On eBay, the ubiquitous auction venue, every participant has a feedback rating, an integer score of transaction-based comments left by buyers or sellers who have interacted with an individual. The score increases by one for each person who leaves positive feedback (not for each transaction, but each individual), decreases by one for each person who leaves negative feedback, and is unchanged by neutral comments. The rating is intended as a way of measuring a participant's trustworthiness.
The Feedback Advantages
On the plus side, it's a way to warn others about sleazy, inept, unscrupulous, or just plain lame people on eBay, of which there are many. Too, it provides a fairly simple way of letting a buyer or seller know you've received their item or payment. It's fast, it's easy, and even AOL users can figure it out.
The Problems with Feedback
There are many. For starters, all eBay experiences are expected to be divided into three categories: good, bad, and neutral. Real life, even online, is rarely this simple. Secondly, the space for comments is, though necessarily limited, often too small to leave meaningful commentary. The real problem, however, is that far too many sellers operate on a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" philosophy; they say, as one seller I recently dealt with wrote, "I will post feedback for you after you have received [it] and let me know that you are happy with it by leaving feedback for me.". Whether or not I am happy with your product should have no effect on whether you are happy with my performance on eBay as a buyer. If I pay for my auction immediately, which I did, and you are happy with my ability to pay and communicate clearly and quickly, leave me the freakin' feedback already. The corrolary, of course, is that many people get screwed on eBay and are afraid to leave negative feedback, because they fear, think, or sometimes know that the other party will "neg" them. This is one of the biggest problems eBay has right now, and one which they show no intentions of resolving. In many instances people are treading near the fine line of extortion, and for what? A lousy single-point feedback boost or decrease that's no more meaningful than any other individual feedback? Are online auctions warping peoples' minds?
Is Ebay's Feedback System Totally Broken?
No, but it's only firing on three gummy cylinders. In my view, they need to add counters for how many transactions a person has successfully made as a seller, and how many they have made as a buyer, and clearly divide feedback based on the two. Many worthless sellers, who peddle broken junk at high prices and are slow to deliver, are quick to pay and generally unobjectionable - as buyers. The bottom line is, Feedback is broken, and eBay needs to fix it. It doesn't really matter to me how they fix it, so long as they do. Until that time, though, tread cautiously, and take feedback ratings with a grain or two of salt.
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