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eBay shipper sent me a religious tract - should I note this in feedback?
July 26, 2008 9:05 PM   Subscribe

An eBay purchase just arrived. I have no complaint at all about the item, and it was shipped quickly. The seller included a religious tract in the package, though, which bugs me. I would like to note this in the feedback, politely, as a negative. It seems reasonable to note something about the transaction that I disliked, but worry that it may not be worth the potential hassle.

Yes, I am an atheist. No, I don't make a habit of provoking religious folks. I do not appreciate being witnessed to, proselytized to, or preached at, especially when it invades my everyday business. This is not a Jack Chick level of tract, not hate-spewing or overly gory. But I don't enjoy "Turn to JESUS or you will burn FOREVER!" being a part of this transaction.

I do not plan to actually leave negative feedback, as I am happy with the item and the shipping. My plan is to mention it as a negative in the comment section.

My concern is not that the seller might leave me a negative feedback; who cares. It is that this action could either trigger a flurry of email or snailmail from the seller (and his fellow congregants) or some sort of dispute with eBay, and that it just could be a big headache. (I'm not particularly worried about any live harassment, as we live on opposite sides of the continent.) When I transpose the situation to a physical retailer, I think I would act similarly, and I think I would be unhappy with myself if I let this go.

What do you think, hivemind?
posted by Cranialtorque to Computers & Internet (82 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my eBay transaction commentary I often note unusual aspects of the transaction. Sometimes they are positive (like the time a guy charged me for media mail and sent it Priority), sometimes neutral (like the time I got the wholesale invoice instead of my retail invoice), and occasionally negative (like the time a guy disappeared for three months, didn't answer email or letters, and then shipped me my goods like nothing had happened). It's totally reasonable to include a remark about an aspect of the transaction that made you uncomfortable.

"Shipped on time and as ordered, but I didn't appreciate the unsolicited religious tract." is a factual and reasonable comment to make.
posted by majick at 9:15 PM on July 26, 2008


This has happened to me (atheist, not into provoking religious folks either) numerous times. I always leave the same feedback: "Excellent transaction, could have been better without the proselytizing though."

YMMV, of course, but this has never resulted in any response from the person who sent it. Even if it did, it's pretty easy to filter out emails, so I've never worried about that much.

As for eBay getting involved - I doubt it. They barely lift a finger when a seller takes a bidder's money and doesn't deliver the goods, so the likelihood that they'd get involved in something like this is pretty minimal.
posted by chez shoes at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2008


Why don't you just leave positive feedback and send the seller a private email telling her or him how you feel? All you need to say is that you were happy with almost every aspect of the sale, but the proselytizing left a bad taste in your mouth and you imagine that it will be off-putting to other buyers as well. If he sent you a relatively tame tract, I can't see why this would incite some sort of maelstrom of harassment.
posted by kitty teeth at 9:20 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


You have his return address, right?

Start sending him unsolicited books of reason.
posted by rokusan at 9:26 PM on July 26, 2008 [25 favorites]


I would definitely let this one go. I'm an atheist as well and this wouldn't bother me. I'd throw it out and wouldn't think anymore about it. This person put a little "throw in" in the package. So what? Just throw it away and don't think anything more about it. This man is a Christian and is doing his Christian duty. He may annoy you but he does not mean to harm you.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:28 PM on July 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


There's an old saying, "Tell the truth and shame the devil", only perhaps in this case it should be "Tell the truth and shame the evangelical". I'd go ahead and leave the feedback you wish to. I doubt it'll cause any problems, and other people will no doubt apprecaite being warned about possible side effects of dealing with this seller.
posted by orange swan at 9:29 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


The feedback system is a means to give the eBay membership the benefit of your experience with a particular member, thus the feedback that you leave should be helpful to others who are deciding whether to deal with the member who is the subject of the feedback comment. I'm an agnostic who disapproves of proselytizing, but your experience with this seller wouldn't deter me from dealing with him. To my mind, it's irrelevant to the transaction.

You say that you're worried that you may regret letting this go. I suspect that your intention here is not to give warning to potential buyers who would not want to deal with a proselytizer, but rather to make sure that you don't let this offense go unanswered. If indeed that is your purpose, it strikes me as petty. If you want to express your displeasure, you have the option of doing so privately to him.
posted by ionnin at 9:34 PM on July 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


what is your goal in this? to let the seller know you didn't appreciate it, or to tell other buyers to beware? if the latter, just let it go. i NEVER read positive seller feedback, just the negatives. and if you want to let the guy know it's not cool, just email him.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:35 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's happened to me too. It doesn't really bug me too much, I don't have thin skin. But it does seem to cross the line of nothing-more-than-good-etiquette that I expect from an eBay transaction. This is what I do about it: I leave feedback pertaining to the transaction itself. Then I add the line "Unexpected religious tract enclosed with purchase." It's utterly benign and inoffensive, but it gets the point across to those who would care.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:35 PM on July 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I dont see how mentioning it will make a difference. You should go whole hog and give him negative feedback. If 10% of everyone gave negative feedbank then it would quickly catch his attention. Be the first one.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:47 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think this situation calls for neutral, not negative, feedback, with a comment that notes that the item was received quickly but unwanted religious materials were included.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


My concern is not that the seller might leave me a negative feedback; who cares.

For the record, eBay sellers can't leave negative feedback for buyers anymore, only positive or neutral. This change was made in the last round of major feedback changes because sellers would leave "revenge" feedback for buyers who left negative (or neutral!) feedback for them. As someone who has been victim of that, I am very glad eBay made this change.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:56 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pick your battles.

It's just a piece of garbage; throw it in the trash, where it belongs.

You're considering returning negativity for negativity. If you roll in the mud with pigs you get dirty also. It's not worth it, it's not but a piece of paper with words priinted on it. Toss it.

And then let it go. Shake your head, roll your eyes, thank god (jk) that you're not like this person, move on to the important matters in your life
posted by dancestoblue at 9:59 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I say mention it. I know as a buyer I would want to know if something like this would come with my order. And I wouldn't want it.
posted by theichibun at 10:03 PM on July 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't it suffice to send back a copy of the invoice with "thanks" written on it, stapled to a printout of the first comment from dunkadunc?

I know you're not with her, but DTMFA. There's better people out there who would want to both hump like rabbits and actually have a relationship with you. She's only going to make you feel bad.
Move on.

posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:06 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would leave positive feedback, but ention it in the notes, as majick suggested. Remember that you won't get a neg in response thanks to the feedback changes, but I think it'd be crummy to leave him a neg or neutral given that he did deliver the item to yor satisfaction, tract notwithstanding.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:16 PM on July 26, 2008


give feedback, mention the extra thing in the comments so other buyers will be forewarned.
posted by yort at 10:26 PM on July 26, 2008


In days long gone, I would be one of those people that would include a religious tract in a package.

These folks don't think twice about doing something like this, the job is to let others know about the "truth". Anyone who would put up a fight about is is just a unbelieving "goat". If anything, I would feel sorry for these folks.

You might privately contact him and let him know that you respect his faith, but don't believe that he should have included the tract in the transaction. Let him know that he wouldn't appreciate you including an atheist tract with the check you made payment with.
posted by bprater at 10:29 PM on July 26, 2008


This happened to me, too. In my case, the seller included not only an unsolicited Christian pamphlet, but a fancy custom-made CD with the words "drive time devotional" written on it, along with a hand-written note.

Since I'm a devout pagan and don't even drive anyway, I found it rather amusing. I briefly considered letting the seller know I didn't appreciate the proselytizing, but with things like this I tend to choose my battles based on the likelihood that positive change will result. I doubted that anything I did would make much difference, so I just tossed the unwanted materials in the trash.

However, if I'd known in advance (by reading other buyers' feedback) that this seller made a habit of enclosing unwanted religious materials in their packages, I certainly would have taken my business elsewhere.

If it's bothering you, I say mention it in the comment section, just as you propose.
posted by velvet winter at 10:35 PM on July 26, 2008


Send your new friend some tracts of your own. Some suggestions:

Praise Bob!
FSM FTW!
Invisible Pink Unicorn
Fnord?
posted by formless at 10:35 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Throw it away, and forget about it. Seriously. I fail to see how this is a big enough deal to warrant mentioning it in the feedback. I'm an agnostic, and it wouldn't have bothered me in the least. I'd have thrown it away, and that would be that. I'd be glad I got what I paid for, and that I received it within a timely manner, and that's all I would say in my feedback.

Hardly a big deal, so don't waste your time.
posted by Dreamcast at 10:47 PM on July 26, 2008


It's not worth the time.
posted by Blandanomics at 10:52 PM on July 26, 2008


He offered you something; you don't want it. No biggie - throw it away and be done with it.
You've probably spent more time on this tract than the seller did.
posted by 26.2 at 11:19 PM on July 26, 2008


As has been said, they can't leave feedback for you the buyer. Ebay permanently disabled that. So give them a negative feedback.
posted by LarryC at 11:19 PM on July 26, 2008


Yup, throw it out and let it go. This person thinks they are doing you a favor, and as an atheist, you don't agree. Understandable, but why waste your time and negative energy, and just agree to disagree? It's unlikely that your negative feedback is going to prevent the seller from sending a tract to the next person and completing what they think is a good deed.
posted by lemonwheel at 11:36 PM on July 26, 2008


For the record, eBay sellers can't leave negative feedback for buyers anymore, only positive or neutral.

Actually, it's even better than that. Sellers can only leave POSITIVE feedback. No negatives and no neutrals - retaliatory feedback, thank god, is a thing of the past.

I'd mention it in the comments section. I would still leave positive feedback, but note the tract. It IS worth your time. You didn't pay money to be proselytized during or after your transaction. If nobody takes the time to say anything it only encourages them to continue the practice. It's the old, "There's a time and a place for everything," kind of deal - and business transactions should be a religious-free zone, in my opinion. Religion and politics should be kept out of business deals of all kinds.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:42 PM on July 26, 2008


I was checking someone's feedback on Bookmooch and saw that someone had given a positive and written "great book, fast shipping, but the religious pamphlet enclosed was not my cup of tea." I though that was a great way to put it - it alerted other people to what had happened but was phrased in such a way as to cause the least offense possible to the person who had sent the pamphlet.
posted by hazyjane at 12:59 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sellers can't leave buyers negative feedback on Ebay anymore. That said, I don't think your situation warrants a negative comment simply based on a religious pamphlet. Maybe it wasn't even the seller's idea to include one.
posted by roomwithaview at 1:15 AM on July 27, 2008


eBay treats neutral feedback as negative when it calculates a seller's feedback score. You should mark the feedback positive, but include a note as suggested by many before me. His action was auxiliary to a successful eBay transaction, and so should yours be.

When I sell on eBay, I sometimes use Archie McPhee Devil Duckie Tape to seal the packages. I always wonder whether I might be upsetting religious customers, but so far I've only received a positive mention in my feedback.
posted by reeddavid at 2:07 AM on July 27, 2008


I'm really surprised at so many people responding in the exact opposite fashion I thought Ask Mefi would lean. Perhaps because it's Sunday?

Contrary to what others are saying ... of course leave negative feedback. Feedback represents your experience of interacting with this person. This person decided that he or she was going to push their religious beliefs on you by including a Christian tract.

With religion, little is going to push through anything, but if you don't respond honestly, with negative feedback, then this person is never going to get the message that pushing your religion on others without regard to their existing belief is wrong. Granted, they probably won't anyway, but you need to do your part.

If you're not going to do that, then at least do what you plan and leave it as a negative comment.

As someone who went through an arbitration situation with an eBay seller, it is not really that big a deal. And if you're only afraid of a bunch of e-mails, that's what we have e-mail rules/filters for ... auto-send him to your deleted items.
posted by WCityMike at 2:14 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it would be shabby to leave negative feedback on the basis of this undesired "extra", since I think most casual users are expecting that feedback profile to primarily give information about tangible aspects of the transaction, and this is more about the seller's bad manners. IMO, Ebay having changed the rules so that sellers can't leave neutral or negative feedback shouldn't be taken as carte blanche to leave a negative for anything imperfect -- it should still be used carefully so that someone who is conscientious but rudely sends a tract doesn't end up with a profile that resembles someone who commits fraud.

That said, I would absolutely mention it in the positive or neutral feedback, so that people who are trying to figure out which of two sellers of equivalently-priced items to purchase from can factor it in. In a tossup situation, I would prefer to support someone who doesn't proselytize versus someone who does, in the same sense that I would opt for a seller who doesn't have one of those angry multipage purchasing terms FAQs that passive-aggressively whines about every slight a buyer has ever committed in the guise of being informative (also bad manners). So I would appreciate your mentioning it.

If you are a person who is bothered by proselytizing, I do think it's a good idea to say something. In my experience at least, it is becoming progressively more 'normal' in the US, and while I'm going to give the question of its effects on the society the wide berth that an AskMe answer deserves, it's objectively rude on a couple of different axes of rudeness, especially since it's proselytizing for a majority-held religion (I know that it's a minority sect thereof, but by and large, that isn't how it comes off to people who aren't Protestant). If no one even says that they don't like it, there is no way for the people doing it to know that they are crossing a line of decent behavior and making their buyers unhappy. But obviously it's most effective to say it politely. I would go a little farther than "not my cup of tea" but stop short of "offended." Maybe "this otherwise-perfect transaction was lessened by the seller's inclusion of a proselytizing religious tract."

I'm doing some business right now with a guy who prints an Ichthus on his printed circuit boards, which I think is a great example of having pride in your faith without trying to push your faith into other people's private spiritual lives. He gets to know that the fishy is right there on the board, and I get to put it in a project box and not give it a second thought unless the thing stops working, at which point I know exactly which deity to blame.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:28 AM on July 27, 2008


Recycle it, move on.
posted by pearlybob at 2:37 AM on July 27, 2008


You got the product you purchased, you didn't request the propaganda. That's a negative in my eyes. Whether it was a christian tract, call to jihad, or a membership form to the local socialist workers party, it doesn't matter. You didn't ask to be preached to with your purchase.

This whole respecting peoples faiths and allowing them to promote it unsolicited is bullshit imo. I'd appreciate the feedback because it's enough to let me know I'd not be purchasing from them.
posted by twistedonion at 3:49 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I transpose the situation to a physical retailer, I think I would act similarly, and I think I would be unhappy with myself if I let this go.

And this is the crux of the matter imo. I've had to deal with suppliers that began overtly preaching. I stopped using them, they should get plenty of business from their flock who appreciate it. It's just bad manners and bad business.
posted by twistedonion at 3:54 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do not plan to actually leave negative feedback, as I am happy with the item and the shipping. My plan is to mention it as a negative in the comment section.

I think this is a totally reasonable thing to do, and something like hazyjane's phrasing from bookmooch sounds like a good way of responding fairly to the whole transaction and giving a clear picture to both the seller and prospective buyers. Kindness to the seller is crucial, as while he is sort of being invasive, he's probably doing it in absolute good faith and sees the inclusion as more generous than padding the box with sweets.

I do glance at some of the positive feedback if I'm choosing between a few sellers all offering a similar item, and as yet another non-provoking atheist, I would definitely appreciate having feedback like yours to weigh into the decision. All the "AAAAAAAAAAA++++++ best seller!111" feedback makes it hard to differentiate between sellers.
posted by carbide at 4:13 AM on July 27, 2008


Only mention it in the feedback if you feel it is something that other buyers need to be aware of. Feedback shouldn't be used as a means of communication with the seller, you should email them your concerns instead. Let's face it, very few people are going to be bothered about a leaflet the way you are, and there is no need to warn people by leaving the feedback as this leaflet wouldn't be a potential dealbreaker for 90% of people when they choose a seller on eBay. No need at all for this to be included in feedback, it will only make you look petty.
posted by fire&wings at 4:34 AM on July 27, 2008


this leaflet wouldn't be a potential dealbreaker for 90% of people when they choose a seller on eBay

I would disagree with this. It perhaps wouldn't be a potential dealbreaker to 90% of christians or people brought up in a christian society.

Would your opinion be the same if it was a tract telling you that allah was great and those who don't love allah will die in hell?

Ebay is a global marketplace and you should respect that.
posted by twistedonion at 5:00 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


As a buyer, I would really appreciate having that kind of information if I were trying to decide between a couple of sellers. All other things being equal I'd rather my money go into the hands of people who are not going to do religious proselytizing.
posted by Stacey at 5:05 AM on July 27, 2008


You do realize you're going to eternal damnation without Jesus, right? Kidding. I'd go ahead and mention it, in a neutral way. From the seller's perspective they've got to understand there's going to be some negative reaction to this.
posted by mattholomew at 5:27 AM on July 27, 2008


Did the tract actually say "Turn to Jesus or BURN IN HELL" or was it just a general Christian sermon? If it's the former, I could see getting offended, but if it's the latter, maybe you're overreacting a bit.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:29 AM on July 27, 2008


I'm of two minds, too.

Life gets tedious, complicated and aggravating if one responds to all irritations.

OTOH, big change happens in little increments, usually. Here's a place where minor action may be warranted.

What do you think about replying to it with a kind, sweet note, thanking the fine man for his concerns and offering a brief explanation of your thoughts on the matter? Nothing mean, ...just short, kind and reasonable. I think it's probably the reaction we should have to this kind of thing, usually, and it'll be good practice.

Hopefully, you'll show one religious person that athiests aren't all militant, combative, hypereactive gonzos but that they aren't really easily convinced to join their massive spiritual RPG. One by one, maybe they'll get the message.
posted by FauxScot at 5:58 AM on July 27, 2008


I think your way over reacting.
I see I am the minority as like 99% of the people here are Atheists, therefore your kinda asking MeFi if they also dislike Christians...kinda biased here no doubt...

So, what, I get news papers when I get stuff from Ebay and I dont get mad because I have it throw it away! If you dont like it, throw it away and be done with it, OR read it, it might just change your life!

God Bless
posted by TeachTheDead at 5:59 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am a Christian, and I very much dislike tracts - they are usually cheezy and insult people's intelligence, and usually reduce a significant and complex discussion to a few verses quoted out of context.

All that being said, why do you feel so assaulted by the inclusion of a track? Don't want it - don't read it. This guy has done you no harm.

If you do feel the need to mention it in feedback, please don't exaggerate it by talking about proselytizing. That would make me think he emailed you or called you to chat about his faith. Just say something like "Christian track included in shipment"
posted by jpdoane at 6:12 AM on July 27, 2008


Let's face it, very few people are going to be bothered about a leaflet the way you are, and there is no need to warn people by leaving the feedback as this leaflet wouldn't be a potential dealbreaker for 90% of people when they choose a seller on eBay. No need at all for this to be included in feedback, it will only make you look petty.

1. There's a large difference between "dealbreaker" and "manners issue which you might want to factor in to your decision",

2. You don't know how many people wouldn't like this, and you just pulled a precise statistic out of somewhere in order to support your unsupportable assertion. "No one else would mind, so you shouldn't say anything" is the circular reasoning which results in proselytizers having the impression that no one minds, when, let's face it: a lot of people who aren't Protestants are not going to be particularly pleased to see that (on the other hand, lots of Protestants also think it's rude).

Did the tract actually say "Turn to Jesus or BURN IN HELL" or was it just a general Christian sermon? If it's the former, I could see getting offended, but if it's the latter, maybe you're overreacting a bit.

Not everyone is Christian, and it's unlikely that a non-Christian is going to want a Christian sermon along with an item they paid money for. To break it down, even though the sermon-sender is telling themselves they are doing something nice, what they are doing is assuming that the recipient's beliefs either match their own or need replacing, and they are placing the burden of a gracious response to this assumption on the recipient. The seller is telling themselves that the buyer is getting something extra, but in fact the seller is getting something extra: the transaction money plus a soapbox, plus the buyer sucking up their disrespectful behavior and "not being petty". If they feel compelled to do this every time they have an audience, it would be polite to warn people in advance or consider giving a thanks-for-being-nice-about-my-compulsion discount.

Personally, I've always let it slide, but after seeing it grow so much in the last decade and hearing people say "well, no one really minds that!" because so many people are easygoing about their dislike for it, I'm now questioning the wisdom of that policy.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:17 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a buyer I'd appreciate seeing a mention of such inclusions in the feedback comment, though I agree with others that if you're pleased with the transaction, it merits positive feedback overall.

It's not so much for me, though it might be the dealbreaker if I had to choose between two otherwise identical sellers. But as the resident ebay-person in my extended family, I am often tasked with gift-procurement and frequently have items shipped directly to others. I would hate to unwittingly send a gift with an unexpected message included. Depending on the relationship, it could really have repercussions if someone thought the inclusion came from me!

As a sometime-seller, I sometimes through in extra goodies as well - a small toy, candy, etc - or do shipping upgrades. I would prefer if these didn't get mentioned in the feedbacks, because depending on circumstances I can't do them every time.

FTR I am a non-atheist, but that's mostly a matter between me and the Infinite, and not at all the sort of thing appropriate to stuff into a parcel like a stray receipt or a cookie fortune.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:47 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


throw/through. sigh.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:48 AM on July 27, 2008


"Christian literature included in shipment" seems about right, to paraphrase some others, if you're really that riled up about it.

I'm an atheist, and I think a similar situation would have provoked a look of mild, brow-furrowed surprise, followed by a slight smirk and a trip to the trashcan.

I think the biggest reason to let it go is because this person could drop a Bible verse into your feedback and that's clearly not going to do you any good.
posted by Cyrano at 6:51 AM on July 27, 2008


Opinions vary. So don't make the feedback negative. To many people, getting one of these tracts isn't a negative.

Opinions vary. So include a short and purely descriptive note in the comments section. Some people (like me) will choose a different seller because of it; other people won't care. Everyone is properly informed and happy.
posted by grimmelm at 6:53 AM on July 27, 2008


therefore your kinda asking MeFi if they also dislike Christians...kinda biased here no doubt...

This is not true. In no way is the poster asking if they dislike Christians, whatever spin you put on it. They don't like being preached to when making a purchase. Is this so hard to comprehend.

A few days ago a Jehovahs witness approached me as I was going to work. He was offering me an issue of Watchtower or whatever that mag is. I politely declined but wished him a good day. I've no problem with that (or even people handing out tracts in the street). I have a choice to take it or leave it.

If I bought a completely unrelated product and found a copy of watchtower in it I would be annoyed, would you not be annoyed if you walked down a street and people started stuffing propaganda into your shopping bags?

It's just plain rude.

All that being said, why do you feel so assaulted by the inclusion of a track? Don't want it - don't read it. This guy has done you no harm.

Again, I think you are looking at this from a Christian perspective, which is fine. Honestly though, ask yourself if you would be happy if you got a leaflet in a package promoting say Satanism (as legit a belief set as Christianity, however you may disagree with that).

Would you honestly not be in any way upset? Maybe not because your faith is so strong. That's fine, but 99% of the planet is not you.

Ebay is business. If you decide to promote a moral platfrom in your business fine. It's the consumers right to disagree with you and to notify other potential customers that if they don't agree or follow that companies morals not to buy from them.
posted by twistedonion at 7:02 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Would you honestly not be in any way upset? Maybe not because your faith is so strong. That's fine, but 99% of the planet is not you.

Yeah, but 99% of the planet isn't YOU either. Lots of non-christians wouldn't care if they recieved a religious tract in an eBay purchase. No, really, they just wouldn't care. At all. They'd throw it away and think nothing of it.

Cranialtorque, if this is really bothering you that much, then just go ahead and leave negative feedback. It's the only thing that has the chance of being noticed by anyone.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:05 AM on July 27, 2008


It seems ridiculously trivial, and not something that should cause you to damage the seller's feedback rating. The feedback is supposed to represent the quality of service the seller provided, and in this case, it sounds like it was perfect. I can't imagine being upset in the slightest by something so trivial (and I'm an atheist with little respect for Christianity).
posted by knave at 8:24 AM on July 27, 2008


The guy tells you that "you will burn FOREVER" and you would actually consider not leaving negative feedback?!?! That would be a no-question negative for me. He needs to be corrected, and not for being stupid, just for being rude.
posted by Slenny at 8:24 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


A hypothetical: If they had included a little pamphlet on supporting gay marriage, would that be a good thing to mention in the feedback, so that other people would know who they were buying from and could avoid it?
posted by smackfu at 8:35 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The other day I saw an eBay listing that included a sentence like "I include a prayer with every shipment. Some buyers have been offended by this. If you will be offended by this, please be aware and consider not bidding on this item." (Only it was phrased slightly more passive-aggressively, and probably in 16 point italic green font.) You might try asking the seller, in a private message, to include a similar notification in his/her listings. Worst case scenario, it results in hostile email from the seller that you can block/ignore; best case scenario, the seller gets something of a wake-up call and future buyers get a heads-up of what to expect without having to read all the feedback notes.
posted by doift at 8:40 AM on July 27, 2008


Reference Mathew 6:5 in your feedback:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
posted by orthogonality at 8:51 AM on July 27, 2008


Where I can, in my own small way, I choose not to give do business with people who might use their money to fund organizations whose agendas I do not agree with. Therefore, as an eBay buyer, I would be grateful if someone pointed out a seller where this might be the situation.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


How is this any different than receiving unsolicited advertising in your shipment? Because that happens to me all the time and I don't think twice about it.

Reference Mathew 6:5 in your feedback:

Jesus was teaching against external demonstrations of piety purely to show off to everyone how great and religious you are. I suppose you could interpret giving someone a track in that manner, but it seems a bit of a stretch (and a pretty ungenerous one). One of Jesus' core teachings was to mobilize his followers to spread the word about him:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20


While sending tracks to strangers through the mail is a pretty piss poor way of doing so, (respectfully) telling others about Jesus and inviting them to follow Him is certainly consistent with His teaching
posted by jpdoane at 10:02 AM on July 27, 2008


Hey everyone, thanks for all your insights and opinions.

It seems like I wasn't entirely clear; I never considered giving this seller negative feedback, or even neutral feedback. Doing so would be petty and vindictive and entirely inappropriate. I was only debating mentioning the tract in the comments.

Two thought experiments:

1) If I had bought an item at a store and the proprietor had put this religious tract in the bag, I would probably tell my friends about it. It wouldn't necessarily prevent me from shopping there again if I liked the goods and service, but I would let people know that the store does this. I think this is a parallel situation.

2) Imagine the tract were a Muslim tract, and it said all infidels will burn unless they submit to Allah's will. Just imagine getting that in your eBay purchase. I think many Americans would be upset, and some would even be frightened. (The seller would just be doing their Muslim duty, though.)

For the record, I am leaving positive feedback, because that is what the seller deserves. But I am mentioning that the tract was included, as information that other buyers will appreciate knowing.

Thanks again, I appreciate your thoughts.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2008


Leave a detailed comment in your positive feedback, about why this offended you and why it might offend others.

Your feedback might cause someone to think twice about whether this behavior should be encouraged, tolerated, or discouraged.

It wouldn't have offended me until I read the comments here. Now, I would be offended.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:29 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


"2) Imagine the tract were a Muslim tract, and it said all infidels will burn unless they submit to Allah's will. Just imagine getting that in your eBay purchase. I think many Americans would be upset, and some would even be frightened. (The seller would just be doing their Muslim duty, though.)"


Umm, yeah. Its cool with me that you're an atheist. I have no problems with people believing what they want to believe.

I do have a problem with people spreading lies. I would have figured an atheist would have more facts, and would know that hatred is NO duty of any muslim.

As for feedback you should leave this:

(Positive feedback...its what the seller actually cares about)"Great transaction, could lower cost even more if seller didn't include unnecessary christian material".

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2008


hal_c_on, my thought experiment was intended only to make folks think about a parallel situation from a non-christian source. It is only because christian proselytizing is part of the background noise of American culture that people are surprised that the tract bothered me. Because muslims are so targeted and suspected in the US right now, I suspect that many eBay buyers would respond with shock and even fear if they got a muslim tract that had a similar message to the one the seller sent me, the seller who was "only doing his christian duty." Some might even misconstrue it as a threat and call the authorities.

All I care to know about any religion is what I have observed from its practitioners; and I've seen almost as much fear, hate, and superstition spread by followers of allah as I have from followers of jesus, proportionally speaking. (I've had far more contact with and partial indoctrination into christianity, so the proportion of what I've observed is obviously skewed.) I don't feel an obligation to research "facts" about any particular set of superstitions, no matter how many people believe them.

But my point was not to target muslims, it was to try to clarify why this bothered me to folks who think the seller's actions are just fine.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2008


Yeah, but 99% of the planet isn't YOU either.

Exactly. Lots of people are different. At least allow people the courtesy of not being preached to when they are making a completely unrelated transaction.

I was at a Jim White gig a couple of nights ago and he mentioned about how it was his observation that many stores he went into at home would witness to him and how this was on the rise. Now, I'm not American so he could be talking nonsense, but he seems a pretty smart and genuine guy so I have no reason to doubt.

If this is the case then from an American perspective I can see how most people would not be offended as it is a common occurence (and might even be surprised at how something so innocent and well meaning could offend).

I can assure you though that this is not the case in other, more secular societies, especially ones that may already have religious issues going on in the undercurrents (or more overtly) in their own societies.

To you it is inoffensive, I'd be offended and wouldn't purchase again. Call me petty but It's what I believe. It's exactly the same as someone shoving unwanted literature into my shopping bag, or through my mailbox. That also annoys me. As does spam email. I don't request it so stop it please. I'm not singling out Christians.

Lots of non-christians wouldn't care if they recieved a religious tract in an eBay purchase.

Lots wouldn't but those that might are better off being informed rather than unpleasantly surprised, are they not?
posted by twistedonion at 11:41 AM on July 27, 2008


But my point was not to target muslims, it was to try to clarify why this bothered me to folks who think the seller's actions are just fine.

I completely understood this. To me there is a bias. If Muslim tracts started appearing on ebay I would be extremely surprised if The Daily Mail, or Fox News didn't make a meal out of it.
posted by twistedonion at 11:46 AM on July 27, 2008


As a potential buyer, I'd like to know.

I hate being proselytized to in the course of a commercial transaction, and I'm a church-going Episcopalian.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on July 27, 2008


Neutral feedback, be clear and honest about what happened. Though I can sympathize with the seller's motivation, this was a purely business transaction and faith should have have been introduced into the mix. That seller should know the possible consequences of his/her actions and realize that some people won't appreciate the "extras" they're shipping their boxes with.

If they email you about your feedback and are anything but conciliatory, I'd be tempted to send them some other, um, tracts via snail-mail. Just for fun.
posted by arnicae at 2:10 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am a Christian. I realize that probably means my comment will just get written off as "Oh, he's one of those people" but I will say what I want anyway.

If I got a good deal on an eBay item, and the seller let me know up front that I would be receiving a Muslim or Atheist "tract" in my package when it arrived, I would gladly accept, and toss the paper when it got here. I would do the same with a Christian tract, honestly, because I loathe most of them. That said, I personally think you're getting offended over something petty. This seller did not target you as an atheist, they had no way of knowing what faith you were. It looks like you selected SuperSquirrel as the best answer, and I will say that I personally think this argument, which I have heard many times before, is bunk.

Chick-Fil-a is owned by a very outspoken Christian man. Knowing that, would you choose not to eat there for that reason? That is just one of the many thousands of businesses and individuals you will do business transactions with in your life. In this case, if you really choose not to give any money to a Christian because of what they do with the money (which could be feeding and clothing the needy and homeless, among many other things), you have the luxury of knowing that the man who runs the company you're about to buy that tasty chicken sandwich from is a Christian. Most of the other thousands upon thousands of transactions, you have no way of knowing.

Yes, that is slightly off topic, but I felt it needed to be said, here or otherwise. The point I'm trying to make is that you even though you are giving positive feedback, if you do include a comment about what was included with the item, please be sure to make it clear that this was not harmful to you. It may have been offensive, which is fine if that is what offends you, but it was not harmful. So do what you will, but just make sure you don't harm this seller with a poorly-worded comment based on something that didn't harm you. If you're just trying to get the point across to the seller that you didn't appreciate the gesture, must you even include in the comment that it was Christian literature? They know what they sent, so a simple "did not appreciate the unwanted literature" would suffice.
posted by joshrholloway at 3:19 PM on July 27, 2008


I feel the same way SuperSquirrel does - and yes, I do choose not to eat at Chick-Fil-A because of the owner's support of, for example, James Dobson. I know I can't go through my life and never patronize businesses supported by outspokenly religious owners, since I do not have all the time in the world to research every single transaction, and sometimes there are no good secular alternatives. But I do try to avoid it when there are other reasonable options.

So I would still be grateful to see that information in the comments if I were researching two potential sellers of an item I wanted. It wouldn't be a dealbreaker but would definitely strongly tip the balance in favor of the other seller.
posted by Stacey at 3:34 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Get over yourself, seriously. This person has as much right to wear his or her faith on his or her sleeve as you have to randomly decide that people with faith are automatically idiots somehow deserving of your ridicule.

I say that as an Agnostic who's just really totally tired of the drama that comes from a PC and "me me me" world.

If you don't like it, toss it.
posted by TomMelee at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Given a choice, I'll skip the plumber who features a fish on his ad in the phone book. I'd appreciate having the choice on eBay as well. I hope you mentioned it in your (positive) feedback.
posted by bink at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


This person has as much right to wear his or her faith on his or her sleeve as you have to randomly decide that people with faith are automatically idiots somehow deserving of your ridicule.

You completely missed the point. Faith is not the issue, it could just as well have been a political rant, or even a load of junk mailshots and my answers to this question would have been exactly the same.

You have every right to mention aspects of the purchase in your feedback. That's what it is for!

I say that as an Agnostic who's just really totally tired of the drama that comes from a PC and "me me me" world.

oh yeah, it's OK banging on about rights to wear faith on sleeves but not rights to inform others about this persons sleeves? Hypocrite (though I think you just missed the point of the discussion).
posted by twistedonion at 12:56 AM on July 28, 2008


No, I certainly didn't miss the point, as the discussion is or should be all about context. The OP should feel free to "mention" it, but I'm not sure what the point of listing it as a "negative" is.

To me, this effectively the same as the lady including a tract saying:
"This cheese is the best cheese ever, so good that other cheeses will leave you behind when the best cheese takes you to rapture" and then leaving it at that, after providing superior customer service, product, and price.

What the original poster *wants* to do is disregard the actual aspects of the transaction with a statement tantamount to "Be aware this seller really likes cheese, and she disregards that some people like me don't even believe in cheese, and I was offended deeply in my rennet free soul, buyer beware." Really just what's the point besides creating conflict and hurting someones feelings?

It's not like hers message of hate---it was intended as a message of love--but the OP's free to disregard it.

Say whatever you want to say, but I'm not sure what the point of potentially trying to damage her ability to do future business is. Realistically actually I think there are a lot of people who would buy from her just because of it, but again I'm not sure it really matters.

I mean they might believe in transubstantiation, but they've still gotta eat.

I also think it's possible to leave feedback that addresses it without being necessarily negative. "Product arrived in a timely fashion, as described, and well packaged. It did however take a whole family of Sodomites to wipe off all the Jesus in the package."
posted by TomMelee at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2008


It's not like hers message of hate---it was intended as a message of love--but the OP's free to disregard it.

Bullshit. All religions have messages of hate.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:53 AM on July 28, 2008


I, too, would appreciate the notification that a seller includes unsolicited religious tracts in the shipment, and would not buy from that person, based on my previous business experiences with people who do that sort of thing. They often feel that ordinary rules don't apply to them because of their special fanaticism, and I've found them to not be very trustworthy.

Please mention it.
posted by mediareport at 8:55 AM on July 28, 2008


The OP should feel free to "mention" it, but I'm not sure what the point of listing it as a "negative" is.

Still think you've missed the point. That's the advice everyone seems to be wisely giving. I'm not arguing here, the seller should imo mention it. It's not a negative though as it was a good transaction. The negative for the OP was the unwanted preaching, and if he finds it a negative others will and should be notified.

I also think it's possible to leave feedback that addresses it without being necessarily negative. "Product arrived in a timely fashion, as described, and well packaged. It did however take a whole family of Sodomites to wipe off all the Jesus in the package."

Absolutely.
posted by twistedonion at 10:47 AM on July 28, 2008


Chick-Fil-a is owned by a very outspoken Christian man. Knowing that, would you choose not to eat there for that reason?

I would. There's a sandwich shop here which prints a Jesus fish on the menus -- I don't eat there, ever. There's a coffee shop which put up a poster for "Trinity: The Movie" -- I haven't been there since. I skip the Ebay sellers with Bible verses in their listings. And like bink said, anyone with a fish or other Christian symbol on their sign or advertising doesn't get my business.

Obviously, I can't always know for sure whether or not I'm supporting something I don't agree with... but when I do know, you can be damn sure that I'll go elsewhere. As far as I'm concerned, putting these kinds of symbols on otherwise-unrelated business materials is an act of aggression in the culture wars, and I will not consort with the enemy.

I agree with those who suggest politely mentioning this in your Ebay feedback. I always look at the first page or two of feedback, and this is definitely something that I'd like to know about a seller. Likewise, if someone were offended by something I included with an Ebay item, I would want to know about it.
posted by vorfeed at 11:05 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


OP here, this is exactly what I said in the comment field of my positive feedback:

"Great item, quick ship. Religious tract included in package was not appreciated."

This statement is fair, honest, complete, and will probably not affect their business one bit. (Yes, a few of us may think twice about buying from him, but I think that will be counteracted by the folks who think eBay witnessing is great and will want to support him. The vast majority will not care.)

As I've mentioned several times now, I never planned to leave negative feedback; the transaction was good. My entire question revolved around mentioning the tract and my displeasure in the comment on the positive feedback. I think I could have worded that more clearly, as a lot of the shock and dismayed answers in this thread seem to be assuming I am doing the seller some harm.

It's interesting how many of the answers from christians in this thread set up a rhetorical self-persecution. ("You're probably just all writing me off as a religious nut, but...") It is also telling that this has been characterized as an oversensitive reaction to a message "of love". Let me quote from this message of love: "The wicked shall be turned into Hell. Hell is a terrible place where fire is. Sinners will burn in hell FOREVER." So, this god is going to torture me unless I love him. It's not a message of love, that's masochistic threat. If this message came from anywhere other than the bible, you'd think it sick and twisted. (it actually sounds like the plot of Lifetime movie.)

But don't worry, my line of comment hasn't hurt anyone's ability to do business, much less threatened the cultural hegemony of this religion. I'm just glad that I live in a culture where I don't have to pretend I believe something I don't.
posted by Cranialtorque at 5:24 AM on July 29, 2008


this god is going to torture me unless I love him


I don't mean to condone the style or tone of the track, because I can certainly understand why you feel offended by its language. But your synopsis of Christian theology is not quite correct.

Hell is not God's active torture of people, it is actually the opposite - the absolute absence of God. The fire imagery certainly does come from the Bible, but it is more of an expression of the horror of living apart from God than than it is active maliciousness of God towards you. God is the source of all good things: love, hope, peace, etc. Hell is life without any of that. Hell is God leaving people to their own devices. It is getting everything you want, and discovering how empty of a life that is.

Also, God does not send people to Hell because they believe one thing or another. People go to Hell because they want to. They don't want what God has for them. Additionally, He doesn't allow people into Heaven because they do good things or go to church. Its not even because they are a certain religion or not. Its because they accept God's invitation to a restored relationship with Him. This is main main point of the Gospel (which the track obviously doesn't communicate very well, if at all): There are 2 options: You can live life with God, or you can live life without God - its up to you.

A great book on this is "The Great Divorce", one of my favorites from CS Lewis.
posted by jpdoane at 4:15 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What a very rational explanation, jpdoane, thank you.
posted by Cranialtorque at 5:44 PM on July 29, 2008


Hell is not God's active torture of people, it is actually the opposite - the absolute absence of God. The fire imagery certainly does come from the Bible, but it is more of an expression of the horror of living apart from God than than it is active maliciousness of God towards you. God is the source of all good things: love, hope, peace, etc. Hell is life without any of that. Hell is God leaving people to their own devices. It is getting everything you want, and discovering how empty of a life that is.

Your belief in what constitutes hell is yours, not a universally held christian fact. According to the sect you belong to this may be your "truth" but it's certainly not the gospel that what was preached at any of my churches (Presbyterian) when I was a christian. Hell was a very very real place.
posted by twistedonion at 8:49 AM on July 30, 2008


Your belief in what constitutes hell is yours, not a universally held christian fact.

Did I imply that I didn't believe Hell to be real? I believe its real, and that its horrible beyond imagination. What I don't believe in, and which I don't think is very helpful, is medieval imagery of demons running around in red tights poking people with pitchforks.

If you drive recklessly, you will likely get a speeding ticket. This is an artificial constraint put on you to control your behavior. This is how many people (wrongly) think of Hell. That God holds it over us as a threat so that He can control our behavior. It is also true that if you drive recklessly you will likely get into an accident. This is not an arbitrary or artificial punishment, but a natural consequence to your behavior. In the same way, Hell is not an artificial or arbitrary punishment, but rather is the natural consequence of our decisions and behaviors and attitudes. Your perspective on these things certainly affects whether you see the cop as a good guy or a bad guy.

The closest thing I can come up with is a neighbor of mine years ago who was an alcoholic. He was a great guy when he was sober, but he would spend weeks just drinking himself to death, not eating anything. He was completely addicted to this thing that was literally killing him. The only thing that limited his drinking was running out of money. Watching him do that to himself was one of the saddest things I have experienced.

If we are honest with ourselves, theres a bit of that type self destructive behavior in all of us. Christians believe that it is only by God interfering that we don't all succumb to hellish lives like my neighbor. The theological word for God interfering and preventing us from being completely destructive of ourselves and others is grace. Hell is what we get when we reject that grace and God stops interfering and leaves us to ourselves. Its the complete freedom to sit in your apartment and drink yourself into oblivion forever.

Whatever this actually looks like metaphysically (eg. is it an actual place? etc...), I have no idea, and I don't care to speculate. But I do believe that it is quite real, and it is the natural consequence for each of us if we don't respond to God's grace.

The church I attend (Christian Reformed) has very close theological roots to the Presbyterians; they are both protestant reformed, the main difference being one is Scottish and one is Dutch. Their views on Hell are quite close, I expect. While you are certainly right in that there are a diversity of thoughts on what Hell is within the Christian faith, I do believe that I am outlining a fairly orthodox position.
posted by jpdoane at 1:40 PM on July 30, 2008


not a universally held christian fact...Hell was a very very real place

Also, on reading my answers again in light of your question, let me clarify something which I may not have made explicit. Life on Earth can contain aspects of Hell, but "Hell" is an actual 'place' that you exist in after death forever. I did not mean to reduce it to psychology or imply it was just a state of mind.
posted by jpdoane at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2008


Thanks for clarifying. I thought you were implying a state of mind or simply death (which, I believe, is what some peoples views are)
posted by twistedonion at 2:13 AM on July 31, 2008


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