How My Daughter’s Art Class Would be Graded Using “the eBay Standard”

Posted on August 16, 2009. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , |

Recently I enrolled my 9-year old daughter in a Saturday art class at a local art gallery.  She had been looking forward to the class for several weeks and specifically chose the class where she would learn how to make a clay sculpture.  I had never been to this particular art gallery but it has a good reputation for local artistic talent and was established 45 years ago so I felt good about signing my daughter up for a class.  There is a gallery up front with art work for sale then a separate building in the back for art classes. 

When I called to find out how to enroll my daughter in the class, I was told that I would get a call if there were enough people who wanted to sign up.  That call came at 4pm on the Friday afternoon before the Saturday class and they left a message letting me know that the class would be held as scheduled on Saturday.  When I dropped my daughter off for the class, it was obvious that these folks were very experienced and talented artists but not quite so professional in their business practices.  The process of paying and leaving contact information for my daughter was quite informal and loose. 

I picked my daughter up at the appointed time and I was very surprised to see the project she had made.  It was not made of clay, as the class description for that day had advertised, but rather it was a modern art sculture made of wood and metal.  Naturally, my daughter’s artwork was beautiful and resembled something of a platypus in my opinion.  She gave me the art project as a gift and she had a specific place in mind where she thought the sculture should sit.  I now wake up every morning with my daughter’s avante garde platypus staring at me from my nightstand beside the bed.  And I start out my day with a smile every time.

So, in reviewing my experience with this art gallery as a paying customer, the question is this: Am I a satisfied customer?

I’ll answer that question using eBay’s “grading” criteria of the Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) system where a “1” rating is the worst and a “5” rating is the best.  If I had to rate the “seller” on Item as Described I would probably give the art gallery a “1” or “2” rating.   I enrolled my daughter in an art class for clay sculpting where the instructor ended up having the kids make a modern art sculture with wood and metal.  And in the area of Communication I would say that the art gallery earned a “2” or “3” rating.  But I wouldn’t leave the art gallery a negative or neutral rating.  Instead, I would leave them a positive rating.  And I would leave them a positive rating for one very specific reason: In answer to the question “Would I shop at this place again?”, my answer would be a definite YES.  I enrolled my daughter in the class to expand her creativity and so that she would have a good time.  Both of those goals were achieved.  The fact that the sculpture was made of a different material than advertised means the class was “not as described” but I am still satisfied with the outcome.  Regarding the communication, of course I would have preferred it to be better but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.  I would rather the art gallery have the best artists to teach my child than to have the best communication style but poorly trained artists.

Good things came from this experience.  My daughter and I have now found a place in our local area where we are both enrolling to take a class together in pottery making since she didn’t get to work with clay as she had hoped.  And my daughter is really excited about returning to the art gallery for more art classes.  This time, though, she will be taking classes in drawing and painting which is the art gallery’s specialty.  Despite the low ratings I would have given the gallery in “Item as Described” and “Communication”, I am a satisfied customer who will be returning again.

And that is why I believe eBay’s new grading system for sellers is flawed.  eBay is asking buyers to give sellers a positive, neutral, or negative rating but it is not that rating that really counts.  Rather, it is the anonymous Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) ratings for subjective criteria of Item as Described, Communication, Shipping Time, and Shipping Cost whereby an eBay seller’s performance is measured.  eBay is going to severely punish sellers who receive too many low anonymous ratings even if they have a 100% positive rating and a good average of DSR ratings.  Neither of those measures will matter in determing a seller’s placement in search, fee discounts, or even the ability to sell on the eBay site.  It is only the individual anonymous subjective DSR ratings which will be used to judge sellers.  And buyers who purchase multiple items will impact the seller exponentially.  A buyer who purchases 10 items and leaves 10 low DSR ratings has the same impact as 10 different buyers who each purchase 1 item and leave low DSR ratings.  And it doesn’t matter if the one buyer who purchased 10 multiple items is offset by hundreds of other buyers who all leave the highest 5.0 rating so that the seller’s average DSR rating is 4.9

The underlying issue I have with eBay’s grading system is whether or not buyers who leave low anonymous ratings in subjective areas are satisfied with the overall transaction or not.  By leaving a “1” rating for any DSR criteria and yet leaving positive feedback, is the buyer indicating that they are dissatisfied and would not buy from the seller again?   That is really the question.  eBay must think that buyers in that case are so dissatisfied that they would not return again to that seller and/or would not return again to eBay.  But I completely disagree.  My example above in the real world brick and mortar scenario of the art gallery shows how I could be satisfied and would return even though there were aspects of the transaction that were not perfect. 

And I have very specific examples as an eBay seller where I have had buyers who purchase multiple items from me at bargain prices (because they intend to resale my items through alternate selling channels) and have left me low ratings for the Shipping Cost criteria.  And those same buyers have returned again and again and again to buy from me until finally I have had to block them to prevent them from buying my items since they continued to leave me “1” DSR ratings only in Shipping Cost.  Many of them then emailed me when they realized they were blocked and begged me to sell to them and I had to inform them that I could no longer sell to them on eBay because I could not afford the consequences of having low DSR ratings.  Most of them were stunned and couldn’t believe I would turn down a sale, especially in this economy.  But then I explained how I would lose my Powerseller discount for all my sales for the month and that loss would be greater than the profit I would make on their order so, in essence, I would lose money by selling to them.

As an 11-year+ veteran eBay seller who provides good customer service to my buyers, I do want eBay to have some standards for sellers on the platform.  I realize that my eBay sales are harmed when other sellers, who are either fraudulent or who provide poor customer service, drive buyers from the site.  And I don’t mind being graded or evaluated.  What I do mind, however, is a grading system that (a) is based solely on subjective measures that are completely anonymous and which don’t truly measure buyer satisfaction, (b) continually changes so that one day I am a seller with 99.9% feedback and DSRs of 4.9 – 5.0 and receiving 20% discount and the next day the very same account is considered to be a poor seller account because of too many low DSR ratings in Shipping cost and that account will ultimately be restricted and suspended and (c)  motivates sellers to decrease their eBay sales in the form of limiting buyers from purchasing too many items at a time since one buyer who purchases multiple items could leave low DSRs for every item to have a disproportionate impact on a seller.

eBay’s seller performance rating system is severely flawed so that “A” rated sellers today can easily be “F” rated sellers tomorrow with absolutely no change in their customer service.  And, of course, many of today’s “A” rated Top Sellers (who interestingly enough are being rewarded and regraded on past performance results using an entirely new standard that was not in effect when the transactions occurrerd) are pleased with the new grading system.  But a small seller’s love of the new grading system will change to hate overnight when a small Top Rated seller encounters a buyer who purchases multiple items and leaves low ratings and the seller loses their Top Rated Seller rating as a result.  And because small sellers are measured using a full year’s performance, it will take 12 months for a small eBay seller to overcome the effects of that one buyer.

I have been involved in customer satisfaction surveys and surveys which measured shoppers’ intentions.  As a college instructor I developed a fair grading system for my own courses which motivated students to learn.  As a parent, I created a “Happy Points” reward system for my children when they were small and now that they are older we have a grading system for behavior and chores which earns them time to watch television and play video games.  In all cases, there is a measuring or grading system that has to be developed.  If you use the wrong measuring or grading system then you get incorrect and invalid results.  And your improper grading system does not motivate in a positive way.  Thus, you ultimately do not obtain the outcome you really desire.  

The art gallery owner in my area who owns the brick and mortar store will get my repeat business because I am satisfied with the overall experience.  But if the art gallery were being graded using the “eBay standard”, they would soon be shutting their doors because of their low ratings in subjective areas despite all the glowing postive feedback and the students lined up at the door on Saturday morning.  As a result, I (the customer) would have one less place where I could spend money in my local area.  And buyers on eBay who purchase multiple items at a bargain from one seller and who leave low DSR ratings for Shipping Cost will, in effect, be putting out of business the very seller they are the most satisfied with as evidenced by their desire to continue shopping with that same seller time and again. 

The value of a particular piece of art is “in the eye of the beholder” — my daughter’s priceless (to me) modern art sculpture would probably not fetch $5 in the open market.   The value of art is measured in completely subjective terms.  Unfortunately, the worth of an eBay seller is also measured using completely subjective criteria under the current and future grading systems.

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5 Responses to “How My Daughter’s Art Class Would be Graded Using “the eBay Standard””

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I can’t tell you how many times I have read comments on eBay articles (eg WSJ, SeekingAlpha, Motley Fool) from individuals claiming to be eBay buyers only; saying that they never leave DSRs and in fact resent being asked for them by both eBay and the seller. Comments “I came to buy something not fill out a survey”

I note that about 70% of my sales on Bonanzle are through Google and those buyers rarely return communication or leave feedback. I know their goods have arrived through DC and that is about it.

My point is, other than hardened eBay users who leave feedback automatically, DSR’s are only left by buyers who have an axe to grind.

[…] This post was Twitted by redINKdiary […]

I marvel at the straight-forwards common sense of your notes above. So well said, and with a heart-warming tone which indicates a desire to see ebay excel, AND their sellers and buyers enjoy the trading experience.
I bow.

As a seller, we found a couple of low DSR’s on our list. We ship from Canada, so to be expected. Combined with ONE infraction of ebay “RULES” (specific, adult content, we listed first issue CREAM LP album, cropped, but considered “banned”), with that one infraction, we have had our ratings lowered in search, and await October 23rd to return to normal status.

Funny thing is… hadn’t hurt sales none 🙂

I’m expecting to see huge problems with the anonymous DSR grading system, as you so rightly point out.

I woulddn’t be surprised if competitors begin bashing each other’s DSR scores soon. It wouldn’t cost much to konck a competitor’s standing lower now – or even OFF ebay completely if ebay sticks to it’s guns on their rating system.

This is one point where “bad” buyers, or simply naive buyers can make eBay a lot of money — legitametly dropping powersellers’s disconts at the drop of a hat, with the buyers taking blame.

Kind of a win-win for eBay, doncha think?

Under ebay’s current system, I always get the 15& powerseller discount. Not once in awhile, but each and every month.

After April 2010, ebay’s changes will mean I no longer qualify for ANY discount. Even though my DSRs are always 4.9/4.8….the 1s and 2s are not movable for me due to shipping transit times out of my eternal control….

It is safe to assume that lots of sellers will be in my situation.

So, in effect, ebay created a system for the past year and a half to guide seller behaviour as an aggregate, to ebay’s desired results (their metrics, improving their take-rate…)

Now that sellers as an aggregate are performing “better”, others are weeded out, and too many sellers are getting the powereseller discount, ebay is changing the rules again. They had this planned all along.

Lets face it, in ebay’s opinion its like shooting fish in a barrell. Sellers will complain and leave, but there is still more than enough left over. Too many in fact. Seller A quits, so, seller B picks up Seller A’s business.

They know they cant’ stop seller defections to other sites, so they are going to continue to manage and manipulate the hell out of everybody who stays. Get used to one set of rules, and ebay will change them again, in ways that increases ebay’s take rate.

This is the ebay 2009 reality we all need to consider….

Yes and compare that to THIS customer satisfaction survey just out today:

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