Hack 3 How to Avoid Negative Feedback


Protect your feedback profile ? and your reputation ? from the proverbial slings and arrows of disgruntled eBayers.

In most cases, negative feedback is unnecessary. And I'm sure that if you just received negative feedback, you'll agree in a heartbeat.

But the reason that negative feedback is unnecessary is that it's usually avoidable. Complaints are usually lodged for one of the following reasons:

  • A buyer's expectations weren't met. A buyer will leave negative feedback for a seller if the item doesn't arrive quickly, if the item isn't in as good condition as promised, or if the seller isn't responsive to emails.

    All of these are avoidable: see [Hack #39] and [Hack #70] for tips to effectively prevent customers from being disappointed, both before and after the sale.

    But it's important to note that sometimes there's only so much a seller can do to please a customer. For this reason, sellers must also do everything possible to convince their customers ? especially inexperienced ones ? to communicate any problems or concerns to the seller before they go ahead and leave feedback.

    If you're the seller, probably the easiest way to do this is to include a note inside all your packages with your email address (and phone number, if applicable) and the assurance that, if the customer has a problem, you'll do everything you can to make the situation right. Sometimes the note alone is enough to make the customer happy.

  • Deadbeat bidder. A seller will leave negative feedback for a bidder who doesn't pay. If you're a bidder, you can avoid this by quite simply not bidding when you don't intend to follow through and purchase the item. Sellers can usually prevent deadbeat bidders from bidding on their auctions ? or rather, prevent bidders from becoming deadbeats ? by following the tips in [Hack #54].

  • Communication breakdown. One of the most common causes of failed transactions ? and the resulting negative feedback ? is one party's inability to email the other. See [Hack #8] for a variety of solutions.

  • Retaliation. A single negative feedback comment will often result in a reciprocal retaliatory feedback. Unfortunately, this is human nature, and there's not much you can do about it. What's worse, though, is that many eBay members don't leave negative feedback where appropriate out of fear of retaliation. See [Hack #5] for an approach that may work in this situation.

Any buyer or seller who lets another member get away with murder, simply for fear of retaliation, does the entire eBay community a disservice. Anyone who tries to blackmail you by threatening to leave negative feedback can be suspended for doing so; see SafeHarbor for details.

It might ease your mind to know that in all my years of using eBay, not a single deadbeat bidder who received negative feedback from me has ever retaliated. Not once.


SafeHarbor is essentially eBay's policy police. While that sounds like the last thing in the world that would interest a hacker, it's actually quite a valuable tool.

Most of eBay's polices have been put in place to protect buyers and sellers, as well as to maintain the integrity of the marketplace and the level of trust within the community. If you feel that another user is dealing unfairly or abusing the system in some way, you can notify eBay SafeHarbor by going to this address:


Some of the situations covered by eBay's policies include:

  • Listings for items not in the seller's possession (pre-sale)

  • Non-paying bidders and non-shipping sellers

  • Fraud, illegal account takeovers, spam

  • Feedback extortion

If you'd like eBay to investigate a listing or another member, navigate through the choices on this page, click Continue, and then click Contact Support.

1.4.1 Etiquette and Netiquette

It goes without saying that there are some very simple things you can do on an everyday basis to avoid negative feedback, and most of them involve simple etiquette. For example:

  • Be friendly, even if you're not in a friendly mood.

  • Write in complete sentences.

  • Respond quickly when someone emails you.

  • Be patient, and don't panic if you don't get immediate responses to your emails.

  • Be forgiving and understanding, especially with new eBay members. Take a little time to educate newbies rather than penalizing them for their inexperience.

  • Sellers: treat your customers like gold. Understand that when you have a bidder's money, they can get anxious, suspicious, and downright demanding if you don't reply to their emails quickly.

  • Buyers: sellers aren't employed by you, so be nice. Courtesy, gratitude, and patience will go far.

  • Be diplomatic, even if it means sometimes swallowing your pride.

1.4.2 See Also

If someone has left negative feedback for you, see [Hack #4] for tips to help with damage control, or [Hack #6] for a way to have it removed.