Feedback Etiquette

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.

For buyers:

  • 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.

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13 thoughts on “Feedback Etiquette

  1. Mandeno Moments

    This is a good article. I believe that it’s important to stick to stick to the facts and avoid emotion when placing negative feedback. e.g….

    *Not* “Grrrrr this scumbag ripped me off”, instead “The item was not as described and arrived damaged due to inadequate packaging. I will not trade with this person again” (of course this comes after trying to sort things out with the seller, as described in the article).

  2. Vince

    I wonder who has the most positive feedback (without any neutral or negative) on Trademe? Our feedback is pretty good (username: vbetham), but there are much better ones.

  3. Adam Caljé

    How is one supposed to deal with the fact that, having posted positive feedback towards a buyer, one has not received any feedback at all from the buyer, despite emailing him and requesting it almost two weeks after the sale?

  4. Ann Rawson

    I think its unfair that the first contact i got from a trader was a blue face because they never made contact and after 3 emails i relisted. my first one and was upsetting to me!! ohlook.

  5. Terry Neilson (Tejayn)

    Feedback is an important tool for traders as it enables them to gain an insight into a traders integrity. Sure it is possible that some people will endeavour to manipulate the system to their advantage, but any benefit that they obtain will only be short term, and are some people really that desperate, that they are prepared to jeopardize their good name for the sake of one or two ripoffs. So long as people show a bit of commonsense in their trading, they are not going to get hurt either buying or selling.

  6. B. Turner (wavez1)

    What can you do when somebody deliberately lies in their feedback in reference to the purchase and the settlement thereof? Unfortunately Trademe’s 0900 number does not connect with anyone.

  7. medill

    we need easy access to negative feedback without having to scroll through page after page of generic good trade messages to find them. I had a problem with a trader who was a great seller but lousy buyer, I had noted they had a less than perfect rating but after the first 2 pages gave up looking for why, untill after the problem came up. If i had been able to see the negative feedback eaisily i would have noted the pattern and avoided the trader.

  8. Shanti Glover

    Why r the realestate agents on the real estate forum allowed to be so nasty and rude to anyone asking questions, is there no moderator?

  9. Chris

    I find it curious that the feedback scoring system only allows for one feedback from a trader to count towards your total feedback score.

    Over five years I have maybe bought a dozen items from one particular trader and while feedback commentary is given and received, only the first trade counted towards my (and their) total feedback score.

    Why are subsequent trades not included in your total score?

  10. Linzi Greer

    hi, could you please explain… how a ‘seller’ (whom i have bought from before, and we both have done good feedbacks about eachother) when… right out of the blue, when i try to buy other items from this trader…. i find that i am BLACKLISTED!!!….for what??????? I have tried in vain to contact trader, to as reason for this…but to no avail….pleae if you could advise to of how i find out how and why this ‘problem’ has eventuated….thankyou.

  11. Michael Carney Post author

    Hi Linzi, thanks for the question. Blacklisting is entirely administered by the seller (it’s listed under More Options on your “My Trade Me” page —, and it’s done simply by entering in a trader’s username into the box on the My Blacklist page. That does create potential for error — for example, the trader who’s blacklisted you may have had problems with another member but has wrongly entered your username into the box.

    Once this happens, there’s no way to change a blacklist on Trade Me itself — but since you have dealt with the trader in the past, you’ve probably got their email address in your inbox archive (unless you’re far more efficient than me at deleting old files). The easiest way to find that address (assuming you haven’t deleted it) is to: (a) go to your own feedback, find the auction that related to the errant trader and identify the auction number; (b) search your inbox using that auction number; and (c) retrieve the email address thus found.

    Then, being on your very best behaviour, write to the trader pointing out that he/she must have made a mistake (and asking them to review that past transaction based on the auction number you found earlier).

    If that doesn’t work out, then blacklist them as well and move on — clearly the problem is theirs, not yours.

    PS Don’t worry, blacklisting doesn’t show up anywhere on Trade Me records, and it isn’t necessarily negative in connotation either — my wife and I blacklist each other’s user names on Trade Me so that we can’t be accused of bidding on each other’s items in an attempt to drive up the price. That’s called “shilling”, and it’s a definite Trade Me no-no.

  12. Michael Carney Post author

    Hi Shanti, sorry to hear about agents behaving badly. Alas, there are no moderators on the forum — too many messages, too little time, at least as far as Trade Me staff are concerned — but at that bottom of every page there’s a note: “The Trade Me message board is moderated by the Trade Me community. If you’re offended by a thread or message, you can vote to have it removed”.

    Simply click on the link to record your dissatisfaction with any message. If enough members vote against a message or thread, it will be automatically removed.

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