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The Bell System technical journal. AT&T, 1922 (flickr)

The Bell System technical journal. AT&T, 1922 (flickr)

For the past few months I have been studying and experimenting with IoT. ebay has been my main source of components and books. And feedback on sellers one of the main criteria driving my decision to buy, even though feedback was always very positive: rarely going below 99% and often standing at 100%.

Once the transaction completed, and prompted by ebay, I diligently give my overall feedback on the seller and specific ratings for the quality of the product description, communication, delivery and postage charges. Acting as a reinforcer, the fact of being part of the feedback system clearly strengthened my trust in the sellers’ ratings I was relying on in my purchase decision.

Then, one of the product I bought from a 99.8% positive feedback seller – a 4.5-inch solar panel charger I intended to use to power my IoT prototype – was delivered several days later and is not charging as effectively as its description indicated. Not surprisingly, I gave an overall negative feedback to the seller. But as I selected the negative rating, a pop-up appeared that said:

Before you leave this feedback, please contact the seller to see if anything else can be done to make your experience positive. Sellers want you to be happy – and so do we.

Together with an OK button as the only option available to move on, I found the message intimidating and wrong, as it invited to take a conversation about negative feedback from the public arena to the private space. Even more worrisome, the same message was displayed after selecting a neutral feedback.

It is most likely that, by simply adding this intimidating message and by diverting negative feedback away from the public space, ebay manages to keep sellers’ rates artificially high and to reduce the delta between really good, average and bad sellers. This experience has certainly changed my attitude towards the ebay platform and other collaborative consumption platforms that use feedback to build trust. And since, I have started to systematically test each platform’s feedback processes.

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