Feedback is a really important contributor to the smooth running of business on Trade Me.
Although these days we’re all pretty comfortable with the notion of buying and selling stuff on our favourite auction site, it still requires a leap of faith: we’re sending money to people we don’t know, for goods we haven’t seen.
Without some variation on the Feedback system , we’d be completely in the dark about the trustworthiness or otherwise of those on the other end of the trade.
The Feedback system isn’t perfect – but it’s a very useful guide to other members of the Trade Me community and helps keep us honest. Imagine how much better behaved we’d be in real life if we all had to walk around wearing Feedback ratings given to us by our colleagues and customers!
We had an enquiry from a reader which raised some useful questions about Feedback on Trade Me:
C.U. from Martinborough wrote:
“I’ve been wondering why everyone who’s browsing my Trade Me feedback (which is good and part of the ‘getting to trust someone’) can actually see what I had purchased or sold. I don’t (a) think it’s anyone’s business, (b) think it matters and (c) find it helpful if you’ve (for example) bought something as a surprise present.”
Thanks for the question, C.U. Firstly, to the issue of the surprise present: I’ve sold a few copies of my TRADE ME SUCCESS SECRETS book to bidders who intend to give the book away as a present — I usually know in advance because people ask me to sign the book “Happy Birthday [O So Lucky Recipient]“.
On those occasions, I usually hold off giving feedback until I receive it from the buyer, to avoid tipping off the recipient in case they have access to the buyer’s Trade Me account. Similarly, you should specifically ask sellers to delay feedback if you intend to give the item as a gift.
To the more philosophical question of why feedback should link through to item details:
If you’re a buyer considering whether a particular seller is trustworthy, even when they have a number of positive feedbacks it can be really important to see exactly how they gained those feedbacks.
A whole industry sprung up over on eBay, selling downloadable items for one cent each, purely to build feedback. As a result, it has been really easy on eBay to build a host of positive feedbacks with minimal cost and little effort [although the rules over there have since been changed to try to stamp out the practice].
Trade Me don’t allow downloadable items to be sold on the site, so that particular problem is avoided here in NZ; but you can still amass positive feedback for limited expense by buying a pile of $1 items, paying promptly and requesting positive feedback. Your feedback total looks good but you haven’t actually done much to deserve it. So, when you set out to sell a high-value item, the feedback numbers can mislead us about exactly how trustworthy you are.
In such circumstances, it’s really important for prospective buyers to have the ability to see for themselves exactly how you acquired that glowing feedback score.
Also, from a purely commercial point of view, if I’m a potential buyer interested in buying a widget from you, it’s useful information for me to know how much you earned from earlier widget sales. I don’t want to overpay!
So what’s the best way to give Feedback?
Some pointers on Feedback etiquette, firstly for sellers:
- Ideally, post feedback as soon as you’ve posted the item off to the fortunate buyer. You’ve completed your part of the transaction. Also, it’s another reinforcement to the purchaser that their item is actually on the way [and you do have the opportunity to adjust or delete your feedback if problems arise later].
- If you’re a high volume seller, on the other hand, you’ll need to streamline the various parts of your operation so probably can’t afford the time to give instant feedback. In that case, schedule time at least once a week for posting feedback on all that week’s auctions; 15 minutes should be enough.
- Try to be unique and creative when you leave feedback. Yes, you could just create generic feedback statements, such as ‘Great buyer, quick payment, A+++’, but you’ll make a better impact with more customised feedback. You never know when a few thoughtful words will lead to new customers.
- Wait for the safe arrival of your item. If it turns up in good condition and matches the auction description, give positive feedback promptly.
- If there are problems, try and resolve them with the seller before you resort to posting negative feedback. It’s easy to get into a feedback escalation situation, both buyer and seller posting feedback flames. Try not to go there.
- On the other hand, if the seller is a ratbag and simply doesn’t meet his/her obligations, you should seriously consider giving that red-face negative. The Trade Me community is self-policing but relies on all members to do their part.
If, despite all the above, you do get negative feedback:
- Learn from it
- Mend your ways if necessary
- You do have the right of reply posted directly below the feedback – use it wisely
- You also have the facility to post feedback on the trader – but try to avoid retaliatory feedback
- And of course you can (and should) try to rectify the situation — the trader has the ability to remove the feedback they posted.
Trade Me will not review negative feedback unless:
- It contains swear words or vulgarities (but note that Trade Me reserves the right to determine what it considers swear words, vulgarities or defamatory statements)
- It contains defamatory statements
- It contains the trader’s contact details, phone number, surname, email address or other means to individually identify the trader
- The trader placing feedback has been permanently removed from Trade Me for misbehaving
- The feedback refers to an ongoing investigation by Trade Me, the police, or any other authorised party
- Trade Me is ordered by the court to remove it
If you feel that any feedback has breached these terms, you can report it to Trade Me (as long as it’s not more than 30 days old).
And one more thing: you can be held legally responsible for damages to the trader’s reputation under New Zealand law. So keep your feedback factual.