Find out about one of our latest trials and how we are all pulling together to deal with it.

Fiendish Foe Infiltrates Our Feedback Forum on eBay

By Rusty Goe

March, 2005

Just when things seemed to be running smoothly at Southgate Coins, the forces of evil attempted to upset our apple cart creating a temporary pothole in the road on our way to fulfilling our customer service oriented goals.

I will share the details in a minute, but first I want all of you to know that we have rallied together like the true team we are and met this annoying challenge head on. The enemy at our gate is a foiled foe deserving of the description one of our loyal customers came up with, "Pond Scum."

It started with a simple listing we posted on eBay a week and a half ago. The item consisted of 10 common date Morgan Silver Dollars in Circulated condition that came out of the barrels full we have on the back storage shelves in our store. As soon as the auction ended last Saturday, March 5, we were notified that the winning bidder was from out of the country. Since it is our policy to ship items sold on eBay only in the United States, we contacted the buyer with this information and explained that unfortunately the sale would be cancelled.

Not more than 30 minutes later, an email arrived from this eBay member demanding that we make an exception and ship the item anyway. We again apologized, but denied the request. This really exposed the ugly side of this sociopath who fired back another email threatening to report us to eBay and leave negative comments in the Feedback Forum department.

By this time, our staff girls were losing their patience and just wanted this tormentor to go away. They sent one final email to this misanthrope stating in no uncertain terms that we:

  • Do not ship eBay items outside the United States.

  • Do not ship to unconfirmed addresses anyway. (Which this person was listed as on PayPal.)

  • Do not ship until items have been paid for. (There was a hold on this person's account on PayPal.)

Next came a salvo of threats, that if they weren't so annoying seemed almost comical. Brash statements were sent via email like, "I'm giving you one final opportunity to send my coins. I can use my connections to have your eBay account shut down." And "...just put the coins in an envelope and send. Otherwise, I'll have no choice but to ensure you don't sell on eBay again." And here's the best one, "If you want to sell on eBay again, you know what to do." (Can you just hear the "Jaws" music pounding in the background?)

I can't say that Marie and the girls were gripping the edges of their chairs with white knuckles, but naturally they appealed to eBay and PayPal for help. All in vain, I'm sad to report. Because of the nature of eBay's business model, it is difficult for them to regulate activity on their site. They seemingly allow anyone with a PC and a modem to sign up for an account. There are no background or credit checks. No references are required, and I.D. information is not necessarily confirmed. This opens their site up to larceny of the most wicked kind. A kid attempting to purchase alcohol or cigarettes at a liquor store is held under tighter scrutiny than a person registering as an eBay user.

One of the most flawed areas in eBay's infrastructure is their Feedback Forum. Ten years ago, when eBay was just a whimsical vision in the minds of a couple young computer geeks, the basic premise was that participants on their auction site would operate by the golden rule. And just in case there were a few sinful dissenters, feedback could be left in an open community forum to warn other users of potential wolves in sheep’s clothing.

This might have worked in a vacuum sealed environment with a much smaller database of registered users, but as the activity on the world’s largest online auction site has exceeded anyone's wildest imaginations, reforms are desperately needed. The notion that unregulated users that have not been screened can arbitrarily post libelous and slanderous comments about other users is absurd.

This open Feedback Forum could serve a useful purpose, of course, if all users lived by the golden rule, but this is a pipe dream. The problem occurs, not just because users abuse this format, but primarily because eBay does not arbitrate it. Their company has grown so large in the past 10 years that they do not have the manpower to accept customer service phone calls and seemingly do not assume any responsibility for egregious conduct between one member and another. EBay claims to only be a liaison between buyers and sellers and although the transactions are facilitated by them, they absolve themselves of any responsibility concerning what members say about each other.

We found this out the hard way this week when the person who blackmailed us because we refused to bend our policies posted five negative feedbacks accusing us of fraud. A quick glance at these unjustified nuisance claims reveals that an eBay user named "vendingempirez" deliberately placed orders for five reference books posted in our daily eBay listings and although not issuing payment, left negative feedbacks within 30 minutes. The glaring oversight is that this dolt is listed as an "Unregistered User," meaning that eBay has removed this troublemaker from their system. And if this weren't enough evidence of malicious intent, "vendingempirez" had nine negative feedbacks out of a total of only 20 and had them sealed by selecting eBay’s "Private" option. This kinky creep apparently had a co-conspirator, or managed to have multiple user accounts with eBay, because a user with the I.D. "ferociousdealr" was the one who initially contacted us about our item. The postal codes were the same for both of these users.

It is always difficult to adhere to the old children's adage, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Nevertheless, we know we have done nothing wrong, although we no longer have a 100% positive feedback rating on eBay. Our reputation has been maligned in appearance only, not in fact. Yet still it is bothersome, because we are proud of our undaunted dedication to customer service. The 100% positive feedback rating inspires all of us at Southgate Coins to maintain our standard of excellence. You have probably read about this in Somer's Columns. We will press on, with or without eBay's assistance.

One thing we are always most grateful for during trying times is the support and encouragement we receive from many of you who have become friends of Southgate Coins. You make it all worthwhile.

It is amazing how close the word fiend is to the word friend. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with people this week that in order to describe them, the letter "R" must be removed from the word friend. Adding the letter "R" to the word fiend creates a whole new meaning that begins with the concept of Respect. The cruel people who have attacked us this week have obviously never learned the meaning of the word respect, or civility, or integrity, or decency, or... well you get the idea.

Thankfully, most of the people we deal with at Southgate Coins are friends, in the truest sense of the word and we want to thank so many of you who have uplifted us by your expressions of support. It wouldn't be much fun without you.

I'm sure that eBay has lots of friends, but I just wonder what eBay's feedback rating would be if they registered their company with a User I.D. Do you think they're brave enough?

P.S. – Second thought, the founders of eBay are billionaires now and no matter what kind of feedback rating they might receive, they would laugh all the way to the bank.