Negative feedback on eBay
October 2, 2004 9:18 AM   Subscribe

What do you do about an eBay transaction that didn't quite go well 100%, but the seller aggressively gives negative feedback for anyone that doesn't spill accolades?

I've been trying to find a certain hard-to-get tivo hack, so I bought some guy's "hacking TiVo" CD for a few bucks on ebay (hey, it's an experiment in tivo hacking for my tivo site). His description contains a lot of the latest info and makes it sound like it'll be an easy to use CD.

What I got was crap. Just a big bunch of pointless zip files, some forum postings copy and pasted that don't contain new info, and the main readme file is corrupted and can't be opened.

I've never left negative feedback and never given it, but I was about to leave a neutral feedback today saying the product wasn't as described, when I decided to look at his other feedback just to make sure. Then I found this (3rd one down) which is exactly what I would have said. If you go to that guy's feedback, the guy selling the tivo CD left a negative feedback in response to a neutral one. That kind of defies the "rules of engagement" and lets me know the tivo CD guy is an asshole.

Now here's the dilemma: Other people should know the CD sucks and isn't what was described, but I don't want a negative feedback over it. Should I just ignore it and move on, or leave a neutral (or negative which seems more fitting) feedback and incur this guy's wrath?

It seems like "grade inflation" to ignore or give the guy positive feedback, but I don't know if the truth is worth getting a black mark on my permanent record over.
posted by mathowie to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
Ouch. Just looking at the auction page alone conjures up images of a hastily-burned CD-R.

Now that you've publiclly mentioned your complaint on AskMe, Numbuh One, I'm afraid the seller could easily find out and give you negative feed, and perhaps even complain on other fora or to eBay itself ( for all the likely good that'll do). ;)

At the worst, one negative feedback isn't a crisis; at worst, you could create a new alias/ID via's login. If you're really passionate about the matter, however, alert eBay's "Safe Harbor" or whatever their admins are calling themselves these days. Explain your the nautre of the item being sold, and your "journalistic interest" in the matter, given your involvement at PVRblog. No doubt an amenable agreement could be worked out to your liking. Good luck!
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2004

Whoops. Pour proofreeding on my part. Sorry.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2004

You're allowed to give a response to negative feedback. I don't know how much a difference it makes, but when I got an item that was exactly as described, but the seller refused to answer e-mails as to whether it had been shipped and took quite a long time getting it in the mail, I left neutral feedback that said that.

He gave me a negative review, and I left a response saying "Annoyed because I told the truth about A+ merch, D- cust ser," or something along those lines. I haven't had any trouble buying anything from anybody since because of it.
posted by headspace at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2004

If I were you I'd leave negative feedback and tell the truth, the other eBay users need to know it. When he leaves you bad feedback, you do have the option to comment on it right under his feedback of you. One bad feedback in the mix with a bunch of good feedback, along with an explanation explaning that this guy is a jerk should make people overlook the one negative feedback left.

posted by pwb503 at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

Start a discussion on the topic at the eBay Talk Boards. This will benefit others. Smart Dalek is right, one negative feedback won't hurt especially if you post a carefully-worded response/explanation.
posted by azul at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2004

I would first try and work something out with the seller. Ask him for your money back for returning the CD. Explain your beliefs about his product/advertising to him as plainly and diplomatically as possible.

If he's reluctant to to comply, ask him what he thinks is reasonable since you're not happy with the product. If he says it's a "done deal" or "too bad" mention (don't threaten) that are considering leaving poor feedback. If he says he'll do the same thing to you (or just does it), carefully word your rebuttal and perhaps include a url to a longer explanation on your site (and if indeed all the s/w on the disc is just stuff d/l off the net and/or is public domain, put the contents of the disc on your site and link your rebuttal to it). In addition, if you mention pre-feedback that you run a popular Tivo-related site and will leave a review of his product and character, he may see that as too much and just offer the refund.

That said, you may not want a refund because it's more important to warn others. In my opinion, if the seller is willing to negate the deal than you have to assume that anyone he "screws" with his product has the same potential for getting their money back as you did and that he's "reasonable" in that way.

If you don't want the $ and are insistent that he get negative feedback for false advertising, then you'll have to live with your own negative feedback as based on his history, he'll definitely leave it. (Remember to use your url in a rebuttal.)

My only other suggestion is to wait. eBay only allows feedback for 90 days (confirm that this hasn't changed). Mark your calendar. On the 90th day, very close to your auction close time, leave him feedback and hope that he doesn't see it before the time is up and he won't be able to reciprocate. I know someone who's done this twice and it worked both times.

If he does end up leaving you negative feedback, explain your situation in your rebuttal and perhaps provide a url to a lengthier explanation
posted by dobbs at 11:08 AM on October 2, 2004

Oh, one other thing. I advise you that on future transactions, if you're paying by paypal, that you immediately mail the person after paying and say (in a more polite way): "I sent the $ and have provided a confirmed address. Please leave me feedback."

I always try and get my feedback before I get my item. The majority of people I've dealt with do in fact give me feedback as soon as they get their $. I've only once been told outright that "I only do feedback after getting feedback myself." But then, they're selling legit products.
posted by dobbs at 11:11 AM on October 2, 2004

I'd leave the neg feedback and when he retaliates, add a note to it in your profile. To threaten negative feeback as retaliation creates the ebay version of false advertising.

If you have good feedback save for one negative, it's not going to affect your ability to buy.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2004

Ha! I just might try the 90 day trick.

The guy sent me the corrupted file, which basically explains what the file structure means, though he really is just packaging and selling something you can freely find online. I don't really care about the ten bucks in the transaction, but still feel like his description doesn't quite match up with the reality.
posted by mathowie at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2004

It's definitely worth calling more attention to this guy's MO. The only reason to leave neutral feedback instead of negative feedback would be to try to prevent his negative feedback in response. If he's going to do that any way, go out guns blazing. Most prospective traders in the future will not only look at the red mark, but also the comments that go with it. Just make sure your comments are the more succinct, the more literate, the more polite and the more truthful (I'm guessing this won't be a problem).
posted by nthdegx at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2004

Ha! I just might try the 90 day trick.

Just confirm with eBay that it's still 90 days and maybe email them and ask if the ability to leave feedback hits on day 90 or 91 and then set your calendar for 89 or 90 appropriately.

Also, I disagree with the others that even one negative reflects badly on you. I think people who are more likely to leave negatives for people who already have negatives rather than give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I'm just paranoid.
posted by dobbs at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2004

Hate to say it mathowie, but give up.

eBay just doesn't care about anybody at all.

I've been trying to fight an idiotic suspension for 2 weeks now and nobody at eBay could give a crap. Nobody even reads emails there. Hell, I ended up getting voicemail to the company president, and that was the best reply I ever got, basically, he doesn't fix those sorts of problems.

If the president doesn't fix it, who does?

If you give up and want a list of email adresses and phone numbers for eBay, I have them. They're all a waste of time, though. Nobody on the other end of those addresses can do squat.

If you complain too much to eBay staff, they'll just suspend you.

The company is out of control.

My suggestion: Just start scamming back. eBay doesn't care at all about anyone, and, IMHO, they're on the fast-track to takeoverville, eventually.
posted by shepd at 4:15 PM on October 2, 2004

Um, huh?

Just wait for him to leave feedback first, obviously -- you might get him to fall for dobbs' seller's "I only leave feedback after I getting feedback myself". eBay has got to the point where that's basically the only way for the clueful to defend themselves.

eBay is a scammer's haven nowadays. They don't do anything about anything, and it's easy to threaten people with The Dreaded Negative Feedback. I know people who've lost lots of money on transactions, complained long and hard to eBay but got nowhere.
posted by reklaw at 6:05 PM on October 2, 2004

I don't consider this one guy I found to be worthy of wrath from eBay (the company), so I'll probably wait it out.

I'm not surprised eBay is unresponsive, they have something like 30 million active users, so I bet you have to do something pretty darn drastic to even show up on anyone's radar.
posted by mathowie at 6:28 PM on October 2, 2004

dobbs' advice seems spot on however, although I have never tried it, the 90 day trick from what I have read on the community boards is a myth. There is at least one way to leave feedback in over 90 days, experienced ebayers know this.

Check feedback and just as importantly, the way somebody responds to and handles negative feedback before you bid.

You can leave a neg or neutral if you want however you will almost certainly receive a neg in return. Going through Ebay's system, although it sometimes seems to run you around in circles, and reporting people is often more helpful. Three strikes and they are out.

You have to choose your battles at Ebay. I probably wouldn't bother with this one, just chalk it up to experience and not leave feedback, but you would definitely be within your rights to do so.

First you have to explore all avenues to resolve the matter, which I guess in this case would mean a refund. This means you have to pull their contact details if they don't respond to email. They aren't responsible for postage costs as such, although it's a nice gesture on their part.

Where he has written "No warranty or returns are offered." Well, that's a warning sign not to deal with this person right there, even though I'm pretty sure he's not legally in the right there. For such a person, just knowing you aren't happy with the sale might result in a preemptory neg.

I think you should post your question to Ebay's help boards as well. I've always found the community help on Ebay to be excellent.
posted by lucien at 6:32 PM on October 2, 2004

Ha! I just might try the 90 day trick.

Sounds like an openning for a niche product: Negative feed back sniping.
posted by Mitheral at 8:18 PM on October 2, 2004

I've just had this problem myself. As others have suggested, I always leave *useful* feedback, and my approach is: it's clear that the problem is the ranting seller, and not me, and anyone who can't figure that out from our respective feedback details is someone I probably don't want to be involved in a transaction with anyway.

Perhaps that's too Ivory Tower an approach, but it hasn't burned me yet.
posted by baylink at 8:37 PM on October 2, 2004

I would think you could contact eBay and have the entire auction taken down.

I may be mistaken, but doesn't eBay forbid selling CD-Rs to begin with because of bootleg issues?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:49 PM on October 2, 2004

If you have good feedback save for one negative, it's not going to affect your ability to buy.

Or even sell. I have negative feedback I received from one transaction that went bad, and it hasn't been a problem at all. I've even bid on auctions that said "nobody with negative feedback!" and been fine.
posted by weston at 10:40 PM on October 2, 2004

My advice would be to either ignore the seller and leave no feedback, or to leave the negative comment (and expect a negative in return) and live with it.

Personally, as a buyer/seller, I don't look at just how many negatives a person has, I look at how they deal with any negatives they've been given. If you write something direct and to the point when you give a negative and respond clearly and politely in answer to a negative you've been given, you'd still get my business. If someone gives you a negative and you post a vitriolic response, I tend to stay away...why buy from someone who's going to be a potential problem?

As well, be careful if you're going to attempt feedback sniping. My understanding is that 90 days is the minimum that you have to leave feedback, but that your ability to leave feedback is not timed for exactly 90 days after the second the auction ended.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 7:38 AM on October 3, 2004

Maybe I'm just naive, but the whole "feedback" system at eBay seems whacked to me. I'm suspicious of anyone who has "perfect" feedback anyway - that's just not realistic. I tend to look at it from a propotional view: so, this "matthowie" character who has a couple dozen positive feedbacks and one negative just means there's one time out of thirty stuff didn't go perfectly. Big freakin' deal, welcome to real life.

If you had a bad experience with this guy just reselling shit from freely available online sources, you should tell other people about him because, well, that's just sucky. If he retaliates, people you might sell to in the future might actually respect the fact that you want to tell the truth (and besides, it's not like a seller can decide he's not going to sell you an item you won in an auction, right?)
posted by JollyWanker at 11:05 AM on October 3, 2004

I'm suspicious of anyone who has "perfect" feedback anyway - that's just not realistic.

Huh? How do you figure? It's pretty simple to have 100% in my opinion:

-- pay promptly if you win.
-- describe items accurately (even if it won't be to your benefit) if you sell.
-- ship promptly after payment received and don't profit on shipping costs.

I've followed those three rules and have 235 positives and zero negs (all but 20 of those since jan of this year). I've also only had positive experiecnces as a buyer.

As for the 90 day thing... y'all may be right that it's no 100% accurate. As I said, I do know someone who says he's done it twice and the person never left feedback back for him, which he and I assumed was because they "couldn't", but could just have easily been that they knew they were in the wrong and didn't bother. No way to know for sure.

eBay is a scammer's haven nowadays.

It's also a wonderful place to get items for cheap and sel stuff you don't want. Though I wish eBay were better at handling bootleggers, I find it rather chicken little-esque when people claim it's full of scammers. Maybe it's because I mostly buy DVDs and most fraud seems to be computer/software related, but I love the place and have literally saved thousands of dollars with it this year alone.
posted by dobbs at 2:07 PM on October 3, 2004

Matt, why value YOUR feedback 'rating' so much when you obviously didn't base your purchase on HIS feedback?

That said, I love the idea of honest feedback sniping.
posted by DBAPaul at 12:58 PM on October 4, 2004

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