Monday, October 13, 2008

Concerning My Negative Feedback

Dear Potential eBay Customer:

This blog entry is being posted today to explain the circumstances surrounding negative feedback which has recently been left on my profile. I will try my best not to take too much of your time.

On October 5th, 2008, I posted an auction for 29 CDs on eBay. Much to my surprise, the maximum shipping cost eBay would allow me to list for these items was $3.00. Obviously, it costs more than $3.00 to ship a box containing 29 CDs, which is why I added the following note to my item description:

(quote) "All of these items are already packaged and ready to be shipped in a box that weighs 5.6 pounds. The shipping cost I've listed is the maximum amount eBay will allow for these items, but please be aware that it will undoubtedly cost more to ship them. (I'm extremely negotiable with shipping and I'm sure we can arrive at an agreement when the auction is over.) FREE PRIORITY SHIPPING IF YOU BUY THEM NOW."

My claim that I am "extremely negotiable with shipping" is very true, and is illustrated by the feedback left by other bidders.

A week went by, and at the end of my auction I found myself obligated to sell my CDs for $40.00 (an absolute bargain by any standards, but especially on rare CDs like these). Assuming the buyer had read and understood the conditions of the auction, I contacted him and asked for his address so we could negotiate a final shipping cost. I specifically suggested that I ship the items at the parcel post rate, which is usually the most cost-effective method of sending packages. Here is the text of my e-mail verbatim:

"Thank you for bidding on these items. Please e-mail me your address so we can work out your shipping options. If you want, I can just bill you 10 dollars for shipping and handling, making it an even 50 bucks. That should cover parcel post and get everything to you in about 5 days. Just let me know, Thanks, J."

In response, I received the following e-mail:

"I would expect to pay you the $3 that eBay says is the maximum you can charge. If you do not plan to honor the shipping charge you quoted then please advise me through the EBay message system so I can respond and advsie eBay that I will not be making payment for this lot, and the reason why." (I'm omitting the bidder's name and contact information. I am not trying to smear anyone, just explaining what happened.)

Detecting a certain level of defensiveness, I tried to smooth things over by reminding the bidder of the note I'd included in my item description:

(quote) "I just received your message. (For some reason eBay is not sending mesages directly to my account the way they normally do.) Anyway, my item description made it clear that the shipping cost listed was an eBay restriction and not the actual shipping cost: 'All of these items are already packaged and ready to be shipped in a box that weighs 5.6 pounds. The shipping cost I've listed is the maximum amount eBay will allow for these items, but please be aware that it will undoubtedly cost more to ship them. (I'm extremely negotiable with shipping and I'm sure we can arrive at an agreement when the auction is over.) FREE PRIORITY SHIPPING IF YOU BUY THEM NOW.'

The invoice I've sent is in the amount of 50 dollars. This covers the cost of parcel post from my home to yours, and actually saves you about a dollar. If this is unsatisfactory, we can cancel the transaction and go our separate ways - no harm done. Please be aware, however, that it would be dishonest to say that I am not honoring my end of the bargain. As I've stated, I was very clear that another shipping total would have to be negotiated at the end of the auction and even included the weight of the package so potential customers could determine a preferred method of shipment. Let me know how you want this to work. Thank you, J."

I'd like to point out that, according to the official USPS postage calculator, my suggested shipping fee of 10 dollars is .66 less than it would have cost me to ship these items to the bidder's home.

And yet, once again I received a defensive reaction instead of a reasoned reply:

(quote) "Yes, I know, I read all that, but it means nothing really. Ebay says you cannot charge me more than $3 to ship. That's what a restriction means. I bid accordingly. If you do not want to shiop me the items for $3 as ebay states you must if you sell CDs on their site then that is your choice. You can assume I will leave appropirate feedback and follow up with eBay to better understand the policy. I sell on the site too."

Thus, instead of simply informing me about the eBay shipping policy (which has changed to some degree since the last time I did any serious auction work on the site, and which I would gladly have honored), the bidder deemed it necessary to condescend to me about "what a restriction means" and how "he sells on the site too." I concede that I may have misunderstood the finer points of eBay's shipping restrictions, but I don't believe anyone could argue that: (1) I never hid the fact that it would cost more than the listed price to ship my items (by his own admission, the bidder thoroughly read this part of my item description but apparently felt no need to correct me about anything before the auction was over); (2) I was civil and fair when I proposed the standard parcel post rate (no price gouging); and (3) I volunteered to make up any difference outside of the suggested $10.00 shipping cost.

The bidder was forthright in declaring that he would leave negative feedback, but after considering the tone of his correspondence I decided I would rather receive a negative rating than have any further dealings with him. I said as much in my final e-mail message, which sums the situation up quite nicely if I do say so myself:

"Well...I was willing to work with you here. Who knows? I might have even agreed to take a hit and send you this lot for $3.00 if you'd approached me with anything resembling professionalism and politeness. Or, even better, if you'd contacted me before the transaction ended to better explain the shipping policy (unfamiliar to me, as I haven't sold anything on eBay since before the new policies took effect). As it stands, though, you've made my decision about this transaction a simple one. Go ahead and leave negative feedback. I'll respond in kind. My best, J."

I hope you understand then, potential bidder, that there is a very definite story behind the abovementioned negative feedback. This was an unfortunate situation, not an indication of my trustworthiness as a seller. My comments from other customers will attest that I am an honest seller and buyer with only the best of intentions. (Please note how many times the word "friendly" appears in my feedback.) My simple misunderstanding of eBay's shipping policy was an easy obstacle to overcome. Sadly, some people just like to make things difficult.

Rest assured that I am now well-versed on shipping costs and will continue to provide my customers with the same friendly and negotiable service which has always marked my eBay experience. Please bid with confidence and contact me (via eBay) with any questions.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope the time and effort I've put into writing it will be seen as evidence of my sincerity.

My very best,

J. Wiltz


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