How to Deal With Negative, Neutral or Strange Feedback on eBay

Does eBay Feedback Matter?

Feedback on eBay provokes a great deal of emotion, especially when it is negative. But does it really matter?

When you ask “does eBay feedback really matter” you have to remember that customer service is all about feelings. Make someone feel good and you have both won – and you will feel good too.

Have that at the front of your mind in everything you do.

Negative feedback doesn’t actually affect your eBay seller metrics, or rating, unless your feedback goes below 97%, in which case you will be banned. But feedback reflects how buyers feel about you and the service you have provided and it surely does affect potential buyers’ impressions of you.

How you respond to negative or neutral feedback will tell readers a great deal about you and the kind of service you provide. In addition, receiving more than a very small number of negatives betrays underlying issues which must be dealt with.

Although neutral feedback isn’t so bad it can make an unwelcome “dirty” mark on an otherwise pristine sheet.

What do I mean by “strange” feedback? This is the kind of feedback which might be positive but contains comment that is nothing to do with the product the customer bought or the service you have provided. For example: I once received glowing feedback from a buyer who praised my item and service but went on to make some political comment. This was unwelcome as it could have been construed as something I agreed. In another instance a female seller received feedback which contained comment of a personal nature – attention which was totally inappropriate.

Feedback is your reputation and most buyers consider feedback as a factor when decided from whom to purchase, especially in a competitive market. Most research suggests that buyers should only buy from sellers with more than 99.5% positive feedback.

Think about yourself as a buyer. Would you buy from someone who had a bunch of comments saying that the item was rubbish and/or the service was terrible? Why would you when you could choose a better seller with a spotless record? And most people will spend a little more for the peace of mind.

Work hard to maintain a clean sheet and when something goes wrong deal with it carefully.

In this article we will look at those three types of unwelcome feedback, how to avoid it and how to deal with it should it arise.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

It is always better to do whatever you possibly can to avoid a problem in the first place than to have to deal with it when it does arise. That is certainly true of bad feedback on eBay and there is plenty you can do to avoid it.

The main thing is to give the best possible service that you can and to let your buyers know that you really do care (you really do have to care). So be polite and kind, get things posted quickly.

Make sure you describe your items in detail, including faults and flaws and include multiple photographs accordingly.  Answer questions promptly and politely, however stupid they seem.

Put yourself in the place of the buyer, think about the kind of service you would like and how you would like to be treated and act accordingly.

Learn from positive feedback comments or comments made directly to you in messages. Sometimes a buyer will leave positive feedback but add a comment that is not entirely complimentary. Firstly, you do not want to ask them to revise their comment as this might just stir them into revising it to a negative. But you can make a note, mental or otherwise, of the issue they have pointed out and decide to correct it with your other items, if appropriate, and/or to do better in future transactions.

See my separate article on Ten Things “You Can Do To Avoid Bad Feedback On EBay” for more detail on preventing bad feedback.

Responding To Negative or Neutral Feedback

If you are anything like me, when you see that piece of unwelcome feedback you will get a little jolt inside. It feels personal and instinctively unfair.

So here is a little list of things that you should do and the order in which you should do them; this need not be a long process but can be done mentally at least once you have understood the process:

  1. Wait. Whatever you do DO NOT DO IT IN HASTE. Allow yourself a little time to let the emotion disperse.
  2. Consider. Read the feedback carefully and really think about what the customer is saying and whether it is fair.
  3. Empathise. Put yourself in the place of the buyer and ask yourself how they FEEL. Whether or not you think their comment is fair is irrelevant. Something in the transaction has made them feel something negative and they have expressed it in their comment(s). Work out what it was that made them feel this way.
  4. Plan. Plan your response. Think about what can you do that might make them feel better? I might be a return, a refund (partial or full). If you genuinely think the feedback is not true or not fair then plan what you will say. But NEVER respond hastily or rudely. Take your time.
  5. Draft. Draft a message offline, in Word or similar, to make sure you don’t send it in haste. Your message should follow the guidelines below.
  6. Keep it private. Your main response should be private, in a private message and not a public response to the feedback. You can do this later, if necessary and in a measured way (see below).
  7. Apologise. Remember that you don’t have to apologise for your action(s) if you are convinced you are in the right but you need to apologise for how they feel. See the difference? In the one you are admitting that you are wrong and in the other you are simply acknowledging how they feel and saying that you are sorry they feel that way. For example: “I am really sorry you are not happy with the fit of this shirt; I understand how frustrating it is when something is not quite what you thought it was going to be…”. If you know you got it wrong you can say straight away: “I’m really sorry about this and I totally understand how you feel…”. If you know you made a mistake just issue a refund immediately (before you message them) and let them know you have done so.
  8. Offer unconditionally. Consider what you are willing to offer them, if anything, by way of a return, replacement, discount etc. This offer should be made unconditionally. Never make your first message an offer with a request for review. You are only going to ask for a review once you have fixed the problem and you have made sure your customer is now happy.
  9. Await their response. Wait for their reply patiently. If they don’t respond within a couple of days send a brief note to check that they have received your first message (they do sometimes go astray). But don’t pester. If you don’t get a response to your second message give it up. If it is a clear-cut case of them getting it wrong you can always speak to an eBay rep to request removal of the offending feedback but they will only remove it if it is very clearly wrong. Ultimately, if a relatively small amount of money is involved, personally I would just refund it anyway and let them know I have done so. I would do this not in the expectation of getting the feedback reviewed but simply because it’s the right thing to do. If they reply thanking you you can always ask politely if they would consider reviewing the feedback but make no demands and have no expectations.
  10. Assess their reply. Remember that your main goal is to make your customer happy. Do whatever it takes. Be polite and kind. You never know what is happening in a person’s life. If someone is rude to you that is not you it is them, If someone is abusive to you do not respond but take it to eBay to consider. The chances are they will find for you.
  11. Check. Once you have a reply and have taken whatever action you and your buyer have agreed upon or you have issued the refund just check that they are happy. Most people are disarmed by kindness and a positive outcome and will thank you for making good.
  12. Request. Only when your customer has confirmed that they are happy with the outcome should you politely ask that they revise the feedback given. They may not even know that they can do so and a simple, polite request may well get the revision you want. If they do revise it then make sure you thank them for doing so. If they do not revise it just leave it. You don’t want to stir them up again having achieved a good outcome for them.
  13. Respond to feedback. If you have finally made your customer happy but they have declined to revised their feedback you can leave a measured response in the feedback section. your response should take ownership of the problem and acknowledge your part in it, thank the customer for their patience and say briefly how glad you are that you managed to sort the problem out to their satisfaction. For example:
    “So sorry about this issue – i work hard to describe items accurately but in this case I made a mistake. Thank you so much for your patience and I am glad we managed to sort things out between us.”
    Whatever you do do not make a negative response. I have seen some shockers that made sure I would never buy from that seller.
    Remember that the whole world can see your response so make sure everyone can see that you really care about your customers and will do anything you reasonably can to put things right if something goes wrong.
Always remember that putting your customer first is the most important thing. Only when you are determined to give great service in all respects will you manage to get a top-class reputation which you can sustain. Only when you have the customers’ interests at heart will you be able to feel good about yourself and your business.

What If The Feedback Is Irrelevant Or "Strange"

Occasionally you receive a piece of feedback which is either clearly not about your product or is nothing to do with the product or service you have provided or, rarely but memorably, just plain strange.

  1. Not Your Product. This has happened to me a couple of times. A buyer leaves feedback which is clearly not about the item they bought from your. I once sold someone a book and they said that it didn’t fit and I refused the return. In this case you can easily and politely point this out to them and ask them to remove or revise it.
  2. Irrelevant to the product and/or service. Sometimes a buyer might make a comment which may be true but it is not a reflection of the item or your service. For example: “Item is fine and arrived on time but the postman blocked our drive for ten minutes when delivering.” Again, you can politely ask them to revise.
  3. Strange comment. I once received good, positive feedback but the buyer added a political comment and implied that I agreed with it (I didn’t and we never discussed it). In this case I called eBay and asked them to remove it and they did. Even though it was positive I didn’t want it there for people to read.
    In another case I read about in a forum, a female seller received unwanted personal compliments in positive feedback and was asking how to deal with it. I advised her not to get into a dialogue with the buyer but to simply ask eBay to remove it, which they did.

If you feel that you have really been stitched up by a comment in feedback you can always go to eBay and ask them to deal with it for you and they usually will.

You have to be aware, though, that if the offending comment is about your item or service and that it is the buyer’s reasonable view of the item and/or service you have provided then eBay will not remove it.

Feedback Extortion

This is worth mentioning as it happens sometimes to sellers in various categories but mostly, it would seem, in sale to younger buyers.

Feedback extortion is when a buyer receives and item and then send you a message threatening you with negative feedback unless you refund, in full or part. They might state that there is a problem with the item or they might not. In any case like this do not engage in dialogue but get straight on to eBay and they will immediately deal with it with no consequence to you.

EBay deals with this very promptly.

Feedback From A Competitor

I have seen this occasionally where a competitor buys something from a seller and then leaves negative feedback in an attempt to tarnish the seller’s reputation.

If this is absolutely clear you can contact the buyer, tell them politely that you know what they are up to and request feedback revision. They might either ignore or say “ok it’s a fair cop”.

If the buyer ignores you can try politely one more time and say in your message that you will have to contact eBay if they don’t revise it and this might do the job. If you still don’t get any joy then definitely contact eBay – on a call NOT text or email – and explain the situation to them. The chances are that they will have the feedback removed. If one rep doesn’t do it it’s worth calling the next day and asking another rep (but don’t say you have tried once already – they might see it on a note but you don’t have to point it out to them.

If you can’t get it removed you can leave a response to the feedback. Don’t write an angry, tetchy or abusive response. Keep it very polite and even you could be humorous about it, which will give you great credibility from anyone reading it.

After all this – move on an get on with selling and enjoying your life. Don’t let it get to you; one such piece of feedback will not damage you.


Don’t sweat over one negative or neutral piece of feedback but don’t make a habit of picking it up. In time (after twelve months in each case), these isolated incident will disappear from your feedback panel and will no longer be visible.

One or two will not affect your % positive feedback if you have a good number of transactions.

Finally, Be kind, be honest and do the best you possibly can. Make your customers happy and you will both feel good.

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