Why Amazon’s Rating System Is Broken

So I recently ordered an adapter that would allow me to connect my MacBook Pro to my tv. The salesman at the Macstore recommended I don’t spend the $50+ in the store, but rather do a quick internet search and pay $10.

Fine, I’m convinced.

Long story short: 7-10 business days later, I excitedly plug in the part to my new MacBook Pro – or should I say try. It doesn’t fit. Ok, My bad – I thought I might have ordered the part relevant to an old MacBook. No, It doesn’t fit (I think if I forced it a bit more it might have – but I’m not destroying the port for a $3+shipping part). Back to the seller’s page – it is supposed to work with a MacBook Pro. They never say what model.

I’m angry now.

I’d been waiting nearly 2 weeks to have the pleasure of hooking up my tv to my laptop and enjoy Facebook on a 46 inch screen.Amazon bad review

Anyone who has ordered from Amazon (or eBay) knows that for a product that shipping costs more than the product, you cut your losses and move on. That’s what I did, but not before I left a scathing 1/5 (you can’t leave a 0) review on the seller.

Low and behold a couple days letter I get an email from the seller saying they will provide me A FULL REFUND OF THE PRODUCT! (see below). Wow! Really? If I asked for a refund, I would have had to send the product back (at my cost), and then they would exchange it for the same inferior part. This is what happened with a battery I bought that nearly burnt a whole through my bed (and stopped working after a month).

Amazon bad review system email from sellerWithin a couple of days, I have the $7.99 back in my account.

The point of this is not that for once, an angry online customer got their money back without rounds of email and frustration. Rather, it made me seriously doubt the perfect seller rating on all the Amazon sellers.

How do they seemingly all have exceptionally high positive feedback ratios? 100%? 88% is a poor ratio?

Normal bell curve distribution would allow for a very small percentage of sellers to have near perfect (2 deviations from a mean) positive ratios. Yet from a very unscientific survey, there seems to be a low 90%’s mean! Can it be possible that eBay sellers have a better service record than any other service/store in the world? If a movie on IMDB has a 9/10 it is the best movie ever made, if a restaurant has a 9/10 it is a must try – yet a seller on Amazon at 90% is below average? This might not be apples and apples, but a natural feedback system, without incentive, should yield a more even spread.

I have a few theories, but they need to be fleshed out a bit more in depth.

The first is a conspiracy theory – the reviews are paid for. Look at the quality of the reviews, many of them can’t spell. Ok maybe a bit of a stretch… although from my experience in the web world it is very possible and even likely – given the importance of having a strong positive rating.

The second – People request refunds on terrible products and service, and because of a conversation that usually drags on for weeks, they’ll forget to come back and give the seller a poor rating. At the end of the day, the loss is not that great.

The third – When a bad review is posted, the only concern a seller has is to get it taken down. In my case for example – no effort was made on the part of the seller to replace the part, nor to find out if it was being used properly. It was an immediate refund. NO QUESTIONS ASKED! That to me stands out as a protocol – that and the automatically generated and grammatically incorrect email. User posts a negative review -> get review removed by immediate refund.

The first theory might be a stretch –  But the other 2 definitely have an effect on the rating system. Every time a negative review is not given/removed, it not only doesn’t bring down the ratings, but allows the positive to gain artificial weight.

This begs the question – I got my refund, now should I delete my review? Did they earn the censorship? By deleting the review, am I doing the seller a favor or the people? Do I owe the seller the removal of the negative comment?

That brings up a whole different issue: The online rating system, is it designed for the seller or buyer? Another time…

What do you think?

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