leave most buyers happy enough to keep buying from me.

The few buyers (I deleted the profanity from this sentence!) who are complaining now even though they have nothing to complain about will be given something to complain about.

Now the question you should be asking yourself at this point is "should you follow my lead and raise your postage charges?"

That depends on a few factors.

First are you selling large volumes on eBay? If so, the few oddball people should be compensated by the sheer numbers of feedback left by your normal buyers.

We'll assume for the rest of these factors that you are a low volume seller like me. Low volume might be less than 100 auctions a month, certainly less than 50 auctions a month.

Secondly, if you sell in competitive markets where buyers search results oriented by best match you're going to need to maintain your PowerSeller status. Best match is the default and is weighted based on DSR ratings.

If this describes you, you'll need to find another way of pushing up your results. Maybe give free shipping? Maybe include a free bonus in the box? Maybe ship FedEx instead of Priority mail?

A third consideration is the size of your items. I frequently ship items that get hit by volume charges.

The most expensive package I've mailed this year (2008) was $135. It's kind of hard to make someone happy when he buys a $300 item and then pays another $100 in postage. He sure ain't thinking about the fact that I just lost $35 mailing the item, he's only thinking about the hundred I charged him.

So I am no longer listing anything on eBay that will cost more than $40 to mail.

The last and most important consideration from my point of view is attitude. I'm just tired of bending over backwards for these ungrateful (profanity deleted!) and then seeing this crap in my feedback.

I'd rather spend the extra money than worry about the ratings. If you're going to get upset when your seller ratings drop, keep trying to push your feedback up.

2012 Detailed Seller Ratings Advice

Over the past three and a half years, buyers have become less harsh in their ratings. This has caused the average seller rating to increase across all categories.

Additionally, eBay now ignores the lowest rating left in each category when figuring the score for discount purposes. This means eBay knows some buyers are unrealistic.

Just being a polite and ethical seller who doesn't rape buyers too much on shipping is enough to get the DSR discount for sellers in most categories.

That's The good news. Now for the bad news. . .

Unless you are willing to give buyers free shipping, and are willing to ship within 24 hours of the auction ending time, you have no control over how buyers rate your performance.

Even then, you only have control over the two factors that are most likely to result in low scores. You can still get dinged for poor communication or description and not qualify for a discount.

Personally, I've raised my shipping and handling charges and also made them seem calculated by ending them in odd amounts like $10.37 and $14.53. I continue to make money on shipping charges - even after eBay taking final value fees on the shipping costs - and most months I get the fee discount.

Luckily, most eBay buyers know how the system works. This is why I get the discount most months. In the first 11 months of 2011, I got the discount 10 times. I didn't get the discount one month. In every month, I also made an average of about a dollar on the shipping and handling fees for each sale.

Because I no longer expect or even try to get higher detailed seller ratings, I am happy when I get the discounts, and don't get upset when I don't qualify.

I'm at the point now where almost 50% of my sales are to repeat buyers. This means I am doing something right. I think repeat buyers and my profits are more important metrics than Detailed Seller Ratings.


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