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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Comments

Ed

The one to blame is eBay and their DSR rating system. Punishing a seller by having them pay more because of a disgruntled buyer is ridiculous, especially now that sellers can't leave negative comments to defend themselves. One of the reasons I quit selling on eBay and only buy there.

Phil

Whether or not Janey is right, I think she misses the point: it doesn't _matter_ whether the buyer was right or wrong.

This is 100% unambiguously constitutionally-protected opinion. Using the legal system to silence critics -- even misguided or under-informed critics -- is shameful, and not how the system is (theoretically) supposed to work.

The buyer has the right to express opinions about the seller, even if those opinions are "wrong". The correct response to inaccurate speech is more speech, not a chilling lawsuit.

Unfortunately it's all-too-often successful, which is why we need robust anti-SLAPP laws. This one ended well, but it required far too much effort for such an open-and-shut situation.

Escher

Me thinkst Janey doth protest too much.

Every situation is different. Just as there are many legitimate sellers and buyers on eBay along with the shady, unscrupulous, and vindictive; so does real life. Welcome to humanity, we have some great and awful people.

Why are you so keen on finding the seller blameless? Unless you personally know him, or are pushing your agenda, then take it for what it is: a seller who was too zealous and found that, yes, there are people who do in fact fight back.

This was not the seller's first rodeo pulling this stunt.

Janey

Did she contact him to say she'd been dinged $1.44? Did he refuse to compensate her for it? They had some sort of communication or she wouldn't have been able to leave a 1 on Communication rating.

Did Radey say he used USPS to improve his profits or did he say it was because it was less costly? Depending on the item size, weight, etc. I sometimes offer buyers a choice of UPS or USPS. They almost always choose whichever is cheapest. Since buyers often shop on the basis of price+shipping, a low cost shipper is also a competitive advantage in the Ebay search engine. The lower cost for the customer and the better competitive search advantage for the seller should make it a win-win for both parties -- unless you're opposed to profits in general, in which case I'd guess you'll be donating that $20K to charity.

The business about the USPS dinging isn't something that happens every day. I've heard from one customer in 2 years. Did you get a deposition from a representative of USPS as to how often it happened on this seller's shipping? The packages are all tracked so USPS has the information. If this desperado's incidence of USPS recalculating its cost after the fact is similar to my own, he can't be blamed for not having guessed which 1% of his shipments it happened on. When it last happened to me I toyed with the idea of putting something in my item descriptions to the effect that customers should contact me if they get hit up by USPS for more money. Problem with that is that in my experience 5-10% of the buyers will cheat the seller if they can. Not pulling that number out of my ear. Before I shipped everything with delivery confirmation, depending on the year, 5-10% of my customers claimed they hadn't received the item. When I started shipping everything with delivery confirmation that number dropped to less than 1%. Delivery confirmation doesn't require a signature and my product is small so gets left on the doorstep. My USPS carrier confirmed there is nothing different in the way they deliver DR packages to explain the drop in claimed non receipt. I Figured if I mentioned USPS extra charging in lists, the same 10% would be claiming they'd been overcharged and I'd have no way to dispute it.

By the way, Radey may not have been lying when he said he saw the numbers go to 1's. Ebay went through a period a few years ago in which DSR numbers were reported in ways that confused many sellers. There's a difference between being mistaken and lying. Calling someone a liar when you don't know if they intentional told a falsehood might make you guilty of defamation, mightn't it?

Last question: was the attorney who did most of the sellers filings for FB removal his brother in law? Must have been selling some high end products for the math to work.

Paul Levy

Yes, in fact, eBay's records were subpoenaed (the document was submitted at the trial), and the contents of the records were confirmed in a deposition: Med Express's claim about the numbers left in the DSR's was shown to be false. The facts are recounted in detail in the judge's opinion (linked from the post above). The pages of the opinion are un-numbered, but look on the 11th page of the PDF, paragraph number 36, and the 13th to 14th page, paragraph number 1. http://www.citizen.org/documents/Med%20Express%20v%20Nicholls.magistrateorder.pdf

As for the USPS issue, Radey testified that he used USPS because it was cheapest (thus giving him more profit), even though he was aware of the problems with inaccurate shipping cost estimates; he also admitted that these problems are widely discussed among eBay sellers. "Janey"'s comment confirms that admission. So it was, it seems to me, entirely fair for Nicholls to hold Med Express responsible for the problem and fault Radey for poor communication. And, in any event, as the judge ruled, a rating is inherently subjective, an opinion, that cannot properly be the basis for a defamation claim, because defamation claims can be brought only over false statements of FACT.

Janey

So was Ebay compelled to reveal the DSR feedback left by those buyers? Textual feedback on Ebay is irrelevant. Lots of folks name calling the seller for being overly vain about their feedback. Mostly revealing ignorance about how Ebay works.

It's all about the ratings on the DSR stars. A buyer can, for example, leave textual feedback that is accurate, "Had to pay $1.44 in shipping due" but then leave the lowest possible ratings, 1's, for all four stars, and there's nothing to prevent them from lying their heads off on any or all of them and, as Ebay has repeatedly stated, the only way they will remove such feedback is with a court order. Sellers who receive many feedback a day have no idea who diced and slashed their star ratings but low volume sellers are often able to figure it out pretty easily if they've only received 3 feedbacks in the last few days, one from a customer who left textual feedback indicating unhappiness. 1's and 2's on DSR stars impact what a seller pays in fees and search positioning of items. Agents of an Ebay sellers competitors sometimes purchase low priced items, leave happy dappy textual feedback, then leave 1's in the DSR's, fully intending to damage the seller's discount qualifications and, more importantly, the search position standing of their items on Ebay. Seller can't prove it, Ebay only gives lip service to investigating suspects. I know of one seller who gave himself a Christmas present three years in a row by having someone leave negative feedback on all his competitors accounts in the last few weeks of December. A few of the sellers got together, compared notes, figured out that though the negatives came from different buyers trading names, they all came from within an hour of that seller's location.

One 2013 forum on this case lambasted the seller for estimating that the damaged feedback would cost him $5k. There they were, running their calculators, weeding through Ebay's fee structure, trying to find fault with his calculation, totally disregarding the most important financial consequence of trashed DSR ratings, that not he, or the calculator warriors could do anything but guess at: search position. Anyone who thinks that's unimportant to a company's sales might want to go consult with some SEO professionals. If you drop deep in the Ebay stacks, your sales can nose dive.

For those who think the seller should have known USPS was nickeling and diming his customers for extra shipping, think again. Happens all the time. USPS does not inform the shipper thus the seller has NO WAY of anticipating it or knowing when it happens unless they hear it from their customer. You can take a package to the post office, watch them weight it, pay the postage they say is required, watch them slap on the postage and then somewhere between that USPS outlet and the final destination, some other USPS person decides the something about the package or postage amount was incorrect and hits the recipient up for a little extra. Why? Ask USPS. They know it happens, USPS counter personnel admit it It is in part the result of USPS codes that are so convoluted that USPS employees are hard put to keep up with all the regulations and changes thereto as to size, thickness, rigidity, weight, when confirmation is included or extra, etc. So what goes into the sausage machine smells sweet but something happens along the way and it comes out smelling like dog doo for everybody involved. Maybe a worker at another USPS outlet is a new employee and following rules no one else follows, or has/hasn't read the newest bulletin about change #9,254.300, or just got up on the wrong side of the bed and looks for a reason to penalize the first 10 packages that come through his station that day. You think I jest? Not a bit. Want some fun? Search the web to see the 1,256 ways USPS outlets handle hand stamped envelopes such as wedding invitations. It's snowflake land, no two USPS offices or personnel do it the same way or follow the same rules. Many Ebay sellers know more about USPS requirements and regulations than the counter people at USPS.

Should the seller have sued the buyer? None of us can possibly know the answer to that without knowing if DRS ratings left by the buyer were truthful and I'm betting no one involved attempted to determine the answer to that. Friend of mine once had all her DSR stars slashed by a buyer who was angry because she bought an armoire with her cell phone, didn't bother to read the whole description - including the part that said it was 9 ft high. She had 8 ft ceilings. Thing got there, wouldn't fit in her house, was sitting out in the hallway, doorman was ticked, and she wanted the seller to pay the return freight. In the interests of customer relations, seller offered to split the cost but the buyer didn't want her husband to find out she'd been so stupid, admitted it to the seller, then left 1's in every one of the seller's stars. That too happens all the time. Buyers, especially telephone shoppers,do not read descriptions, not even common sense things like the dimensions of furniture. Then they expect sellers to absorb the costs of their negligence and there is little sellers can do to protect themselves from it. As an Ebay seller for 18 years I could tell you stories about the John Q consuming public that would give you a whole new view on this seller would think deserves castration.

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