Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why eBay is not doing enough to prevent fraud and why feedback is completely useless

I love eBay like the next shopaholic who gets tired of designer handbags. A friend introduced me to eBay in 2004. I have just split up with my ex who moved out having left lots of DVDs and CDs and quite frankly, Rod Stuart was asking to be sold.  Since then I have eBayed often and apart from being scammed once when buying a phone, I have had a pleasure to deal with some great eBayers.

Before I go into eBay’s reluctance to ‘clean house’ I will acknowledge that they do offer money back, if you paid through PayPal and you get scammed, but quite frankly the fee charged by both companies is steep enough that this is to be expected. However, I don’t think eBay is an honest business and whilst some responsibility falls on ever evolving scams, some of the responsibility falls on how eBay deals with customer complains.

Here is my example. Recently I was selling lots of old stuff and have sold one of my items for a good price. When I went to send an invoice, I noticed that PayPal asked me to recalculate the postage. Upon closer inspection I realised that my buyer was Romanian and I have specified clearly that I do not ship outside UK.  This is bad enough, surely a filter according to shipping could be put in place so that timewasters who clearly don’t read the listings would not be able to bid.  Having raised a case to cancel the transaction, I am still waiting for the buyer to respond. Needless to say that relisting an item is dodgy in itself as it raises red flag over possible shill bidding and thus is often avoided.  And this is what happened to me.

So having looked closely into the buyer’s feedback I find some shocking truths.  Let’s first look at his feedback at the glance.

This person has a score of 45 feedbacks. Looking at the positive feedback, it appears that he has 50 in the last 12 months. Where are the 5 missing feedbacks?

Going deeper into his feedback, they have no feedback as a seller or any feedback left for others. This person’s account was opened in May this year and they already have 45 feedbacks. Now I go into feedback as a buyer. Remember, eBay changed rules about leaving negative feedback for buyers. Initially a good idea as I have heard of cases where bad sellers retaliate and leave negative feedback for paying buyers, this feature is now a hotbed for fraud because it allows inflation of feedback. Even if your buyer has not paid, you cannot leave them negative feedback. So the angry sellers can only leave a positive feedback and use the text box to vent their frustration.

This is the positive feedback of this person as a buyer. Hardly positive.

Needless to say that I have reported this seller when I have not heard from them regarding cancelling of the transaction. Polite automated email from eBay ensued informing me that they may or may not take any action against the person reported. That they carefully balance my feedback with those of other sellers to make a decision.

Well, I have calculated that out of the 50 feedbacks, only roughly about 12 are those of happy sellers and the rest are from people like me, complaining about this person ruining our sales. Also I never quite know if eBay charges me for auctions that end in people like this bidding and not paying. 

Two weeks later, the same person has notched up several more negative-positive feedbacks.  I doubt that eBay reads any reports sent by the customers, and if I am wrong about that, it then beggars belief why they are not doing anything about it. They are openly condoning fraud as well as causing hours of unnecessary nuisance and stress to sellers and buyers. When I became an eBayer, the concept was clean, simple and it had credibility. There was a sense that it is professional, that auctions are binding. Now, it seems that one can pretty much do anything.

As for, as one of the angry sellers eloquently put it in their feedback, Di*#head buyer, it is not hard to guess that this is someone who is expertly building their feedback so they can use it to add credibility to other scams. There is a small chance that they have no clue how to use eBay but in either case, eBay should strive to remove people like this swiftly, making the experience what it once was, a professional business.  Scammers often weigh scams in terms of cost effectiveness, so why is eBay making it so cost effective to use one of their platforms to commit fraud?