eBay Feedback Withholding – No More – eBay Feedback 2.0 Has Arrived to Save Sellers from Themselves

Feedback 2.0 – Whats Better? Good Business Practices or Feedback Withholding – You Decide – Oh, Never mind, eBay has decided for you…


– News Flash – eBay changed the feedback system 

Who thought it worked before? Raise your hands – no, second thought… everyone stand up… that’s right class, stand up and be counted. 

OK everyone who is now standing up, let me get this clear.  You are standing up because you honestly think the eBay feedback system has been working?  You’re perfectly happy with the mutual distrust the prior feedback system fostered, you thought it just peachy for your buyers to be left holding the bag, “you first, no you first”…

This “Feedback Withholding System” fostered distrust at the core. When a buyer purchases something on the Internet they must make a huge leap of faith.  Trust is the issue…

The Buyers Perspective…

On eBay, with thousands – no millions of sellers – the buyers need some assurance, some proof that a particular seller is trustworthy. It is very difficult to understand why a seller would wait until after the buyer receives the item he/she paid for AND be forced to say – “Atta Boy, you delivered what I bought” – before the seller would reciprocate with positive feedback for having paid for an item purchased sight unseen. 

Do sellers foster that feeling of trust with a policy of feedback withholding or outright extortion?  Is it worth losing one repeat customer because of a policy meant to protect you from the occasional nutty or disgruntled or outright dishonest customer?

OK, class… lets open our history books, page 1996. Feedback system introduced on eBay.com.

After you read the following quote, I will present you with a quiz:

The feedback forum was introduced by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar in February 1996.

In a message then, he said: “By creating an open market that encourages honest dealings, I hope to make it easier to conduct business with strangers over the net.

“Now, we have an open forum. Use it. Make your complaints in the open.

“Better yet, give your praise in the open. Let everyone know what a joy it was to deal with someone. Above all, conduct yourself in a professional manner.”

Pop Quiz:

  1. Who do we want to conduct business with over the net? – Strangers, people who do not know us
  2. Did the feedback system evolve into an open market encouraging honest dealings? – No
  3. Have we as sellers been using the feedback system in a professional manner? – Some yes, most no

When I started selling on eBay in late 1998, I had been an active buyer for some time.  In fact, I had to learn how to sell on eBay to get rid of the stuff I had bought.

Back then it was a cause for complaint if a seller did not give me immediate positive feedback once I had paid for my item in full.  Back then, the buyers really did not know if they would receive anything for their payment (This was before PayPal).  Positive feedback was the first sign of a trusting relationship between the buyer and seller. 

“I paid you, you left me good feedback, I feel better because this means the seller I bought from cares enough to make some sort of effort to let me know that he appreciates my trust”. 

This is how I felt about feedback in the early days, and this is what I think eBay is trying to foster with the recent and to some, seemingly radical change in the feedback system. 

The Sellers Perspective ( pre-Changes in Feedback – 2008 )

As a seller – I have felt forced to adapt to the feedback system as it had evolved.  The experience of being a buyer and expecting my feedback immediately upon payment was fresh in my mind but I also learned quickly from a few very sobering transactions as a seller. These unfortunate incidents (being burned by bad feedback after leaving good feedback) led to my following the buyer first mantra of almost every other seller on eBay.  (Feedback Withholding) 

While the feedback withholding policy has kept my most recent selling account at a 100% feedback rating, I think it has also slowed the rate of feedback gained. The system of requiring feedback before leaving feedback, as a seller made sense, but only as a short sighted measure to protect the feedback score itself. 

But did the feedback withholding system help business grow? 

Think about it, how many buyers did you make happy with the system as it was?  How many buyers did you surprise by sending good feedback, just for being a good buyer? Most likely very very few…  How many buyers did feedback withholding system conversely cause them to harbor a feeling of distrust about the transaction, simply because you did not leave feedback once they had done their part and paid? 

Class, What is the definition of a Good Buyer?  = sending payment on-time – That’s it, they owe the seller nothing else!

Positive feedback has been harder to get from buyers.

In my mind… this must be directly related to the feedback withholding system, requiring buyers to post feedback first.  The truth is, buyers do not care a bit about their feedback score. They do not think about increasing the feedback score with every purchase, high feedback is not a goal for most buyers.  They just want to get the items they paid for, get them at a great price and get them fast.  They don’t want a barrage of email reminding them a seller will leave feedback for them when they do the same.  They do not care what sellers think of them as a whole, they paid, the seller must deliver.  It is that simple.

The feedback system therefore became a reason to not buy on eBay. 

Who wants to be bothered with the threat of bad feedback if one pays for something? 

Do you expect this type of response if you go into Sears and complain about your Lawn Mower?

 {Dramatization} “Sir, if you do not calm down, we will mark it on your permanent record and after too many of these incidents, you will never be able to buy from Sears again” – “Oh, and by the way, Sears is proud to announce we are tied into the same system as Walmart, BestBuy & Circuit City so if you complain here, they will also refuse to sell to you” So be a good little buyer and do not complain, or else!

Could you possibly imagine such a system in a brick and mortar store?

This type of attitude might be found in a pawn shop, but pawn shops have never been known as friendly places to shop.  As a seller, do you want to present yourself as a pawnshop or a fine retailer?  Would you rather present the image of a seller trying to do his or her best or one who distrusts every buyer who blesses you with a bid? 

Honest buyers know there are nutty buyers out there, they know it has to be difficult to please all of the people all of the time.  But who, among us wants to be treated as a nutty buyer, before we have given any indication that we are in fact a nutty buyer?  This is what eBay sellers have been doing with feedback withholding.  Sellers have been telling each and every buyer we deal with that their money is just not good enough to garner our respect. We have been saying to the buying public that as a group, eBay sellers expect nothing but trouble from eBay buyers.

Is this really what we want to say to our buyers?  Do we really want to classify every buyer with the same label as the few who have left a negative for no reason in the past.  Is this not simply a form of bigotry?

Let us all stop complaining, and clean up our act. 

Good honest sellers should have little to be fearful of, and bad sellers with bad merchandise and no customer service will be gone soon enough.  Don’t we all want to remove them from our midst on eBay?  I think this new policy will do just that.  And for this, I applaud eBay for trying to do something positive for all of us. 

Make it work, adjust your practices, adapt to the changing landscape – your business may just end up being better off!

Here is a breakdown of what is being introduced this month: (from eBay Ink)

1. In order to encourage repeat transactions and reward good service, eBay will provide credit for similar repeat transactions going back to when the system was introduced in 1996.

2. In May, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative or neutral Feedback for buyers.

3. eBay will remove negative and neutral Feedback left by members who are suspended or who fail to respond to the Unpaid Item (UPI) Process.

4. Positive Feedback percentage will be based on the past 12 months of Feedback, rather than lifetime on the site.

5. Restrictions on when Feedback can be left:
– Buyers must wait seven days before leaving negative or neutral Feedback for active PowerSellers who have been registered for at least 12 months.
– Members must leave Feedback within 60 days of the transaction closing (today members have up to 90 days).

6. eBay is removing Mutual Feedback Withdrawal.

This is a global eBay site-wide initiative which will start to roll-out in May, 2008.

5/12 Australia
5/15 UK, Ireland
5/19 US, Canada, Canada.FR
5/20 France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium.FR, Belgium.NL
5/21 HongKong, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Phillipines
5/22 Germany, Austria, Switzerland

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0 Responses to eBay Feedback Withholding – No More – eBay Feedback 2.0 Has Arrived to Save Sellers from Themselves

  1. dan May 11, 2008 at 10:41 pm #

    Do not forget that ebay profited from eroded trust on the marketplace in the early going… The site grew regardless, more listings were relisted and paypal was encouraged. Ebay has had the records in front of them for 10 years. What happened to ebays 200 guarantee to buyers? They eliminated it in favor of paypal. That decision didn’t help buyers, and now they are just dumping the mistrust issue back on the sellers. Thanks ebay…. As a buyer I do not fear negatives, I want options for recourse in the event of dissatisfaction. Amazon provides A to Z claims…what does ebay provide.

  2. implog May 12, 2008 at 9:37 am #


    Please look at the feedback of the buyer at the link below.




    What is protecting sellers from this STILL ACTIVE eBay thief, negative feedback left by burned sellers or eBay?

  3. Scott Pooler May 12, 2008 at 9:53 am #

    Implog – Good question,

    Send me more information if you have any, and I will look into doing a story about this…

  4. implog May 12, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    It’s called “guest buying”.

    The buyer circumvents the TOS/Selling Restrictions of U.S. sellers who will not ship outside the U.S. In this case, the buyers are in Korea but the seller is given a U. S.shipping address.

    Learn more at the links below.




  5. Linda Miller May 12, 2008 at 7:35 pm #

    From Scott: “What is the definition of a Good Buyer? = sending payment on-time – That’s it, they owe the seller nothing else!”


    I disagree. Upon receipt of the purchase, common courtesy and good communication requires that the buyer email the seller to say the item arrived safely OR in lieu of this, most of us just left feedback for the seller.


  6. Scott Pooler May 12, 2008 at 10:59 pm #


    Thanks for your comment.

    Let me ask you something, outside of eBay where is a buyer expected to verify or notify a seller that the product they ordered arrived OK?

    When you order clothes from JC Penney’s, do they expect you to call or email to notify them all went well with the transaction?

    If you order a DVD from Buy.com are you expected to return to the site and tell them what a great job they did when your product is delivered?


    OK, so why is it expected from buyers on eBay?

    Why do we think they have more time for us than they do for other merchants? Why do we think people want to be bothered with these types of distractions and sometimes outright harassment from eBay sellers?

    I don’t think people want to be bothered, they just want what they purchased, they want it delivered fast, and they don’t want a long term commitment.

    Customers will return to the most convenient stores. Customers appreciate the smoothest running check out on today’ websites. The more friction you provide as a seller, the less you will sell. Site Flow Disruption is the term, feedback requests from a seller to a buyer cause a great deal of disruption.

    Feedback, if offered by a buyer, should be appreciated by any seller, but if it is expected and or demanded by the seller, only sales will suffer.

  7. Linda Miller May 14, 2008 at 1:58 am #

    Hi Scott,

    One difference between eBay and JC Penney’s was a sense of community that many buyers and sellers used to feel.

    Notifying the seller via feedback or email that the item was received just sort of evolved over time. Many of us did not rest easy until we knew for certain that the seller got the goods, especially high priced items.

    I agree with many of your points.


  8. Mark Ernst May 28, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    If a buyer does not want to be bothered with leaving feedback that is fine. Feedback hardly affects a buyer unless their’s is 0-5 or negative and only if the sellers manually block those bidders. (infrequent)

    All other things being equal, would you be as likely to buy from a seller that just received a negative or a positive? What about if the negative was unfairly given, you wouldn’t want to be unfair yourself right? How do you know when it is fair or not, when you say yourself “The truth is, buyers do not care a bit about their feedback score.” Seller’s care!Isn’t there a built-in unfairness and bias to it already? Now sellers can only leave positive feedback? Is that fair and does it build trust? No!

    How do you warn other sellers that this is a scam buyer that does not pay or lies or has hijacked a users account or takes a month to not pay and then lies on the non-paying bidder feedback form from eBay? That’s right leave a positive feedback…

    You say that after a payment the buyer owes the seller nothing. That’s fine if that’s what they give…”nothing”. It’s when they want something else, or leave a negative about something that was clearly marked. e.g. size or shipping charges. What about a buyer that leaves a negative after an item is damaged in shipping when it is clearly marked “not responsible for uninsured shipping damage” and the buyer chooses not to pay for insurance? How many sellers receive a negative without so much as a single comment or email from the buyer? If there is a problem and they are unhappy they need to let the seller know and give them a chance to fix it FIRST.

    The old system was not perfect, this new system is far worse.

    Yes, all of the above examples are true from a current seller on eBay.

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