It’s that time again! Time for eBay to throw a monkey wrench into your eBay life in progress. For your enjoyment, I will now live blog these announcements. And by live blog I mean blog my thoughts as I read each sentence of the update without taking the time to do any unnecessary thinking beforehand.

2014 Spring Seller Update: Satisfied buyers mean more potential sales for you!

Oh, God. The title ends in an exclamation point. I’m already so suspicious of what this update holds.

Vice President of Merchant Development, eBay

Michael Jones

Congratulations, sellers! Your commitment to great service continues to pay off.

I like how eBay staff now gets these glamour headshots instead of the old pictures that always looked like someone snuck up on them in their cubicle and snapped of photo of them unawares. Oh and cut the crap, Jones, I’m already expecting this whole thing to be bad news upcycled into PR spin so you’re wasting your time trying to butter me up.

As technology reshapes how people shop and consumer expectations continue to rise, buyer satisfaction is paramount to our ongoing mutual success. Updates coming this summer will highlight and reward practices that create buyer satisfaction and repeat sales—and make it easier for you to deliver the services that make your listings stand out and sell.

“As money gets shinier we’re constantly trying to figure out ways to screw sellers over but make it seem like it’s a pro-buyers thing.”

This looks like blah blah generic spin text but it actually hides a pretty big update in that link. But we’re going to cover some of it below.

New seller performance standards reward great service
Updates to eBay’s seller performance standards are designed to reward sellers who provide great service with more visibility and potential sales. Included with these changes are important new safeguards to help you maintain your well-deserved status.

  • Starting with the August 20 evaluation, a single new measure, the transaction defect rate, will replace the four individual detailed seller rating requirements for evaluating seller performance. This new rating may impact your status.
  • The defect rate is the percentage of a seller’s transactions with one or more of the specific defects most predictive of buyers leaving eBay or spending less. A maximum 5% defect rate will be required for all sellers and a maximum 2% required to be a Top Rated Seller.
  • If you maintain a low defect rate, you’ll be rewarded with an enhanced position in Best Match search results. In general, the lower your defect rate, the better your position in Best Match.

For additional insight, you can watch this seller standards video overview or read the details.

I like how we went from a descriptive term “Detailed Seller Ratings” to this loaded term, “defects.” Like a seller that can’t meet this new standards becomes literally defective in eBay’s verbiage. Considering how ludicrous some of their past “standards” or as I like to call them arbitrary hoops designed by people in offices who have never actually used the site to sell, eBay will now literally be slandering any seller who doesn’t just scream, “How high, sir?” when they yell, “Jump.”

“In general, the lower your defect rate, the better your position in Best Match.” If your selling could just be a little less defective, that’s be great.

I’ll have to go to another page to learn more about how defective my inability to comply to Lord eBay’s rules are so we’ll get back to that in a minute. (Though I actually peeked at the page and it looks like this will replace DSRs so I am now cautiously optimistic.)

Make your return policy a competitive advantage
eBay continues to make it easier and more cost-effective than ever to use your return policy to increase potential sales:

  • Updates to eBay hassle-free returns include a prominent, confidence-inspiring message to buyers on your item page.
  • A new holiday returns option will help you win sales from the fast growing legions of online holiday buyers by extending returns to January 31 on all purchases from November 1 through December 31. The new option will be available to all sellers to add to their listings starting in September. It will be required for listings to earn Top Rated Plus benefits.

I am pro-returns. I already give the maximum return period on all my items and I love the idea of the holiday specific extendo-return policy. I am OK with all of this.

Category and item specific updates will help ensure buyers can browse and search quickly and easily. Find out whether your listings are impacted.

Get a complete overview of these important updates and how you might be impacted.

The category updates have never really effected me and this one is no different. But let’s check out that overview and FAQ because that’s where they’re going to hide the fine print.

I won’t copy and paste that text here but instead just give you the high (or low) lights.

Firstly off, the list of Best Practices is either incredibly patronizing and insulting or I VASTLY underestimate the competence of the average seller. It’s basically like, to be successful, try not to suck. Gee, thanks guys! So specific!

OK, let’s talk about this new defects thing. Here’s the part we care about:

  • The defect rate is simply the percentage of a seller’s successful transactions that have one or more of the following transaction-related defects, the top predictors that a buyer will leave eBay or buy less:
    • Detailed seller rating of 1, 2 or 3 for item as described
    • Detailed seller rating of 1 for shipping time
    • Negative or neutral feedback
    • Return initiated for a reason that indicates the item was not as described
    • eBay Money Back Guarantee (previously known as eBay Buyer Protection) or PayPal Purchase Protection case opened for an item not received or an item not as described
    • Seller-cancelled transactions

I am with them with some of this but have some big follow up questions about others. Namely,

  • What about negative/neutral feedback that later gets removed? (FAQ says removed feedback won’t count.)
  • What if the buyer marks items not as described by mistake (as they often do) and wants to return for some other reason? Is there a way to have them correct this or do I get penalized for their screw up? (Nothing about this anywhere that I can find.)
  • Wait so I get penalized if a buyer just opens a case even if it’s the shipper’s fault for losing the package? What if I make them happy with money back, do I still get a penalty because they opened the case at all? According to FAQ, only cases where eBay or PayPal find the seller at fault will count so you can still get screwed over by the USPS. (I thought this bit in the FAQ was interesting though, “What if the carrier doesn’t scan my package? If your carrier doesn’t scan your package at any point, then the transaction will not meet the tracking requirement. Note that a scan at any point indicating that the item is in transit or delivered is sufficient to validate the tracking.” So… as long as there is a single scan, even if the USPS loses it and it never arrives, I’m still in the clear? I’m in this exact situation right now so I’m really invested in this being a thing.)
  • Um, are we going to give buyers the ability to cancel their own transactions like I’ve wanted all along? Because, otherwise, sellers are always going to have to cancel transactions for buyers who changed their mind since they can’t do it themselves. (In the FAQ, it says, “A cancelled transaction does not count as a defect if we can see the seller cancelled at the buyer’s request. If the buyer asks you to cancel the transaction, make sure you do so through the eBay cancel transaction process and select the correct reason for the cancellation.” so that addresses my concern.)

I do like that they limit these defects to a certain number only from unique users so a single jerk can’t completely ruin you.

  • Buyers won’t see your defect rate. Buyers will continue to see what they see today. But if you maintain a low defect rate, eBay will reward you with an enhanced position in Best Match search results, so your track record for great service can pay off in more visibility and potential sales.

Well that’s nice for sellers, I guess. But, as a buyer, I found DSRs handy because it gave you a more complete picture of what the seller was like. Now all a buyer will see is the total positive/negative feedback count like before, I guess? (Nope, apparently DSRs will still all show, they just won’t count anymore. OK, the buyer in me likes that.)

  • valid tracking number—meaning a tracking number with at least one carrier scan recorded and validated by eBay—must be uploaded within your stated handling time on 90% of all transactions.

OMG so many SWEAR WORDS ABOUT EBAY’S MOTHER! This incredibly stupid little addition to the requirements has blocked us out of Top Rated many a month here and there for reasons I outlined in anger back in this post and I can’t freaking believe they aren’t changing it. GAH! I stab their faces!

OK, look. I what they are trying to accomplish here. I do. And maybe I’m just biased. But they want our shipping to be as cheap as possible, preferably as free as possible, but then they basically increase the costs of our shipping by forcing us to buy tracking which, in the case of something flat that weights one ounce that would normally ship letter post, literally goes from costing $0.49 to $3.37 just by adding tracking. And, OK, that’s just one type of item but every time our sales of that type of item edge near 10% of our total sales, we get screwed. It is what it is, I guess, but I’m really ticked this is still going to be a factor going forward.
Anyway, moving on…
  • Shipping cost and communication detailed seller ratings will no longer count toward your performance rating. This will protect you from low ratings for shipping cost even though the shipping charges are shown to the buyer right up front when they purchase an item.
  • Each transaction is counted only once toward your defect rate, regardless of the number of defects associated with it. For example, if a buyer leaves you a 3-star rating for item as described and a 1-star rating for shipping time for the same item, that transaction still only counts once toward your defect rate. That gives you more leeway and will allow you to focus on fine-tuning your overall service instead of individual buyer actions.

Good. Thank you. The shipping cost one was always hella stupid. And it’s nice than a transaction that’s an epic fail only counts once, I appreciate that.  Also, this was an interesting tidbit in the FAQ:

If I qualify for automatic 5-star rating for shipping time, does that also protect me from eBay Money Back Guarantee cases for item not received?

If you qualify for an automatic 5-star rating for shipping time and the buyer opens a case for item not received, you can escalate the case to eBay customer support. If the tracking shows the item was delivered to the buyer’s address, the case will be found in your favor and not counted as an opened case toward your defect rate or toward your 0.3% maximum of cases closed without your resolving them.

Sweet! I did not know that was a thing.

So, overall? It sounds like a step in a positive direction. At first glance, it really looked like they were going to get rid of DSRs completely but, in a way, I’m glad they aren’t. They are just downplaying their role and only focusing on certain parts of them. of course, I’ll have to see this in action before I can really attest at what the new Top Rated requirements look like but, for now, I’m OK with this.

What do you think?