Ok. So perhaps this is not a conspiracy because it’s out in the open, but ebay’s role in keeping feedback ratings artificially high is something worth discussing.
My argument is not about retaliatory feedback, but let’s discuss that briefly. Anyone who has used eBay much knows that feedback retaliation happens. You get treated badly, you leave feedback that says so, and the recipient leaves you bad feedback, sometimes even lying. This is a disincentive for leaving anything negative in the first place. eBay could take steps to make the system more fair, but they don’t. In fact, they have an incentive to leave the system exactly like it is. Retaliation discourages people from leaving bad feedback, and less bad feedback makes the entire marketplace look more trustworthy.
But that could be a bit of me creating a conspiracy, and perhaps eBay has better intentions than the previous paragraph gives them credit for. I considered this a possibility until one of my most recent forays into the depths of their system.
I was sold a counterfeit item on eBay. I paid about $100 for it and when it arrived it was obviously fake. After the seller did not respond to my emails, I filed a claim with Papal (which is owned by eBay for those of you who are not familiar). They offer “seller protection” designed to make sure you don’t get ripped off. Papal sent some messages back and forth and after about a month told me I would need to get the item appraised and send them evidence that it was counterfeit. This can cost hundreds of dollars, and discourages a cheated buyer from proceeding with the process, but let’s allow that it is necessary. On principle, I continued and found someone to certify that I had received a fake. After more than two months of fighting, PayPal finally resolved the dispute on my behalf and sent me a refund. That is all well and good. However, what really got me was the email they sent notifying me of all this:
PayPal has received the item in dispute. A refund will be issued to your
PayPal account within 5 business days.
PayPal regrets any inconvenience you may have experienced.
This claim has been resolved amicably. Please consider this when leaving feedback for this seller.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Protection Services Department
“Amicably”? What was amicable about this claim? I spent a lot of money and effort trying to get a refund that the seller refused me for months. Why would PayPal tell me to consider this claim amicable when I leave feedback? Well, they have the same incentive as before. A marketplace with no negative feedback looks safer. But none of us want to participate in a system where a seller who regularly sends out counterfeit items is ranked highly, simply because eventually buyers can get their money back by the actions of a third party.
I do not hold out any hope that eBay, who is thriving, will correct their ways. I think it could eventually lead to a third party system (and several have popped up) for creating real and honest feedback about buyers and sellers. I would certainly use such a service - I might even pay for it - because I want to truly know how much to trust people I interact with. I don’t want to be falsely reassured that everything will be ok, even though that seems to be the tactic eBay is betting on for continued success.