Why is eBay not trustworthy

eBay: Cheating with the rating system

The man sounds as if he has experience with such calls: "I understand your displeasure," he says with a slight Ruhrpott accent, "that must have been an oversight by the shipping department". What it was about: The called party had offered iPhones on eBay - at a low price and supposedly brand new. An obviously used phone with lots of scratches was sent, carelessly wrapped in plastic film and without the original accessories.

Was that really a mistake? When he called again the next day, the seller said that his "shipping department" had checked the matter and determined that the desired device was also in new stock. The buyer should send the old device back and will then receive the correct new one in exchange. Two days after sending, however, the message suddenly comes from eBay that the purchase has been canceled by the seller; the purchase price paid via PayPal will be refunded. When asked, the seller explains that the refund was also accidentally made. You can buy the item again from him on eBay, but he has "never" offered new devices there.

Positive reviews against gift

Anyone who buys on eBay and is not a complete novice should look at the ratings of the sellers in question before buying. Although the platform has set up a number of protective mechanisms to prevent fraud, hardly anyone would like to risk the trouble and the circumstances for it - so a provider with top ratings right away. But this is exactly what the sellers also know. And some of them always find new tricks to make a better impression than they deserve with their practices.

There are sellers who offer small gifts if buyers give a positive rating, which is prohibited according to eBay rules. This is a relatively simple case - as soon as the platform learns about it, it can take action against it. The iPhone seller, however, seems to be more sophisticated. In fact, he has apparently sold old devices more often than new ones. Nevertheless, at the beginning of December it had a rate of 99.9 percent positive ratings, which is a very good value.

Which means 99.9 percent

To understand this, you have to dig deeper into eBay's rating system. One would think that 99.9 percent positive reviews would mean that 999 out of 1000 buyers have said positively about a transaction. But that's not true: “The percentage of positive ratings is calculated from all positive and negative ratings received for transactions (...). Neutral ratings are not included in this calculation of the percentage of positive ratings, ”the eBay press office informs on request.

In reality, 99.9 percent positive ratings should only be understood to mean that the ratio of positive to negative ratings is 999 to 1. That sounds like a subtle difference, but it can be misleading: Theoretically, even a seller who is rated neutral by 499 buyers, negative by one and positive by another 500 would still achieve the seemingly convincing rate of 99.8 percent. "Neutral ratings are neither negative nor positive and are therefore not included," writes eBay to explain. This information can also be found on the eBay help pages, but it will come as a surprise to most buyers.

A closer look helps

And that's exactly what the iPhone seller seems to be betting on. A closer look reveals that although it only has 15 negative ratings, it still has 429 neutral ratings. With a total of 25,333 ratings, it would only come to a positive rate of 98.2 percent. That looks much less convincing and would be a warning signal for cautious buyers. And in fact, similar cases are described in 12 of the 36 neutral ratings for the seller from last month alone.

"IPhone not new. IMEI: Oct. Activated in 2016. Allegedly an oversight, ”writes a buyer, for example. And the only negative review last month came from a customer who was expecting a new iPhone but received an old one: “New iPhone according to item description, one was delivered with strong signs of use”. The fact that most disappointed buyers give a neutral rating instead of a negative one after such experiences seems very generous. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that the seller apparently refunds the purchase price without any problems and appears friendly on the phone (in the first e-mail about the purchase, he asks not to rate badly in case of problems, but to call the specified mobile number first).

Negative experience but no warning

However, it is possible that even more customers have had negative experiences with the seller, but saw no chance to warn others about him: After the purchase was abandoned in the case described above, the otherwise available option for rating was no longer available in the purchase overview. The eBay press office later explained how the evaluation option can still be found via detours. But once they have at least got their money back, disappointed buyers shouldn't spend that much effort.

In any case, the problem remains: A seller who, according to reviews, has sold old iPhones as new at least 13 times in the last month alone, shines on eBay with an excellent review rate. The press office stubbornly left the question of whether cases like this one might pile up and what is being done about it.


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