Having worked in the customer service side of a start up cell phone Internet retail company for a little over a year now, I find myself frequently frustrated by the demands of unreasonable customers and by how easy eBay makes it for a customer to extort a small business through their feedback system. Our company was founded with the simple intent of providing quality products at discounted rates so that we could make a living by saving people money. Yet week after week, I find myself frustrated, disgruntled, and actually depressed by the attitudes and demands of a certain “class” of eBay consumers, who are people that we are trying to save money. It seems that the giant corporations of America have bred a new class of e-consumer who seem to have forgotten about the working class business owners and who feel that they are entitled to what they want for cheaper than it costs at impossible speeds and if something should happen to go wrong in the process, the world itself should be stopped until they are completely satisfied. So on behalf of the small businesses on eBay, I have put together this list of pleas to the eBay consumer.
1. Think About the Seller – Most companies selling on eBay are not multi-million corporations who employ thousands of people but are, instead, a team of a few average people (or in a lot of cases, just a single person) trying to earn an honest living. Our company started out of a disgust for the unbelievable markups that large companies charge for their products, and we saw the opportunity to help people save money on products of the exact same quality. The saddest part about what I deal with on a daily basis is that when a problem arises, people are so quick to overlook the fact that they are saving massive amounts of money (on average, more than 50%) and to start making unjust demands to compensate for their inconvenience.
2. Understand What is Given Up to Provide Large Discounts – Now don’t get me wrong, when a problem arises, the customer must come first and any business should do everything they can to make the situation right. But that being said, the customer must realize that the incredible amount of compensation for consumer inconvenience that they are used to receiving from giant corporations (like free express shipping, immediate assistance, free products, replacements being sent out before a product is returned, etc.) are possible only because of the extreme markups on the prices of their items. Unavoidably, problems arise in life, but to expect to receive same reparations that some giant corporation would offer you from a small business on eBay is simply unreasonable. These companies are offering you the same products as the large corporations at a fraction of the price, which means they make less profit so, naturally, they will not be able to adhere to the same “anything you want” types of policies.
3. Be a Responsible Buyer – It is important to remember that because these smaller companies on eBay want to provide you with honest, quality service, they clearly state their policies in their listings and on their parent websites. As a responsible buyer trying to save money, you owe it to these companies to read their policies before purchasing. I can’t tell you how many times a month we deal with irate customers who are mad about policies that were clearly printed in the listing that they purchased. We offer a 30-day warranty on our items so how do you justify leaving negative feedback because you can’t return a broken car charger six months after you purchased it (for 85% less than it would have cost in a store)?
4. Understand the Severity of Negative Feedback – If a problem arises with your order from a company on eBay, I guarantee that the company will be willing to honor any policy they advertise as quickly as they can because negative feedback is absolutely detrimental to a company on eBay. The feedback system is a great way to ensure that companies stick to their word but when customers decide to make unreasonable demands, the feedback system is often used to extort free products and services from companies who really can’t afford to be giving things away. I would say that when a problem arises with a customer’s order, 70% of those customers will threaten negative feedback in the first message that the send to us (before even giving us a chance to let them know that we will be happy to fix the issue). Sadly, eBay permits people to leave negative feedback over issues even if the issue is clearly not covered in a seller’s policy. When a seller receives more than a once percent drop in feedback, their listings are then dropped from their earned search result spots, which literally costs a company thousands of dollars per week.
5. Be Reasonable About Shipping – As an eBay consumer, it’s important to remind yourself of the benefits that you are receiving. Not only are you getting the same item that you would see in a traditional retail store at a fraction of what it would cost but you don’t even have to leave your home to shop for it, which saves you time and money on gas. It’s also important to remember that the companies you purchase from on eBay are not out there flying planes and driving the buses that actually bring the packages to your door. Once a company ships your order, they have absolutely nothing to do with the shipping time of the order. A customer once emailed me and said, “I just bought a car charger from you. Email me when it’s on my doorstep.” First, customer service people are not slaves to be ordered around and, second, if it’s important for you to be able to track you package, pay for trackable shipping. Also, inexpensive items are highly susceptible to theft during shipment, but most companies will be happy to work with you to get the situation resolved if you just give them the opportunity.
Our company works day and night (often long into the night) to provide a quality service at incredible prices, but eBay makes it very hard to succeed in this ever-increasing land of unreasonable consumers. To start a small Internet retail company without eBay, however, is nearly impossible. We just hope that customers will start understanding that they need to put as much effort into being a reasonable, responsible buyer as the sellers put into being honest and fair retailers.