An Online Interview with the Voice of eBay Radio Jim “Griff” Griffith

Posted on August 16, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , |

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Recently, I was reading an eBay community board where “Griff”, Jim Griffith, was on the receiving end of some pretty harsh words from angry eBay sellers.  I have often disagreed with comments Griff has made online and on his radio shows but I have never doubted his sincerity when it comes to helping the eBay community.  Personally, I have never met Griff and I contacted Griff only once by email  asking for assistance as an eBay seller.  I had an issue that had gone unresolved for more than 6 months.  As a last resort effort, I emailed Griff.  Two weeks after I contacted Griff, the matter was resolved in its entirety.  I never received a response back from Griff acknowledging receipt of the original email or telling me that the situation had been corrected but having the matter taken care of was more than enough for me.
 
After reading the Seller Central Board and some of Griff’s comments, I decided to send an email to Griff directly to ask him questions and this is what he had to say:
 
1. Griff, I have heard you say many times that eBay is your life and I think that is a pretty accurate statement.  You are currently serving as Dean of eBay Education, roving ambassador, eBay spokesperson, and you are the host of eBay Radio.  As the “Voice of eBay”, you are a person that the community applauds when they feel great about eBay and you are also a person they love to hate when they are angry with eBay.  How are you dealing with the change in public sentiment about eBay and how is it affecting you personally?  
 
Griff’s Response: 
First, let me thank you for providing me the opportunity to answer questions.

There has always been, shall we say, heated discussion on the topic of “eBay,” both on and off the site. It is not surprising. When people believe passionately about something, they tend to argue just as passionately for or against that something; in this case, the changes we are making to the marketplace. Most are arguing “against “so the level of angst is also not surprising. This is a challenging year for eBay sellers. On top of their regular tasks and challenges of running their businesses in this unsure economy, we are requiring sellers to adapt to momentous changes. Stress levels are understandably high among many sellers and many of them are fearful and angry at eBay for bringing this fear and uncertainty into their lives. If taking it out on me helps alleviate even a small amount of that fear and stress and anger, have at it, I am at your service, (especially if it means you won’t take it out on your customers!) By the way,  I never take attacks on myself personally. It’s part of the job of being “out there.”  Besides, it’s not about me. It’s about sellers and their future success. I focus on them. The rest rolls away.

Some have said I am only supporting these changes because my job “requires” I do. Let me be perfectly clear. I have been with eBay since 1996. We went public in 1998. I don’t need the job (in fact, in the last few years, I have had many opportunities for a lot more compensation). I am still here because I am passionate about this company.  I believe in the values for which it is has always stood and for which it continues to stand. I admire and respect the talented and dedicated people with whom I work and from whom I continue to learn.  I love the big, diverse community it represents and serves. So yes, it hurts me a bit when someone refers to eBay negatively. But said statements only reaffirm my commitment to changing that perspective in any way I can. It’s what anyone in similar circumstances would do if they believe strongly in something.
 
 
2. You have expressed strong support for the recent eBay changes.  You have also made the point that while each eBay community member has their own personal perspective from which they can evaluate these changes, you believe you have a more accurate view of the overall eBay situation and why these changes are so necessary.  So, my question is this: Prior to 2008, what were the biggest challenges facing the good eBay sellers (the ones eBay wants to keep) and what will the recent eBay changes end up doing to make the eBay marketplace a better venue for the sellers that eBay hopes will stay and continue to offer a great variety of products and good customer service?
 
Griff’s Response:
Back in January when I learned about the first round of changes, I decided, on my own, to step out in full support of them. No one here at eBay asked me to do so. I supported them then and I continue to support them now because I believe they are absolutely necessary if eBay’s marketplace is going to succeed and recapture its initial growth and vitality. Although I knew my public stance would make a lot of people unhappy, I believe that as a long time eBay member and employee, it was my duty to sellers to step out in full public support of the changes, to provide clarification about the necessity of the changes and to offer assistance to any and all sellers needing help with adapting to the new environment on eBay.

Prior to the start of 2008, the biggest challenge facing all eBay sellers was a not-so-obvious fact: good loyal buyers were leaving eBay at an alarming rate and the rate of new buyers coming to eBay was decreasing. When the numbers were shared internally, well, let’s just say it gave everyone a bit of a shock. The rates of decline for both types of buyers was unsustainable. A marketplace without buyers means a marketplace without sellers. A marketplace without sellers ceases to exist.

We asked those buyers who had stopped shopping on eBay why they did so (in an extensive survey) and the information was as shocking as the numbers; One top of a list of factors (bad searching experience, excessive shipping costs, etc) sat the number one reason: receiving a negative feedback from a seller (after paying for an item, receiving less-than-satisfactory service and leaving an appropriate rating for them.) Thus the change to how feedback and ratings now work.

Since then, we’ve introduced a completely new Finding mechanism for buyers to locate items of interest quickly and accurately, a better trust system with ratings and feedback, lower shipping costs (through incentives to sellers) and, based on what buyers told us they now demand from an online marketplace, a better buyer-focused experience. It’s still too early in the game to expect dramatic results but the numbers with regards to both new and returning buyers so far, are more than encouraging.  

I should make something clear: we don’t blame sellers for the decline in buyer numbers. We blame ourselves. As custodians of the entire marketplace, we should have been more proactive, seen the trends earlier and instituted these changes several years ago but quite frankly, all of us (eBay and sellers) were still enjoying the heady atmosphere of the initial ten years of eBay unprecedented success; when buyers were so excited and fascinated with the whole idea of the internet and online shopping, that they were somewhat forgiving of lapses in the golden rule of commerce: the customer is always right.  

No more.

Buyers are now demanding a return to the old rule and they are shopping where the rule applies and abandoning markets where the rule is not in force. They also have more choices than they did just a few years ago. However, I am more optimistic about eBay than I have ever been. Specifically, I know that these changes will result in a better marketplace for all good sellers, starting now and growing more so as we move through this coming Holiday season and into 2009.

Still, my belief in this certainty and a $1.50 will buy you a small latte. What I think or believe doesn’t matter. My explanations might assure some sellers, but they definitely won’t assure or appease all or even most of those sellers who are unhappy with eBay’s strategic moves.  This is not surprising. The proof -which is still forthcoming for many sellers – is or will be in higher sales volumes, lower rates of unnecessary, time-consuming issues like non-paying buyers and better tools and features that will make a seller’s daily tasks easier and more efficient. That is our goal. Bring more buyers to eBay sellers so they can realize higher rates of successful selling and eliminate as many inefficiencies as possible (including the UPI problem. We are working on some intriguing ideas. Stay tuned.)
 
 
3. I consider myself to be a “good” seller who has approximately 35,000 feedback for 3 selling I.D.s with feedback percentages ranging from 99.7% to 99.9% with neutrals calculated in (99.8% to 100% without neturals) and I am personally more unhappy with eBay this year than I have been in all the other years combined.  There are a great many changes I disagree with and while I can understand why some changes were necessary, I think eBay completely failed in the actual process of implementing those changes.  
It makes perfect sense to me that underperforming sellers would not like these new eBay changes.  But in your opinion, given that you have interaction with a number of different sellers, why do you think so many “good” sellers continue to be upset by the recent changes?
 
Griff’s Response: 
An underperforming seller (and I mean a chronic underperforming seller) is not going to last on eBay and wouldn’t have lasted even if nothing had changed. Underperforming sellers know this so we aren’t really hearing much from them. We have been showing the worst of this group the door since early last year.  But many good sellers (which are the vast majority I am proud to say) are upset and they are voicing their anger and concern because these changes pretty scary for many long time sellers on eBay. I know it’s a cliché at this point but change is never easy. It’s doubly difficult when a person’s business is on the line. Sellers who sell full time on eBay (or even many part time sellers) spend long hours listing, managing listings, responding to customers, dealing with customer issues, shipping issues, payment issues… The list is endless. Anyone thinking of a full time business selling online or on eBay needs to understand it is not a sit-at-home-and-make-money business. As a seller yourself, you know that it takes incredible amounts of effort  and dedication to run your own business. This isn’t about changing an interface or web form. It’s about money, specifically, their income, their very survival in what are increasingly, difficult economic times. Quite frankly, I would be more distressed by a seller who wasn’t at least a little concerned about adapting to change. So I am not at all surprised or indifferent to the angst these changes are causing quite a few sellers. For many, it is very frightening since change also breeds uncertainty. This hurts. I know this. I wish it didn’t. That’s why I extend the offer of whatever assistance and guidance I can provide to any seller who needs it, especially during these times of dramatic change.
 
 “… I think eBay completely failed in the actual process of implementing those changes….”  Although we didn’t “fail completely”  (else we wouldn’t be seeing the uptick in buyers returning to eBay) I concede that , the implementation, messaging and follow up regarding the changes has been less than stellar. Mistakes were definitely made and for those, I apologize on behalf of my colleagues at eBay. The urgency of getting the gist of the changes in place as fast as possible came with this risk. It is a learning process to be sure. However, as a consequence, you will see a marked improvement in the way any future site, feature or policy changes are announced and implemented.
 
4. You recently made the comment on eBay Seller Central: “I’ve reviewed thousands of disputes between buyers and sellers for the last 12 years and in every single case, the “rude” behavior on the part of a buyer was always precipitated by unprofessional conduct on the part of the seller who assumed intent on the basis of an initial buyer email and responded accordingly.”  That statement has drawn the ire of many sellers.  Would you care to elaborate so that we can better understand your comment?
 
Although I stand by the statement, I should have added more detail in the post and I may still do so (thank you for the opportunity to do so here).  I just provided a more in-depth elaboration in an email to a member so I hope you won’t mind, if in the interest of time, I copy and paste and abridged version of that answer here:

In my 12 years with eBay (I was eBay’s first customer support rep starting in November of 1996), I have answered well over 100,000 customer emails. I have witnessed (and often moderated) easily tens of thousands of disputes between buyers and sellers.

Sadly, in every single case (and I am not being hyperbolic here) where there was a dispute between a good seller and a good buyer (defined as a buyer who either paid or who was intending to pay and was not attempting to defraud or extort the seller), the reason for the dispute was always due to misunderstanding and confusion caused by fear and suspicion on the part of seller or buyer. Said fear and suspicion then escalated between both parties into a full fledged dispute (with resulting non payment, negative feedback and sometimes, a long drawn out email and public forum battle between the two parties.)

(I am not counting the incredibly small number of dispute cases where the buyer (or for that matter, the seller) was clearly attempting to defraud or extort the other party. I am talking about when things go bad between otherwise good people. )

In the off line world where people can meet and exchange money and goods face to face, the incidence of a dispute (buyer and seller start bickering, then hollering, then screaming, maybe fists start flailing…) is virtually nil. Human beings, when engaged in face to face transactions can take cues from the other person’s tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, etc and react accordingly. No one who is in the business of selling stuff to buyers in the offline world (at least no one who realizes or wishes to realize some modicum of success) will ever adopt a confrontational posture with new customers. Add to this, the additional fact that the buyer is able to actually handle and inspect the seller’s merchandise before committing to a purchase, and you have the basis for at the very, least, good trust-based customer/seller relationship and it is hoped, a solid, growing business.

 

In the online world, the buyer and seller have none of the above upon which to build trust. All they have is their words, primarily, typed into a text box or email online. Add to this diminished arsenal of trust building tools the inability for the buyer to hold and inspect the item “in hand,” the buyer’s fear-based uncertainty of the seller’s actual intentions (every buyer has heard horror stories about buying online and specifically, buying on eBay), the buyer’s fear that they will not will receive the proffered item in such a manner that guarantees it arrives safely, if at all, and the fact that many sellers are suspicious of every new seller’s intention to pay and what you have is the not the foundation for good trust-based relationships.

Sometimes, I have been able to assist in getting both parties to understand the why and how of their dispute and reach at the least, a détente. On rare occasions, the two parties are able to meet face-to-face and share the peace pipe (which is much easier to do when to warring people are standing face to face with each other).  When a face-to-face is not possible, a phone call can do the trick. But when all the two parties have are the written word, and since most people are not adept at the written word, especially when fearful or angry, the result is an unfortunate, avoidable and often ugly, dispute.

How do these unfortunate disputes usually begin? Although each has its own story, they all start out something like this (or a variation thereof):

Seller (who may have experienced a few disputes prior and who has allowed these past experiences to color the tone and content of their item description and especially, their Terms of Service) receives an email from a buyer requesting either information or services, sometimes beyond what the seller has provided in the listing. Or the buyer sends an email after the sale. The syntax and construction of the buyer’s email could lead the seller to believe the buyer is, well to be kind, not quite literate or maybe even a 7 year old child.

Seller, considering his or her past experiences takes umbrage and responds in a tone that is maybe a tad less than professional or polite (or maybe more than a tad).

Now the stage has been set for escalating suspicions, words and alas, actions. Sometimes, the potential dispute dies then and there. Maybe the buyer either decides to move on or, it he or she does purchase, does so with some reluctance but really really really wants or needs this particular item and so follows through (but, in lieu of any redeeming words or actions on the part of the seller, leaves appropriate ratings or feedback).

But sometimes, especially when the exchange begins after the sale, the dispute ignites and grows with all the possible unfortunate and completely avoidable consequences.

I say “avoidable” because they are. In fact, there are thousands and thousands of full and part time sellers – both low and high volume – who have few if any of the tell tale signs of customer disputes,( the signs being negative or neutral feedback, lower than average DSRs or actual records on file at eBay.) What sets these seller’s apart from those sellers who do show some history of customer disputes? Their words and their acknowledgement that in the realm of commerce (including ecommerce) of the golden rule of commerce: the customer is always right. The rule, by extension, means the following for any seller who wants to succeed on eBay:

It is a seller’s responsibility to prevent customer disputes. When a dispute arises anyway, it is the seller’s responsibility to resolve it as quickly and as reasonably as possible. Remember, a buyer is not required to possess a certain level of literary skills, be polite (although it is nice when they are and the vast majority of buyers indeed, are civil and polite) or rate a seller on the basis of what the seller believes the ratings should be. A buyer is required to pay for their purchase (and of course, to not attempt to defraud or extort a seller).

Sellers who believe that buyers have obligations beyond paying for the item (and not attempting fraud or extortion), are of course, free to hold that belief and to conduct their business accordingly. But my 12 years on eBay (along with prior 25 years in commerce) have proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, that said sellers can expect more customer disputes, lower ratings and feedback and ultimately, less success, on eBay or in any other marketplace. Don’t just take my word for it. Ask any successful big or small business, off or on line. They will tell you the same:

Like it or not, the rule is true: the customer IS always right (even when they are wrong). Break the rule and you may “win”  a dispute or two, but you will eventually loose the “war” (having a successful business) I hate having to use combat terms for commerce – commerce is never combat – but they do seem to work for this situation.

So. How does a seller avoid customer disputes?

  1. Online, you are defined by your words and actions. Maintain a professional, polite, and friendly demeanor in all correspondence and presentation including item descriptions, statement of policies and of course, email.
  2. Never respond in kind to an impolite or rude email from a buyer. Focus on the question or issue, respond to the question or issue with a polite, friendly and professional response. Treat any rude remarks or accusations as though they didn’t exist, or where ever uttered.
  3. Grant any and all reasonable requests.
  4. If a request cannot be granted, decline it in a professional manner.
  5. If a particular customer proves to be impossible-to-please…smile, thank the customer for their business and then, “Next!” (move on to the next customer)
  6. Don’t let an impossible customer stay with you indefinitely (in your mind). Doing so will hurt your business outlook and they way you view all customers, I absolutely guarantee it.
  7. Finally, don’t hold your next customer responsible for a prior impossible-to-please customer’s behavior. Every transaction is a new one and a chance to start afresh. “Next!”

By the way, these guidelines don’t just apply to commerce. The hold for anyone wanting to engage productively in any type of online communication, including public chat forums.
 
 
5. Many times you have told sellers that the overall good of the community must take precedence over the needs of individual sellers.  While I can understand that approach is one that eBay believes must be undertaken in order to make eBay successful, I think it is illogical to ask eBay sellers to make further sacrifices for the “good of the community”.  Selling on eBay is not a “team sport” and asking individual members to think of the needs of the “team” first, before their own needs, certainly won’t engender any loyalty among eBay sellers.  Specifically, buyers can be found guilty of feedback extortion but the negative feedback left for the seller will not be removed and buyers who do not pay for an item can still leave undeserved negative feedback as long as they simply state that they sent payment in the mail even if the seller accepts PayPal Only.   My question to you, then, is how can eBay possibly ask sellers to accept receiving undeserved negative feedback, which ruins their reputation, simply because it creates more “trust” in the system?

Griff’s Response: 
In any rating system, the seller being rated will, on occasion, receive a rating that at the seller will believe firmly is “undeserved.”  With feedback, this has always been possible and it will continue to be possible.  This is true of all rating systems which, by their very nature, allow the buyer or service recipient, to rate the seller or service provider based on the buyer’s and only the buyer’s experience (and not the experience the seller believes they provided the buyer. A seller does use a buyer to rate themselves by proxy.). A good seller has nothing to worry  about. The receipt of a rare negative feedback will not ruin a that seller’s reputation and by exercising good customer communications before, during and after a sale, a seller drastically reduces the likelihood of the undeserved negative.

However, when it comes to the biggest bone of contention with eBay sellers – buyers who don’t pay and yet leave negative feedback, there is redress (redress that did not exist before May 19t). So, I have to take issue with two of your statements before answering your question:

“Specifically, buyers can be found guilty of feedback extortion but the negative feedback left for the seller will not be removed and buyers who do not pay for an item can still leave undeserved negative feedback as long as they simply state that they sent payment in the mail even if the seller accepts PayPal Only. ”

Both statements are not accurate*. Feedback left by a buyer who is found “guilty” (I have to qualify legal terms. Ebay is not a court of law) of extortion is removed. If the “guilty” buyer has not left feedback, they are blocked from doing so. Regarding non paying buyers; in fact, for both UPI (Unpaid Item) cases quoted on the Seller Central thread, the feedback was  removed. A buyer who responds to a UPI dispute that they “Sent payment” for an item where the seller has stated PayPal only, will result in eventual removal of any left negative feedback for the seller by the buyer, or, if the buyer hasn’t left negative feedback yet, the blocking of that buyer’s ability to do so.

A important fact: Removal of negative feedback for non paying buyers without legitimate reason for non payment and removal of negative feedback left as an attempt to extort a seller – did not exist as on option before May 19th.  Since this is a brand new area of policy on eBay, we don’t always get it right the first time a particular situation arises. But we are learning and adapting the UPI process to provide greater, not lesser, protection for sellers. (This is why I take special interest in these UPI negative feedback cases, especially ones that might not have ruled in favor of a seller initially.)
 
To answer your question (finally!)

A system is open to manipulation by widespread misuse of a negative rating withdrawal mechanism or allows sellers to post retaliatory ratings on buyers has been clearly proven to be not trusted by buyers.  When buyers mistrust a rating system, they mistrust the marketplace it represents and tend not to spend money in that marketplace. This lack of spending is detrimental to the benefit of all sellers.

A rating or feedback system that provides as accurate an indication as possible of any one seller’s commitment to customer service, past history on eBay, and level of professionalism (based primarily on that seller’s responses to any neutral or negative feedback they might have received) without a “gaming” factor of either easy withdrawal of negative comments or the threat of retaliatory feedback is a rating system that benefits all eBay sellers by instilling buyer confidence and trust in the entire marketplace the rating system represents. When buyers trust a marketplace, the are more likely to spend in that marketplace. Spending buyers result in solid benefits (sales) for sellers.
 

6. What positive words of encouragement do you have for good eBay sellers who are struggling to find a reason to continue selling on eBay during this tough transitional period?

Griff’s Response: 
First, I fully acknowledge this is not an easy time for many sellers, given the list of changes eBay is putting in place this year, the increased competitive nature of ecommerce, the everyday tasks of running a business and the current economic climate. I cannot promise immediate relief but I am absolutely certain that those sellers who stay focused on their businesses and most importantly, their customers by adapt their selling strategies as necessary, will reap the rewards; more confident, good buyers, more sales and a more stable and exciting marketplace in which to sell and buy (most of our sellers are also buyers by the way). Even as we change the marketplace, eBay still offers the best value proposition for sellers: access to the more buyers around the world for lower cost than any other comparable marketplace.

I would also say this: We know that your participation in our marketplace is absolutely crucial to its success. Without you, there are no goods to promote and please buyers. We are not implementing these changes to only delight buyers. We want to delight you as well by helping you with what really matters to your business: more buyers, more sales, less stress and inefficiency. Your success is our goal. Your success is our success. The two are inseparable.
 
 
7. It is overwhelming for veteran eBay sellers to keep up with all the recent changes and not run afoul of the new rules and listing seems to get more technically difficult all the time.  If it is challenging for veteran sellers to continue selling on eBay, it must be especially hard for the new eBay seller.  What advice do you have for new eBay sellers?  
 
Griff’s Response: 
Actually, it is somewhat easier for new sellers to adapt as they don’t have the old system to use as a “then and now” comparison point. But I don’t want to minimize the challenges for a new seller. Running a business on eBay is not a get rich quick scheme and it takes a lot of work and dedication. My advice has been and remains: Start slow, start small, plan, and observe. Don’t be afraid to test new listing strategies. Ask other sellers for advice and opinions. (eBay sellers are extremely generous in this area). Don’t become wedded to specific ways of doing business (yes, that includes only selling in more than one marketplace if necessary), stay focused on the customer (they pay your bills! And they are always right). Don’t sweat the small stuff. Expect the occasional issue or mini crisis. Keep your eye on the big picture. Look for business trends and stay ahead of them. People really are basically good. Enjoy what you do.
 
 
8. On a personal note, what is it that you enjoy doing with your time when you are not on the computer helping out with eBay?

Griff’s Response: 
It’s a Saturday right now. The sun is shining. The temperature is perfect. I am -happily – sitting at a computer responding to your questions. In between searching and buying (I buy nearly every day on eBay) and  answering more customer email, I am set for the rest of the day. Maybe a trip out for dinner. Tomorrow is Sunday. I don’t have any plans beyond answering email and buying on eBay (I may try to list a few items).  Monday through Friday, I am in the office, answering email, attending meetings, preparing for the radio shows for the week, dealing with issues as they arise, plying my persuasion and influence internally on process and policy decisions, etc.

Next weekend, the same. The week after that, the same.

I do enjoy biking to and from work. It gives me some time to think about… (guess what I think about while biking…)

 

I appreciate Griff taking the time to answer all of the questions I asked of him.

*Note: I stand by my statements.  I have first-hand knowledge that eBay will not remove negative feedback even when the buyer has been found in violation of the Feedback Extortion Policy.  Please see my blog post about Feedback Extortion for the actual email sent by eBay Trust & Safety which specifically states that the feedback will not be removed.

If you would like to learn more about the eBay Radio Shows hosted by Griff, where you can call in and ask your questions, please check out the URLs below:

eBay Radio with Griff

eBay Radio Ask Griff Show

eBay Radio PowerSeller Show with Griff

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18 Responses to “An Online Interview with the Voice of eBay Radio Jim “Griff” Griffith”

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Brews thank you very much for this interview with Griff. I don’t know much about the man…frankly, I’ve never listened to his radio show nor have I read any of the adverse posts you mentioned at the beginning of this piece…so actually, I began reading this in an unbiased fashion. Sorry, I got about two-thirds thru it before I either had to stop reading or outright upchuck!!!!! These people have ruined countless good sellers with their ridiculous policies. I agree, some had to be put in place but the rest are purely wacko! I’m a 10 year seller with a pristine reputation. I would like to know from this Griff why I and others who list in my category are starving from lack of exposure in their stupid new “search” feature. Why we are discriminated against even with “raised” standings in the listings! Its pretty evident to me that best match means being matched to the sellers ebay favors and the rest of us can simply pay and hope for a bite now and then! No….I couldn’t stomach another word from this Griff person…don’t know how sincere he is and don’t care. I only know what ebay has done to MY business and to those sellers around me. Its not good and no matter how much sugar they put on this pill its still bitter! Ebay’s bottom line is revenue…well, SO IS OURS! Which is why I no longer list on Ebay and why I am persuading my buyers to leave ebay as well. Tell that to this “Griff”! If there is an “uptick” in buyers – it certainly doesn’t show – to the contrary – small sellers who were also buyers are leaving in droves. So, let them cover it up with buy.com listings and PR sooner or later its all going to show!

Very interesting article. A lot of what Griff says makes sense in general terms, but his attitude to customer services sounds straight out of the manual and not based in the solid experience he claims to have.

Number 5 on his list of ‘How does a seller avoid customer disputes?’ is a good example. I quite agree with his method of handling the impossible-to-please customer, but he totally ignores what happens next. If I worked in a shop (as I have, among other customer service jobs) I would deal with the awkward customer professionally. If that customer was still not satisfied and complained to my manager, my manager would know me and my level of performance and not sack me as a consequence. On eBay that customer can give me a negative, or rate me on 1 star (which I would not even know about) and as I am a small seller it would take very little more to have me suspended. There is no loyalty and no back-up from eBay.

The other way Griff shows his unawareness of real life customer service is where he comments that an occasional unreasonable negative or low star wont hurt a seller. The awkward, impossible-to-please customers do not come along at neatly spaced intervals. There may be none for weeks, months, even years in some circumstances, but you can guarantee when you get one, there will shortly be another one (at least), which for a small seller could be enough for a suspension. The higher volume seller can often absorb these, the small seller cant. But if eBay was looking only at the quality of the service, they would see that many small sellers are able to offer a more individual service than a big business. Surely eBay’s strength is its variety. When even large, established businesses are planning on leaving eBay how can small sellers take the risk of trying to build up a business on eBay when so little could see us suspended.

I sold my first item on eBay in January as I started clearing my house for sale. So I began under the old rules. My plan was that later when I had moved I would set up a business through eBay. I have been horrified by the unprofessional, uninformative way the changes have been handled. There is no customer service phone number for small sellers. When I have asked a question by email I have never yet had an answer to the question I have actually asked, and in one case was given information that was out of date. I certainly wouldn’t be rating eBays stars very highly! I am currently working on my own website, and unless things improve considerably will only use eBay as a temporary measure.

I have to admit I couldn’t get through the whole interview. This man loves to talk. It sounded like a whole lot of Ebay propaganda. I did take note when he said ‘I concede that , the implementation, messaging and follow up regarding the changes has been less than stellar. Mistakes were definitely made.’

Understatement of the year. I’ve said this all along: This Ebay team doesn’t have a clear cut plan or ‘vision.’ They are winging it and they are in a reactionary mode.

Why would customers be coming back now? Trust? Come on! In my own experience, prior to May, my sales were excellent. Since May, they’ve dropped dramatically. I’ve heard countless other sellers say the same thing.

Ebay needs to get a new team of managers in place who actually understand business. Meg did, but she’s gone on to new adventures. Her failure was not training adequate successors.

I don’t know how Ebay will turn out. At first I was stilted by all the changes, angry, at a loss what to do, but it has forced me to grow and find new paths.

As far as Griff is concerned, he’s a company man. I believe in his Ebay conviction, but I don’t agree with much of it. I don’t think he believes much of it either, otherwise he wouldn’t be risking so much to go to bat for sellers. But good for him. He’s about the only one who seems to have any character in that cast of clowns.

A company man all the way. I too was unable to get through the interview. Griff certainly does believe in what he says, and I can tell it’s sincere. It just doesn’t jive with the reality of what things have become. I would be able to take eBay a lot more seriously if all the changes didn’t also come with a greedy 60% rate increase. That in itself throws all their credibility out the window. Let’s see some fee decreases, and not decreases on the “front end” that come with unbalance increases on the “back end”.

“*Note: I stand by my statements. I have first-hand knowledge that eBay will not remove negative feedback even when the buyer has been found in violation of the Feedback Extortion Policy. ”

Brew, why not take this to the next level with Griff? Prove your point, show your evidence.

I would deal with the awkward customer professionally. If that customer was still not satisfied and complained to my manager, my manager would know me and my level of performance and not sack me as a consequence. On eBay that customer can give me a negative, or rate me on 1 star (which I would not even know about) and as I am a small seller it would take very little more to have me suspended. There is no loyalty and no back-up from eBay.

To expand on Chris’ comments: Griff makes it clear that like the rest of eBay he thinks of buyers & sellers only in the aggregate, and the only important data are the mass numbers and surveys. He does not think of sellers as individuals and thus is not concerned with injustice done to individuals. If 10 good sellers are suspended to get rid of one crook, and the aggregate numbers go up, then it’s a good day’s work as far as eBay is concerned.

I would add: not only does eBay not give any backup, they don’t even give any front-end protection, such as demanding credit card registration and collecting the money like Amazon does. When Griff talks about what professional shops do, does he have any idea how much they spend to combat shrinkage? eBay is the electronic equivalent of leaving the doors wide open with no security guards or cameras anywhere.

I totally agree with his position on customer service- it is my behavior 99% of the time. However, If the buyer hasn’t yet bought and they offend me in an email I block them and then answer and it isn’t nice. If I feel the customer is attempting to scam me I simply tell them to return for full refund and I’ll pay the return shipping- I never hear from them again. If I get the feel they are honest something broke in transit or was non-functional I just refund apologize and everything is great and they are all repeat customers.

Trust is a big issue for eBay members – all of us on eBay are hypersensitive about eBay transactions and when I get an email from someone who is clearly driven by the fear of being ripped off – I guilt them LOL I just tell them that “I am really sorry I am not presenting myself as someone you can trust. I try hard to provide an atmosphere that will allow my customers to feel safe if there is anything I could do to help you feel safe would you please share your ideas with me?” I always get an apology- I’m not looking for an apology, but it calms them down and they feel badly for being aggressive/offensive with me in our first communication and then we are off to a great experience together.

When I decided to sell on eBay I knew the category I sell in is highly competitive and I knew customer service was the most lacking area- I mean exceptional customer service- so that is what I have concentrated on. I am personally a very bad buyer – ha ha ha- not on eBay unless provoked- so I use my own expectations to guide my selling behavior.

I have had one bad experience- a buyer caught me in a bad mood – she had wrote this really snotty email about her item- first that it took so long to ship, but the problem was she paid or paypal defaulted her payment to an echeck, and her other bitch was she was claiming something 22aa oi

sorry cleaning my keyboard and I hit enter

anyway, she was claiming something was wrong with the product. Her snotty attitude just really ticked me. My reply was “write back when you can behave like a grown up and not a bratty five year old” we had a back and forth argument – I told her to send it back and I would refund- never heard from her again.

The most interesting aspect of Griff’s comments was his persistent use of the golden rule the customer is always right. It is a very interesting statement to make while at the same time eBay (him included) is telling us their customers that we are 100% wrong and treating us as though we are misbehaving children or bad employees. I wish these people would just say what their view of our relationship with eBay is.

ok well that is about it for the rambling

That is the core of the dysfunctional relationship eBay has set up with eBay sellers. Obviously, we are customers. We pay them, right? But eBay thinks we are employees or suppliants, sometimes it’s hard to tell which. You can tell that it is has never even crossed the mind of eBay mgmt that rules on customer service should apply to them too.

Well, Brews…thanks for trying, but it’s clear that he’s never worked a retail job in his life. The customer is not always right. Not really. I worked in a retail bookstore for 3 years–face to face with nasty customers every day. If they were abusive, we showed them the door. Sure, we tried to solve their complaints, we gave them access to our managers, but if they remained unsatisfied or continued to be disruptive, we asked them to leave. We did not let them abuse our return policy, we DID share information about bad buyers with other bookstores in the area (similar to buyer feedback here btw), and we absolutely were not to blame for most of the conflicts.

Buyers SHOULD be required to treat people with courtesy–that is something that buyer feedback helped insure and something blatantly lacking without it.

And no, we’re not able to overcome the occasional rogue neg or neutral feedback. Seller Non Performance policies have not be adjusted to reflect the new rules: which means that more small volume sellers are being affected by one or two impossible to please buyers. The uproar about feedback is not about reputations but about the survival of our businesses.

“access to the more buyers around the world for lower cost than any other comparable marketplace.”

Not true. EBay ranked #2 behind Amazon in terms of traffic. Amazon has, for the most part, higher ASPs and fewer headaches. My Ebay traffic has declined by 66% from last year and 75% from the year before. Much of that due to poor advertising campaigns . And with 12% plus listing fees and store fees going to eBay, it is as expensive for worse service and performance.

You know, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if ebay allowed sellers to refund any buyer in full and completely negate the whole transaction or simply withdraw from the transaction before money changes hands. Afterall, seller paid the fees, seller did the legwork and put up the auction, the item belongs to the seller (something ebay loses sight of). If dealing with a completely unreasonable buyer the seller should have this right with no repurcussions….just as long as buyer is fully refunded (made whole again). It might be a way to solve the problem of seller not being able to leave negatives. Maybe that’s too simple?

I had an experience with a Power Seller who took advantage of me. I contacted Griff twice about this and he never got back to me and nothing was done.

“The customer is always right” – too bad Griff and eBay don’t practice what they preach. There is no customer service at eBay. Sellers are customers but we are considered “noise”. Griff still maintains eBay is a “level playing field” even as small time sellers are shafted and denied protection afforded to the sainted Power Sellers. buy.com walks all over everyone and is considered a great gift to eBay.

Griff fills me with joy when he brags about smashing his Hummels and posing in judge’s robes to mock the lack of justice on the eBay site. I left eBay as a seller when I say the two-tier system of fairness between Power Sellers and small sellers. I severely cut back my buying when Griff BSed me into believing that would actually look into my matter.

I don’t like being lied to!

Griff is a sock puppet and a “good cop” foil to Norton, Donahoe and company. eBay mocks the concepts of fairness, customer service and the 5-star concept of excellence. Let us rate Griff and Donahoe, let their wages and bonuses reflect the satisfaction of their customers through secret DSRs.

I encourage people to listen to Griff’s propaganda show on wsradio.com or to download the rebroadcasts. If it weren’t for the redundant calls by his toady fans the roar of crickets chirping in the background would be deafening.

“My Ebay traffic has declined by 66% from last year and 75% from the year before.”

I welcome this Griff person to view my sales lately – in the past 30 days 33 rolled off without bids – only 2 sold – which is why I don’t sell on Ebay now.. This time last year I was selling between 30 and 50 small paintings per month! I’m not alone in this…combine all the small sellers just like me and there is a whale of a hole being filled up by the likes of buy.com with their lowly 2.4 percent sell thru rate. I think Ebay is beginning to feel the pain…at least I hope they are and I hope that Griff person is reading this!!!

@Amber

where did you read this information

“Not true. EBay ranked #2 behind Amazon in terms of traffic.”

Mechelle, it was widely reported at the end of the last holiday season. I’ll see if I can find an archive for you.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/amazon-beat-ebay-in-holiday-traffic/

the latest audience figures from Nielsen Online confirm that the e-commerce traffic crown has changed heads. For the month of December, for the first time, more Americans clicked over to Amazon.com (59,624,000) than eBay (59,374,000).

Thanks Amber

The way eBay is reacting you would think they were under by ten or 20 million

I remember something about Amazon leading in the after thanksgiving internet equivalent???

WOW Griff and McCain got the same two problems. 1. Older than dirty and need to retire. 2. Living in a different world than the rest of society.

And by the way Griff does sound like a brown noser.

What ticks me off is eBay/Paypal making these policy changes while making website changes.
Technical glitches are happening more than ever and eBay/Paypal will not take accountability when it gets ( now former ) sellers like me behind – which leads to poor feedback and Paypal disputes.
Totally bogus.
I am currently speaking with an International Lawyer regarding all of what ebay/Paypal have done and keep doing – hurting everyday people financially and mentally.
They can not continue to get away with this.
Griff – if you read this, be aware that ebay inc is due for a new round of class action lawsuits from people that will not settle.
We want a conviction so you can not do this again.


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    The BrewsNews information blog about online sales, eBay, Amazon, Bonanzle and oh so much more!

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