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Dec
17 2013

1:02 AM

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A world where numbers define your reputation

After taking a hiatus from Carousell, I’ve decided to go back on it in a whim of boredom. My reasons for leaving previously was simple – there was no buyer/seller rating system in place. I’ve had my fair share of buyers backing out after confirming an item (which can be extremely frustrating for sellers), and eventually I decided enough was enough.

Since then, Carousell had implemented a ratings system and I noticed that things have become more civil. In fact, I was just quipping on Twitter earlier today that I’m enjoying Carousell much more than before.

I was really starting to enjoy the community. Most of my buyers were really personable, and the sellers I’ve dealt with so far have been amazing. Through Carousell, I’ve discovered home-grown handicraft artists such as Hanxi from Fresh from the Kiln and young, entrepreneurial girls as young as as 15 who DIY gift ideas such as Kerensa.

Not to mention the several others who have direct links with suppliers and conduct pre-orders on the platform to share the discounts with others – with a slight profit to themselves of course. (And honestly now, what else was I doing back then at 15 apart from whining about school?)

It was nothing short of wonderful… until I received my first negative feedback this evening.

It was a revenge feedback.

The feedback was left in response to a neutral feedback I’ve given a user for backing out after confirming for an item on my list over the weekend. (Though I was tempted to give a negative initially – I thought it was respectable of that user to at least inform me that she no longer wanted the item, so I gave a neutral.)

I’m not going to name the user since that would be ridiculously petty on my part, and we’ve since sorted things out. (Apparently, it was a misunderstanding – I’ve decided to just trust and let go.)

But it did get me thinking. About how rating systems could potentially backfire.

My response to this whole saga already says it all. I do pride myself in my ratings – because I always make an effort to make my buyers happy. Before leaving that neutral feedback, in fact, I did consider the possibility of my ratings being destroyed by a retaliatory feedback from an angry user. (And sure enough, it did happen.)

Now, I do wonder – exactly how many sellers have been in my same position before, and avoided leaving non-positive feedback for fear of receiving retaliatory negative feedback.

In fact after this, it is unlikely I will be using the rating system for anything other than leaving positive feedback, which will then defeat the purpose of a rating system to begin with. This whole negative feedback for negative feedback mentality is breeding an unhealthy culture around this rating system.

People think twice about calling out improper behaviour from other users, because that will mean putting their own reputation score on the line. While for every person who avoids giving negative feedback, means there’s someone else out there with a perfect reputation score who might be causing annoyance to the community.

Of course, it’s not easy to build a foolproof rating system. Such ‘retaliatory negative ratings’ can happen literally anywhere – I’ve seen it happen (although a lot less) on SGSellTrade (a Livejournal community for Singapore-based second-hand sellers) and a little on eBay (although I can’t gauge the extent for eBay because I very rarely use it – although a quick search on Google reveals some results). Although methinks Carousell is in a very ripe position to innovate on the feedback system since they are a very talented fellow startup.

Some ideas off-my-head;

1. Allow sellers to submit feedback for users only when that user has made an offer for his/her item.

2. Conversely, only allow buyers to submit feedback for users only when an item has been “marked as sold” to him/her.

3. Have a “dispute feedback” feature where buyers/sellers may start a private chat in relation to a neutral/negative rating they are unhappy about. This allows them to channel their angst elsewhere and reduce the number of revenge feedbacks.

In an ideal world, a user’s rating will be a true reflection of his/her trustworthiness and reliability. Unfortunately, this is reality where emotions (specifically, anger) usually triumph rationality.

Meanwhile, revenge negative ratings or not, I’ll just continue putting the human connection into every interaction I make on Carousell.

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