Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

The eBay Feedback Obsession

I've had people pester me in the past about feedback. Usually these people feel I should drop what I am doing in order to leave feedback for them after getting their items or after they've left feedback for me. Last week I had a new pest who got me thinking about the obsession with eBay feedback.

The pest sent me a few emails. Here's part of his first email:

I was going to purchase this from you this morning but with a feedback rating of only 3, you have made your customers wait because your too busy or whatever to return a friendly Thank you feedback for their purchase. No Sale!

Later, Rob

I say 'part of his first email' because the first part was a long essay on how he runs his eBay business which is not relevant to this discussion of feedback obsessions.

I ignored his email because I have better things to do than climb up on other people's hobby horses. The next day I got a follow up email. . .

Hi Terry,
Still to busy to send feedback to the people that purchased this item from you? See there are 4 now, and they are still waiting for their feedback. Pat your self on the back for selling everyone on how to sell on ebay Mr. Know it all, take a bow for yourself for your charity auction. Lost respect from us and were gonna unsubscribe from your mailing list. We use to like reading your iwantcollectible news but when you take other folks money to teach them about ebay and you yourself can't follow the #1 rule of showing respect for your customers, we have it figured out that your just another one of the ebay user money grabber B.S. artists. We watched the video where you showed others on how to package properly, my wife & I said, now theres a good guy, He has the right idea. Less than 1 year later were both saying, What happened to Terry, he shows no respect for his customers, must be smoking that loco weed. Too Bad!

Later, Rob

I haven't edited the second email because I think the attacking statements reveal his obsession with feedback.

I'll explain what I think causes this obsession in a few moments, but first, lets look at a another obsession.

I read a few months back about people spending hours every day posting to the Yahoo Answers pages. If you aren't familiar with this, Yahoo Answers is a site where people can post questions and others can answer them. The poster chooses the best answer, and the people who answer get points.

These points aren't worth anything, yet hundreds of people spend enormous amounts of time chasing them. Something is going on there, and it's the same thing that drives the eBay feedback obsession.

On the other hand. . .

If you are my age or older, you have surely heard of Green stamps or Gold Bond stamps. These stamps were given away by retailers. You'd collect up the stamps and the use the to purchase things out of a catalog. Gold Bond also allowed you to use the stamps at local stores.

These stamps had value. I used to collect the Gold Bond stamps my dad got at the grocery store and use them to get models at the hobby shop.

But these online points - that's really all eBay feedback is - have no cash value. Their only value is in reflecting the quality of your actions. Yahoo Answers points mean you are good at answering questions. EBay feedback means you've done transactions on eBay.

I've also seen people bragging about how many posts they've made on discussion boards. There's the clue we need to understand this obsession.

This obsession with feedback is about a sense of community.

Plain and simple, these obsessive people feel feedback provides them with a pecking order. A place to stand that is their own.

Think back to your days in high school. There was a social order. We all knew where we belonged.

Once we got out of high school this social order falls into the past. Sure some people try to keep up with their neighbors, but most of us fall into small groups of like- minded individuals where we get whatever sense of community we need.

Maybe these feedback obsessed people don't have a strong sense of community with real people?

I once heard someone complain about the way an eBay seller had treated him. He said he would never buy from the guy again. I have purchased dozens of things from the same seller and never had a problem. So I asked the complainer what Doug had done.

The guy said Doug had refused to leave feedback for him!

I asked him whether he was buying feedback or trains.

End of story.

If you start to find yourself obsessed with feedback go do something in the real world. Go to a poetry reading, go to a high school football or baseball game, go talk to your neighbor or visit relatives. That's where you live.

That's what is important. Not on some points on a website.


PS. This article is more of a rant about people who become obsessed with eBay feedback. Here is an article on eBay Feedback Tips.

PPS. I also got a bunch of comments about this article from readers. Some contained good points so I've pasted them below.

Comments On eBay Feedback Obsession Article

Hi Terry,
I have been getting your info emails for some time now and enjoy them very much, but I have to say I got a good laugh out of this one. I have had a few feedback freaks like that and love your reaction to yours.

I don't feel so bad in my reaction to their harassment, after hearing yours.

In response to your Ebay Feedback obsession observations: I have to admit that you are a target BUT you offer no alternatives, no solutions....it is easy for all of us out there to fixate whether it is on feedback rates or the nature of how one seller does business Vs another but to correct the problem we have to be able to solve it....the only way that is going to happen is to present alternatives to the present system.

I really enjoy your articles and truly feel your web site is one of the most informative Ebay related sites on the web. In all honesty, I am playing devil's advocate from the sidelines and appreciate your overal point of view.

Michael Jercinovic

Hi Terry.
I think you may be a bit off base about the "feedback obsession". Maybe not completely, but just a bit..

When I buy on eBay, one of the first things I look at is the seller's feedback. First I look at the Percentage Rating and second the number rating. As a buyer, this is important to me for a number of reasons. I'll name just a few.

1. A low number in a sellers feedback rating could be good or bad. If the number is low, the seller MAY be inexperienced giving me an edge. The auction may be listed in the wrong place with the starting bid too low and no reserve. That's all good for me and I'll likely pay special attention to this auction. On the other hand if the feedback number is low and the seller won't accept paypal or some other payment method that protects the buyer, even with a low bid I'll walk-on-by. Combine a low number and a low percentage rating and I won't waste my time even reading the description. It's simply an invitation to get burned and I've had enough of that!

2. A high number in the sellers feedback is kind of like the Gold Bond/Green Stamps you mentioned. A higher number assures me the seller has experience on eBay. They probably have experience in packaging and shipping too. I still need to check to be sure that their experience is in selling and not buying. It's easy to get good feedback as a buyer, you only need to pay for your items and poof, you have a 100% feedback rating. It's not so easy for sellers. You seldom see sellers with a feedback number over 100 matched with a 100% feedback rating. Someone, somewhere is eventually going to be unhappy and you can never get back to 100% after you've lost it. But once again, these numbers have significance to me. When a seller has under 97%, I examine their history and find out what the complaints were. If all of the complaints were about slow shipping, and I'm not worried about fast shipping, then it's not a problem. On the other hand, if there are a number of buyers who complain about "Not as Described" I see it as a big WARNING sign.

3. I also check feedbacks against transactions. If the seller has a lower number but sells only high value items and has a good percentage rating he gets a lot more credibility than the guy selling ebooks for $1.99 (no offense intended). People are less likely to leave negative feedback for auctions where they didn't expect much to begin with. But if they spent $1,000 bucks on a computer, they expect to get what they're paying for and legal or not, they'll use the threat of negative feedback to get it.

4. As a seller, checking feedback can be equally important. I've seen numerous auctions where sellers refuse bids from buyers with little or no feedback. Sellers get burned too. Although GOOD buyer feedback numbers can sometimes pay dividends in the way of good will from the seller. Sellers are willing to make concessions sometimes regarding things like shipping methods, combined shipping, or shipping to an unconfirmed PayPal address if the buyer has terrific feedback.

I agree with you that neither buyers or sellers should hound one another for feedback. In my view, feedback is earned by good buying and selling practices. Most eBayers give good feedback for exercising those practices. In the long run, the only real loser is when negative feedback is given and not deserved by either party. But those instances, at least to me, simply represent the unwillingness or inability of the parties to settle matters amicably.

When considering feedback I think common sense and the golden rule are pretty good standards. The only way we have to identify sellers or buyers with a bad track record is through the feedback numbers. Therefore, we should all try our best to be honest about what we sell, and do our best to make our customers happy. And yes Terry, that means if you got paid for the item then buyers should get good, prompt feedback. As buyers we should be reasonable and honest about what we expect, and if we honestly feel like we got ripped off, then leave negative feedback. Don't use it as a buying tool because it doesn't work as a buying tool. It just pisses sellers off to the point they don't want to deal with you. Nobody wins.

Finally, we all need to remember that sellers aren't just building meaningless points. Some service providers like PayPal, Square Trade, and others offer better deals for sellers with high number, high percentage feedback. There are certain levels that must be attained, and then maintained to even qualify for some services. This is a good incentive for sellers to make happy customers, and provides buyers better protection when considering where to bid.

I use these three rules about feedback:

1. Feedback is earned through using good, common sense buying and selling practices. (It isn't required, and it isn't automatic, it's earned.)

2. Sellers should always give timely, prompt positive feedback when buyers pay for their item promptly. (It makes for good repeat business)

3. Feedback is not a buying tool. (If you got the item that was described, leave positive feedback, and if you didn't leave a negative. Period).
Terry, I'm not a feedback hound, but it does make me feel better when I know a buyer or seller is giving me a good recommendation to others on eBay. And after all, isn't that what the feedback is all about?

Best Regards,
Charlie Sheets

I have been reading your newsletter for some time now and I believe you missed the boat on the ebay feedback. It has great value because ebay buyers place value on it, much like the paper dollar has no value save the fact that sellers will exchange it for goods and services. I do agree that dealing with feedback obsessed customers is a waste of time but to say feedback has no value is a ridiculous statement. Great feedback gains confidence from the feedback obsessed and allows them to spend their money with a warm and fuzzy feeling and in that regard has great value.

Mike Smith

Hi Terry,
You're so right about the feedback thing. I wonder how some the power sellers find the time to bother with it, although much of it is just cut & paste standard phrases.

I can understand sellers wanting to reassure buyers, but why are buyers so hung up on it? Presumably they collect till receipts from shops they visit an pin them to their jackets every time they go shopping in the real world.

Mike Pepper

I never care if I get feedback, but I always leave it when I am the buyer. It is just my way of thanking the seller and letting him know that I received the item... I just say something like "pleased with purchase. thanks" <


Hi Terry,
I like what you say, but I've got to disagree a little on feedback. I use it as another tool to check the credibility of the seller. If I lose a few bucks on a bad transaction it's no big deal. But if I lose a thousand dollars, it's suddenly a huge deal. I haven't been burned yet but I do my homework on their feedback before I bid. If they have less than 98 I start getting a little nervous. I then go look at their negatives. Is there a pattern? Is the feedback retaliatory? Does the seller write nasty replies or do they say "My fault" and try to fix the problem? How many feedbacks have been "mutually withdrawn"? (These were probably negatives.) What does the neutral feedback say-are lots of them really negatives? After checking all of this, if I don't feel comfortable with this seller, I'll wait for someone else to put it on ebay. My experience has been that 99% of the time (or more) it will show up again. If it's a super rare item maybe I'll take a chance, but I won't risk more than about 20 bucks.

I crashed my motorcycle last year and have been gathering parts on ebay to repair it. I've sent off several hundred to over a thousand dollars to complete strangers across the country based on what I've been able to find out about them from their feedback. I'm not saying I can't be burned but so far-so good. I know there's other ways to protect yourself, too, but this is just about feedback.

Thanks for listening, and for all the good info you provide. Later,

I disagree. I personally don't care if people leave feedback or not; but those that don't or can't manage it in a timely manner, only take checks, or have some other odd invoicing or billing issue, just seem to be computer illiterate and I find it slightly annoying.

If you had a product I wanted your feedback wouldn't stop me, but I do tend to buy from people with 50 or more, I figure they have gotten acquainted with email and their computer, and ebay etiquette.

I try to leave feedback as soon as I get it as a seller, that way I don't forget. Ebook sellers tend to leave FB slowly, maybe sales are really that great!

Hi Terry,
My name is Tony Gallagher. I have been a subscriber to your newsletter for several months and very good, and informative, it is too. All the more reason for this email to you .

I think you must have been having a bad day or something when you scribed your thoughts on "obsessive" feedback as you term it. First off I am not one of those guys who write emails / comments for the sake of it. ( in fact I rarely ever ) I also don't think that the chap, and his wife, who sent you the email about unsubscribing from your list are obsessive either. You have lumbered them in the wrong category I think. They were loyal, potential buyers of your product and subscribers to your newsletter. Alas - no more.

You say "Do you want to buy trains or feedback". I'd say to you "Do you only want to sell to a buyer just once?" If nothing else positive feedback delivered quickly is courteous. I can't figure out why your feedback wasn't automatically delivered by AWEBER or someone once the purchaser has given you positive feedback.

I real life - in my local town here in England - if a seller has been rude, or 'not bothered' when selling me something I have not gone back to them if at all possible. This also means I have not recommended them to any of my friends either. ( A local garage that I would have definitely spent literally 4 or 5 thosands pounds on ( $10,000) over the past few years is an example.) They suffered from what we call the "Fawlty Towers" syndrome - customers are a nuisance and get in the way of business .

Anyway keep up the good work Terry.

Tony Gallagher

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