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eBay Hacks, 2nd Edition by David A. Karp

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Hacks 1–9

eBay is a community of buyers and sellers, not just a mere web site or piece of software. It's a complex social system of which you are an active member. Success on eBay depends not only on your ability to master the technical tasks of bidding and selling, but on your ability to communicate with other eBay members and your willingness to contribute to the community in a positive way.

Feedback is the basis of trust on eBay. Each eBay member has his or her own member profile, a public collection of comments left by other eBay members. Each individual feedback comment is tied to a transaction in which the particular member took part. Feedback comments are marked either positive, negative, or neutral, and are added accordingly in the summary that appears at the top of the page.

A member's feedback score is the number representing the sum of all positive comments, minus the sum of all negative comments. (Note, however, that multiple comments left by a single user will never count more than one point.) This number, shown in parentheses after a member's user ID, is a useful tool in determining the trustworthiness and experience level of any given eBay member.


It's important to note that the feedback score alone does not give you a sufficient picture of any member's personal history. Before you do business with any other member, make sure to click the member's feedback score and appraise the profile [Hack #1] as a whole.

Feedback is taken very seriously on eBay, and with good reason. A seller who deals honestly and fairly with his customers will earn lots of positive feedback over the years. In turn, that good reputation will earn the seller more money from subsequent listings. Likewise, a buyer with a good reputation is more likely to get the benefit of the doubt from a seller (should anything go wrong with a transaction) than a buyer with a bad reputation.

And as you'd expect, dishonest or unreliable sellers and deadbeat bidders are likely to earn a higher percentage of negative feedback, and thus have a harder time doing business on eBay. All of this contributes to a system that allows you to buy from and sell to other eBay members who are otherwise complete strangers.

Leaving Feedback

You can leave feedback for another member only if you are both involved in a transaction, namely a completed auction. The actual task of leaving feedback is quite simple; simply go to the completed auction page and click Leave Feedback. Choose a rating (positive, neutral, or negative) and type a "review" in the space provided. You have only 80 characters in which to explain what the other eBay member did right (or wrong), so make every word count.

Here are some guidelines for writing appropriate feedback:


As long as a transaction goes reasonably well, you should always leave positive feedback for the other party.

If you're a bidder, you'll want to reward the seller for shipping quickly, responding to questions promptly, and describing the item accurately; for example:

  • "Quick shipping, great deal, overall friendly service. A credit to eBay."

  • "Item better than described; trustworthy seller. Highly recommended!"

As a seller, you'll likewise want to leave positive feedback for bidders who pay right away.

  • "Lightning-fast payment. Reliable buyer. Thanks for your business!"

  • "Quick to pay, friendly emails. This eBayer makes selling a pleasure!"


Negative feedback is unfortunately overused on eBay, and is, in most cases, unnecessary.

If at all possible, always try to resolve the problem with the other party instead of leaving negative feedback. If you're a buyer, for example, and you're not happy with the transaction, contact the seller to see if he will make it right before you give up and post negative feedback. Not only will you avoid possible feedback retaliation, but you might stand to get some money out of it as well.


One of the most common causes of negative feedback is a breakdown in communication, often for purely technical reasons. For instance, a single misconfigured spam filter may inadvertently delete a seller's payment instructions or a buyer's question. It's your responsibility to make sure your email gets through to the other party [Hack #9] .

As a bidder, you should leave negative feedback only if you paid and never received the item, if the seller significantly misrepresented the item and did not offer a refund, or if the seller defrauded you in some way. (Note that unless the seller is also the manufacturer of the item, it's not fair to leave negative feedback simply because you don't like the item you purchased. And remember, you can always resell the item if you're not happy.) For example:

  • "Seller sent damaged item; completely uncooperative about refund."

  • "Warning: seller took money and never shipped. Had to dispute charge."

If you're a seller, you should leave negative feedback only for deadbeat bidders who don't pay. (It's not acceptable to penalize a bidder for returning an item as a result of your mistake.) For example:

  • "Bid high and then disappeared! No response to numerous emails."

  • "Beware! Bidder paid with a bad check!"


While neutral comments don't affect the feedback score or positive feedback percentage, they carry the stigma of a complaint. For this reason, leave neutral feedback only when you have a legitimate complaint but can't bring yourself to penalize the member with negative feedback. For example, neutral feedback might be appropriate for a bidder who repeatedly does not follow payment instructions, or a seller who packs an item so poorly that it arrives damaged. A few examples:

  • "Poor packing job, shipping took a long time. Seller slow to respond."

  • "Seller listing products he doesn't have. Waited a month for a refund."

  • "Condition wasn't great; seller too busy to care. Not recommended."

  • "Bidder took a month to send payment, but eventually paid in full."

Overall, you should remember the purpose of the feedback system when writing feedback for another member. The point of negative and neutral comments is to serve as warnings to other eBay members and to help show a pattern of misconduct. Unless the other person caused you a real problem or cost you money unnecessarily, your feedback comment should be positive and should reward the person for what they did right. Don't use negative or neutral feedback frivolously; for example, don't dock a seller for putting a mailing label on crooked.

Finally, never use feedback as a means of coercion, and don't let other eBay members blackmail you by threatening to leave negative feedback. Any buyer or seller who lets another member get away with murder—simply because they don't want that person to retaliate with negative feedback—does the entire eBay community a disservice.

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