Search This Blog

Friday, December 10, 2010

There’s a time to be nice and there’s a time to be right – responding to verbal abuse from eBay customers.

I recently received this question from a reader of My Dear Trash –

First off may I say thank you for all your wonderful info on your blog.  I have learned so much there about selling and I really appreciate all the time and energy you put into it.  
Where is the line between bending over backwards and being manipulated?  I have run into two in the last month and I feel really dumb now.  The first one I never saw coming listed and re-listed specifically at her request with no promise of buying (stupid I see in retrospect).  Then I hear nothing from her and surprise!  My first neutral feedback ever and she didn't even state the truth.
I am in the middle of another right now and I feel pretty stupid.
I guess my question for you is where is the line???  When do you go out of your way and when do you stick to your guns?  I want to be nice and a good seller but I don't want to be taken advantage of...
Also on international shipping after you quote your shipping price do you require they write back and agree to that price?  My second one never agreed even though I wrote and specifically asked for agreement.  I guess I should have cancelled her bid...  Arghhh sorry for the book. Thank you for letting me vent.  I needed it!
Thanks again for your blog.  I know it is hard work on top of all else you do but idiots like me need it!:)

Ah yes, the ups and downs of eBay.
I would say 95% of my communication with eBay customers is positive.  I get emails saying thank you, how much they like the product or they’ve found the blog and have enjoyed reading about what I do. 
But unfortunately, there’s always some grouch out their blowing off steam because their shipment didn’t arrive two days after their purchase or off a $5.00 shipping charge, they had to pay $1.56 for handling or the item they purchased isn’t the right shade of navy blue they were hoping for.
These are fun and I try to stay calm when responding to them.
First of all, remember, nice is always best.  When replying to eBay customers, I start each email with:
Hello friend,
From the start, this let’s them know I’ll work with them in a professional and kind manner.  If someone is rude, demanding or sends me an email with over 20 explanations points (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), I don’t even entertain responding in the same tone.  Most of the time, the follow up email from them is much kinder.
Do I offer refunds?
Yes.  I want my customers to know if they are not completely satisfied, I will give them a refund.  I do not pay for return shipping.  Most of the time, the customer does not follow through with shipping an item back.
Do I mess up?
All the time.
I’ve accidentally shipped the wrong pair of Old Navy Size 16 jeans to the wrong address. 
I didn’t see a small bleach stain on a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch pants and had the customer email me with a complaint. 
I’ve charged $14.95 shipping for an item that cost me $26.00 to ship (it went international to Australia and wouldn’t fit in a flat rate envelope).
Several weeks ago, I had multiple pairs of Ann Taylor Black Pants for sale.  It took some coordination to make sure I shipped the right pair of pants with the right owner.  I think they all got where they needed to go.
I’ve also given partial refunds.  Recently, a customer wasn’t happy with a Banana Republic Black sweater she purchased for $4.99.  She said it was not in excellent condition and asked to be advised.  I knew shipping it back to me would cost her at least $4.00.  At this price, she would loose all the money she’d invested in it.  I offered a 50% discount, told her she could keep the sweater and refunded her $2.50.   She was happy.  No more explanations points from her.
You next question about shipping.
Most of the time, I stick to three shipping prices.
 $4.95 for anything under 13 ounces
$6.95 for anything up to 4 pounds
And $14.95 for anything shipped international.
I do combine shipping for multiple purchases and offer a shipping discount. 
Do I refund handling fees? 
I do not.  I explain to the customer that the shipping and handling price was listed before they bid.  I have never had a negative feedback off shipping fees. 
Stick to your guns with this one.
Remember, in helping eBay customers, it doesn’t matter if you’re right.  What matters if your customer feels they’ve been heard and you handle their request as professionally as possible.
Not all eBay sellers share this philosophy.  Some eBay sellers are down right mean, but remember my husband is a marriage and family counselor. It’s all touchy/feely around here.  My dad’s a psychologist who listens to others, coaching them back to health through validation and hope.  I’m all about making sure other people feel they are heard. I was born to validate others feelings.  It runs through my blood.
In other words, suck it up and vent later to your spouse or best friend.  Kelly and I go back and forth about this all the time.  This seems to work for me.
Feel free to email at


  1. Thanks for all the fantastic advice.

    Our postage to the US has increased by $9 for items over 453gms due to security measures in the US. Australia Post decided to gather the $9 extra per parcel for the USA Government instead of cancelling all parcels to the US. I believe some countries have cancelled parcels to the USA.

    I don't think I will do any posting to the USA anymore - it's too hard with the ID and extra cost issues, and the majority of my customers have been in Australia for my 500 or so sales in the past past 10 years.

    For people to return items to you from other countries I think it would be just too uneconomical for them to even consider it if their item is over 453gms as this US securiry charge is international.

  2. After much verbal abuse from my boss today. It is so nice to hear someone say, they are kind and go above and beyond wanting to give another person hope and validation. Bless you for that.

  3. Hi, thank you for visiting my blog and for your good wishes today on my blogaversary. We have a lot in common, as far as reselling, etc. I don't use eBay too much anymore, though, because of their fees, but you seem to make it work. I agree about going above and beyond with integrity as an eBay seller -- I have perfect feedback so far, 'though I wish I'd been more careful to ask for feedback from everyone so that my feedback number truly reflects my sales. Ah well, live and learn. My goal when I sell online is to really wow the customer with my honesty and kindness. I've had many people say that I've restored their faith in eBay, or in people in general, when I am more than fair.

  4. I agree. I do my best to make my customers happy. I have never gotten a negative feedback. I have offered refunds, only if the item was not as described. If an item was not as described, I usually look at the buyer's feedback first. If the item was less than $10, I usually just give them a refund including shipping charges. If a person has a habit of nastiness (by their feedback), I ask them to return the item and I will refund them. I have also sent an item to the wrong person and thankfully, they were kind enough to send it back to me. I actually paid them for shipping it and gave them a discount on their item for their time. I truly believe in customer service. It is so hard to find these days. You should treat people as you would like to be treated, even if you will never come eye to eye with them. I do believe that this philosophy is why I do not have any negatives and I am lucky to have an ebay selling friend who listens to my rants and shares in my celebrations over big sales. Keep up the good work...sell, sell, sell.