Mac Musings

eBay Feedback: Proceed with Caution

Daniel Knight - 2007.06.07

One of our readers and a seller we link to in some of our price trackers ran into a big problem with eBay recently; it's something every eBay user should know about.

"Dave" ordered a used Apple keyboard from a second-hand Mac dealer using eBay. The keyboard arrived very used - dirty, in fact, including what appeared to be a chocolate smudge on the Return key.

This wasn't at all what he had expected, and it turns out that "Used Macs" had used a stock photo in their eBay listing, not a photo of the keyboard being auctioned.

It took several days for Used Macs to respond to three emails and a phone call from Dave, which is normally considered poor form, although in this case some of that was over the weekend, when many online businesses are closed.

Dave asked for a replacement keyboard, Used Macs countered by offering to refund half the cost, and Dave "reluctantly accepted this".

In the interim, Dave had given Used Macs negative feedback on eBay because of the dirty keyboard and for not using a photo of the item being sold. Dave agreed to change this once things were resolved and ended up giving Used Macs a positive rating.

On eBay, your feedback rating is your reputation. Anything less than 95% positive feedback makes you seem suspicious.

One Big Mess

Used Macs responded by giving Dave a positive rating - but an hour later another Used Macs employee posted a follow-up comment calling Dave a coward, an "eBay lowlife", and a loser.

It turns out this employee hadn't known how "Bob", the owner of Used Macs, had resolved the issue with Dave. This employee had been using "retaliatory negative feedback" to get customers to retract negative feedback, which borders on extortion, and, according to Bob, he had been doing it without authorization.

The problem is that neither Dave nor Bob can remove this nasty comment, and eBay seems unwilling to do so without a federal court order.

Part of the problem with eBay is that they are very hard to contact. According to Bob, it's impossible to get them on the phone, which forces you to use email or fax. Both Dave and Bob are very frustrated by the whole experience.


First, if the item you receive isn't the item in the photo posted on eBay, the listing is in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act unless they note that this is a stock photo.

Second, be quick to praise and slow to condemn. If you have issues with a seller (or buyer), try to resolve them before you post negative feedback. While you can add additional feedback later on, the original comments remain.

Third, be very, very careful about letting anyone else access your eBay account. Not only can they bid on things in your name, they can also leave feedback that makes a huge mess.

Fourth, realize that eBay is big business and apparently can't be swayed by anything less than a court order. There should be no reason for them not to remove feedback when both parties agree to it, and they should be willing to use the telephone, not just fax and email. It's just poor form.

In the end, Dave switched his feedback profile to private, which means nobody can read any comments about him, positive or negative. All because eBay refuses to remove one negative feedback that both the buyer and seller want removed.