The Horror, Part I: Second Life Marketplace Reviews

Nobody is happy with the Second Life Marketplace review system. Not buyers, certainly not sellers, most likely not Linden Lab either.

Yet few want to scrap it altogether. It is the lesser of two evils — the other being that buyers have no way to warn other buyers off of something poor quality or an out and out scam – OR to give a quality product or customer service the praise it deserves.

Buyers who leave legitimate negative reviews are discouraged because they see unscrupulous sellers who will simply relist an item to get rid of negative reviews. This is against the TOS but it is hard for anyone to keep track of relistings.

And I have heard horror stories about buyers who leave legitimate negative reviews that receive a barrage of irate IMs from the sellers and their friends.

Then there are those who leave spurious negative reviews, typically from those who don’t bother to find out what the listing is actually for, before buying.

For example, I sell all kinds of dining furniture, in different sizes and configurations. I sell full dining sets, dining tables by themselves, dining chairs by themselves, and food that can be added to the dining tables.  Yet at least once a week I get a bad review because someone bought a dining table that they thought was a dining set — despite warnings in ALL CAPS in the listing that the price is for the table only, and other items are sold separately.  I have somehow “cheated” the buyer by sometimes selling only tables, in addition to dining sets.

Another example:  Although my houses listings include clear warnings that no furniture is included, and provide a list of everything that is included, buyers will leave a one star review because they “thought furniture was included”.

Then there are the bad reviews because people do not understand basic functions like how to open a box (and not just people new to SL either), or did not read the notecard with helpful info and instructions.

Furniture and clothing makers receive negative reviews because something doesn’t fit the buyer’s avatar — but the buyer neglected to try the model / demo before buying.

And then there are the extortionists, who threaten a bad review if they don’t get a refund.

There are a few things LL can do to improve that experience :

1. First of all, everyone would be delighted if LL made it easier to leave a review, as Xstreet did with its pop up reminders with links to the products.  Or you could go to a page that had everything you had purchased but not yet left reviews.

Why would making it easier to leave a review be better for everyone? Because as it is now, you have to be very motivated to leave a review — and for most people that translates into “very angry/disappointed”.  So the few reviews there are tend to be skewed towards the negative — and are much more upsetting to merchants if there are only one or two reviews total. Not that merchants EVER are justified in attacking anyone for leaving a review, no matter how negative — but I bet it would cut down on some of the acrimony.

To LL’s credit, they will remove spurious reviews that do nothing to help a potential buyer evaluate the quality of the product. But that still means the merchant has to flag every review of this sort, and someone at LL has to look into it to see if it is a legitimate review. It an annoying waste of time.  And the sad thing is that since people are so much more likely to leave a review when they are angry than when they are happy, these reviews have a lot of weight.

2. Something that could help cut down on spurious negative reviews is for reviewers to get a pop up reminder of what reviews are for — ie advising potential buyers whether the item is as advertised, for example, and what they are not for (eg complaining because you did not read the listing.)

3. Also, IMO those who repeatedly leave spurious / off topic reviews which LL has to remove, should have their ability to leave reviews suspended for a certain amount of time.

4. Merchants who harrass reviewers (even really mean reviewers) should have some kind of penalty related to the listing of that product (as they are supposed to have now for relisting to get rid of reviews).

5. High on most merchants’ wish list would be the ability to ban people from buying our things on the marketplace. As a buyer I can choose who I want to do business with, but as a seller I can not. And yes, believe it or not, I have had people buy my things over and over and leave a negative review each time. I’d just as soon they shop elsewhere.

The bottom line is that Second Life is supposed to be a place to play, a place to have fun, but there is a little group of mean spirited people who take their pleasure in ruining things for others, whether it is scamming people with crappy (or stolen) merchandise — or selling empty boxes — or spitefully trying to ruin the sale of perfectly good products because they failed to read the listing or notecard. When things dont go their way, their first impulse is to look around for someone to blame and attack.

Linden Lab is working on a redesigned marketplace; I hope they will be as good as their word when it comes to listening to feedback from buyers and sellers.

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