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eBay Detailed Seller Ratings (Star System) Unfair to Small Sellers

October 11th, 2007 by Skip McGrath

Making money on eBay will soon become harder for the small seller.

There are three words that strike fear into many sellers. They are Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR). Sellers protested when the Feedback 2.0 program was launched about six months ago, and they haven’t stopped. The issue is that the buyer leaves the rating anonymously and the seller has no recourse or chance to respond to the rating. For high volume sellers, it’s not as big a deal because, like with feedback where one negative amongst thousands isn’t going to make a huge impact on the feedback rating, one low rating on DSR isn’t going to ruin your rating.

 

But, if you’re a low-volume eBay seller, or just starting out, it can make a huge difference. One negative feedback when your feedback score is 50, drops you immediately to 98% positive. Similarly, one low rating on the DSR will drop your rating down significantly.

 

A new announcement has eBay sellers up in arms. Beginning in 2008, search results will not be presented by the current Time: Ending Soonest sort. They will be based on the seller’s performance. We’ve seen Best Match become the default on the Playground, so it looks like this is going to become the default on eBay. According to eBay, they will be using the Detailed Seller Ratings to determine which seller is better than another. This is going to instantly penalize smaller sellers.

 

According to eBay’s announcement, this table shows the breakdown of DSR scores by seller percentile.

 

 

Bottom 10% of Sellers

 

Bottom 25% of Sellers

 

Median Seller

 

Top 25% of Sellers

 

Top 10% of Sellers

 

Item as Described

 

4.6

 

4.7

 

4.8

 

4.9

 

5.0

 

Communication

 

4.5

 

4.7

 

4.8

 

4.9

 

4.9

 

Shipping Time

 

4.3

 

4.6

 

4.8

 

4.9

 

4.9

 

S&H Charge

 

4.3

 

4.5

 

4.6

 

4.8

 

4.8

 

Surely, just looking at this table shows DSR is not effective. The rating range is 0-5. Why, then, is there only 0.4 variation between the top 10% and bottom 10%? Surely that shows that either buyers are not using it properly, or it is just an ineffective tool.

 

For one thing, there is no real system for buyers to know where on the scale to rate the seller. Some start at 3 and add for very good service, and deduct for very poor service. Some start at 5 and only deduct for bad service. There’s no standardized system. From the table above it suggests that buyers should leave a 4.5 rating for a really poor seller. That makes no sense at all.

 

Many sellers are balking at seeing these numbers because they have ratings in the 3.5-4.5 range. This has never bothered most savvy buyers before, but seeing these numbers and knowing that where they show up in search results will be based on this, is making many sellers very dejected.

 

As I understand it, you will see sellers with the highest DSRs first. So that means you will see all of the huge corporations who have tens of thousands of feedback, and enough DSR ratings coming in to mask any low ones, and you’ll rarely see the small sellers unless they have perfect DSR.

 

Maybe the idea behind this was to get sellers to work better to accommodate buyers in this area, but since the ratings are purely based on the buyer’s opinion, not what the seller actually does, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference what the seller does. I know eBay is trying to reward the sellers who work hard to please their buyers, and as one of those sellers, I do appreciate it. But I think they are inadvertently penalizing some very good sellers who have had a few buyers who don’t know how to use DSR completely mess up their rating.

 

Hopefully eBay will look at this and it’s likely impact before launching it next year. One thing I will say, thank goodness they’re not rolling it out this month, right before the holiday season!

 

Unless eBay hears from you this will become the defacto system. So write to eBay and post on the message boards. (eBay does read these, even if they don’t always respond on the board).

See Also

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