Ebay Eck


Last week, I sent a letter to Dublin. This all sounds rather quaint and lovely. Was I writing to a maiden aunt, you ask? Or an Irish gentleman with a twinkle in his green eyes? No, I was writing to a huge, multinational corporation, to express my dissatisfaction.

Those of you who know eBay will be familiar with its system of feedback. One buys an item, and, if all is satisfactory with the product when it arrives, one gives feedback on the seller, so future buyers can consider their reliability. One can leave positive, neutral or positive, taking into account the cost of postage, the speed of delivery and the quality of the item. In my twenty years’ worth of using eBay, I have left 4-5 pieces of negative feedback. It is not something that should be done lightly, as a seller’s reputation could be unfairly affected, preventing them from making honest sales.

Last month, I left negative feedback. A tablet I possess, now six years old, was failing to work, and a refurbished, secondhand one I duly ordered and paid for. It never came. The seller and I exchanged messages, and after a month of waiting, I asked for my money back which was arranged. I left negative feedback. Although my money was back in my account, I still needed the item. A week later, and my feedback had been mysteriously removed. I contacted eBay.

"It is routine practice", the Indian call centre employee told me. Because the seller in question is a ‘Top Seller’, they have an arrangement in place to remove negative feedback. I suggested that this defeated the object. Had they removed other pieces of feedback, which might have dissuaded me from making that purchase which I later came to regret?

I complained. This time, I was told that negative feedback was removed in ‘exceptional’ circumstances, such as when people wrote defamatory things. This I objected to- but my reply was ignored. I asked for a contact for the complaints department, and that was when I was given a PO Box in Dublin. Seriously?  To complain to eBay one must write a letter to a foreign country. I suspect this is to put off most complainants. Perhaps Irish eBayers who wish to grumble are given a PO Box in London. Or Timbuctoo. Courtesy of Royal Mail’s hare-brained decision to cancel most existing stamps in January, I have a number of E-value stamps that require using up, so my letter was sent. Whether it is received, or read, or noted, or acted upon is a whole new ball game. (POSTSCRIPT: the letter was returned to me, unoppened: address not known'!)

Here is a company, probably like so many, that makes it as hard as possible to complain about their disagreeable policies and practices. Here is a company that invites you to give feedback, but only if it is positive. If you use eBay and all goes well, great. If the sellers from whom you buy send acceptable goods, super. But if anything goes wrong, you will be ignored and side-lined. It acts rather like the people we know. Sometimes people ask for your opinion, but you know that it will be badly received if it is not positive. “How do I look?”, “Did you like that food?”, “Did you like my sermon?”. They are not really seeking an honest response but are rather fishing for compliments. Likewise, when we ask someone how they are, we must be prepared for an honest response- which might be far worse and time-consuming than we expected.

In the early chapters of the Book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus gives feedback to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Although He never withholds commendation when it is deserved, neither does He ignore imperfection or fail to diagnose malady. As Christians, we should fully recognise our wonderful status of loved, cherished and redeemed people, justified from sin and sanctified for His glory. Let us also heed the Spirit’s gentle rebukes and the Word’s chastening admonitions. Out status is one of perfect acceptance and righteousness, but our practice often leaves much to be desired. If you are convicted by the Comforter’s quiet prompting and the Bible’s clear reproof (they always work together), then act. States Psalm 51:1-3:

A Prayer of Repentance. To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.

Image by Simon from Pixabay