Commentary by Giorgio Migliavacca
It is part of human nature to be imperfect. No sooner eBay introduced their miraculous feedback system there were complaints about the way it did not work in certain situations. Patches and changes were made through the years, but then came the draconian decision to give buyers full power while at the same time removing any right from sellers for leaving negative or neutral feedback about buyers. That’s like having two scales or two sets of laws.
This unfair situation prompted a firm reaction from a seller who posted his opinion on one of eBay’s blogs, it reads as follows: “Now eBay is making the feedback system even WORSE!! It is my understanding that a seller is NOT able to leave a negative feedback for a buyer?? So lemme get this straight… IF a buyer wins an auction from me (or you) and they DO NOT PAY either at all or in a timely manner, I’m now UNABLE to leave them a negative feedback to warn others about the deadbeat bidder?? How the hell is that supposed to be better again??”
Another dissatisfied e-Bay blogger commented: “There are numerous faults and flaws in eBay’s systems, some of which they do eventually fix or improve, but others still continue. It seems pretty clear to us that eBay will fix problems which negatively impact on their revenue and profit flow, but will not use resources to fix problems which do not increase their own profits. We believe this is short-sighted, as it is likely to build up long-term resentment of eBay. We ourselves would fully support any effective competition for eBay which does not exist because they have bought up all major competitors in most countries, and now have a worldwide near-monopoly.”
It has been my experience that there are top sellers with 100% positive feedback who sell questionable items, and on the other hand I have seen competitive, honest sellers being targeted and victimised by the competition who leave negative feedback with the deliberate intention of putting such sellers out of business.
Both as a buyer and seller on internet platforms my reviews are very mixed. Basically the buyers are looking for great bargains and this gets them into trouble. Some of the sellers, on the other hand, know pretty well what the law of the wild west is and they find the loopholes. When they get caught, it is no big deal for them. They re-register as sellers under the wife or some relative or friend’s name. There are websites exposing all of this dirt and the sad thing is that the mega platforms do little or nothing.
In one case, a forger who had been “exiled” found his way back under a different name and with a quickly created “artificial” feedback he offered all of his faking paraphernalia and equipment as one lot in the tens of thousands. This episode is well documented but obviously the law is not equal for all. Which begs the question: “What is going on??” I have also contacted time and again one of the major platforms about forgeries and questionable material being sold on their site and quite often I get no results. Some items are offered over and over cyclically and my horizon is limited to certain collectibles. One wonders what’s going on in other departments. Buyer beware: Caveat Emptor! If you are not a gladiator do not enter the arena.
Buying from those who offer the lowest price may get you into trouble with the law if, for example, you are buying stolen goods. This has happened more often than suspected, so beware. Also why don’t you choose your dentist, lawyer, cardiologist, or fishmonger (for that matter) based on their low fees and prices? Bargain hunting is courting trouble. Double check credentials of internet sellers. Feedback systems are flawed – period. Have one-on-one rapport, get references so you can contact other buyers directly. Deal with a professional with a good track record – a number of internet mega-bazaars sellers are fly-by-night. Cliches such as “satisfaction guaranteed” are all too often not meant in a literal, professional sense.
The bottom line is very simple: the Romans said “To trust is good, to mistrust is better”. The feedback system is badly flawed and it does a real disservice to both buyers and sellers. When shopping, make sure you have done some research locally, when you have confirmed that local sellers do not have what you want or are too expensive, think twice before taking your business elsewhere. What you perceive as a bargain will most likely turn out to be a sour lemon. From personal experience: I bought two pairs of loafers on the internet mega sites, both same size, color, brand, and style. I had bought the same in St. Thomas a few years earlier and they cost $110 the pair. When I needed new ones I did my due diligence research on the net and I bought a pair on eBay for $45…wow, why not buy two? Luckily I was a bit hesitant. But prior to that I had bought a pair from a reputable company website, $85. I tossed the two pairs of shoes in the closet and a year later I took them out to replace the old ones I was wearing. I soon discovered that the $85 was perfectly fine but the $45 pair had the rubber sole pulverizing away like grated cheese.
Although this topic will require pages upon pages, my readers may not have the patience or the time. There remain some final observations to make: first of all, free shipping is a gimmick, shipping is already calculated in the retail price; secondly, sellers on Amazon, eBay, and the like pay a commission from 10 to 15% to the platform, plus any eBay payment is also affected by a 2 to 4% Paypal fee. When you total it up, you can see the seller has to include a 15 to 20% extra to the price to recoup the commissions paid to the platform and to Paypal. Under these conditions it is difficult for the seller to remain competitive and make a profit. If he does he may have to make compromises on the quality of what he is offering. I am not saying this is always the case but I know of several eBay sellers who contacted me to tell me they would give me a discount if I bought directly from them. To prevent this from happening eBay has now instituted a system whereby when you use their message system your message is trashed as soon as you type a website link or an e-mail address. As the French say: Vive La Liberte!! So much for freedom and democracy I would add.