I’ve been on eBay since 1999, and I’ve watched it grow and change from a marketplace of mostly individual sellers dealing with individual buyers, to a huge online industry of professional sellers moving 1000’s of items a month. I’ve seen prices get higher, items get worse in quality, counterfeit items abound, and worst of all, shipping charges go through the roof as sellers abused buyers trust by padding their auctions with grossly inflated shipping and handling charges. It’s not uncommon to pay 300 to 400% more in shipping than the actual cost.
The problem with eBay’s feedback system is that it’s completely binary – the experience is either completely positive, or completely negative according to eBay. The reality is the buying and selling experience is more nuanced than that – so over time I’ve found myself doing things like leaving positive feedback with neutral to negative comments. eBay’s binary system has created a sort of “cold war” where buyers are afraid to leave negative feedback for fear of damaging their own feedback rating – and when an average buyer (less than 100 feedback) is dealing with a power seller (more than 5000 feedback) a single negative feedback rating has much more impact on the “little guy”. I’ve seen power sellers with 30 negative feedback ratings in 30 days, yet they still have 99% positive feedback rating because they’re doing 500 transactions a month.
The new eBay system won’t address the issue of buyers being afraid of leaving negative feedback, but if this new system allows for a more nuanced approach where a buyer can indicate that a seller shipped a good product, but charged too much for shipping or took forever to ship, this new system will be a significant step in the right direction.