To recap, here is the announcement that came out of eBay HQ yesterday:

Update to Feedback Removal Policy – Customs Fees

Many of our cross-border sellers have asked for help when they receive a negative/neutral Feedback rating because they wouldn’t mark an item as “gift” in order to sidestep customs fees. eBay will now remove Feedback if a) the listing meets the Customs Requirements below and b) the seller receives a negative or neutral Feedback comment which references customs delays or customs fees.

The following text, or very similar wording, must be included in the listing and be:

* In the format below
* In a font size no smaller than the majority of the other text in the item description
* Prominently displayed (in the upper half of the description, free-standing, etc.)“International Buyers – Please Note:

* Import duties, taxes and charges are not included in the item price or shipping charges. These charges are the buyer’s responsibility.
* Please check with your country’s customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to bidding/buying.”

In addition, sellers may wish to include additional helpful statements for their buyers, such as:

* “These charges are normally collected by the delivering freight (shipping) company or when you pick the item up – do not confuse them for additional shipping charges.”
* “We do not mark merchandise values below value or mark items as ‘gifts’ – US and International government regulations prohibit such behavior.”

To learn more, please read eBay’s Feedback Removal Policy.

You can read the full announcement here.

I get the issue at hand. Buyers get charged a fee when the item goes through customs. They want the seller to mark everything “gift” or lie about the value which is, like, a federal offense. I understand this entire issue and have lived this debate over with buyers many times. I believe I also have a very informal version of what eBay wants us to add already in my FAQ about why I won’t mark as gift.

But here are the parts that I don’t get:

First off, if buyers is genuinely confused and thinks the customs fees are additional shipping fees from the seller (which is what the eBay recommended text tries to educate them on) then, more than likely, instead of negative feedback, aren’t these people just leaving a low shipping cost DSR? I mean, I don’t have any hard data on this but I know personally that when I buy something from eBay and I like it but I know I got burned on shipping, I leave a positive with all high DSRs but low shipping costs and it seems pretty logical that international buyers would do the same thing.

DSRs have basically created this world of Negative Positive Feedback where I can write “Everything was perfect!” leave a positive feedback and then give 1 stars across the boards. It’s passive aggressive and in a world where we sellers are begging them to not give us negative feedback, it’s the way most people who are unhappy go now since we will never know it was them.

Now, assuming this is what is happening more often than negative feedback, how does this new feedback policy help? DSRs are anonymous! I cannot ask to have a low shipping cost DSR removed because of customs because I don’t know which person left me that message.

That issue aside, let’s look at true negative/neutral feedback in this case. Does that means that, if you have their magic message, you can get any negative feedback removed from an international buyer or does it specifically have to mention customs fees? How can they possibly regulate this? What’s stopping me, as an international buyer, to say “Mark my item as a gift or I will leave negative feedback that says the item arrived broken.” In theory, eBay will only be able to remove the feedback if the message relates to customs.

It’s like sellers asked for something like this to combat buyers who are unscrupulously trying to blackmail them into marking an item as a gift and eBay is trying to combat it with an, everyone is basically good philosophy. “Just educate them in the ways of customs and let us know if they anything in their negative feedback that is specifically about customs and we will help.” That situation is too specific to ever be of any good to anyone.

And yet, even as I sit here and cannot think of a single situation in which is policy will ever help me in any way, I am going to add that recommended text to my listings just the same for the “just in case” part of me and I’ll bet you’re going to do that same.

What do you guys think? I know there are sellers out there who were eager for a customs policy so do you feel like you got what you wanted?