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Friday, October 22, 2010

Ebay Comments!

Well, it finally happened! Tragedy has struck! A battle wound has been earned! I received my first negative feedback!!! After being a member of ebay since February 13, 1999 and receiving 863 positive comments I have upset my first customer. Should I quit selling on ebay? Should I curl up in the corner and cry? Or should I be grateful I've had so many wonderful customers and just realize you can't make everyone happy? I think I'll do the latter. I have feared the day I receive negative feedback, I truly thought it would be devastating. However, it wasn't. I had an unreasonable customer and knew negative feedback would most likely result- but I was determined to stick to my guns. Here's the issue. I had a customer win a Ralph Lauren Striped sweater dress- A really cool sweater dress that probably cost $100 or more, new. The customer lives in Japan. I have a flat rate international shipping fee of $14.00- All international customers pay this rate. Whether they're in Canada- which is much less to ship, or Australia- which is much higher to ship. Having a flat rate keeps things simple. It saves me from weighing each item and then having to send a new invoice to each international shipper. With flat rate, they can pay right when the auction closes. Well, at the close of the Ralph Lauren Sweater Dress auction (winning bid was $9.00) I receive an email asking me to reduce the shipping to $7-$9 (This is what the customer says she's used to paying) I explain that my international shipping is a flat rate and includes a handling fee (If you missed the how to ship on ebay post where I explain the purpose of the handling fee go here). Two days later I received another email making the same request- I again repeat my flat rate policy. The customer then pays for the item plus the 14.00 shipping. I ship the item (actual shipping cost $10.76) and receive an email a week or so later, "I received the dress. I paid $14.00, it cost $10.76 I want my refund!" I again email, explaining the flat rate policy. At this point I know negative feedback is looming. Could I have refunded the $3.24 and saved myself- yes. Would it have been fair to all my past customer who have paid the $14.00- even when their actual shipping my have only cost $6.00? No. So I now have my first battle scar. I like to think of it as a little added character to my ebay resume. So, this week I thought it would be appropriate to give a few tips about feedback when selling on ebay.

1. Leave feedback after the buyer leaves feedback: Once you've been paid and shipped your item you may think the transaction is basically over. Usually it is. However, there are a few scammers on ebay. People who say they never received an item, and want a full refund or people that claim your item has some damage and want a partial refund. You protect yourself when you wait to leave feedback.

2. Leave feedback: This is how you build your credibility in the ebay community. I usually sit down once a week and do all my feedback. It saves time to leave the same comment for everyone- as long as it's true. I usually say, "Thank you for your quick payment and a smooth transaction." If they were late to pay I may just say "Thank you for your purchase" If they were so late to pay that I had to open an ebay case (these customers usually don't leave feedback- so I don't leave feedback) I will say, "Took a while to pay, but did pay. As the seller you cannot leave negative feedback, but it's important to state the facts. If the seller received a partial refund- make sure your put that in your feedback. This will help future sellers detect if there's a problem.

3. Encourage your buyers to leave feedback: When I ship my items I send an email that says, "Your item has been shipped. Please leave positive feedback when you received it and are satisfied, I will do the same." Many people don't leave feedback and that's okay, but by sending this message I let them know I won't leave feedback until they do.

3. Don't take feedback personally: If you receive a neutral or negative don't be too hard on yourself. I have definitely become a better seller from some of the issues customers have brought up. Thankfully, most of those customers emailed me so we could work things out without neutral or negative feedback. Sometimes the customer never contacts you about a problem, but leaves negative feedback. There is a way for a customer to retract their negative feedback. If you want to clear things up you may send them the offer for a refund or partial refund if they retract their negative feedback.

4. We all make mistakes: We are human and sometimes we may miss a stain or a hole. I had a beautiful Ralph Lauren Black Cashmere sweater that sold for $36.00. The seller never contacted me with a problem, but in feedback listed, "Item had a hole in the sleeve, but I was able to fix it, so all is okay." I was mortified and sent an apology email. I realize now, after selling for almost a year, that sometimes I will miss these flaws and it's okay. I have a return policy in place so it's not worth stressing over.

5. Karma: I believe in Karma. If you're trying your best to provide quality items to your customers, you will thrive in the ebay community. On a few occasions, when I'm preparing an item to ship (using tape to clear of lint, folding it, etc.) I have noticed a small hole or a stain I didn't see before. It's important to immediately issue a refund and explain the mistake. I can't tell you how many buyers have sent back a thank you and then purchased from me in the future. Only sell quality items- don't hope the customer won't see the flaw- it's just not worth the bad Karma.

I hope this information on feedback has helped. If you'd like to share additional tips, please leave a comment- or a funny story- or maybe a time when you received negative feedback. I think sharing our trials with others makes us all feel a little more "normal". Love, Kelly.


  1. I always look forward to your advice and have learned a lot. Isn't that amazing--they can see what you charge on shipping before they bid. What about handling? The cost of the envelope, the work it takes to get it ready for shipping and then to actually go to the post office. Cost of gas....ect...ect...Too be honest, she got a good deal on her shipping. How frustrating.

  2. Your post today couldnt have been closer to what I have been stressing this week! I had my first "encounter" as well. I have een stressing on how to handle the situation. I had a byer say they received the item and that my description was inaccurate and was stained and wanted to let me explain myself before they left feedback. Their words not mine. I asked for a picture of said stain because I am very caeful to look over items and not even buy or list items that are stained or ripped. The picture I was certaily appalled at because I wouldnt have sent it that way. So....its their word against mine. What do I do??? They want to send the item back and receive a full refund. I'm guessing they expect me to refund return shipping as well. I'm wondering if its worth it for me to have them send back an item that I won't be able to sell or let the keep it and give them a refund and they will possibly just wash and wear their free item. It seems trivial but I guess its the principle fr me. Any ideas?

  3. Another plus of printing your shipping labels at home through Paypal is that you can hide the shipping amount that you pay. :)

    My feedback is over 700 now and I have had a couple of instances where customers were unhappy. I just apologize, refund the $ and tell them to just keep the item. (I haven't had anything over $10 to refund though either).

    The first time it was VERY painful to refund but I just reminded myself that this is a situation that will come up from time to time. As long as the majority is good and the bottom line makes it all worthwile then I won't sweat the rest. :)

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Sorry this happened to you. I've made it that I only ship to Canada. It's been that way for the past 3/4 years, just not worth the trouble for me. This is another reason that I don't like using flat rate shipping. I weigh and use the shipping calculator for all my items and charge $1 per item for handling, $1.50 for international(have to fill out more forms and go to PO to send). I'm with you though, I would eat the feedback out of principle. The buyer knew exactly what the shipping cost was, bid and then continued on with the sale. "Can't fight Crazy!" I would still try to contact Ebay in some way to let them know of your experience for when they revise these buyer swayed policies on feedback.

    You are doing great.

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  6. Hi Kelly, I am loving your Ebay advice! Some customers are a bit 'funny' but most, of course, are wonderful. I once noticed while packaging an item for shipping, 2 tiny spots I hadn't noticed prior. I shipped item & fully refunded customer...everything, then emailed her. She was ecstatic...& I was a little more careful checking my items! Needless to say, she gave wonderful feedback! When shipping if I charge say $10 for shipping an item & it turns out to be $6. I will refund the customer approx. $2 & the rest goes to my packaging costs. Seems to work for me & the customers love it! Also, I live in Canada, we probably get a little more wet weather here than in your warm climate. I was taught to always package my items so if the package was to get soaked, the item would still be dry. I always package in a plastic bag, then in an envelope, box etc. seems to be working so far. Thank you again, your advice is soooo helpful!

  7. Great posts everyone. I agree and do a lot of what everyone else has said. I do not show shipping charges and print the shipping labels at home.

    In Kelly's situation here's what I would've done. You know pretty early on when you get an "ebay crazy" (as I like to call them, lots on craigslist too). When the person first asked for reduced shipping, I would have responded the same way with the explanation. On the second request, I would have said, "I understand that you are not satisfied with the price of shipping, so I will go ahead and cancel this for you. I do not want my customer's to be unhappy." I would then have offered at as a second chance to the next highest bidder or relisted it. Then I would block that buyer from making any purchases from me in the future.

    This avoids them being able to give you undeserved neg feedback and you move on. Saves grief for the seller and they really cannot do anything about it. If they happen to pay you in the meantime, just refund it back. Done.

    I also refund partial shipping some times when I think it was way less than I estimated. This makes the buyer happy and the know that you are a straight up seller.

    Cannot stress enough...using ebay shipping has so many benefits: saves money printing on line, carrier pick up, print label without cost of shipping, free delivery confirmation, using 1/2 sheet labels saves time and/or tape, tracking is viewed by both seller and buyer. (some of this does not apply to int'l shipping)

    Sorry, one other thing. I have a little note that goes into each package. It thanks the buyer and explains that I leave feedback only when I see their feedback and to contact me first with any problems. This tells me they received their item (when they leave feedback) and when I do not receive feedback after about 10 days or so, I send an email that asks if the item was received and to leave me feedback if all was okay.

  8. it still amazes me that after all the years that i have been with ebay, that i still have people that want basically something for nothing. ebay lets us set up our own price for shipping. this does include our time and effort, gas money, supplies for mailing. i would stand by what i posted on the listing. one negative feedback is not the end of the world.
    p.s. the block list is a wonderful tool also. i have had to add people to it for one reason or another.

  9. Soooo Sorry! I am Anonymous who posted a comment asking what you do about feedback in response to your shipping blog. I, too, received a 'neutral' within the last month and a comment left by the buyer that in my opinion would turn other buyers off from purchasing from me. Before that, I had 100% positive feedback. I have to say, it did hurt. I am careful what I offer for resale, I do look everything over and very honestly describe my items. I know you can't please everybody all the time but it still stung.
    Please, print your mailing labels at home and hide the postage. So much more convenient. You will love it. Of course it is perfectly fine to charge for postage and handling as long as you state it and the amount they will pay. The final bid and S&H IS the cost of the item and people should bid with this in mind.

  10. Thanks for the post, and to others for the useful comments. I currently have a no return policy, but am seriously considering whether I should have one and how to go about deciding on what it should be. Glad to hear you weathered your first negative feedback, and I totally agree with you.

  11. Shevon,
    Your response to the second email would have been perfect- I will definitely keep this in mind for next time.

    Before you offer a full refund try offering them a discount- if they think the stain will wash out. I would send a very apologetic email and ask if they think the stain will wash out. I would offer a partial refund if they'd like to try. If they're not happy with that then definitely give the refund. I feel if I misrepresent an item then I'm responsible for the return shipping. At that point it's usually easier to just have them keep the item. You may want to look at the buyers feedback to see if this is a reoccuring problem with them. Be sure and leave feedback that explains money was refunded buyer said they found a stain. Hope this helps. Good Luck.

  12. You should report this customer to Ebay as what they are doing sounds like a violation of Ebay policy especially if they implied that negative feedback would be forthcoming.

  13. hey kelly! love your blog! i too am petrified of getting a negative feedback! i hate when i am packing up something and i find something wrong with it. i always contact the customer and i usually refund them the whole amount and i send it to them anyways! did you know that there is something you can do about negative feedback? you can send the customer a request to change their feedback. you should try it!

  14. I am enjoying reading all the suggestions and know the feeling of getting a "first" neutral feedback-it was upsetting at the time but I'm still waiting on the negative to happen! There are times you just can't make people happy, and there is no sense in beating yourself up about it. My ongoing saga (I have 600 plus feedback at the moment) is with a buyer from Canada who paid under an old address, never replied to my original email when I sent the item, sent me one a month later and upbraided me for using the Paypal invoice to ship to, claiming that the address on Ebay was updated at that point, just not the Paypal one. Problem is, I was able to pull up her original Ebay invoice and it also had the wrong/old address at time of purchase. ESP just doesn't cut it here. I finally got the item back in the mail, as she didn't leave a forwarding address and have been unsuccessfully trying to contact her for a week now to see if she wants it re-sent or the item canceled. I think the worst thing about bad buyers is that they feel it necessary to lecture you while being in the wrong themselves. Its as though since you don't have a face, you aren't truly a human being. This woman stated she had "many items bought from Ebay since I moved and no one shipped to my Paypal address-you should ship to the Ebay address like you're supposed to." Well, with all her 5 feedback I'm not so sure she's an Ebay expert, or that she contacted specific sellers to ask how they shipped. But, what can you do. ;) Life is never boring! :)

  15. I ALWAYS choose the option to hide actual shipping costs on my labels when they print. Did you know you could do this?? It saves headaches.

  16. It seems like buyers tend to see sellers as faceless/nameless and easily forget that we're just regular people... who set our own policies. I have a buyer right now who seriously berated me for sending a "very rude" email reminder that she hadn't paid for 5 days when my payment policy is 3 days. I would have relisted without complaint if she'd just contacted me and didn't want the item. I would never mark someone nonpaying unless I didn't hear any response to at least two notices. In any case, she paid and I shipped. Maybe I should have refunded right there and relisted.
    If my first reminder came across as "very rude" I can't really hope to explain or calm her down, so I'm hoping for no feedback, but bracing for potential negative...

  17. How ironic; I just got this today:
    This is my second message to you. I havn't heard from you yet concerning the overpayment of shipping charges. I want to give you a chance to make this right before contacting ebay.

    Keep in mind, I double-checked my messages and there were no previous messages, I had to buy a large, bubbled envelope to safely fit the doll and I only charged $7.95 for shipping and handling. It wasn't free for me! And I think of all the times I've lost money on shipping. CURAZY!

  18. I read your story about Ebay shutting down your account. I have been there my self. Ebay shut down my store too. How ever, Marines never quit. I currently have 2 other ebay accounts. I learned my lesson dealing with Ebay. That's why I have my primary and secondary account. Both accounts are in fictitious names. My real name was banned for life. You should should host Google ads on your blogs. I currently make around $100 per month just from adsense.

    Thanks for sharing your Ebay story. I hope you were able to resolve the issue or create another ebay store.