What's Top-Rated About This? Part 1

Even some of eBay's premier sellers have trouble with basic listing etiquette.

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Oct 22, 2010

For a recent consulting project, we viewed and critiqued the work of more than 400 eBay Top-rated Sellers. We were looking for those sellers who seemed—through their listings, their policies and their overall presence—to be trustworthy, reliable and responsible. We certainly found an ample supply of eBay sellers who are doing a lot of great work and creating professionally sound listings.

Surprisingly, we also found a lot of Top-rated Sellers who are actually making very basic mistakes, insisting on creating listings that serve themselves rather than their customers and, overall, creating a business on eBay that discourages people from buying. In fact, our research turned up so many outrageous mistakes that this will be the first of a three-part series!

This article will look at the language sellers use, and the manner in which they "talk" to their customers. In Part 2 of this piece, we'll discuss photos, policies and seller presence. And in Part 3, we'll get into shipping and return policies.

We found Top-rated Sellers are still making mistakes in titles, and even in their templates

Now, some of these actions are the result of basic mistakes that we began to advise against early in the last decade. We entered this little project thinking, surely, we would no longer find people who scold, threaten and yell at customers. Oh, were we dreaming. Well, for certain, in the age of templates and spell-checkers, no one would post a listing with spelling mistakes. Ha!

We think you're beginning to get the idea, so let's get down to the results of our little experiment. Honestly, where do we begin? Spelling is pretty basic, so let's start there.

Mistakes spell trouble

We were appalled to find spelling and grammar mistakes rampant within listings. Now, anyone can make a typo, but what does it take to run a spell check? Whether buyers are conscious of the mistakes or not, these details combine to make a seller look very unprofessional.

We found mistakes in listing descriptions, which are completely avoidable. But, even worse, we found Top-rated Sellers are still making mistakes in titles, and even in their templates! Here are just a few examples:

  • "Quality new & used clothing, acessories & misc for & your family."
  • "Up for auction is a lot of 3 shrits"
  • "Power Cord for Computers Moniters Printers"

We had to fight our word processing program to leave that first spelling mistake in place. It appeared in a template, so how many of this seller's listings are wrong? The second one is from a title. Even more surprising than this simple titling mistake was the company it kept. We found nearly 1,300 results when we searched for "shrit." Really people? The third example is similar to the second. And as with the second listing, it wasn't the only one with that error.

In addition to the spelling mistakes, we found grammar mistakes that made it appear we were not dealing with English-speaking merchants. Now, there's nothing wrong with struggling with a new language. As a matter of fact, step us out of an English-speaking country, and we're helplessly at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. But, if you know you're struggling to master a new language, ask someone who is fluent to read your listings and your templates. It certainly isn't true that someone who butchers the language is incompetent or untrustworthy, but it is true that posting listings that don't clearly communicate with your customers makes the seller appear to be potentially problematic.

It takes a nanosecond to alienate a potential customer and once that's happened, you'll never get that shopper back

Use your nice manners

And while we're on the subject of good appearances, let's talk about using your nice words and phrases. We were overwhelmed by the number of sellers who are still yelling at their potential customers. How is this good business?

This yelling takes the form of ALL CAPS, red type and threatening language. It takes a nanosecond to alienate a potential customer and once that's happened, you'll never get that shopper back. There are too many other sellers on eBay who "speak" politely. Here are a few examples of what not to do and say:


(Sound of forehead banging on keyboard).

OK, let's look at this, but first keep in mind this was all in red type. Ask yourself, honestly, would you enter into an agreement of any type with this hot head? In 43 words, we count three threats and a cast-in-stone no-returns policy, multiple sentences but no punctuation. This person might be a Top-rated Seller, but he makes himself far less than competitive just by virtue of his attitude.

Here's another example:

"Please check my feedback. Ebay can be hard though. It requires time and patience. A lot of buyers I don't think realize the time we as sellers put in. A lot of fees are involved, loading fee, fees when the item is sold, paypal fees (AND DID YOU KNOW THAT THE PERCENTAGE THAT PAYPAL TAKES WHEN AN ITEM IS SOLD, INCLUDES THE SHIPPING!!), supply fees, running to the post office. And we have to work really hard to try and get that 5 star rating across the board. Ebay DOES judge on that. anything less than 5 can hurt! Sometimes it feels like it is endless! But, it is fun!!"

Fun? This is fun? What part of this seller's travails is relevant to a buyer? Put your buyer cap on and ask if this is a person who considers your complete satisfaction to be the chief goal of any transaction. Ask yourself if you care about this seller having to schlep to the post office or pay eBay fees. Yeah, we didn't think so, either.

Not only did we endure this little crying jag, but we left all spelling and grammar mistakes and typos in place, so you could see them for yourself. Someone should tell this seller that the main point of the transaction is a satisfied customer.

It's such a simple thing but multiply it across a day's worth of customers

Customer first

In closing, we'd like to share a little anecdote to reinforce the need to keep the customer first in any transaction. While shopping in a large mall one day, we approached the counter of a card store with our infant son in arms. While we were getting out our money, our son reached for the string of a balloon tied to the counter from a big bunch of colorful balloons. The clerk yelled directly at him not to touch the balloons.

Now, our son was clearly under the age of 1 and did not intend any mischief. Naturally, one of us (who can remain nameless) took out after the clerk yelling back at her and admonishing her not to yell at our baby. If she didn't want babies to touch her @#%$ balloons, she should move them to a spot where babies can't reach them.

With card in bag, and baby crying, we left the card store. Although our son has now graduated from college, we have yet to return to that miserable spot. There are clearly many other places to buy cards, and we've done just that. It's such a simple thing but multiply it across a day's worth of customers and how many others are never coming back?

About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website, bradanddeb.com.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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