Dude, Where's My Feedback?

Holy Bible in "Like New" condition with only slight storage wear.

Previously on Part Time Picker, I regaled you with a terrifying tale of my recent run-in with neutral feedback on my Amazon merchant account. After much denial and resentment, I finally arrived at the conclusion that the source of my dissatisfaction wasn't that somebody had left me less-than-positive feedback (although I admit to no wrongdoing and never will). The problem lies in the fact that very few customers leave feedback at all on Amazon.

I estimated that maybe 1 out of 9 customers leaves feedback. I've been checking the forums and I see that while my ratio seems lower than normal, many are observing a downward trend in feedback left. If one negative or neutral feedback gets in the mix, it can really create an appearance of an unrealistic percentage of unhappy customers. I'll say it again, I'm getting screwed by the system!

Why is this? Why do buyers on eBay leave feedback more often than Amazon? I think it is because eBay has always been a business based on independent merchants, while Amazon introduced outside merchants into its system well after establishing itself as a online retailer. When something is bought on eBay, it is well understood that it is not eBay itself that is selling the item. Perhaps many shoppers on the Amazon Marketplace don't understand that they are not actually buying their item from Amazon, but rather through Amazon. More thoughts here.

eBay has gone to great, even annoying, lengths to remind buyers to leave feedback. While Amazon constantly reminds us sellers about the importance of good feedback, but then it doesn't seem to remind the buyers quite so adamantly.

So what can we merchants do? We can send the buyers an email, through Amazon, to request feedback. I've done this a few times when I've felt like I was being especially ignored and deserving of some publicly proclaimed positive reenforcement. But check out some of the responses in this Amazon forum thread about feedback...
Some suggest that an email requesting feedback is enough to prompt an otherwise dormant buyer into leaving negative feedback. Careful when you ask for feedback... you may get it.

One thing is certain, if you are going to request feedback, make sure to explicitly state that the buyer is under no obligation. Never offer any kind of discount or refund in exchange for positive feedback (or the removal of bad feedback). Keep it quick, keep it friendly, and then leave them alone.

Perhaps an even better email to send is just a basic follow-up on the order. You're just checking in with the buyer to make sure everything is all right. And, oh, by the way, here is a link where you can leave me positive feedback.
You can do this in an even less intrusive way by including a note to this effect in the package. I find this very ineffective, because unless someone is opening their package right next to a computer logged into Amazon, rarely is the reminder transferred from the paper to the browser. There is a big difference between a clickable (or copy/paste-able) link and someone having to type it in manually.

Honestly, after all this writing and thinking about it, my best advise is to just let it go. Do your best to give the best customer service you can. Describe your products accurately and be honest. When things inevitably go awry and it isn't your fault, just chalk it up to the Part Time Picking game and move on. It's good to apologize for any mistakes or oversights you may have made (even if you don't think you are to blame) and communicate with your customers, but sometimes life isn't fair, and there just isn't much you can do.

You'll feel better once the next positive feedback comes in.
I know I did.

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