Feedback Abuse Happening At eBay

    January 11, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Some users of the online marketplace have been buying and selling positive feedback as a Berkeley business professor found in his studies, with the aim of becoming a trusted seller and getting better prices from buyers.

Feedback Abuse Happening At eBay
Gaming eBay’s Feedback

Pumping up the feedback leads to being perceived as a better eBay seller, and that can lead to being able to command a higher selling price for items. Some people use transactions for virtually worthless items on eBay solely to mutually drive up feedback ratings.

Resource Shelf pointed out the research paper making that claim. UC-Berkeley professor John Morgan, Haas School of Business, and doctoral student Jennifer Brown co-wrote the paper about the issue.

A summary of the paper described the observations made by Morgan and Brown during their investigation:

Between June to December 2005, 526 sellers posted 6,526 unique feedback listings for low-priced or seemingly valueless items, whose sales appeared to be designed only to artificially enhance feedback ratings, Morgan and Brown found. Seventy-six percent of the listings, or 5,127 items, resulted in a sale. A follow-up study revealed the market for feedback remained active in 2006, with 398 feedback listings counted from April 25 through May 30.

Resource Shelf pointed out that this new report could be based on a similar work listed on Morgan’s website. That document is dated February 2006, so the latest work may be an update to the previous paper.

Based on the summary, Morgan’s position that more feedback allows a seller to gain the trust of the marketplace along with a better price for one’s wares assumes that the feedback pumping is only being done by people who ultimately have a legitimate sale to make.

That position has been supported by observations made by security firm Fortinet during the summer of 2006. They found that not only were these low-priced feedback pumping auctions taking place regularly, but bots were handling the behind the scenes work too.

Fortinet’s Guillaume Lovet asked in his findings about the bot feedback if anyone might be willing to buy one of those one-cent auctions for an ebook called “The Secrets of The 1 Penny Auction.” Morgan and Brown did that according to their recent work, except they bought the “Positive Feedback Ebook.”

Its helpful advice said one should buy 100 different low-price items to boost feedback. One seller observed by Morgan who used this strategy turned around and offered parcels of land in the southern US for sale. None of those land deals resulted in any positive feedback.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.