Being a Top Rated Seller on eBay: is It Worth It?

Top Rated Seller status is commonly discussed and debated within the eBay selling community. eBay describes a Top Rated Seller to be one of ‘the best sellers on eBay, providing an exceptional quality of customer service.’ It sounds impressive, but what does it mean and is it something worth making the effort to achieve? This article aims to answer both of these questions, expanding on one of our most popular articles here at Auction Nudge Guides.

What does it mean to be a Top Rated Seller on eBay?

First, let’s clarify the meaning of Top Rated Seller, Top Rated Plus and the difference between them.

Top Rated Seller status

Top Rated Seller is an eBay seller status that communicates that the holder has achieved (eBay.com requirements):

  • A maximum 0.5% of transactions with one or more transaction-related defects for last 3 months
  • Less than 0.30% of Money Back Guarantee and PayPal Purchase Protection cases closed without seller resolution
  • Less than 3% of transactions with late shipping
  • A maximum 5% of transactions where tracking wasn’t uploaded on time and/or validated

In addition to the above, the seller has to have been active for at least 90 days and have at least 100 or more transactions with a minimum of $1000 in sales within the last 12 months.

Besides a discount on eBay labels and a ‘Best Match’ search ranking increase, the main benefit of Top Rated Seller status is to receive a prominent Top Rated Plus seal on qualifying listings.

Top Rated Plus

Top Rated Plus is a listing status, available only to Top Rated Sellers. To be able to confer this status, the listing must:

  • Fast handling (same day or 1 business day)
  • A flexible return policy (at a minimum, 30 day free returns)

The biggest payoff for sellers offering Top Rated Plus listings is a 10% discount on Final Value Fees. Other benefits include an additional ‘Best Match’ search ranking boost and a ‘Top Rated Plus’ seal displayed in search results and listing description.

Top Rated Seller status: the debate

There is no doubt that having Top Rated Seller status divides the opinions of eBay sellers. For some, achieving Top Rated Seller status is something to aspire to and work towards. In a similar mindset, there are sellers who argue that Top Rated Seller status is something that is naturally achievable through good, consistent customer service.

On the other side, many sellers believe that the standards are too high and unrealistic for the average eBay seller. Furthermore, the rewards and benefits for achieving Top Rated Seller have diminished over the years, making it less worth the time and effort for some. For example, buyers were once able to refine searches using the criteria of “Top Rated Seller.”

The problem with Top Rated Plus

The Top Rated Plus program has its own share of criticisms. The discussion is a little different since sellers are given the choice to use Top Rated Plus listings rather than it being a defacto status as Top Rated Seller is. Some of the issues surrounding Top Rated Plus include:

  • The theory that offering free returns, a mandatory standard for Top Rated plus listings, results in more refunds overall. It is not hard to imagine that some eBay buyers do take advantage of flexible return policies as a way to try items with a ‘safety net’. On the other hand, it could be argued that buyers who are determined to return items will find another way, likely through an ‘Item Not As Described’ case or otherwise.
  • eBay promises Top Rated Seller Plus listings a boost in visibility on the Cassini search rankings, but this is hard to measure. Cassini’s algorithm is complex and takes so many other factors into account when ranking eBay listings. The level of competition and other eBay programs (such as the ‘Fast and Free’ shipping status) also have an important influence. eBay sellers in low competition niches are more likely to see an effect when using Top Rated Plus listings.
  • The fast handling requirement (same day or 1 business day) is demanding and can be a major cause of stress for Top Rated Sellers. For some sellers, the time spent making extra trips to the Post Office to satisfy this requirement may be better invested elsewhere. It does need to be noted, however, that the handling time in this context relates to uploading the tracking details for the item(s), not physically shipping the package. This allows for a little more breathing room.

Is it still worth aiming for Top Rated Seller?

Due to the nature of the eBay marketplace, there is no one size fits all answer to whether Top Seller Status is worth sellers aiming for. The truth of it is that some sellers find Top Seller Status worth it to access the Top Rated Plus listing discount, while others find the whole thing a waste of time and a source of unnecessary stress.

When debating whether to use Top Rated Seller Plus listings, consider:

  • How much additional work will it require to get the selected items shipped in time?
  • Is the risk of additional refunds a good exchange for extra visibility (more sales) and Final Value Fee discount?
  • Is substantial profit still possible without the Top Rated Plus discount?

The best way to decide whether Top Rated Plus listings are beneficial for your eBay business is to test and see. Since sellers are able to pick and choose which listings to confer this status, it is easy to experiment. Some items may be more suitable than others e.g. Smaller items that are generally easier and cheaper to mail (and return, in the event that the buyer requests a refund).

The individuality of each eBay seller’s business means that participating in a program such as Top Rated Plus may be successful for one seller but also may prove to be not profitable for another. When evaluating the effectiveness of Top Rated Plus listings, consider and examine item profit margins, sell through percentage and return rates. Only then can an eBay seller decide whether conforming to the standards of Top Rated Seller Plus listings is worth the hassle or not.

Gemma
Gemma
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.