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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Surprise Effect of DSRs on eBay Buyers

I got very surprised over the last week at a discussion on Triiibes.com. Triiibes is a locked up, invite-only online community mostly of genius marketing heads, headed by Seth Godin. The forum and blog posts are not just about marketing, but many of us approach topics with our marketing hats on.

Last week, a guy posted that he couldn't believe what his eBay seller emailed him. Basically, the eBay seller emailed him that he/she wanted all 5 stars in DSRs because if he/she didn't get them, eBay would raise his/her fees, and he/she would then have to raise his/her shipping fees.

Now, I think we can ALL agree that your shipping price is NOT the place to raise to make up for fees, especially with eBay's new approaches to monitoring and capping shipping prices. And let's be logical. If you're getting lower scores for shipping pricing, RAISING your shipping pricing is not going to help!

But back to the discussion on Triiibes. The original person who posted seemed very bothered at what I'll call emotional blackmail from the seller... like leave me perfect scores, or hurt my business. It was a discussion forum post, and other people started writing in. The main tone of their replies? Give that seller LOWER scores than you were planning so that he/she can learn a lesson about marketing. The people replying thought it was really in bad taste for the seller to have emailed such a note.

  • One person even suggested leaving lower ratings to teach this seller a lesson about marketing, and then to email the seller about what he/she could have done better.
  • Someone else wrote that what the seller said sounded desperate, which it does because we know it is.
  • Someone else suggested trying to retract your bid with that seller, and not buy from him/her at all (not realising that the sale probably already happened).
  • Someone said to not buy from this person again because asking for high ratings this way feels like extortion.
  • Someone else suggested asking the seller for 50% off to give high ratings, not knowing that's extortion. Oops!
  • Someone else suggested writing back to ask what this seller did that was so worthy of 5-star service. Other people wrote in to say the seller should earn it, and not beg for it.
  • Someone else called this blackmail, and said other businesses could NOT get away with asking for high ratings or else someone gets fired or prices go up.

Then I wrote in. The problem was that these people in this forum discussion had NO idea what is going on for eBay sellers. I explained DSRs to them, and how if you don't meet certain standards, you can lose discounts, lose favour in search results, and eventually just be suspended. So NOT getting 5 stars is a real concern for people, especially when eBay is not letting buyers know that a rating of 4 is technically BAD. You might leave a 4 thinking that is a great score, but you could be completely murdering your seller's business, which would be odd if you were leaving them a 4 because you LIKED them and were happy!

The tone changed again. The people involved in the discussion were outraged, and wanted eBay's ear. They wanted eBay to know these main things:

  1. They do NOT want sellers under this kind of pressure. It's not going to bring out the best in people.
  2. Sellers are paying too much to eBay in fees to have to also go this far to save their own hides. "eBay is not doing good by the very people who make eBay work." Yes, two non-eBay sellers actually said these two statements! :)
  3. They do not want to be emotionally blackmailed by every seller. They don't want to be begged for the highest ratings "or else."
  4. They felt that only truly 5-star sellers should get 5 stars, and not because they begged for 5 stars. If people who don't deserve 5 stars are getting it out of buyer guilt over eBay's system, or if sellers are getting lower scores because people are angry at the DSR begging, then you have a system that doesn't work and isn't made up of honest ratings.
  5. Even if a seller doesn't beg, now that these buyers know what is really going on, they know that leaving anything but a 5 can kill a seller's entire business. They don't want that weight on them. A 4 should be a great mark, and not a death knell. These people now seemed uneasy about eBay buying.
  6. "Quality cannot survive in a marketplace that concentrates on the lowest possible price. That kills diversity and favors large sellers."

These people were really upset at this, and I was just surprised. I guess I had become desensitised to what life under DSRs is like for an eBay seller. It's just a given. And yeah, you ask for 5 stars because you don't know what else to do. Get enough 4 star ratings, and you are thrown off of eBay. But now ASKING could get you lower ratings and unhappy buyers. What will sellers do?

I hope eBay will rethink their system. I have always been FOR DSRs and for high seller standards, but I have always felt that eBay went too far when they made a 4 a bad score. Reading what international marketing geniuses are saying about this just wakes me up. They wanted this said publicly, so I'm saying it here, and hopefully some of them will comment in the blog.

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As a member of triiibes.com - I wish to say thank you for making this blog post. Ebay doesn't realize it's destroying one of its tribes (sellers) to help another (buyers). Hopefully Ebay will wake up and quit trying to destroy its tribes.


I had someone mention in a recent discussion that basically the DSRs are positive/negative feedback again, but without the buyers knowing it. 5 = positive. 1-4 = negative

This is a great article. Not enough is being said about DSR's and how they effect sellers. As a retired person trying to supplement my income I simply had to back out of selling on Ebay because it became far too stressful. I could handle my customers and made many repeat customers and friends...its Ebay I can no longer deal with. They've gone insane and I'm far too old now to cope with the nonsense.

I don't "plead" with customers but I do educate them. With every ebay item I ship I include a copy of: 1.) ebays own directions that the seller is not responsible for ship times once shipped; and 2.) ebays annoucement blurb that a rating of 4.3 will get the seller "banned." I also supply a screen print of the 5-star feedback system and simply ask that they give careful consideration to their feedback.

This "education" information has help my feedback scores go up.


Your marketing colleagues have it right. The six points you list after you say they were outraged are absolutely 100% correct.

eBay is making a grievous mistake here. It is why I came up with the idea of www.leavingfeedback.com. The problem is the implementation of rewards and penalties on sellers is counter-productive to successful marketing.

If eBay wants to provide buyers with information on sellers, by having buyers rate them on a scale of 1 - 5, that's probably a useful initiative. But take the penalty and reward out of it. Give buyers that information, and let them decide whether it should influence their buying habits. PERIOD. END OF STORY. Rewarding or penalizing sellers leads to activities like begging, and other actions that are not conducive to maximizing buyer satisfaction and sales.

Just to be clear - I've got great DSRs, I get high rewards, I get advantaged in search, and I still say that it's WRONG. I let eBay know it at eBay live in June. My comments to Brian Burke have received over 15,000 hits on Youtube(search "eBay Live 2008", and it's the second one down), but eBay just doesn't want to listen.

They REALLY need to rethink their strategy. We should call it the San Andreas philosophy, because of all the faults!

Larry is right. I'm in the same boat, ie, great dsrs, rewards, all of it.

And I beg. I hate it.


In the latest issue of PowerUp (which they still send me even though I never officially made it to powerseller and I closed my store in May) they TELL sellers to "remind buyers to give you 5-star ratings on each DSR if they're satisfied with the transaction..."
It's like they are TRYING to destroy sellers!

Thanks for posting this. eBay constantly talks about improving buyer satisfaction but they fail to acknowledge they are part of the problem.

Wanting to unload non moving inventory in August, I ran 99 cent auctions each day. Much to my surprise, my DSR's for Shipping Charges and Shipping Time dropped 1 full star.

I'm back to normal now. But, I thought it was interesting that the lower the item cost (even though I basically was giving items away), the less the buyers thought that they should have to pay for postage.

BTW, I ask for feedback.

"One person even suggested leaving lower ratings to teach this seller a lesson about marketing, and then to email the seller about what he/she could have done better."

Just curious what would this marketing genius suggest, that would be better than trying to clarify Ebay's position on the star ratings and their consequences. That's not begging, nor did they try to incur guilt. Really, who would feel guilty about a silly star especially if they didn't understand the importance of them to the sellers.

When shipping went up at usps I reworked eveything and dropped a samll handling fee for expenses without raising my prices,I use nice secure packaging, yet my dsr is 4.66 on and shipping and handling charges. My shipping time is 1 to 3 business days but most are 2 days to out and some same day, yet this is lower too. I had one person who sold the same things I did purchse from me and down grade my dsrs and lie on her feedback, I still have 100% positive but since ebay is not truthfull to buyers and have covered by saying good is not good enough I now have to send a note explaining the dsrs to my customers but still prefer an honest assessment. Ebay is doing a world of wrong to a lot of people. I am on standard but my scores were raised, I cannot sell enough on standard to get put back on raised because my items are buried in best match search. So my sales have dropped off and I have basicaly lost interest in ebay. By the way I also have to pay ebay fees on my expenses to try and keep my dsrs up. It was the costs that raised at the post office that dropped my dsrs and their shipping time.

Hi Deb,
The observation outside the eBay universe is a direct opposite of the inside experience.

As you noted, those unaware of the impacts to sellers are much more likely to leave less than "stellar stars". However, once made aware shift their entire paradigm.

eBay sellers are trying to educate the buyers in desperation as every sale is a possible chopping block.

eBay sellers and buyers are a eco-unit, each depending upon the other, but yet, rather than cooperation, eBay itself encourages division..setting up buyer vs. seller instead of buyer and seller.

Its sad, really...

Thanks Debbie for bring this up...and I'm the person who posted the item and I do generally agree with what Debbie was saying. Debbie did shed some good light on the ebay system which we were pretty ignorant about but I'd have to say that ebay has to really do something about this. Customers don't expect to give sellers straight 5's in all categories..even if they were good I guess.

"remind buyers to give you 5-star ratings on each DSR if they're satisfied with the transaction..."

If eBay really was trying to make eBay an honest and safe place to buy, why would they undermine their own DSR system? For eBay to tell sellers to ask their customers to leave higher DSR's skews the DSR results (for better or worse), therefore they cannot be trusted, period.

Debbie, isn't there a seller upheaval of sorts going on at e-bay now for this reason? If not that, what? thanks.


Debbie, isn't there a seller upheaval of sorts going on at e-bay now for this reason? If not that, what? thanks.


Bonnie, I think the seller anger through this whole year isn't just at this. There have been a lot of changes, and many are not communicated very well.

Some changes got announced, and once the sellers started conforming, the changes got changed.

So sellers are not happy with the DSR issue, fees, and a few other matters. But what they all have in common would be huge changes that seem to be rushed out a bit before they're ready, and not well-communicated.

We're working on fixing that. :)

There are many malicious buyers on eBay who leave low DSRs for the 'fun of it'. I had a buyer who purchased a GORGEOUS Art Deco paste bracelet for a song. She then emailed me that she needed it in 2 days and I should send it UPS. I only ship USPS Priority Mail, and I'm in CA and she is in NJ. I told her the only faster method was USPS Express Mail but Priority Mail should arrive in time. She paid for Express Mail. I went to a Post Office the next day, Saturday at ~ 9am and mailed it to her. She received it on Monday, and what did she do she gave m a 1 for shipping and handling! I then got a message from eBay telling me I needed to improve my performance even though I almost always get 5s. Previously I had only been a buyer and recognized there needed to be changes since a lot of sellers were giving retaliatory negative feedback, but this is rediculous. The buyers should be able to leave honest feedback and sellers should be able to see it even if the buyer doesn't communicate with the seller. How else are they going to fix the situation. Also buyer should be able to leave an explanation as to the circumstance. Unfortunately in many cases the buyer who leaves low DSRs is just a bad egg or a competitor. I frankly don't get why competitors leave low DSRs since I want to sell my items and don't hold anything against them. I have one large dealer who has a very prominent jewelry website who sells my items for anywhere from 2x to 10x from what he paid me. Since I am not willing to wait weeks or months to get my money I sell it at whatever I can get on eBay with no complaints, so why am I being punished. I am also a low volume seller who gets only 10 to 15 DSRs per month so I am on tenterhooks and I am also unemployed so I really depend on eBay for keeping my head above water. Currently I am a Silver Powerseller, but so what!!! That's worthless!!

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