(I meant to post this on last Friday and I forgot. Sorry about that! My brain is apparently still on summer vacation.)

eBay recently announced a long overdue change in how they handle DSRs. Starting August 24th, if a sell offers free shipping and the buyer selects that option, when they leave feedback the buyer will be unable to leave a rating for shipping cost and the seller will automatically get 5 stars in Shipping Cost. The fact that buyers could rate the shipping cost anything less than 5 stars when the shipping was free was always a bit ridiculous so this change is a welcome relief from what was always a silly policy.

You can read the official release here.

I once discussed shipping cost rating with another eBay user face to face and when I mentioned that I didn’t think buyers should be able to rate you on shipping if the shipping was free, she protested, “But they how else can you rate how you felt about the cost of the item?” I tell you this because I think it sums up how a lot of buyers felt about this rating, that it was their chance to rate how they felt about the price they paid overall instead of just the shipping cost which is what it was designed for.

When eBay started offering free shipping incentives I, like most sellers, experimented with some free shipping offers to try to take advantages of the discounts, improved Best Match placement and other perks. But after many months of trying, I finally concluded that, for all but a few of our items, the free shipping wasn’t affecting our sales enough to be worth the cost. Granted, I think this is a bigger factor for collectible items and the free shipping made more of a difference on our new items, so results likely varied depending on what you sell.

But as someone who had been moving away from free shipping, this makes me more likely to give it a second try. If it’s an item you normally discount, maybe its better to offer free shipping instead of the discount in some cases if it means a guaranteed 5 stars. If nothing else, if your shipping cost DRS are suffering, a few weeks of free shipping offers is a fast and easy way to get back on track.

I was astonished to see how many people were complaining about this change (though I suppose at this point I shouldn’t be surprised). While sellers seem pretty universally glad that the change is happening, a ton are complaining that it isn’t enough. But regular readers know how I feel about DSRs (See: I hate to admit it, but I think eBay’s Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) might be a good thing) so I see this as a fix of one of the few things that was truly stupid about the program which is otherwise a good thing overall. I appreciate that eBay is trying to listen to seller feedback, even if they took a while to make it a reality.

My biggest worry about this change is how it affects the international and expedited shipping issue we discussed here (See: If Free Shipping is here to stay, eBay, here’s what we need. . .) but what do you think?