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Monday, May 9, 2011

The Telephone Table - Part III

My telephone bench is in another stage of her facelift.  I purchased some spackle, filled in all the upholstery holes and here she is all sanded down, ready to paint.  
I purchased antique white paint along with some dark wood stain.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.  

I’m sure you’ve picked up on my symbolism of this project; how both a telephone table and I have been pulled apart and rubbed to the core and unsure where we will stand when it’s all over.

That’s how it felt when eBay shut down my store.

Over 6 years on eBay and I can honestly say eBay felt like part of my family.  Occasionally a bit overbearing, most often something to brag about, an overachiever that put the rest to shame, eBay exceeded all my expectations.  I loved every minute, learning, sharing and posting on eBay rarely felt like work.

So six months ago when my power seller status was removed, I tried to figure out what happened. 
I had over 5,000 positive feedbacks and 3 negative feedbacks, so I was certain it didn’t have anything to do with that.
I read through an email eBay had sent, stating I had received 4 below average ratings on a new star ranking system they’d put into effect.

The start ranking system, called the detailed seller rating, divides up into the following categories:

  • Item as described
  • Communication
  • Shipping Time
  • Shipping and handling time

Each of these categories is ranked with 5 stars; 5 being the best and 1 being the worst.

I was selling over 500 items a month and still thought positive/negative feedback was the final word on customer satisfaction.  I took great pictures, described the material and condition, if an item was lined, had pockets, elastic waistlines, etc. and measurements in each listing and shipped in a timely manner.  I didn’t respond to specific emails from potential bidders, asking if I would measure the opening of the bottom hem of a pair of jeans or find the item number on the tag inside a dress.  My business was built on quantity.  

In addition, I started getting emails from customers asking about shipping/tracking information.  At the time, I was still taking my packages to the post office and printing the shipping labels off the automated machine.  It seemed overwhelming to print the shipping labels at home.  I didn’t understand the new technology, weighing everything, etc. and felt it was easier to print labels at the post office.

If I did receive an email from a customer about shipping/tracking, I would email the customer back, saying their item had been mailed and they should receive it any day.

What started was a waterfall of unhappy customers.  People didn’t want to wait a few days for a package they couldn’t track. In addition, customers started complaining that they weren’t getting their item and without tracking information, my only option was to refund their money.

So, with the encouragement of Kelly, I started printing my labels at home.  It was so much easier then I realized.  By doing this, the customer automatically received an email with tracking information saying the package was on its way and when it would arrive.

I didn’t think much of the loss of my power seller status until I received an email stating I was on probation and until I improved my star rankings, I could only sell 100 items a month.  Still uncertain what it all meant, I called into eBay customer service.  I was told by a supervisor to better communicate with my customers, to email each one of them after they purchased an item from me, to thank them for their patronage and to let them know I wanted them to be 100% satisfied with their purchase.  I was told to improve my customer service.

“Is there a way I can reach all my customers through a mass email.  Does eBay provide that?” I asked.
“No,” she said.  “You’ll have to email each individually.”

I was surprised to think that was the answer to me getting off probation, but it was worth a shot.
Only problem was, the next week my store was shut down.
My store had over 160 items listed and from one day to the next, it was all gone.
Even with over 30 items with bids.
I couldn’t believe it.  I was never told my store would be shut down.
Problem was, I had received one too many below average start rankings.
So I called eBay again, certain they’d understand my dilemma.
I sold used clothes.  I did my best to describe each item, to ship in a timely manner and to leave positive feedback to my customers.
If a customer was unsatisfied (which was about once every 3 or 4 months), I would refund their money, including shipping.  It was how I'd worked eBay for over 6 years.

I only had 3 negative feedback, so who/how/what possibly could be leaving such poor star ratings?  Why did the stars take the place of what had worked so well for so long?
I did a little research and found my answers too late.  
If you sell on eBay, join me this week as I tell the story of how I lost my eBay store.  I’ll give you the truth about what happened and share with you my ideas so this will never happen to you.
But please, don’t feel sad for me.  Not only do I have the counselor by my side, but working on a vintage telephone table has been great therapy.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I started selling on Ebay only a month ago, solely because of this blog. I loved reading about your finds at thrift stores and yard sales. I loved the way you were making extra money. I wanted to do it, too!

    Now that I've got about $500 invested in my clothes and have almost broken even, with lots (and lots and lots) of clothes left to sell for pure profit, reading that you've been kicked off Ebay scares me!

    Yes, let us know how it happened so those of us who are selling on Ebay have the chance to not let it happen to them.

    Any chance of a reconciliation between you and Ebay? You have too much fun finding and selling to stop now. And, I don't want your blog to ever, ever end!

  2. I'm so sorry about this. How disappointing! I saw something recently about the whole star system but quite honestly, don't understand it. Positive feedback scores of 99 or better are excellent, right?? Can't wait to hear more about this and thank you for your willingness to share :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this... I used to do Ebay & did pretty well, but the fees & the hassle they added did not seem worth it. I have recently thought I would try again, because of you two... now I think not... seems like a lot of hoops to jump thru....
    Ebay is thier own worst enemy... here's hoping that you can do it again...BUT I am sure that your booth will be a great success..

  4. Wow..anxious to hear the rest of your story. I don't really like the star system. I think people that don't understand it often ding you and don't know how it affects you.

    I've started shipping from home recently and I don't send an email out. I used to always let the customer know when their package shipped..but they get an email when you print from PayPal..Seems a waist of time. I think there is a way to set up automatic emails..I just don't know how. I've gotten many "standard" forms from sellers.

  5. *big hug* I also sell on ebay and think ebay is just wayyy more geared towards the buyers now than the sellers.
    The star system stinks and i hate how sellers cannot leave negative feedback for buyers.

  6. The stars are ridiculous. Some kind of change needs to be made to that system. The whole ebay system is truly only in favor of the buyers. I really don't understand why you can't leave a neg for non paying buyers-why not? Ridiculous. Some people will leave glowing feedback but give you low scores on the stars since they are anonymous. Also, some people are just cruel and others have no clue how much it does cost to ship an item so even if you charge actual shipping they think it was too much and ding you. I don't think ebay will change it anytime soon since it only benefits them. If a seller loses top seller status bc of low stars then that only means more $ in ebays pockets since the sellers won't get the discounts on fees anymore.

    I got a low star rating from an overseas sale. The person wanted me to change the amount on the customs form as well as mark is as a gift. I told her that I wouldn't be able to do that and they dinged my stars although they left positive feedback. (I know who it was because I check my feedback daily and they were the only ones to leave me feedback on that day.)

  7. Laura: Thanks for sharing about this. I can imagine how personally you are taking this and am glad you are posting it here.

    How is Qcumberz going? You have so many other things going on, beyond your gorgeous and healthy family. Want to hear about that "window" that opened up for you!

  8. Your story is such an eye opener and it is scary to think about Ebay shutting down sellers stores. I have been doing so great but I feel like I have to work extra hard to make sure a customer is ALWAYS happy even though they are in the wrong and I just don't think this is fair. Ebay really needs to change the way the treat sellers. Can't wait to hear the rest of your story that way I can know what to look out for. Thanks for sharing.

  9. What a bummer! I am anxious to read what their reasoning was. I hope that you are still able to make your goal for your daughters wedding. Maybe you could start a website to just sell used clothes and all the people that you have inspired to sell clothes on ebay will move over to your website! Is there currently a website like that? You could list by brands, sizes, etc.

  10. I think some folks are mixing the two of you up :")
    Laura - I am so sorry to hear all of this. And yes it is scary for others. I think the stars are a way for people to put a little extra into their complaint or complain without letting the seller know. It should be a ratio, not the determining factor. And to me Ebay was in the wrong for shutting your store down without any kind of notice. Seems to me they could have just not you list any new items until the situation was overviewed by some kind of management. There needs to be a human factor in closing accounts. They just lost money on all of those sales! Soooooooo disappointing and disconcerting.

  11. Call into Ebay radio and see what they say

  12. Wow, this whole thing just really bothers me. Laura, you have a beautiful family: wonderful husband and great children! What a blessing! You have so much going for you. What I do feel bad about is the way eBay handled this whole situation. And I've heard of others this has happened to. eBay is making an effort to keep up with other online marketplaces, and seems to be slowly getting away from auctions. eBay wants sellers to treat their customers like queens/kings. I am beginning to see the writing on the wall and know I have to change how I run my eBay business. It's not like it used to be when I started in 1999. Thanks to Laura & Kelly I am finally beginning to make money on ebay ... money that I need to supplement my income. Following Kelly, I am doing my own challenge and posting about it on my blog. Trying to keep my comment short, but will definitely post about this in my blog.

  13. Wow. I really don't understand any of this. i have only sold a few things. I recently had a gal contact me more then 30 days after the sale of a pair of pillowcases. First, she said that she only received one. Then she emailed me that she didn't get them at all... Huh ???? So, it sounds like she can trash my rating and I can't get a chance to explain ???
    Can you sell used stuff on Amazon ? I have heard they are more Seller Friendly.
    ~ Christie

  14. I fear I might be in the same boat...I am a SILVER Power Seller with over 1700 feedback and NO NEGATIVES...all of a sudden with no warning...I cannot sell anymore items and all of my items are gone. Nobody at Ebay can tell me anything of course....they asked me to send them some information which I did right away....3 business days later...still no resolution.

  15. Ebay has made some strange changes over the years, some due to sellers trying to get around fees and some due to ebay trying to make more money from sellers.

    For instance, now we pay final value fees on both the item and the shipping. I assume because of those who sold items for a penny and charged ridiculous amounts for shipping.

    And, yes, they are geared to the buyer more and more. In July, we will have the added time stealer of having to post the brand, size, etc. of clothing for each listing.

    The star system is also a thorn in my side. There is no way to respond to these ratings and buyers do not understand that anything less than 5 stars is BAD.

    I pride myself on maintaining a 100% positive feedback with no negatives for the last 11 years on ebay.

    I do believe in responding to customers as soon as possible. I print out little cards (4 to a page) that have a place for the item number and a brief description. I thank the buyer for their purchase, explain that feedback will be left for them when feedback for me is received. This tells me their item has arrived safely. I also say to contact me with any problems prior to leaving feedback. These little sheets help me stay organized when I am shipping numerous items.

    Also, printing shipping labels online offers the buyer the opportunity to know the progress of their shipment through tracking and saves me quite a bit off the post office walk-in price.

    Bottom line is, I try to treat buyers the way I would like to be treated. They want to know they are getting what was described and they want to know when it will get there. Especially when it is an item they are excited about. We are such an instant gratification society that waiting for a purchase to arrive is so difficult for some!

  16. I too have been selling on EBAY and I'm a faithful follower of your blog. I too had 100% positive feedback when people starting saying they wren't getting their items. It's a SCAM. People are lying just to get free items, knowing you'll have to refund their money. EBAY is no help at all. I was told they take the side of the customer, when I was able to get thru to an EBAY employee. I'm done with EBAY and I'm having yard sales from now on.

  17. Wow....that stinks. I am selling on ebay and just went off on customer service today when I noticed the final value fee on shipping. What a rip. That seems illegal to charge a fee that has nothing to do with them. I never charge more than actual shipping. They basically told me that I should add the price of shipping to the item and offer free shipping and list as buy it view on this is so they can get more money on your item. I accused them of trying to bully sellers into doing free shipping and not auctioning the item. They finally refunded all of my final value shipping fees. Guy said they have had tons of complaints and that they are reviewing the fee. I also agree that the star system is not fair. Can't wait to hear more of the story and thanks for sharing.

  18. HI Laura, I have been selling on ebay for over 10 yrs and believe me I feel your pain. I have never had the issues you have but a friend of mine has. Ebay has really made it so that it can be hostile environment for sellers. I hate the stupid star system and agree with a previous comment about how customers don't understand that anything less than 5 is not good according to ebay, so stupid.

    I don't have a store anymore but I do use the seller manager thing which you can do mass emails with. I send the invoice, then do my labels through paypal which sends the tracking info. I have also starting shipping within 2 days of payment. I used to ship once a week but that resulted in some problems eventho I stated it in the listings. People can really stink at times, I had a couple negs that were just about to fall off. They are almost always from unreasonable newbies, well then some guy left me a neg with the comment "good service" when I tried to have it revised, he didn't understand that he had left negative fb. What a pain.

    I know ebay burnout is a REAL thing because I got it last year. I took about 6 mos. off then got back on the horse. I make a lot more than I did when I was working as a social worker and I am able to work my own schedule and be home for my kids and husband. I know it totally sucks sometimes and I am anxiously awaiting the rest of the story but when you step back and weigh the pros and cons ebay is still the best option for people like us who want to be home and still make money. I hope you are able to take the time that you need to feel rejuvenated and things work out. You can always open another id, I realize that is starting all over. Hang in there and feel free to email me at anytime if I can help you in anyway or you just need someone to understand the trials of selling on ebay: stupid policies, crappy customers, you name it. I really appreciate your blog and have learned a lot even after selling for so long. Hang in there and I wish you all the best, Rebecca

  19. This is absolutely insane.
    I have been selling as a hobby on ebay for 9 years. 98.9% positive feedback and I am in the same boat as you- one impatient customer who purchased 3 products from me filed a claim before the parcel post shipping time 2-9 days had even expired. Because of that impatient wench, I have limited selling until september.

    I am so saddened at the turn EBAY has taken- teh protect buyers but throw the sellers to the sharks. It's disgusting but I rely on it for a source of income.

    Rather than enjoying watching the prices of my items soar, I worry about hoping I have a 100% seller status. It's not as fun as it used to be.

    Thinking of you. I'm sick over my limited selling 'rights' from Ebay- now i'm consumed with this story of yours. I can only imagine how you feel.

    I hope ebay realizes that without sellers, there will be no ebay.

  20. I've been on ebay for 14 years and currently have over 34,000 feedback. They are definitely NOT changing for the better in respect to sellers. One thing to keep in mind about communication star ratings: They cannot rate your communication at all unless you communicate with them. Since well over 95% of my customers do not ever communicate with me that is one way of avoiding low star ratings in this area. Secondly, if you ship with tracking uploaded within 2 business days, they also cannot leave a low rating in that area either. ....just a couple of things that may help. If you happen to receive a suspension and you want to get back on, do ma search for "Back on ebay" and you will be directed to a number of low cost programs that will describe in detail how to get back on.

  21. I was a top rated power seller for over 15 years now, I closed my store for the new defect system is a failure, in addition the constant harassment of taking items back that were not the same items as shipped, in addition ebay has pushed their system of free shipping to so many that any shipping at all is a guaranteed low dsr, people just do not understand ebay does not pay the shipping or the fees. gas etc. a newer site SpeediTrade very seller friendly, great for buyers no final value fees and I am very comfortable there sorry ebay did you this way it is a shame they are closing so many good sellers and just wrecking the venue.

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