WHY? Because back in January-February 2014, when we were snowed in with 40 below zero weather (Fahrenheit -- that's minus 60 Celsius) there were nine people who filed "Item Not Received" cases. Please note that all of them DID eventually get their items and everything was worked out to the buyers' satisfaction.
But ebay is punishing me anyway! They are limiting how much I can list, putting me lower in the searches, and holding my money for a week before I can access it on Paypal -- which they insist I must use (no more sending paper checks.) All because I got socked by the Polar Vortex last winter! Unfair!
Hello??? I can't control the weather...
2014 was a really, really bad winter that slowed everything down here in Minnesota. Remember the Polar Vortex? Minnesota was smack dab in the middle of it for weeks. We were snowed under three feet of blizzard on my dirt road. Even down in Minneapolis there were travel warnings out, and things froze to a standstill. There was a record-breaking 56-hour period when the temperature never went above zero. It was so cold that truck drivers pulled off the freeways to stay at truck stops all night, afraid that if they broke down on the highway they might freeze to death. In one case, a child who got locked out of the house by accident did freeze to death (very sad story.)
In many cases, cars would not start for days. My own car broke it's timing belt when I tried to start it at forty below, rendering the engine a pile of junk. Pipes froze, water mains broke. There were power failures, too, plus airport closings and/or delays. So of course, all of this affected my ability to ship promptly and also slowed down the mail when I did manage to ship. If the trucks can't get through to the post offices and the planes are grounded, the mail does not move.
People in nice warm climates like California and Florida didn't think about all this when they filed their claims and/or left complains about slow shipping. But once I explained where I lived and that I was stranded by the weather, everybody understood, told me to stay warm and safe, and closed their cases satisfied when they did get their orders. They were willing to put up with some inconvienences because they wanted the specialty items I have, they understood I'm in a rural area on the outer edge of the grid, and they were even sorry they had filed a claim in the first place.
In short, they understood that I'm not Walmart, I'm not Target, I'm not Macy's. I'm just one old guy living in the boondocks, who has cruelty-free feathers and some hard-to-find butterfly garden seeds, among other things.
Ebay doesn't care why it happened, they just blame the seller
But Ebay is penalizing me anyway, because their new policy says that no matter what the reason, and even if it is resolved satisfactorily, if a buyer files an "Item Not Received" case, it goes against the seller. Period. No matter that I had an excellent record for nine years. No matter that all these cases were clearly clustered in the same period as the paralyzing storms. I'm guilty no matter what.
I find myself wondering how many more sellers will get smacked for living where bad weather hits. Right now there are floods and fires on the US continent, and Hawaii is getting hammered by two hurricanes even as I write this. Expect to see a lot more good sellers dropping to "below minimum standards" in the coming months.
And what about buyer stupidity?
Not all of the cases have been about weather, however. Some are due to idiots making stupid mistakes. Like the guy who filed an "Item Not as Described" case, claiming I sent the wrong seeds. Then, when I requested him to re-check the return address on the envelope, he said, "Oh yeah, gee, I'm sorry -- that was an order from the OTHER seller." Mine arrived the same day, exactly as described. The "case" was his fault, right? But it was counted against me anyway, simply because he filed it.
Ditto for the package that sits on my desk right now, returned as undeliverable. I emailed the buyer about this two weeks ago. No answer. Sooner or later he will probably file, and then I'll probably get a current address to re-send the package (at my own expense) -- and be penalized because the guy did not update his shipping info.
Or the person whose order really was lost in the mail. She not only filed a case, she left a negative feedback because the "package was not delivered" after she got her money back -- which I gave her in less than 24 hours! Talk about adding insult to injury. She could have at least thanked me for the fast refund.
And of course, there are the people who don't bother to read the description, then get upset because it wasn't what they expected. Such as the person who complained that every feather in the lot was damaged and un-useable for her jewelry crafts -- when I had clearly explained these were broken "seconds" and "not craft quality" - hence the very cheap price. (People use them for cat toys, fishing flies, and whatnot.) It even said "seconds" in the title but I guess she did not know what that meant -- and neither asked me nor read the description to find out.
This problem has become more rampant since ebay went to mobile phone sales. Ever try to read a full description on an iPhone? Most people don't, they just click the pic. Sometimes I wonder if we are returning to the illiteracy of the Middle Ages, where everything was taught in pictures. I feel like shouting "Get the frak off your goram phone and go find a computer!" Useless venting, to be sure.
An easy solution that ebay probably will ignore
There is an easy solution for all this: Don't count cases that are resolved to the buyer's satisfaction. It doesn't taken an MBA to see that this would be more fair. Count only the cases that were escalated to being settled by eBay's Buyer Protection. But if a buyer and seller work it out between themselves first, the seller should not be penalized.
Will ebay take this advice (which I did give them personally)? Probably not. They never listen to us sellers anyway. And they, sitting in their nice urban corporate offices (down in always warm San Jose, California), have zero understanding about what life is like in rural America. Especially during bad weather.
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See also: Guess I'll never be a Top Rated Seller on ebay again --here's why -- a previous article by me about how it is impossible to meet their "1-day shipping" requirement if you are an Orthodox Jew who does not ship on Friday or Saturday because of the Sabbath.
Also check out these complaints about this new policy on Consumer Affairs. I'm not the only seller being blindsided by this.