The eBay Top Seller Badge is Motivating Me to Make Changes

Posted on September 7, 2009. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , |

Last Friday night, after a long hard week, I offered to take the kids out to eat. They begged me to take the them to Cici’s Pizza so off we went. For those who have never eaten at Cici’s Pizza, it is an all-you-can-eat pizza, salad, and dessert buffet with a few kid’s games in the back.

We walked up to the register to pay and the lady asked “how old are the kids?” which is the same question they always ask. I let the kids answer just as I always do. “I’m 9” says my daughter and “I am 11” says my son. My son just turned 11 last month. “Oh, he’s an adult” says the Cici’s Pizza employee, almost like it’s an accusation.  I was caught completely off-guard and responded with “Excuse me?”  The person at the cash register proceeded to tell me that my son is an adult and I have to pay the adult price for him to eat.  It was a rather shocking, and kinda comical, moment for me.  My baby boy, my little son, is an adult?

Now, my son (the adult) thought it was rather funny but his sister (the child) was awfully upset at getting the smaller red cup for a drink while her brother received the bigger green cup for a drink.  Other than that minor thing, nothing was different about my son’s first Cici’s meal service as an adult except the price I paid.  But everything about the meal was different for me.  I am simply not ready for my son to be an adult.  Throughout the meal I kept thinking that it must only be at Cici’s, a buffet where diners get to eat all they want, that a kid age 11 would be called an adult. 

So, this weekend I looked up some menus online for restaurants that are not buffet style.  Both Luby’s and Red Lobster consider a kid age 11 to be an adult and not eligible to order from the child’s menu.  But IHop doesn’t classify a kid as an adult until they turn age 13 (child’s menu is for kids 12 and under) so my son can order from the IHop kid’s menu for 2 more years.  That smiley-face pancake on the kid’s menu is just how I am feeling right now about IHop.  Happy to eat at IHop with my child who is age 9 and my child who is age 11.   

adultihop

I found it rather interesting that some restaurants, such as TGI Fridays, Black-eyed Pea, and Chili’s don’t include an age limitation on the child’s menu.  So, my son age 11, can walk into any of these 3 restaurants and is not automatically labelled as either a child or an adult based on his age.  My son is the very same kid no matter what restaurant we walk into but different food venues categorize my son differently, as a child or an adult, and some don’t categorize him at all.

The recent experience with my son has got me to thinking about my own business and how I am the same business, with the same great customer service, in every sales channel where I offer my goods.  But different venues categorize or label me differently. 

It isn’t me who is different but rather the platform that has unique criteria for labelling me and my business is what is different.  On Amazon, I can be called “Featured Merchant” and on eBay I can be labelled as a “Top Seller” but on Bonanzle there is no labelling differentiation between sellers.  Bonanzle buyers make that determination for themselves by reviewing a seller’s feedback.  Bonanzle doesn’t automatically classify sellers.

All of this leads me to my point: Multichannel sellers have to decide whether to provide consistent service across various venues and possibly be “labelled” differently or whether to change their customer service and/or selling strategies on a particular platform to receive the special designation for that platform.

I’ll use my own company as an example.  We are a featured merchant on Amazon.  We describe our items well, we ship promptly and package well, and we provide outstanding customer service after the fact.  We do all of those same things on eBay but neither of our accounts (with 100% and 99.9% feedback ratings) qualify as a Top Seller account.  And the reason we are not labelled as a Top Seller on eBay is for one reason only — we have received too many anonymous 1’s in the Shipping and Handling DSR field.  That is the one and only thing keeping us from being a Top Rated seller on eBay. 

So, we have to make a decision.  Should we accept that our outstanding ratings and excellent customer service across all platforms is good enough to be rewarded on one platform and not the other?  Or should we make changes?  In our case, we have decided not to make any changes to our business model or our customer service that would give us a better chance to become a Top Rated Seller on eBay and these are the reasons why:

1. Even if we wanted to become a Top Rated seller on eBay, we cannot be certain of exactly what we would need to change and to what degree.  We know that a handful of eBay customers who buy from us, some of whom are competing sellers, do anonymously leave us low DSR ratings in Shipping & Handling.  But because the DSR ratings are subjective, we don’t know what it would take for these handful of customers to leave us higher ratings.  I’m assuming that the only thing that would prompt these sellers to leave us higher ratings is free shipping but I don’t know that.   

2. The financial risks we would have to take in order to possibly receive the rewards associated with the Top Seller badge are too great and the rewards are not great enough to justify us making a change.  If we offered free shipping to every eBay customer just to satisfy those few who feel that any amount of shipping is excessive then we would find ourselves out of the eBay business.  We couldn’t continue to operate on eBay if we had to “eat” the shipping costs.  So, offering free shipping to possibly receive the Top Rated Seller badge to receive 20% discounts on selling fees would put an end to our selling on eBay as we simply could not afford to continue.  It just wouldn’t be cost-effective to sell on eBay any longer.  And the real clincher is that even offering free shipping would not assure us that we would earn the Top Seller badge since the ratings are subjective and we cannot predict how customers will react.

3. Making changes to my eBay listings is very costly in terms of time.  And because eBay changes their “reward system” frequently, I cannot be sure that any investment of time that I make to change all my listings in an effort to earn the Top Seller badge would result in any benefits that would last long-term.  Even if it were financially feasible for me to make changes and offer free shipping in an effort to earn the eBay Top Seller Badge, the investment of time to do so would be great.  And then if eBay changed the reward system again in 6 months so that new criteria are established I would not have had an opportunity to recoup my investment of time.  eBay’s every constantly changing rewards don’t motivate me to invest my time to make changes to try and hit the moving target. 

So, it doesn’t make financial sense for our company to aspire to become an eBay Top Seller.  And, make no mistake about it, the Top Seller badge for us is not a “feel good pretty badge” to display with pride to make ourselves feel good.  It’s all about the money.  That is the bottom line.  Period.

Our company will see an eBay fee increase next year as a result of the new Top Seller program since we don’t meet the Top Seller requirements.  Currently, we receive 15-20% discounts every month and early next year that will be lowered to a 5% discount which is, in essence, a fee increase.  

So now we have moved past the decision about whether to try to change to receive the eBay Top Seller Badge.  We are not motivated to work toward receiving the badge.  Rather, we are now motivated to figure out how to compensate for the fee increase coming next year.  Our plans are as follows:

1. Cut costs.  Currently, we pay for the Premium eBay store and early next year we will be downgrading to the Basic eBay store.  At one time, the mid-level eBay store had significant benefits but the Best Match took away one of the most important benefits. 

2. Move some eBay inventory to alternate channels.  We have already moved a significant amount of our inventory, especially the higher end items, from eBay to other channels (mostly Amazon) but we are now looking to discontinue selling some items on eBay altogether.  We are going to move whole categories of some lower margin items to Bonanzle, where the selling fees are less, so we can lower our selling prices we offer to our customers.  We’ll keep the shipping costs the same so, for us, we will experience the same margin but we’ll just pass along the lower selling fee savings to Bonanzle buyers.

 3. Raise our shipping costs to international customers on eBay.  We have been losing money on shipping costs when we have shipped outside the U.S. but since the international DSR ratings will not be weighted as heavily as U.S. ratings (international DSR ratings will still count in the overall DSR average but will not be used to calculate the Top Seller ratings or the seller performance ratings) going forward.  Raising our shipping fees to eBay international customers so that they are paying a more appropriate shipping cost will help offset some of the selling fee increase. 

We feel that we have to make the changes above in order to offset the eBay fee increase next year.  It is a business decision, not an emotional decision.  Our actions will have the effect of lower revenues for eBay since we will be downgrading our eBay stores and selling fewer items on eBay.  And our raising international shipping costs will certainly not make eBay international buyers more satisfied but it is necessary for us to raise shipping costs to offset the selling fee increase. 

I cannot fault eBay for making business decisions that they believe will be the best for their financial well-being.  Getting emotional about eBay’s decisions, and the impact on me, won’t help me survive as a business.  My actions of downgrading my eBay stores and selling less items on eBay, as well as raising shipping costs to international customers,  are decisions that are best for my company.  eBay is creating the Top Seller badge to encourage sellers to “step up their game” to provide outstanding service but I think there will be unintended consequences that will not be good for eBay. 

I’m sure there are other multichannel sellers who are labelled an “outstanding” seller elsewhere who don’t qualify for the Top Seller Badge on eBay.  And those other sellers, just like me, have to make business decisions about how to compensate for the eBay fee increase next year.  Most sellers, myself included, cannot raise the prices of our items on eBay so we have to find ways to lower our costs (like downgrading our eBay stores) and continue to move inventory to venues where the selling fees are lower.

Just like my son is the same kid who visits different restaurants and is labelled differently (child or adult) based on the stated policies of the restaurant, my company is the same multichannel seller who offers my items along with outstanding customer service in a variety of venues.  There is one big difference, though.  It doesn’t bother me to pay more money for my son to eat at Cici’s Pizza but it did bother me (just a little) when she called my little boy an “adult”.  I didn’t like to hear my son being labelled with that term.  Not yet anyway. 

But, in my business, I really don’t care what label a venue uses for me (Featured Merchant) or doesn’t use for me (Top Seller).  In my business it’s all about the money.  Call me what you want but when you start charging me more money for the same service then I have to figure out how I can avoid paying more.  Yes, the eBay Top Seller Badge program is motivating me … but probably not in the way eBay intended.

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9 Responses to “The eBay Top Seller Badge is Motivating Me to Make Changes”

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Hi.
Agreed 100%, absolutely— 100%.

We started using ebay store (basic) about 3 years ago, exclusively, forgetting about auctions (run maybe 20 per year).
We set up the store and have not changed a single thing in these years. We charge actual (closely guesstimated) shipping fees.
Our approach to disputes has always been the same, we stand by what we list, and expect customer to do same.

In a word, I believe that no matter what eBay does in future we will not change our biz practices one bit.

We run a reputable business, Bricks&Mortar, as well as ebay, and our own websites.

eBay is welcome to change their policies to reflect our biz practices anytime.
We plan to be here long after eBay has self-destructed.

I recently caught a competitor bidding under another name bidding on one of my auctions and leaving low DSR’s.

Want to know what eBay did? They removed the feedback but didn’t take any action against the seller who did this.

eBay really needs to get rid of making DSR’s anonymous, because I’m good at finding these things. I bet 99% of the time these will go unnoticed.

100% feedback, 6,000+ feedback,s 4.9 DSR across the board but I do not qualify 🙂

[…] beginnt der Artikel von BrewsNews und berechtigterweise fragt man sich als Leser auf einer Webseite die über eBay berichtet: Was […]

I’m a Gold PowerSeller on eBay, and have sold on there since 2002. I have 99.9% positive feedback. The only changes the new DSR system is forcing me to take is simply to no longer sell on eBay. Just wait until a customer buys several thousand dollars worth of inventory from you, then insists on a return for any reason, or worse, what happened to me… a buyer buys a huge lot from you, or multiple huge lots, then sends a few of the items back to be replaced… you replace them, then they use the delivery confirmation on the returned item to dispute it with their credit card company that it was all returned. They get your money, and your items. Best of luck… if you keep selling on there, you’ll need it.

3 accounts dsr’s average 4.95-5.00 like clock work. Lowest feedback is 99.7 other is 100 and 99.8 I have received 20% discounts on all accounts since the discount was offered. Currently only one of the accounts will qualify for the top rated seller badge. I had free USA shipping on all accounts for about a year and the highest the shipping dsr got was 4.97 with the average shipping dsr being 4.95 with free shipping for about a year! The funny thing is that I ship 2 times a day and never out more then 1 shipping day on any item. I ship first class or priority on all items even with free shipping. The system is flawed. This is ebay’s attempt to recoupe or end the powerseller discounts. Nothing more. Adding lower search for not being a top rated seller is one of the most outrageous things that ebay has ever done since being top rated is next to impossible. I run reports almost daily. When I get a 1 or a 2 in every dsr catagory I know that a competitor has been there. I have brought this issues of getting a 1 or a 2 in every catagory from the same transaction up to ebay and they have no answer. This is obvious when it happens as the percent for 1 and 2 is always the same all the way down the dsr rating.

I totally agree!!! I have been selling on Ebay for several years, just as a part time hobby (it used to be very enjoyable). I obtained the power seller status fairly quickly, and since have always receiving the 20% discount until this new top seller policy. I have 4.9’s and 5.0’s with 100% feedback but I do not qualify for the top rated seller program because of 2 buyers (out of 360) who gave me low DSR’s.

Today, I saw the top rated sellers badges on items from sellers with a low DSR’s and feedback, one seller has a 98.2% and DSR’s of 4.6’s and 4.7’s….Dear Mr. Ebay, how can this be a TOP SELLER????

This new top rated seller program is a total joke!!! But at least it came at the perfect time for me. I had just opened a business account and was planning to open an Ebay store….not now, I will be looking elsewhere for my business adventures.

DSRs are completely bogus. Ebay pulls a seller’s DSRs out of thin air. DSRs DO NOT reflect the numbers buyers actually leave.

Ebay arbitrarily decides each month how many 5%, 15%, and 20% PowerSeller/Top Rated Seller discounts they want to hand out. Ebay then fudges each seller’s DSRs to go with the number of discounts handed out.

So Ebay adjusts an actual 4.8 to a 4.7. Whatever Ebay needs to ensure only so many sellers get a discount that month.

Great post and good to know I’m not alone! I make unique charm bracelets and have sold on ebay since 2001. Although I’m in Australia, I list on the US site because the traffic on the Australian site is very low. Most of my customers are in the US. My sales strategy was buying “featured first” for every bracelet I listed. An expensive way to trade but I had hundreds of “watches”, sold every bracelet (1st time around) and the auction often ended in a lucrative bidding war. Everything was going great but I still had an eye on alternatives like my own site (www.steelhipdesign.com) and etsy.
BTW I am a powerseller but I only listed about 7 to 10 pieces a month. Being an overseas seller I had no choice but offer free shipping when “best match” was introduced. But the nail in my coffin was “topseller”. Now only “topsellers” can access “featured first” and other promotional listing features. I don’t sell enough items in the US to qualify and somehow reduce handling times. I’m in Australia! I ship ASAP but there are a lot of irrational people out there who expect the item to arrive the following day. Then the chargeback scam (as described by another poster) hit and even when I did refund this *&^#$ she still gave me neg feedback and I assume a bad DSR score. I’m also disabled so ramping up my productivity (x 4) would be extremely difficult.

You are right to question whether this is a good move for ebay. My fees were around US$500 per month – now? Less than $100. This must effect their revenues? I knew they wanted to get rid of the “fleas” as one CEO described small sellers. Surely they would have learnt that if they indulge the big sellers and help them get bigger – they will all eventually leave ebay and set up their own sites.
Should I try to get “topseller” status? I now feel I’m working for ebay as opposed to ebay (that should) working for me.


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