Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blocking Buyers on eBay Means Losing Customers

Succeeding on eBay is about providing excellent customer service and going above and beyond what the average seller would do. Often, when receiving a strange or unusual request from a prospective buyer, many sellers' knee-jerk reaction is to block the buyer so they can't buy the item. Unfortunately, this defensive mentality won't increase sales. Remember, your buyers are just people like you and me - we are all pretty much the same. What if the buyer has a legitimate (although unusual) question about the product? Most buyers are not malicious or evil, they only have a question they need answered before making a buying decision. When you block a buyer, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face - you could be losing not only 1 sale but many. Here is a great story from my Facebook group, where a seller went above and beyond to help a prospective customer.

John wrote, "I received a message from a guy about a vintage thermos I have listed. He asked me to fill it with hot water, empty it after 5 minutes then fill it with hot coffee. Then he wants me to let it sit for 15 hours and see if it's still hot. I don't need advice about this but was wondering if any else has received a strange request like this."

Obviously, this buyer knew exactly what he was looking for. He knows that vintage thermoses keep liquids much hotter for longer than thermoses made today. The buyer may be a construction worker, rancher, park ranger, or someone else who works outside and wants hot coffee available all day. Or maybe his workplace doesn't provide hot coffee and he wants to bring his own along. Filling the thermos with hot water first warms up the inside, so the hot beverage will stay hot longer. 

I was surprised, even shocked, to see so many sellers immediately become defensive and suggest John ignore the request or even block the customer. Some responses from other sellers:

I know it's bad customers service but I generally ignore requests like that.

If it were me, I'd have to tell him I don't drink coffee and don't have any.

From my experience if they ask crazy questions they always end up being a nightmare.

Odd requests can often times lead to odd customers and odd customers lead to trouble and trouble leads to negative feedbacks, refunds, returns, and other stuff. 

Other sellers were more supportive and willing to accommodate the customer's request:

I don't see anything wrong with that request. The prospective buyer is checking the insulating values of the vintage thermos. Something any *serious* prospective buyer should be doing.

Why not fill it with hot water before going to bed and test it in the morning. He won't know....he might not even end up being the buyer, but at least you know that you're 'going the extra mile' for your customers.

Its easier than a refund or a neg. Not that odd of a request for a thermos.

Actually this is not an odd request and this is how you really check out a thermos.

I must say I'm quite disappointed in all the responses saying they wouldn't do it. Why on earth not?? I look at it as a way to provide outstanding customer service and a personal touch to what is usually an anonymous ebay transaction. To me, this buyer sounds like he knows exactly what he wants and is an experienced thermos user. 

What he is asking is very simple, but it will work for any thermos, have no idea just why he is asking; I do this all the time.

The Outcome

John did end up selling the thermos, but to a different buyer. John reported, "Last week I posted about a buyer that asked me to test the thermal retention on a vintage thermos. I did the test and posted it here. I also added it to the listing and messages the buyer.Since I believe that the test added value, I raised my asking price by $5.00. I did tell the original requester to send me his best offer and I would accept at the original price. He never responded.Yesterday someone from Canada purchased it BIN for my new asking price! It's twice as sweet as this is my first non US sale.Thanks to everyone on this group for the advice and interest."

What a great learning experience for anyone who has not dealt with vintage thermoses before. A crazy question isn't crazy to the buyer. They usually have very specific reasons for asking the question. 

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