The Internet Merchants Association (IMA) has released a new website called It addresses, head on, the problem that eBay is keeping their head in the sand about.

Understanding eBay’s New Feedback System

The following is a Public Service message brought to you by the Internet Merchants Association.
An independent non-profit trade association as defined by Internal Revenue Service code 501(c)6. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Did You Know? If a seller receives more than a few Detailed Seller Ratings of less than 5eBay feedback stareBay feedback stareBay feedback stareBay feedback stareBay feedback star,

Then they will be significantly penalized.

When eBay calculates a seller’s 12 months feedback percentage,

A eBay feedback icon (Neutral) is treated exactly the same as a eBay feedback icon (Negative).

The Internet Merchants Association wants you to know this before you leave feedback for a seller.

You may think that you are leaving a reasonable rating by giving a seller DSR’s of 4eBay feedback stareBay feedback stareBay feedback stareBay feedback star‘s , but eBay’s feedback system treats anything less than a 5 eBay feedback star‘s as sub-standard and penalizes sellers for DSR ratings that average under 4.60.

These statements are not opinions. THEY ARE FACT!!

They are recommending that all eBay sellers link to this in all their communication.

I think it is really great that they created this page and the fact that they did it really puts the spotlight on eBay for not handling this correctly. The problem with the feedback system now is that, instead of being reward based, it is penalty based. There isn’t a reward for getting good feedback, just a penalty for getting back feedback (the penalty is higher fees, lower search placement, payment holds, less seller protection and more).

Here is the basic problem. This is what a buyer sees when they leave feedback:

(click the image above to make it larger)

Firstly, what I left off of this image is that, before you select a star rating, a big, bright blue message pops up that says:

Remember – these detailed seller ratings are anonymous, so please feel free to leave honest ratings about your buying experience.

There is really no way to read that other than “Go, ahead and leave as negative feedback as you want.”

Regardless of how I feel about that verbiage, nowhere on this page does it explain that anything less than a 5 star rating on all four can pretty much cripple a seller’s business. In fact, let’s look at the one I have highlighted above.

Would you rate the description as accurate or very accurate? Holy good God, eBay. Something is either accurate or not accurate. Something cannot be very accurate! It’s impossible. You run into the same problem with all four ratings. Is the communication very satisfactory? Shipping time very quickly? S & H charges very reasonable?

Essentially, everything on this page is designed to make the buyer choose the 4 star rating. We have been trained as people that there is always room for improvement so unless a transaction blows us away, our gut reaction is to go with the rating that is one less than perfect. Buyers think that they are giving a good rating with 4 stars while, in eBay’s mind, 4 stars is a bad enough rating that you should be penalized. The verbiage for buyers just doesn’t line up with the reality for sellers.

So we are at a hell of an impasse.

Obviously, what should be happening is that eBay should be educating the buyers on this on this page, but they aren’t. They pop a warning up if you try to leave negative feedback, why not for a 4 star rating? Ah, because the 4 star rating sounds good. Well if a 4 star rating is poison for sellers, why is eBay making it sound so good?

If you rate someone’s shipping as quick, their costs as reasonable, their description as accurate, you think you are giving a great rating, which, frankly, I would think too from what that page says. But according to eBay’s scale, that is below average and should be penalized. That is a little messed up.

Now, for all my complaining, if you look at my star rating for the past 30 days, I have pretty much straight 4.8’s. However, if you look at my year ratings, I am a 4.6 by the skin of my teeth. How did I improve my numbers so much in the last few months?

This has actually been my little secret all this time but since the IMA is going there as well, I figure it’s going to have to become the norm so I can share it with you. In every single package I mail out, I send out a huge, bright neon orange postcard that says “Our 5 Star Promise.” Much like the website above, this postcard details how anything less than a 5 star rating penalizes us and to please contact us if you feel that you cannot give all 5 stars (it then has our contact info on it). So far, it has had a huge difference on my star ratings.

This proves, as the sellers have suspected, that the issue is not buyers trying to be vindictive, but rather the system steering them to the wrong rating.

Of course, the conclusion here is that there is something very wrong with both the verbiage on the star page as well as the eduction eBay provides on the system and the threshold eBay has set for sellers. If an independent organization like the IMA sees it as enough of a problem to create that site, I would hope eBay would recognize the issue.

In the meantime, it is up to the individual sellers to drill this point home to the buyers. It is pretty much our only hope to keep our ratings high enough.