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Auction feedback – be wary

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Monday February 27, 2006 )

eBay and similar auction sites have created fortunes for some and a few extra bucks for many others. On the flip side, they’ve allowed millions people to purchase goods online at very competitive prices; everything from common items to missile silos (I kid you not).

I recently needed to buy some office dividers so I thought I’d check out eBay. I wasn’t really expecting to find anything, but lo and behold, there they were – cheap as chips and only a 10 minute drive from here. They were in excellent condition and I figured I saved about $150 with my 30 minutes of shopping, bidding and pick-up time. I also picked up a brand new VOIP (Voice Over IP) phone for around US$25 (including delivery) a few weeks ago and it’s worked a treat.

I wouldn’t say I’m a hard-core eBayer by any means, but every buying/selling experience I’ve had to date has been very positive. Merchants have always been polite and attentive; the items always of good quality. Of course, as in any trading environment, eBay and other auction sites has its share of sharks.

Like many others, when purchasing or selling an item, I check out the feedback ratings of the other party as it seems to me to be the most accurate way to determine risk. The higher the number of positive comments, the safer the person is to do business with, right? Unfortunately, with some unscrupulous parties engaging in feedback exchange scams, that’s no longer such a foolproof method; although auction sites are cracking down on these people.

The other common feedback related scam is where a merchant (sometimes with full knowledge of what he/she is doing) offers extraordinarily cheap items such as an ebook for $1. If I wanted to crank up my feedback rating, I could get a hundred pieces of positive feedback for just a hundred bucks by shopping around for these merchants – enough to give me substantial credibility to pull off a bigger scam. Or as the merchant, I could make a hundred people happy with my cheap offer and wind up with the same amount of glowing ratings; nicely setting myself up to sting others.

I’m not saying that anyone who sells or buys one dollar items are actively engaged in setting themselves or others up to scam, nor do I have any idea of how rampant this kind of scam is, but you should go past just the feedback numbers and positive/negative feedback ratios.

An easy way to tell if the person you are doing business with may be engaged in this is to check out the value and *type* of recent items they were involved in selling or purchasing. If you see a stack of items with a transaction value of just a couple of bucks and are basically just garbage items, be cautious.

More on how feedback scammers work auction systems.


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