An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to the eBay Feedback System

The Feedback system is one of the most distinctive features of eBay’s marketplace and was created in 1996, just six months after eBay was founded. Users were encouraged to “give praise where it’s due; make complaints where appropriate” by eBay’s founder Pierre Omidyar.

While the system may have been through several notable updates since then and other accountability programs introduced (Detailed Seller Ratings, defects system), Feedback is still a core component of the eBay experience.

How eBay’s Feedback system works

eBay’s Feedback system allows users to see how they have been rated by other eBay users that they have traded with. Buyers use Feedback scores to guide them towards trustworthy sellers.

After each eBay transaction, the buyer and seller are invited to rate their experience and leave a comment.

  • Buyers can rate the transaction positive, neutral or negative. At the same time, buyers can also score specific aspects of the transaction such as the shipping costs or seller’s communication.
  • Since 2008, sellers only have the option of leaving positive Feedback for buyers.

Leaving Feedback is completely voluntary on both sides. eBay prompts both buyers and sellers to leave Feedback but it is not a compulsory part of buying or selling on eBay.

Some sellers choose to use automated Feedback programs to save time and effort. eBay’s own Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro have options that automatically generate positive Feedback and comments as per the settings selected by the seller. The Pro version can also send an automated email to buyers prompt them to leave Feedback.

How Feedback scores and percentages are calculated

On the item listings detail screen, a seller’s information is featured near the top of the screen. Their Feedback score and percentage is shown next to their user ID.

  • The Feedback score is determined by the number of positive, negative or neutral ratings the seller has received. 1 point is added for positive Feedback, 0 for neutral and -1 for negative. A high Feedback score suggests that the user has a lot of eBay experience while a low score usually indicates inexperience. eBay rewards users with different coloured star icons next to their score as their Feedback total increases. 
  • The Feedback percentage score shows what percentage of a member’s transactions have been rated positively over the last 12 months. So if a seller has had 100 sales with 99 transactions being rated positive in the last 12 months, their Feedback percentage score would be 99%. Sellers should be aiming for the highest possible Feedback percentage score.

For more details and a breakdown of a user’s Feedback history, check their Feedback profile by selecting their user ID or their score number in brackets. The Profile screen also shows Detailed Seller Ratings and how long the user has been a member. eBay users who choose to sell items must make their Feedback profile public.

Feedback rules and regulations on eBay

With Feedback being one of the main sources of trust on eBay, there are understandably quite a few rules surrounding the system.

eBay has a Feedback extortion policy to prevent members using the Feedback system to demand services. Buyers, for example, are not allowed to blackmail sellers with the threat of negative Feedback if they do not provide additional goods, services or refunds over and above what was agreed in the original transaction. In turn, sellers are not allowed to require buyers to revise existing Feedback or leave positive Feedback in exchange for shipping items, providing monetary compensation or completing refund requests. Sellers are however allowed to ask for positive Feedback if the transaction is successful.

Feedback manipulation is also against eBay’s rules. Some examples include:

  • Offering to buy, sell or trade Feedback
  • Using multiple accounts to artificially inflate Feedback scores
  • Using the term ‘Feedback’ in a listing title unless it legitimately describes the item

Sellers also cannot include terms on an item listing that requires buyers to leave positive Feedback.

Users who break eBay’s Feedback policies are likely to have Feedback automatically removed and/or risk suspension from the marketplace. Other reasons to have Feedback automatically removed include:

  • When a buyer does not pay for an item and a seller opens an Unpaid Item Case
  • If a buyer violates the buying practises policy
  • When Feedback was the direct result of an eBay site issue or program error

Feedback replies, revisions and removal

Not all Feedback received by sellers is positive. In a situation where a seller feels that a neutral or negative Feedback rating/comment has been left unfairly, they have a choice of responses:

  • Reply: Sellers are allowed to reply to a Feedback comment. The message will be displayed directly underneath the initial Feedback comment. The seller cannot edit or delete the reply once it has been submitted. Only one reply is allowed per Feedback comment/rating.
  • Revision: It is possible to ask the buyer to revise their Feedback rating and/or comment. This is completely voluntary so there is no guarantee that the buyer will agree. If they choose to go ahead with the revision within 10 days of the request, the original comments/rating will disappear.
  • Removal: If the seller believes the buyer has broken eBay policies, contact eBay and request that the Feedback be removed. This requires a call to eBay’s customer service, which can be a hit and miss experience. If you’re not getting anywhere, hang up and try again.

Try not to dwell on negative Feedback. It is frustrating but always remember that it is very difficult to please everyone. In some situations, moving on and concentrating on avoiding future negative Feedback may be the best choice of response. Keep in mind that negative Feedback does remain on a seller’s record but it only contributes towards the Feedback percentage score for 12 months.

eBay selling and the importance of Feedback

While it could be argued that Feedback has lost the importance it used to have for eBay sellers, it still has a central role on the site. Feedback scores and percentages are still clearly featured on listings, eBay’s search engine Cassini rewards sellers who have great Feedback and eBay actively monitors selling performance with the system. In the case of the latter, sellers who wish to achieve the Top Seller Status must have at least 98% positive Feedback over the last 12 months as well as a Feedback score over 100.

The two most common struggles that eBay sellers face regarding the Feedback system are:

  • Avoiding negative Feedback
  • Receiving Feedback

Though these issues may sound quite different, the solution usually is the same: good customer service. If a seller follows the foundation of creating accurate item listings, professional communication and careful packaging, they will likely receive a higher Feedback response rate and pre-empt most scenarios that end in negative Feedback. That said, it is impossible to please absolutely everyone (especially those out to scam eBay sellers!) and occasional negative Feedback is unfortunately inevitable.

Looking for more Feedback tips? Learn how to get better buyer Feedback and how to deal with negative Feedback elsewhere on Auction Nudge Guides

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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