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Focus on great service to maximize rewards

Providing great service to your buyers is key to successful selling. Currently eBay evaluates seller performance based on detailed seller ratings (DSRs). Starting in October 2010 "item not received" and "item not as described" cases opened with eBay or PayPal Buyer Protection programs will also be used in evaluating seller performance and determining seller status.

Some strategies for avoiding low DSRs and buyer claims are obvious, such as providing great customer service and resolving problems promptly and courteously. Others are more specific. Here are some proven best practices for reducing your likelihood of receiving a 1 or 2 rating and an "item not received" or "item not as described" case.

Item Description

Your item description is something you have control over, which means avoiding low DSRs in this area and "item not as described" cases is attainable. Consider these best practices when you are looking to improve your scores.
  • Avoid stock-outs. Learning that an item is out of stock right after you've purchased it is not a pleasant experience. When you list an item and a buyer bids on or buys it, both parties enter into a contract that they are expected to honor. Sellers who don't honor their contracts create unhappy buyers and are in violation of the eBay User Agreement and the policy for Selling Practices.

    Buyers should be confident that the item they've purchased is available and will be delivered. As a seller, you are responsible for ensuring any items offered for sale are in stock for the duration of the listing and are delivered to your customer as promised.

    To avoid issues with stock-outs:
    • Do not list any item that may be out of stock at the time of purchase
    • Avoid listing an item in multiple channels, especially if you do not have deep inventory on hand
    • Cancel your listing immediately if your item becomes unavailable for sale

    There may be times when inventory problems occur beyond your control. It is your responsibility to either quickly let the buyer know when the item will be available or issue a full, immediate refund.

  • Test your products to avoid dead-on-arrival or purely defective items. Like stock-out situations, items that don't work from the moment a buyer opens them create bad buyer experiences. Take the time to test your products.

  • Specify item condition. Clearly specifying your item's condition (such as new, used, refurbished, etc.) is critical. There are several opportunities to do so; make sure you take advantage of all of them.

    Include the item's condition in the title, such as "New with Tags," "Brand New," "Used - Excellent Condition," "Refurbished," or "Broken - for Parts & Repair." Providing condition information in the title removes the need for buyers to comb through listing details for this information and potentially miss it.

    Specify item condition as you list—choose the most accurate value available and make certain that all information about condition in your item description matches that value. Stating the condition of your item helps set buyer expectations and will be required in many categories starting July 27, 2010.

  • Write an accurate, complete item description. To effectively represent your item, use every means available to its fullest including:
    • Category selection
    • Listing titles and subtitles
    • Item Specifics and Custom Item Specifics
    • Product details (formerly called pre-filled item specifics)
    • Photos
    • Listing descriptions
    • Terms and conditions
    • Return policy
    • Handling time
    • Payment details

  • Category selection. Always list your item in the relevant category or categories. In most cases, there is only one appropriate category. Listing your item in other categories to increase exposure may confuse buyers and is a violation of the Search and Browse Manipulation policy.

  • Listing titles and subtitles. Maximize your item title. Use all 55 characters to include relevant words buyers might use to find your item. State exactly what your item is, even if it repeats the category name. Include relevant keywords that buyers will search for and are important for your specific item, such as the brand, designer, year, size, color, material, or even terms such as "antique."

    If necessary, use a Subtitle to provide maximum relevant information upfront. The cost of this feature is well worth it to prevent a bad buying experience by setting the right buyer expectations up front, particularly for items that are not brand new.

  • Item Specifics. Where available, use Item Specifics to describe your item's features, attributes and condition. Buyers can sort their searches using Item Specifics, making them a powerful tool in ensuring your items are seen by the buyers who are interested in your items.

    eBay also uses Item Specifics to help determine which items are most relevant to the buyer's search. You can create your own Item Specifics when the current choices don't apply to your item. Custom Item Specifics are now available in some categories, with more coming soon.

  • Product Details: If your item matches a product in our catalog, you can list your item using product details information. Your listing will be automatically populated with product information such as photos, Item Specifics, dimensions, descriptions, reviews, and other details. This saves time, creates a more complete listing description, and makes your item more visible to buyers.

  • Photos: A picture really is worth a thousand words! Use clear, well-lit photos from a variety of angles to accurately showcase your item. Use good lighting and an uncluttered background to get the most out of your photos. Add additional photos to showcase details and unique features of your item.

    Buyers expect to receive items that look like the photo provided. As a result, using stock photos for items that are not brand new can be misleading. For items that aren't in perfect condition, include a picture of the actual item, not a stock shot. If your volume of sales is very high and doesn't allow you to take actual photos of each product, make it very clear that the picture is a stock shot, and refer buyers to information in the listing description on the item's actual condition.

  • Listing descriptions: Writing a thorough description pays—both in the price you receive for your item and in delighting your customers. A good description is concise, well organized, and easy to read. Format your description so it's easy for buyers to find important details through the use of headlines, bulleted lists, etc. Include item style/type, brand, item condition, size, and other attributes. Think about your listing from the buyer's perspective—the more relevant information you provide, the more likely buyers are to place a bid.

    For items that are not brand new or flawless, be accurate and cover all defects. Don't bury item condition information. Clearly describe wear and tear, defects, malfunctions, and missing parts or accessories. Make sure your description is in line with the item condition value you selected when you listed your item. Don't try to describe used or refurbished items as new-this is a major source of buyer dissatisfaction. New items are brand new, never opened or returned, with no missing parts or accessories. Refurbished items, demo products and store returns should not be described as new.

    Take care with your terminology and avoid slang. Keeping your descriptions clear and simple makes it easier for your buyers to understand. For a complete checklist of things to consider in writing a description, see writing a great description.

  • Terms and conditions. Make your terms of sale easy to find and understand so that buyers know what to expect. Terms should include:
    • Shipping and handling information, shipping cost and method used
    • Forms of payment accepted
    • Return policy
    • Restocking fees, if applicable
    • Taxes, if applicable

    Keep your terms consistent throughout the listing. Terms can't be changed once the buyer has committed to purchasing the item. The Selling Practices policy requires you to meet the expectations you set within your listing and prohibits such behaviors as:
    • Specifying your shipping costs via the Sell Your Item form, but indicating a different amount in the item description or after the buyer has committed to purchase the item
    • Providing false tracking information
    • Stating that you accept returns in a listing, but refusing to do so post-transaction

    Do not include disclaimers that say you are not responsible for either item delivery or ensuring that the item is delivered as described. For instance, stating "I am not responsible for the item once it leaves my hands" is not permitted. Sellers are responsible for ensuring buyers receive their items in the condition they were promised.

    If you sell internationally, provide global sizes and other product specifications when available. Include foreign sizes for clothing and provide measurements in metric units. Some electronics and media may not work in all countries due to differences in voltage, plugs or formats. Clearly state any international limits to your return policy or warranties. For example, if you don't cover international return postage or have specific warranty limitations, spell it out in your listing and other communications.

  • Return Policy: Sellers are required to specify a return policy when they list items. This is true even if the seller's return policy is not to accept returns. However, if you accept returns, chances are that you'll be a more successful seller. The reason is obvious—buyers are more comfortable shopping from sellers accepting returns. Also, our research shows that only a very small percentage of sold items are actually returned.

    Note: Sellers are required to accept a return if eBay determines that the item was significantly different from what was described in the listing.

    If you don't already offer a return policy, we recommend you consider developing one that works for you. Think about how you would issue a refund—would you give money back, or a credit toward a future purchase? Are you willing to accept all returns with no questions asked—or do you have some limitations? Finally, who pays for the return shipping—you or the buyer?

    Explain how your return policy works, so that buyers understand their options while returning items. Consider including details like these:
    • Time limits: How long buyers have to return the item after they receive it?
    • Refund type: Do you offer money back, merchandise credit, exchange?
    • Return shipping charges: Clearly state who pays for return shipping, you or the buyer
    • Restocking fee: State if you charge a restocking fee and, if so, what it is
    • Item condition: Clearly state the condition of the returned item that you require. For example, "unopened box" or "opened box with all original materials".
    If you sell internationally, clearly state any international limits to your return policy.

  • Payment details: For most categories, you need to offer at least one electronic payment method. Make sure you know the accepted payment methods on eBay.

    The payments details section may also include how long the buyer has to make a payment before an unpaid item case is opened. When you use Immediate Pay on Fixed Price listings, buyers are required to pay for an item before the item before they can claim it as theirs. For non-Immediate Pay listings, you can open an unpaid item case in the Resolution Center as early as 4 and up to 32 days after the sale if the buyer hasn't paid. A buyer has up to four days to respond to your case.


Proactively communicating throughout the transaction gives your buyers confidence and sets expectations about when the item will arrive. Plus, it can head off questions from buyers for additional information.

Be aware of the downside of not communicating! If you don't respond, respond very slowly or send responses that don't answer the buyer's question, you may get lower DSR scores.
  • Communicate throughout the entire transaction: Some of the most important communication points in a transaction include:
    • Buyer wins an auction or buys the item—Seller Best Practice: Confirm the purchase and send the payment information
    • Buyer pays for an item—Seller Best Practice: Thank the buyer for the payment and indicate when the item will be shipped
    • Item is shipped—Seller Best Practice: Let the buyer know the item has been shipped by marking it as shipped in My eBay or by providing tracking information
    • Item is delivered—Seller Best Practice: Follow up with your buyer to ensure their satisfaction with a friendly reminder to leave feedback

  • Streamline your communications to reduce cost: Buyers (and potential buyers) often send emails requesting information, and they expect timely and professional responses to their inquiries. Although responding properly is time consuming, the result is more sales and higher DSR scores for you—so it's worth it. Use these strategies to make your communications as efficient as possible:
    • Tell buyers how to reach you and how quickly they can expect a response. Be sure to follow through on the expectations you set.
    • Be clear about international response times. Mention that it may take a little longer to respond to buyers in different time zones. Use the Time Zone Converter to help customers gauge your business day.
    • Include answers to FAQs in your listings to head off routine inquiries. You can also add FAQs to the Ask Seller a Question page or set up a self-service knowledge base.
    • Take advantage of eBay's new Smart FAQ which answers the top 20 questions buyers ask—before they click the "Ask seller a question" link.
    • Keep all of your contact information up to date. Also, check that any spam-blocking software you have installed doesn't limit a buyer from communicating with you.

  • End the transaction on a good note:
    It's important to keep communicating even after the buyer has paid—buyers will base the DSRs they leave on the entire transaction.

    Make sure to leave feedback for your buyer. Leaving feedback after receiving payment provides another opportunity to connect with buyers and gives assurance that you have their best interests in mind. In doing so, buyers will be more likely to leave feedback for you.

Shipping Time

The amount of time between making a purchase and receiving an item affects a buyer's satisfaction with a transaction. Buyers who know when their item has been shipped, get tracking information, and receive their item within the specified timeframe tend to be satisfied with shipping time.

While you can't control exactly when a package will be delivered, you do have the power to set the right expectations. Plus, using best practices when you ship is a great way to avoid “item not received” cases that could impact your selling status starting in September. Here are some important best practices to follow:
  • Include key information upfront:
  • Specify your shipping services. When you list your item, be specific about the shipping services you offer, including delivery time for each service. To help you specify your shipping time, we are adding more generic shipping services with delivery time estimates to the listing flows.
  • Specify your handling time. This is the time between when you receive funds from the buyer and when you put the item in the mail. Same day turn-around is best; most buyers are looking for two days or less of handling time. If you do not ship on weekends, state that in your description.
  • For international listings items, explain customs, duties and tax responsibilities. Let international buyers know they are responsible for customs fees and may experience delays due to customs. Let them know they can find more help with customs forms from the USPS, UPS and World Customs Organization sites. Tip: Make sure all your international listings include a clear message to buyers about their responsibility for customs fees. If you include this message, eBay will remove negative or neutral Feedback given on those listings due to customs delays or fees.
  • Specify your shipping policies in the shipping details section of your listing.
  • Offer a shipping service that provides tracking numbers. "Where's my stuff?" is one of the most common buyer questions. When buyers can track the progress of their shipment, they're more satisfied and leave sellers higher shipping DSRs - and you spend less time answering buyer questions. Tracking and delivery confirmation also play important roles in eBay dispute resolution for items not received or items significantly not as described.
If you use eBay's label printing service, tracking information is automatically uploaded into My eBay for you and your buyer to see. You can also add tracking information manually if you use UPS or USPS. Uploading tracking information will also help to avoid and resolve buyer cases for item not received. Starting this fall, you'll be able to add information for a range of other mail and courier services as well. Whatever shipping service you choose, make sure you communicate the tracking information to your buyer or mark the item as "Shipped" in My eBay.
  • Package Properly. Ensuring that your item gets to your buyer quickly and safely goes a long way in creating buyer satisfaction and positive Feedback for you. Here are some tips for packaging your item.
  • Choose a box that's slightly larger than your item.
  • Double box fragile items such as glass or china.
  • If you're reusing a box, cover any previous labels or cross out a previous address with a heavy black marker.
  • Pack bubble wrap, raffia, peanuts, foam, or paper all around the item. Close and shake the box. If the item shifts, add more packing material.
  • Put a shipping label inside the box.
  • Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape that is at least 2 inches wide. Don't use masking tape, cellophane tape, cord, string, or twine.
Shipping and Handling Charges

Today's ecommerce buyers expect reasonable shipping - that's the key to keeping low scores to a minimum in this area. Simply put, sellers who use shipping and handling as way to make money from buyers will end up with lower DSRs scores.

In some categories, eBay sets maximum shipping and handling charges. For the most part, sellers can charge reasonable shipping and handling fees to cover the costs of mailing, packaging and handling. However, for you to be most competitive and ensure buyer satisfaction, you should minimize the amount you charge for shipping and handling. Charging excessive shipping or handling is a violation of eBay's Selling Practices Policy.

Offering free shipping or discounts for combined shipping are two strategies that can improve your scores in this area. Fixed Price listings with free shipping will further benefit from increased visibility in Best Match.

Follow these best practices to appeal to buyers, set expectations and reduce shipping costs:
  • Specify shipping services in the shipping details section of your listing.
  • Ensure you clearly state shipping costs by either inserting the eBay Shipping Calculator or entering a flat shipping rate for each service you offer.
  • Offer multiple shipping services. Some buyers will pay more for fast, trackable service, while others may prefer a longer shipping time to save money.
  • Offer at least one trackable service whenever they are available. This can dramatically improve the customer experience, especially for international buyers. Tracking also provides an extra layer of protection on higher priced goods.
  • Offer discounts for shipping multiple items in one order. This can increase customer satisfaction and increase order sizes.
  • Offer free shipping. Your Fixed Price listings may receive more visibility, and it's a great way to make customers happy.
  • Provide details about any handling or packaging costs in the item description.
  • Take advantage of reduced pricing on some shipping services when you print shipping labels on eBay and PayPal. Pass the savings on to your customers to make them extra happy.
  • Make sure all your international listings include a clear message to buyers about their responsibility for customs fees. If you include this message, eBay will remove negative or neutral Feedback given on those listings due to customs delays or fees. Please make sure you read and follow the requirements for this message so that you are fully protected.
  • Get free shipping supplies through USPS delivered directly to you within a few days. Shipping boxes come in a variety of sizes and work with any Priority Mail® or Priority Mail Flat Rate Service.
  • Use handling costs judiciously. Handling costs may be added to cover packaging material costs and labor, provided they are not excessive. If you specify a handling cost, it is added to the calculated shipping cost and is not displayed to buyers separately. Although handling charges are allowed, we strongly recommend you use these judiciously. If you do use them, make sure you show value for the money by packaging these items with the utmost care.
Helping Sellers Achieve Fair Scores
eBay encourages all buyers to leave the scores they feel are appropriate on a transaction. However, there are instances when eBay will take steps to ensure that the fairness of the system is being preserved. Here are some of the instances where we will get involved.
  • Free shipping. When you offer and your buyer chooses free shipping, eBay will automatically rate the transaction with 5 stars for shipping cost.
  • Feedback extortion. For buyers whose conduct is inappropriate, such as threatening to leave negative or neutral Feedback for you unless you provide goods or services not included in your original listing, or bids just to create problems in your listing, use the seller reporting hub to report an unpaid item, Feedback extortion, or any other problem with a buyer. eBay investigates all reports and will remove any Feedback that's been left unfairly.
  • Buyer abuse. To protect sellers, we are continually increasing our ability to detect and act on abusive buyers, including buyers who consistently leave positive Feedback with low DSRs. We will be increasing our enforcement in this area. We are taking faster, stronger action in response to reports of Feedback extortion.
  • Unpaid items. For both Auction-style and Fixed Price items, a new automated unpaid item process—Unpaid Item Assistant—blocks buyers from leaving Feedback if they haven't paid. Unpaid Item Assistant is available now for all sellers.
Tools for Sellers
You can also take steps to protect yourself by using buyer requirements and buyer management tools including the blocking buyers feature. This provides the ability to block buyers with unpaid items or other policy violations, buyers in certain countries of residence, or even specific buyers.

Stay on top of any cases in the eBay and PayPal Buyer Protection programs, track your status and link to opened cases through your Seller Dashboard. From your Seller Dashboard, you can also link to and manage your cases from the eBay or PayPal Resolution Centers. Promptly responding and resolving cases with the buyer directly will help you avoid cases counting towards the new seller requirements that will be enforced in October.

Following a few simple tips can significantly reduce the rate of unpaid items:
  • Require Immediate Payments for Fixed Price listings and Auction-style listings using the Buy It Now option.
  • Make it easy for your buyers to pay by offering PayPal.
  • Make sure the item description is accurate.
  • Specify your item's condition when you list.
  • Include detailed shipping and handling information in the item description as well as the shipping details area.
If you believe a buyer purchased or attempted to purchase an item with intent to defraud, please review the information on the Receiving Payments page to report the buyer.