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Buyer sued for posting factual negative review on eBay (popehat.com)
155 points by greenyoda on Apr 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 115 comments

The case is clearly without merit. They almost certainly sued her hoping that she doesn't have the resources to respond to it, which would result in a default judgment against her. If she is able to get an attorney, she will wind up being awarded her legal expenses and potentially other damages since the case was pretty clearly filed in bad faith.

The choice to include eBay as a defendant in the suit, however, is clearly not well thought out. Med Express has filed a precedent-setting, must-win case against a company that effectively has unlimited resources. eBay will eviscerate this company in court and almost certainly ensure that they never do business through the site again. Since no attorney in their right mind would have advised such a move, this sounds like a misguided individual that managed to borrow enough money for the filing fee rather than a serious attempt at litigation.

Agreed, unless eBay's terms of service includes a grace period for sellers to cure these kinds of breaches of the sale terms. Otherwise it does not bode well that the plaintiff's attorney admitted the review was truthful(as truth is a defense to defamation/libel claims). I tend to agree Defendant should not only win but recover her attorney's fees and costs for Plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted".

He admitted that the words in the review are true, but is the "negative" flag on the review true or deserved? From what I understand, just a few negative reviews can ruin someone's business on ebay and posting a negative review over 1.44$ and threatening their business sounds like a rather severe over-reaction.

From the article, it would appear there is in fact an attorney in the loop - who doesn't appear to know that this is a mistake.

They know it is, they either don't care, or their client doesn't care.

You are confused. Most likely, EBay will just file a motion to get themselves dismissed from the lawsuit.

I am not sure how would interpret my comment as being rooted in confusion. If the claims were legitimate, eBay would be an appropriate defendant since they are publishing the defamatory content. Moreover, if they somehow lost such a case, it would open the floodgates for anyone that has ever received negative feedback to sue them. Thus, eBay will likely try to make this publicly painful for this plaintiff to serve as a warning to others that would pursue such ridiculous cases.

Yes, they are an appropriate defendant, i think you are confused as to whether they want to stay in this. They have a very clear safe harbor here, and they've never cared about their sellers anyway. They'll likely either try to get dismissed as a defendant (on some jurisdictional issue, which they'd likely lose), or, at worst, get it dismissed on the pleadings or on summary judgement. They aren't going to drag it out and make it painful "as a warning to others", because it doesn't matter to them. They'll get sued even if they did.

eBay could file a Motion to Dismiss like you suggest, but they actually have a dog in this fight - because if sellers suing buyers over feedback becomes common practice that could have a chilling effect on eBay transactions. Without seeing the pleading I am assuming this is only a libel claim, eBay may be better off filing a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and get the case dismissed as to both parties and not just themselves.

Sure, they may bother to file a motion for judgement instead.

But eBay has a near 0% chance of losing here, the safe harbor is very clear. Given how little eBay tries to protect anyone but eBay already, I can't see why they would ever stay in this voluntarily.

It's not instead, they can file the judgement on the pleadings and if they lose they can file motion to dismiss (most jurisdictions they can combine the two motions, motion for judgment of the pleadings and in the alternative motion to dismiss). It's not much of a legal cost and they stand to gain a lot .

I'm not familiar with medina county, ohio motions practice :)

However, let's assume this will end up in federal court because ebay/et al will remove it there (there is complete diversity, ).

Past that, I won't claim it's not common federal motion practice to combine 12(b)(6) and rule 56 motions, or 12(b)(6) and 12(c) motions.

Yes, a 12(b)(6) and rule 56 motion can be filed at the same time, not one instead of the other.

However, in the 12(b)(6) and 12(c) case, often one is clearly instead of the other, because 12(c) is only used after pleadings are closed, and 12(b)(6) would have to be made before a responsive pleading if one is required (if no responsive pleading is required, yes, you can make it whenever, including at trial)

Just because you can combine them into the same motion out of simplicity doesn't make them not "instead" of each other.

I think this is a problem with eBay. For some reason, sellers desperately need and want your good feedback, and a single bad feedback, even for something as tiny as a $1.44 postage stamp, seems to have a very bad impact on the seller. In real life, one bad review about something like this on someone with a good track record doesn't hurt the slightest bit. Why does it hurt so much in the eBay review system, and can't they improve that? (So that I don't have to feel guilty when not saying "super awesome 5 stars" to a seller who was just "good").

I've just started using ebay. I look at the feedback because I realise (from years of reading Amazon reviews) that people sometimes give bad feedback for something outside the seller's control, even if the seller tried to correct the error.

So this bad feedback wouldn't have bothered me.

But I guess some / many people don't check the details. When you have two sellers listing the same item with similar 'buy it now' prices and packaging I guess feedback is the only other metric someone can check.

Since ebay sellers cut costs and profits as far as possible having similar prices is pretty common.

It actually expands far, far beyond that. eBay is extraordinarily merchant hostile and just a few back feedback over the course of a thousand auctions can trigger automated blocks that prevent you from listing more than a handful of auctions at a time[1]. For a major eBay seller this is basically a death sentence.

Additionally your detailed seller rating or DSR determine how much of a discount you get on the extremely steep eBay feed[2]. Again for major sellers, especially people selling ultra low margin items such as phone accessories the 20% discount on ebay's final value fee will mean the difference between being able to competitively price their product and simply going out of business.



> something outside the seller's control

It depends. For me, the seller is fully responsible for shipping, and any added postage, while well outside the seller’s control, is attributed to the seller. I also do not want the seller to correct an error, I want the seller not to make an error.

If you fail at that, I will leave bad feedback, and if it causes you to go out of business, I couldn’t care less. Do your job better next time.

> If you fail at that, I will leave bad feedback, and if it causes you to go out of business, I couldn’t care less. Do your job better next time.

Wow. One small mistake and they should go out of business. Are you treated that way in your job?

You seem to be unacquainted with the realities of capitalism.

In a retail business, your customers want to be served by you and are willing to pay for that privilege. They don't particularly care what it takes for you to provide them with the service, or what the consequences to you are if they express displeasure over the value not received for the money spent. You are not a charity that deserves to exist on principle. They have no commitment to you. In a real sense they fire you every time they choose to go to your competitor (be that Walmart, Amazon, or wherever) and feel absolutely no remorse over it.

People move from a contracting relationship to being employed explicitly because they want more security. That's the deal. Firing employees is asymmetric because every time you do it, all of your other employees get concerned that the same may happen to them. Also an employee represents a fairly large sunk cost to you in your search to find one, and training - reasonable employers don't throw that away lightly.

These are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Generally the closer and more complex the relationship between two commercial entities, the more important maintaining that relationship becomes, and the more that you care about maintaining the business relationship. Someone who bought something from you once on eBay doesn't have a relationship to care about, and really doesn't care. An employer/employee relationship is very close and complex, so you care a lot. Any kind of frequent commercial relationship (be it going to a restaurant you go to regularly, dealings with a supplier, etc) will likely be somewhere between those extremes.

There is a great gap between saying "I will not shop with you" and "I wish nobody ever shops with you". I wasn't bothered by GP's desire for accurate feedback, or for consequences for mistakes; I was appalled by their callous attitude.

The attitude was not "I wish nobody ever shops with you", it was, "I don't care if nobody ever shops with you".

This seems quite reasonable. If you're trying to run a store, the details of what is required matter to you, not your customers. If the consequence of negative feedback is that you're replaced by a more competent store, most customers are quite happy with that.

Accurately stating that the seller failed to cover $1.44 of postage is a VALID reason to leave bad feedback.

It is not a valid reason to put someone out of business. If eBay chooses to put someone out of business over a one-line review that reveals a $1.44 oversight, then eBay is the culprit here, not the complainant. The person complaining shouldn't have to care: it's not their fault that others are overreacting.

Of course. If he was he'd be here on HN crying about how the evil corporation doesn't care about its employees.

Pure hypocrisy.

How you dare forget this ; and break the build? You are fired.

...and in this case it's not even the seller who forgot the semi-colon. The seller asked if a semi-colon was needed and was told it wasn't, only for the build to break on compile, leaving Bob to edit the source. But the seller offered to edit the source for Bob.

What you see as a problem, I see as a positive. This is clearly an edge case - it's not the norm by far. The norm is that sellers make darn sure that their product is "as advertised" so that they've set the expectations correctly. This results in higher feedback for the seller. Sure, you have some slime ball sellers there who say, "Give me 5 stars!" but that, again, is not the norm.

And, in the case of this seller, it appears this was not an isolated incident. In their reply to the one star review, they state:

Sorry- no idea there was postage due. This has happened alot from USPS lately.


So, where is the case against USPS? Clearly they are the ones at fault. Also not an isolated incident.

Does this really happen? You take the package to the post office, they weigh the package, charge you money, give you a receipt, and then later demand money from the recipient in order to finally deliver the package?

Nah, the package isn't weighed twice. More likely than not the seller weighed it themselves and used a calculator (either on eBay's website or with an app like Stamps.com) to figure the amount, which was off by a bit.

I think this could be solved with community reviews of reviews. Although it is factual mistakes happen. Example, did the buyer make good on it? Is this a pattern? If the public could vote up or down on reviews to increase or decrease the weight of the rating this would be a non issue.

Perhaps there should be some weight parameter added to both positive and negative feedback, where the value of the sale is being compared to total sold goods value makes the feedback more or less relevant: if you're mostly dealing with expensive laptops, and then you've sold broken pair of cheap headphones, then it should matter less, than when you're selling cheap headphones and you've sold broken expensive laptop. This is from top of my head, but I bet there are many other ways to improve rather old, and no more ideal eBay feedback system.

A guy sold me an HP calculator, advertised as "in perfect condition" while in fact keys on it were broken, it was badly warped, and cigarette ashes were falling out of it.

I gave him negative feedback and he went ballistic, saying "You should have sent me a message privately, rather than give me bad feedback! I've been on eBay for ten years with no bad feedback. I would have made it up to you."

I explained that his kind of behavior was exactly what bad feedback was for.

eBay feedback is badly broken if people aren't supposed to actually use it.

In the last twelve months, Med_Express_Sales has received two pieces of negative feedback. The negative feedback in question read:

"Order arrived with postage due with no communication from seller beforehand."

To which Med_Express replied:

"Sorry- no idea there was postage due. This has happened alot from USPS lately."

In August 2012, another user posted the following negative review:

"Items were listed as new and they were used, they worked good but used"

In this case, Med_Express replied:

"They were new, but you can return them. We'll even pay return shipping!"

Looking at this wholly from a customer service perspective, I think that the two replies are dramatically different. In the first case, their reply passed responsibility over to USPS and made no mention of any compensation. In the second case, the reply specifically disputed the buyer's allegation, but also promised to make things right.

I think that most buyers are sophisticated enough to weigh the negative feedback with the seller's response. And, in this case, I think that Med_Express_Sales damaged their own brand with a less than satisfactory response.

I stopped using eBay when they canceled my auction because I had included a link to the PDF manual (on the manufacturer's site) of the phone I was selling. This was around 2006 and I assumed their idiotic policies would quickly see them replaced by a better platform, but for some reason this has never happened.

The power of ebay resides in being able to find any product that comes to mind on auction at virtually any given time. Therefore, no one I know bothers to check the competition (if it even exists) before they bid. The same known problem occurs with Facebook regarding friends. I don't see any solution, this ease of use is more important to most customers than ToS.

this is called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_monopoly and is well studied

Depending on where they are in their fiscal year, eBay seems to alternate between favoring buyers, or favoring sellers. I've used them through several pro-buyer and pro-seller cycles, and their actions were often unexpected, much like your PDF example.

Both parties don't come off well here - the buyer could have given the seller the benefit of the doubt before posting a negative feedback over a trivial amount and the seller managed to turn an unjustified, in my opinion, negative feedback into a terrible publicity for itself.

I think there is more context to the situation than what is discussed in the original post. Is the company generally an honest entity who always put their customers in front of everything and this was a one-time mistake? Or do they routinely "forget" to pay for postage and hope no one noties. etc.

>Both parties don't come off well here

Glad someone is at least acknowledging that both parties are acting ridiculous. Granted, the seller has now taken it to a whole other level by getting litigious, but still, both are coming off like giant children.

For whatever reason, either accidental, or deliberate, the postage was short $1.44. Not a big deal. The Med company offered to make it right, but the person left negative feedback over it anyway.

Imagine if this was just an error. To have someone drag your name down even after offering a remedy has got to be beyond frustrating -- especially in an ecosystem like eBay's.

Did the seller try contacting the buyer explaining the situation and offer to reimburse for problems etc? This could have been the first step in solving the situation, in my opinion.

Personally, I think lawyers should be dis-barred for bring a frivolous claim to court solely on the hopes of winning because the defended cannot afford to defend themselves. It is an abuse of the power they have been given with their right to practice law.

I work for a popular brand selling accessories on eBay and Amazon. One of my duties is replying to customer care inquiries. We are a small start-up, our team is small, therefore happens quite often to spend hours every day replying to customers having a number of problems (postage problem, usage problem, etc..).

I do totally understand the seller, they have done everything they could to make the buyer happy. The buyer, instead of giving a chance to the seller to make things right just left a bad feedback. I guess anybody can see how unfair this is.

Feedbacks and reviews are supposed to give a hint to potential buyers about the service or product they will get. The truth is that more than often they are a "weapon" for frustrated buyers to revenge and damange the seller, without being anyhow responsible for it. This is unfortunate becouse bad reviews and bad feedbacks damage sellers not only with their reputation but also kill sales. Having a bad review on Amazon means to simply not sell that very particular product, doesn't really matter if the bad experience was due to inexpertise of the buyer or from a delivery problem (all things that are completely out of the sellers control).

When you are a young company, it's hyper-frustrating to be damaged and see your sales killed or importantly reduced by a customer that was unhappy because of something you couldn't control in any possible way. While in such a situation the company must anyway step-up and take action to mitigate the problem (and they did as they offered a refund) the buyer must be responsible for actually damaging their business. It requires experience to understand that sometimes customers are just trolls spoilt by life and to just let it go. If you have a great company providing excellent products and services you'll make it up with future orders :)

I think you are projecting your extensive experience with the review system onto the everyday buyer.

eBay asked the shopper to review her transaction: overall her experience was negative (not enough postage) so she gave a negative review.

Someone who doesn't sell on eBay would be completely ignorant of the (apparently large) consequences of negative feedback.

She gave negative feedback because her experience didn't match her expectations. It's a reasonable thing to do.

It doesn't seem reasonable for the company to lose large amounts of transactions due to one negative feedback. But that isn't the buyer's fault, it is how eBay is organized.

As someone who runs ecom for a jewelry company on Amazon and eBay, I know that you mean.

All that being said, how can anyone think suing a customer over a single review is going to be a net PR win?

This is the sort of frivolous lawsuit that makes a complete mockery of legitimate torts. There needs to be some way to make courts award damages to the defendant in ridiculous cases without making it difficult for small parties to sue large ones over legitimate grievances.

Frivolous like posting a 1 star rating because the seller required you to pay $1.44 in shipping to complete the transaction? I'm not sure it's the lawsuit that's frivolous.

I'm fairly certain yours is not an objective opinion.

I think they will probably go down in court. Having done Amazon business in the past, and knowing what bad mojo it is to try to change the terms adding extra charges after the deal is signed, personally I would have just eaten the $1.44 fee.

Then again, I never made a dime at Amazon, only just lost money and collected positive ratings...

EDIT: I am being downvoted up the thread for taking a position that is not popular. I agree with Med Express that Ebay is culpable for this, as much as this must put me in the wrong legally. Where are the metamoderators?

A 1-star review is the lowest rating that you can give. The seller took the item to the post office and mailed it, postage paid. For some reason it arrived with postage due. Now Med Express will probably be required to keep a reserve on their Ebay account for the next 6 months.

Maybe it gained weight in the mail?

Maybe buyers should post reviews that are fair and balanced. Was the item as described? Received on time? Damaged in transit? Did you communicate your issues to the seller, did they make an attempt to remunerate your concerns?

If the pope hat article is remotely accurate, I would not have given this company a 1-star review. They did everything they could.

There is only negative - neutral - positive on eBay (in the overall rating, not the specific shipping/as advertised etc. categories).

So it now comes down to expectations and how to match expectations to + 0 and -. I for one absolutely expect items to be as advertises and delivered within the timespan indicated. For that, sellers get a 0. If they deliver faster and/or a better item, they might get a +. If they fail to meet my basic expectations, they get a -. Hence, by these standards, the - was perfectly justified.

I did not know this is how the e-bay rating system works!

For some reason given this information, I changed my mind. When the buyer had 5 stars to choose from (in my mind, and I thought they granted only 1) it seemed abominable to leave the bad rating, given facts. Seemed to me like their customer service was worthy of at least 3 stars.

Now knowing that the scale is only three wide, it seems like a reasonable thing to do, leaving a rating of "minus".

That's funny.

Boy, if Ebay's policies are such that someone has incentive to sue someone else just for one negative feedback... I'm glad I don't use Ebay.

This seems like a very unfair situation for the company.

Think about what would happen if this were the other way around. For example, buyer returns an article, sends it through the post, and for some reason it ends up at Med Express door with postage due. They leave a negative feedback on eBay about the user.

The Internet would then also be up in arms about the company, 'abusing' its position to harm an underdog user.

The notion that negative feedback ought somehow only be posted in event of egregious misdescription is a bizarre, Ebay-centric one.

It was a bad customer experience - of course her response is negative!

eBay have designed it this way, but many users probably aren't aware of the consequences of leaving feedback.

You'd write a complaint card in a hotel with nary a second thought and no ill consequences. To be sued for what appears to be the same thing online is at best a gross overreaction.

>The notion that negative feedback ought somehow only be posted in event of egregious misdescription is a bizarre, Ebay-centric one.

When you keep in mind the effect bad feedback has on a seller, you really should stay your hand unless you feel they were really out to screw you (or you're just plain vindictive).

It's a buck in shipping. I'd pay it, blast them an email asking WTF, maybe leave a neutral at worst. Bad feedback is reserved for fraud, IMHO.

Then again, the seller in this case appears to be a litigious asshat, so fire away.

> Bad feedback is reserved for fraud, IMHO.

As someone who has never used ebay, this way of thinking sounds ridiculous. I can't imagine that this is what the average persons thinks negative feedback means (it means "my experience was less than satisfactory" pretty much everywhere else) and this sounds like an enormous problem with ebay.

Totally agree, within Ebay-world.

My point was just that novice buyers have no conception that 'bad' doesn't mean what it means in the rest of the world. Maybe eBay need another level -- "Vindictive", say? ;-)

People aren't up in arms about a negative review, they're up in arms about suing someone over a review. I think the reaction would be the same against the plaintiff if the roles were reversed and she sued Med Express for an negative review.

I agree, but the negative review does hurt their business, as much as it would hurt the reputation of the user in the other scenario.

Of course, the user would not sue the company, but just use the Web to do some "swift justice" by spreading the word.

The buyer was indeed an assshole, but by filing a meritless lawsuit to force settlement the seller proved to be one as well.

I couldn't care less about them. Until they went to court, that is. At this point the buyer should win because between these two assholes she's the one who did nothing illegal.

Ebay does not allow feedback left on buyers.

Yes, it does.

Now, if you meant negative feedback, then you'd be correct.

To be fair the buyer sounded like a big douche. Med Express immediately offered to reimburse the buyer for the $1.44 postage fee they were charged, it's a minor mistake that the buyer overreacted about. I find it kind of silly Med Express thinks they have a case here though, they probably have more money and will end up settling because the buyer won't be able to afford to fight.

Trouble is - you have to stand up to the bullies - even for those with whom you are less than sympathetic. Bullies must be stopped as if they succeed it will be you who they will come after next.

But who is the bully here? I'm not sure.

When is the last time a bully offered to buy you lunch because he accidentally took yours by accident?

And after you blog about your negative experience of having lunch taken away by accident, the bully sues you for slander.

In my book everybody acted within acceptable reason until they sued him for leaving a true review on ebay.

Let's put things in perspective. The post was short under 2 bucks and the seller was more than happy to cover it. So at what point does one think to themselves, hey let's go ahead and leave a negative feedback because there was a kink with the transaction? Hell, if every transaction had to work without a hitch, the majority of us wouldn't even be able to ship a product not to mention release an MVP...

> hey let's go ahead and leave a negative feedback because there was a kink with the transaction?

That's exactly what feedback on a per-transaction basis is for, isn't it? If a seller has a habit of sending things with underpaid postage, then a potential buyer will be able to see the pattern in the feedback history and choose not to buy. If it's a one-off, then a potential buyer will see that. The feedback history just represents fact.

If, on the other hand, buyers do not post negative feedback for such incidents, then a a seller habitually sending items with underpaid postage will appear the same as a more reliable seller. This renders the feedback system useless in this kind of case. It also makes it hard to find reliable sellers, and encourages less reliable sellers to remain in the system.

Let's put things in perspective. The seller is suing the buyer for defamation for reporting accurately that not enough postage was paid.

I personally think the negative feedback was silly to leave (because it was trivial, not false). However, suing the person who left feedback has far reaching implications. What else could we start suing customers for using their freedom of speech to talk about? Sue them if they talk about long delivery times? Sue them if they talk about damaged products in shipping? Sue them if they talk about bad products?

You have probably focused on the true problem. It looks like any negative element to the rather simplistic feedback model represents an issue for the seller. Why is that? - an issue ultimately fixed should be viewed as neutral - unless it is repeated too often.

And how often can the mistake be repeated before I can blog about it without being sued? Two times? Three times?

which is why in my opinion the buyer should have probably left neutral feedback with an explanation of what happened. This way other buyers can read the neutral feedback and see if there is a trend with a seller. That is really what neutral feedback is for, it's a way to say hey everything did not go smoothly but I don't think the seller did it with malice, you as another future buyer should know about this, and if it seems to be a trend then you should leave negative feedback.

So I can take people’s lunches as long as I offer to buy them a new one some time later? Sounds about right.

Negging someone on eBay for a buck in shipping is a pretty crappy thing to do, but then taking the other guy to court over the feedback is even worse.

There are no winners in this situation.

The seller made sure that there would be no winners in this situation when they sent the item with insufficient postage. If that doesn't happen, the rest of this likely does not happen.

"Negging someone on eBay for a buck in shipping is a pretty crappy thing to do"

That's just not true - that may be your opinion but that's the opinion of a very small number of people. The majority - an overwhelming majority - believe that it one valuable part of such community feedback systems to provide a way for buyers to notify other perspective buyers of potential problems.

>That's just not true

Yes it is. I can forgive someone for being ignorant of the way the eBay feedback system works, but when you push that button, you are not just "notifying other perspective buyers of potential problems". It hasn't been that way for years. Not since eBay removed the ability to leave negative feedback for buyers, anyways.

If I were the seller in this case, rather than going to court, and negative feedback was still around, I'd have left them the same with something like "PITA buyer, - feedback for being off $1 in shipping. AVOID."

What you are actually doing when negging a seller is deciding "This seller made me so mad that I am going to cost them large amounts of reputation, raise their fees, restrict their ability to list, and possibly help drive them out of business". This is not an idle threat. Feedback is calculated over a 12 moth period, meaning if you only sell a couple things a year and get a single neg, you'll trip over all of the eBay restrictions and fee increases.

Now let's get some perspective here. The seller delivered the item, as described. There are no complaints about the item itself, so we can assume the buyer is happy with it.

Buyer's willing to mark the whole transaction as terrible over a freaking dollar?

There are some levels of shenanigans to which this is an appropriate response. $1 is not.

The more I think about it, the more I think there may be some merit to this case. If the seller offered to make the problem right and the buyer hit them anyways, given the effect that hit will have, is it possible they have a case?

> Buyer's willing to mark the whole transaction as terrible over a freaking dollar?

Why not? The proper course of action (provided the buyer didn’t mind waiting for the delivery) would have been to reject paying said $1.44 and let the seller try to ship again. By then, the delivery certainly would have been late, easily justifying negative feedback.

Furthermore, the seller even acknowledges that this particular problem happened a lot lately[1], so they really have no excuse whatsoever for underpaying their shipments.

Oh, and it may be a good idea to think about what ‘-’ means – to me, it doesn’t mean ‘terrible’ but ‘there was a problem’, and postage due is a problem (as is late delivery). I don’t want to buy from people who deliver late/with postage due and I am happy if ebay ensures that people delivering late or trying to get another $1.44 from me are stopped from selling on the platform.

[1] http://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&... ‘Sorry- no idea there was postage due. This has happened alot from USPS lately.’.

If instead of showing up at my door I got a note that said you need to come down to the post office during business hours and pick up your package and bring an extra $1.44, I'd actually be kinda put out.

This was a mistake by the shipper for mis-weighing the package (as they note in the feedback "This has happened alot from USPS lately." - maybe they need to get themselves a new scale) it should get negative feedback, and if this is the tactic they take to get rid of that negative feedback, then that seller shouldn't be selling.

Right. This was an intentional attempt to cheat the system that the seller fails at, repeatedly. They attempted to screw the USPS and the customer got the bad end of their incompetence.

>This was an intentional attempt to cheat the system

You don't know that. Say the seller has a faulty scale and does large numbers of transactions at once. 100 packages go out, and 100 postage due complaints come in.

Oops. Clearly the seller is a scumbag. </s>

A non-scumbag would resolve the issue for the customers and fix the systemic issue. That this continues to be a problem is a sign of a bad seller. The first time this happens, you need to re-calibrate your scale.

In their defense, at least they offered to refund the extra shipping cost, but relying on not being caught to save a small amount of money is not worth it in the long run.

The buyer is not driving them out of business, Ebay is. Why does Ebay need to react so harshly? They should care more about the hardship they inflict on their sellers, and not blindly measure each piece of negative feedback equally.

Blaming the seller is a bit like blaming someone who calls the cops on a loud party, for bad behavior by the cops.

If the cops are known for breaking up parties by beating people to death (and you know of this), don't you hold some responsibility if you call the cops to break up the party? You're not 'solely responsible' for whatever happens, but you have some amount of responsibility.

The thing is, eBay's feedback system has changed over the years.

I first registered on eBay (only as a buyer) about a decade ago, and I've been an active seller on eBay's properties (DeRemate.com and MercadoLibre.com) for a long time.

Negative feedback used to be very common and appropriate in cases such as this one, sellers on MercadoLibre get negative feedback a lot.

eBay's official guidelines (just checked) for leaving feedback are just:

"Share honest Feedback to help members buy and sell with confidence. Give sellers detailed ratings to let them know where they're doing a great job, and where there's still room for improvement"

and on the link to the help page:

"Before leaving neutral or negative Feedback, contact your trading partner to try to resolve any issues."


it doesn't say "leaving negative feedback will destroy the seller" or "Negative feedback should be reserved for very rare situations. Additionally, negative feedback should be left only after you have tried desperately to resolve the situation with the buyer or seller in question. "

which is what one user-created (by a seller) help page says


Maybe eBay should guide users better, or get better grading tools. I haven't left negative feedback in a long time (just checked, the last four years I've only left positives), because my transactions all went smoothly (props to eBay and their sellers).

Edit: the buyer definitely didn't even attempt the first step (contacting the seller). I would have. They acted too fast (maybe in anger or something, they had a bad day, who knows).

> What you are actually doing when negging a seller is deciding "This seller made me so mad that I am going to cost them large amounts of reputation, raise their fees, restrict their ability to list, and possibly help drive them out of business"

What you are actually doing is noting dissatisfaction with the buyer through the system eBay has set up. The consequences you describe are a result of the system, not the willful action of the buyer. Savvy and unscrupulous buyers might hope that those are the consequences, but one neg doesn't directly translate into that quoted intent.

>The consequences you describe are a result of the system, not the willful action of the buyer.

And if you take that action as a buyer, you are either ignorant of what that negative feedback entails (which is understandable, eBay doesn't go out of its way to post this except on seller only pages.. they DO however say that you are supposed to contact the seller, and in fact if you attempt to leave negative feedback, they stop you with an "are you sure you haven't done X Y and Z" page before actually submitting it)

Or, the buyer knows, and decides that these consequences are worth ruining someone over a dollar.

Right, so a buyer who is unaware of the way that negative feedback can impact a low-volume seller is doing nothing wrong. They are using the system that they have at their disposal to leave feedback.

I think you're being a tad over-zealous with your talk of "ruining someone".

>Right, so a buyer who is unaware of the way that negative feedback can impact a low-volume seller is doing nothing wrong.


>I think you're being a tad over-zealous with your talk of "ruining someone".

Hardly. Remember, eBay feedback is calculated over 12 months.

If you have a chain of good sales, don't sell for a while, sell again, and something happens that causes the buyer to leave a neg, you are in deep shit with eBay.

Your listing fees will be higher, your number of listings will be restricted, you have funds availability holds from PayPal.. it's a real mess. Lesser things can and have put people out of business.

If you are primarily an eBay seller this can completely ruin your business.

Now, obviously this is the absolute worst case scenario, but the point is the amount of negative feedback you need to start getting really nasty restrictions put on you is miniscule. Anything that drops you below 98 or 95% positive (haven't been a seller for long enough that I honestly forget the exact number) is enough.

Going back to the subject of the TFA, (and we're venturing deep into conjecture territory here, but bear with me) what if they ended up with a faulty scale that weighed everything a pound less than it should be, and as a result a cluster of buyers ended up with packages postage due?

If it weren't for eBay this would be no problem. You make it right with your customers, refund them, maybe give them a future discount for their trouble, hopefully most of them are happy and you continue on your merry way.

Instead, the buyers are encouraged to vent on the feedback system, which is tied directly into how the platform treats you. Even if you make it right, there's nothing stopping a buyer from trashing on you, and your recourse is precisely jack and shit.

There are three very important things to remember here:

1. eBay is enough of a jerk to sellers that you should really think twice before submitting bad feedback, especially if they fixed their screwup. This is what neutral is for. The seller got you your item but did so in such a way that you don't want to increase their reputation.

2. Enough bad feedback (and "enough" is a very, very small number) most definitely can ruin an eBay seller's business.

3. eBay is a terrible company ripe for replacement.

Yeah, eBay seems like a piece of shit to sell on. But that's eBay's fault, not the person who leaves bad feedback. And if you're an eBay seller, then you should know the risks of dealing with them to sell your stuff.

The feedback in question [1] appears to be a one star rating on a $175.00 item where $1.44 postage was required. I would guess that the seller's complaint is on the one star rating, not the message content (and on this I tend to agree with them -- the buyer is being a huge ass). That said, the one star is clearly an opinion, and thus not subject to slander laws.

1: http://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&...

Edit: I would also note that while generally I think popehat does good work, the part around "Mr. Amodio responded with an open, contemptuous, and contemptible threat to abuse the legal system" is...not so good; the following quote does not come from Mr. Amodio and does not contain anything obvious that would indicate either an open or contemptuous threat to abuse the legal system.

eBay has one of the tightest set of rules of any marketplace sit on what constitutes something that they will remove. The guidelines pretty much state that legal action is your only option.

Someone can for example leave a feedback stating 'item fake, seller a fraud' without the slightest piece of evidence (item may simply be from a different batch the customer is used to or defective) and there is nothing you can do, no process.

Also when you want things from eBay such as a higher selling limit they raise individual negative feedbacks in an accusing way despite them being 0.1% or less of total feedback.

I don't think this seller would have been effected by the feedback but I can certainly understand their frustration. The negative press from the case will do far worse for the seller. What buyer will feel safe buying from them?

People need to look up from their computers / phones once in awhile and tone down the passive aggressive nature that pseudo anonymity has instilled in the lot of us. How hard is it to work things out without escalation?

Agreed this is becoming a huge problem in today's society. People interact with one another in a completely different manner than they do in the offline world. It is like when you remove the human interaction, the humanness of the other party is somehow diminished and that is a scary reality. Because when we as humans loose our association of another person being human, the worst of our nature rears it's ugly head.

I've never understood why it's so easy to sue people or companies in the US. What are the positive aspects? For me as an outsider it only seems to create fear and ridiculous warning labels.

IDEALLY it's so that "the little man" has some course of action against negligent entities.

And ideally, too, "the little man" should also have a gun, for a course of action against aggressive entities.

I'm an European, I guess we just don't get it (the US legal system or the gun laws).

I'm surprised eBay's term of service don't have something that would prevent suing over feedback.

A ToS can never prevent you from being sued. At best they can help you get the case thrown out.

Well, if the seller relies exclusively on eBay for sales(as appears to be the case here) then the threat of having their account terminated over ToS violation would be a huge deterrent against doing so. It still won't prevent you from being sued but it would definitely reduce the chances of it happening to near zero.

Streisand effect incoming.

Clearly the only answer is to engage in business with this entity for lowest value items available and then post negative reviews of their legal behavior.

"Med Express immediately offered to reimburse Nicholls for the postage due amount. Despite this offer, and before giving Med Express a chance to reimburse her, Nicholls on February 26, 2013..."

It looks like Med Express didn't have the opportunity to fix their mistake before Nicholls started posting negative reviews. I don't understand why everyone is hating on Med Express. Imagine a similar hypothetical: If I made a mistake and offered immediately to correct it but instead was blasted via social media before I had the chance to correct things how would I feel? I'd be pretty upset.

This is what the system is for, actors that are personally unknown to each other, not a part of the same small scale geographic community, seeking a resolution to a perceived wrong.

Who on HN thinks Med Express should have been compassionate and understanding of Nicholls response without regard for the fact that repuation is critical to the survial of Med Express on eBay?

> Who on HN thinks Med Express should have been compassionate and understanding of Nicholls response without regard for the fact that repuation is critical to the survial of Med Express on eBay?

The feedback only commented that they had to pay shipping costs and that it wasn't mentioned by the seller up front. What is the problem with truthful statements using a system designed to give feedback?

> If I made a mistake and offered immediately to correct it but instead was blasted via social media before I had the chance to correct things how would I feel? I'd be pretty upset.

And that would give you the right to use any means to get back at the person? This wasn't social media. This was a forum designed for feedback.

So if the buyer just left a bad rating, but no words, could she still be sued? One one hand voting seems like an extension of free speech, but on the other it feels that online voting shouldn't be counted as slander / libel.

They would win but after going to court and spending money. The main problem is that anyone can file almost any type of lawsuit

And (in most jurisdictions) the tort of barratry[1] is no longer recognized.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barratry_(common_law)

for $5 you can leave your own opinionated first amendment protected review: http://www.ebay.com/sch/med_express_sales/m.html?_ipg&_f...

I'm okay with this.

I'm guessing his comment is a bit more like "THESE GUYS SUCK!!!!1111111" than "I had to pay $1.44 more for postage". IMO that is fair enough, he is in the wrong. OTOH I'm sure eBay have a process in place for this - I think suing him is a bit much.

They could also just leave him negative feedback...

> I'm guessing his comment is a bit more like

I cannot fathom why people prefer guessing things that are publicly available and only takes a few seconds to check.

The actual feedback is not only linked, but quoted in the article. Your guess was wrong.

Buyers and Sellers leaving feedback for each other doesn't necessarily carry the symmetric property of equality. A Seller has more to lose or gain from feedback than a Buyer does.

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