"The trouble with the global village is
all the global village idiots."
- Paul Ginsparg
biggest flaw (and in some ways, the biggest strength) of
eBay's feedback system is the risk of retaliation.
You leave negative or neutral feedback for someone, and they will
— without considering the circumstances or
who's at fault — do the same for you. That is
the fear, and that is the reason why many people simply let problems
But the risk of retaliation also reminds people that they
are responsible for their own words; if there were no consequences,
people would leave negative feedback with abandon, and
we'd have even more problems on our hands.
I won't deny that the risks sometimes outweigh the
gains. Sometimes a bidder has a seemingly legitimate reason for not
paying. Perhaps a seller is inexperienced, and while a particular
transaction might not have gone very smoothly, it
wasn't due to any malice by the seller. Do these
people necessarily deserve blemishes on their records? Perhaps not,
but they don't necessarily deserve praise, either.
In other words, sometimes the best move is no move at all.
Who Goes First
Often the fear of retaliation can work to your advantage. Say
you're a seller, and someone has just purchased an
item from you. The bidder pays in full, and you go ahead and reward
the bidder with positive feedback. But when the bidder receives the
item, he's not happy. Since you've
already played your hand, the bidder then feels free to file negative
feedback, or simply threatens to do so.
On the other hand, if you withhold
feedback, the bidder will be much more
likely to pursue a diplomatic solution to any problems that come up.
Instead of leaving negative feedback, the bidder might politely
request a refund, or, better yet, might even go away and not bother
you at all.
For this reason, a wise seller will usually wait until the customer
has left positive feedback, or at least wait for confirmation that
the item has been received and the buyer is happy.
But does the bidder have anything to worry about? If an otherwise
happy bidder leaves positive feedback for the seller,
isn't there still risk of negative feedback from the
In a word, no. Once a seller has shipped, the seller has everything
he or she might've wanted. Unless the bidder does
something grievously wrong, the seller has no reason to leave
anything but positive feedback.
If There's Doubt
Not everybody retaliates. Some people never even leave feedback,
negative or otherwise. If you're worried about
retaliation, there's a pretty easy way to predict
what any given user will do. Just go to the user's
feedback profile page and click Feedback About Others (underneath the
summary box) to view all feedback left by that
Here, you'll be able to easily tell how diligent
someone is about leaving feedback, how prone she is to leaving
negative feedback, and how likely she is to retaliate if a complaint
is lodged against her.