Let us now over-praise [vendor]

Cam posted about eBay feedback (or "karma", as Thing Two puts it). She points out the overuse of Great and Best Ever and multiple exclamation points, ending "If you were an eBayer, what kind of feedback would you want: the gushing kind, or my prosaic praise?"

I commented that I do not leave five stars on Amazon unless the service is truly outstanding, and I've had vendors complain. As a matter of fact, several send follow-up e-mails demanding (!!!!!) "five/five" reviews. Uh, no. That's like a student doing B work but insisting that the only appropriate grade is an A+.

There was one vendor that made communication difficult, would not respond to my actual query (where was my item and why hadn't it be expedited as requested?) for several back-and-forths, and ultimately we had to go to Alibris and get a refund. Because I couldn't figure out how to leave negative feedback on the Alibris site, I'm doing it publicly, here.

The point is, it's inflating your "karma" to insist on FIVE STARS!!!!!!!!, particularly if the service isn't, well, exceptional. I've left five stars for vendors that treat the item with incredible care, that respond quickly to the order and generally take care of me; for those that simply acknowledge the order and ship with ordinary wrapping, four stars are appropriate. I've left feedback saying that pencil markings do not make a book "Near New", and that a book in its original wrapper (a good thing) was better than "Near New". Depends on the purchase, and the vendor. I've read customer comments and I think that purchasers are trying to help the vendor sell more. Admirable, no? Not if their comments are ultimately meaningless ("Best CD ever!!!!!!!!" should go on the band's site, not a second-hand vendor's; "Most incredible book I've read yet!!!!!!!!!" really has nothing to do with the bookstore but is valuable to the author).

Can you, my readers, resolve to not inflate your comments, to leave fair and honest appraisals of on-line vendors? Buck the inflationary trend. How can that possibly hurt?


Anonymous said...

Since I posted the piece you linked, I've discovered something interesting, in the light of which I am thinking hard about my policy of conservative praise.

I just bought some electronic equipment for my son from an eBay vendor who runs a "Buy it Now" shop rather than than putting things up for bid. Anyhow, in the boilerplate on the item's page, this chap claims that eBay charges sellers more for their listings if they have less than a "4.8 average" in the various feedback subcategories (if you haven't eBay'd in a while-- or ever-- the way it works now is that, besides leaving a basic positive or negative rating, you're also supposed to assign your seller from 1 to 5 stars in each of four specific areas: communication, speed, price of shipping, and... oh, something else that I can't recall at the moment). The upshot of eBay's policy, if the vendor in question is telling the truth (and why wouldn't he? It's checkable), is that sellers are penalized for doing a perfectly acceptable job that doesn't happen to knock my socks off. If I assign a transaction more than one "4"-- and I would have thought that two 5s and two 4s constituted stellar feedback-- and other buyers do likewise, the seller we don't over-praise gets slapped with higher fees, which are going to be passed on to us in higher "Buy it Now" prices and starting bid levels. Of course, the seller pointed all this out as preface to a plea to us buyers to be very clear about what we need or want from him, so that he has a chance to earn the "straight 5s" he needs to keep his fees (and our prices) down.

It was also an implicit warning to people like me, who think 4/5 is a fair grade for decent service, that eBay's administration doesn't quite agree. And, far from being insulted by the warning, I was grateful to get it. I mean, there's no sense in my using a "4" to denote "good" if no one else is going to read it that way. Of course, I do intend to check at eBay and make sure his story about the higher fees is true. Assuming it is, can one make a case for my nevertheless stubbornly refusing to join in the grade inflation?

A definite wrinkle.

Lazygal said...

I just asked eBay, too. We'll see what the response is.

Problem of over-inflation also holds for Amazon... Perhaps they're the children of parents that were told that they would always succeed, that everyone deserves a medal for participating and that THEY'RE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE BEST EVER!!!!!!!!!!