eBay seller rating: what it is and how concerned you need to be about it

It seems surprising, but I have discovered that as a small seller, you do not really need to concern yourself with the seller rating. As a business, having a store and a large amount in sales, you definitely need to be!

eBay has three basic ways it uses to rate the sellers: the feedback (star color and shape), detailed seller ratings (stars from 1 to 5 in 4 categories) and the seller level. Few sellers will also attain the “Power Seller” status but since that is based on a higher volume both in number of items and dollar value for US sales, we will not be concerned with that.

The star color and shape tells you pretty much how many items the seller has sold in his activity, i.e. the seller’s experience on eBay. This is bundled with the total feedback value and the percentage of positive feedback for the last 12 months.

This is how seller feedback / star level looks like on eBay

The detailed seller ratings are a summary of “marks” given to you by the people who left feedback in four categories (this is taken directly from eBay site):

  • Item description – How accurately was it described?
  • Communication – Did the seller communicate well with their buyer?
  • Shipping time – How quickly did the seller ship the item?
  • Shipping and handling charges – Were the costs reasonable?

For a better explanation of the star color / shape and detailed seller ratings please read this eBay page.

The seller level is a mark eBay gives to the sellers according to their own criteria. There are three levels: sub-par, normal and above par. eBay names them in a politically correct way “below standard”, “above standard” and “top rated”. Notice that there is no “standard”, what they call “above standard” is in fact “average”.

eBay offers some benefits if a seller is able to maintain a “top rated” level, but the “top rated” comes with risks: free returns (which are expensive, you have to eat the shipping) and certain minimum sales volume. I am not going to enter into a detailed discussion about the benefits.

In my opinion, for “Vintage calculators” (and for all collectibles, in fact) the benefits eBay offer are insufficient to cover the costs of the free shipping and returns requirement. Let me explain.

Assume you have a calculator but you do not have enough time, or patience, or knowledge, or tools, to investigate its functional status. I have many of these.

Or assume that your calculator works, or partially works, nevertheless because you are careful (read my article How to sell on eBay: part 1 for a detailed explanation) you sell it “as is, not guaranteed”. Of course, it is old electronics, it may decide to stop working anytime, you do not want to take a chance in shipping.

If you do offer free returns (or any kind of returns), a buyer may buy the item, receive it, test it, and keep it ONLY IF IT IT WORKS WELL, return it otherwise. And the buyer would be within his rights. So basically you simply can not sell as is items, if you offer returns, for the simple reason that the buyer will likely test the item and return it if not working or can not easily be fixed. Not only that, but you will also need to pay for return shipping. Imagine doing so for international shipping!

But I have perhaps dozens of items like that! So I simply can not offer free returns, which means that I simply will never qualify for “Top Rated” status.

For details about the seller level and a detailed explanation please refer to this eBay page.

My advice for small sellers in collectibles is: do not worry about your seller level, as long as you do not fall under par (below standard), you are fine. And if you are a little careful, there is no way to fall below standard (again, I recommend read my first article on the issue How to sell on eBay: part 1).

This concludes the series of articles on the “How to sell on eBay” subject! Please use the form below to ask question, and comment if you have objections, additions or observations.

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