Relaxation of TOS suspensions during crisis

edited March 2020 in Chatter 1 LikesVote Down
Selling stamps is the only source of income for many sellers.
May i suggest a relaxation of rules during this crisis just as many other companies and govt agencies have?
While there may be egregious violations and outright fraud, suspending one seller for multiple listings while many others remain active seems like selective enforcement of the TOS. I won't name the other sellers, but we can easily find them.
Additionally, suspending an account on a Friday and with no means of contacting someone by phone is disappointing. No information on which listings or percentage of listings are duplicates is also a problem.
Please consider this, and perhaps provide a self-check button for sellers so that we know which listingsat any given point are flagged (perhaps incorrectly.)
Francisco @txphl


  • 28 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • edited March 2020 0 LikesVote Down
  • Multiple listings are allowed, but they must each have their own image. Here is the relevant passage from Hip's Terms:
    Multiple listings for the same physical item are not allowed (ie: Duplicate listings are prohibited). If you have multiple physical copies of the same item, individual listings can be created, but only if each listing contains the actual image of each physical item. If you intend to use a stock image, instead use the 'Quantity' option when creating your listing to indicate the quantity you have available.
  • Not really a cool thing to do Francisco.
  • Updated info with incorrectly flagged listings.
  • Seems like they should at least give a short time to fix the listings before suspending.

    A self-check method would probably lead to less violations, since most sellers probably don't want to be in violation but the number of rules makes it hard to know which we might be in violation of. It might be hard to implement in many cases though.
  • edited March 2020 6 LikesVote Down

    I have spoken with our team regarding the issue which lead to the temporary 7-day suspension of your account with us. Here's a recap of the information they provided:

    With regards to this specific issue, our team had asked you to remove the duplicate items in question multiple times over several months.

    Following these notices, as no action was taken, earlier this year, our team then provided you with notice that if you did not remove the items in question, that our team would remove the items in question for you.

    Our team then notified you that the items in question were removed, and at your request, we provided you with detailed examples as to what was removed and why. At this time, our team also asked you to ensure that you do not create any such duplicate listings again to keep your account in good standing. Unfortunately, as you then created thousands of duplicate listings again, as our team had previously indicated to you - your account was suspended.

    To ensure there is no confusion regarding our policy on duplicate listings, here is a straight forward example:

    Let's say you have 10 copies of US # 230 Used. As a Seller, you are allowed to individually scan each US # 230 Used, and create a listing for each item. This complies with our terms because each listing shows a different, specific stamp that the buyer would receive if purchased.

    However, what would be against our terms and conditions is if you scan one US # 230 Used, and then create 10 individual listings - all using the same one image of the US # 230 as a stock image. This is not allowed. If you have 10 such copies, and you only want to scan one specific US # 230 Used, you would need to create one listing, indicate that the image shown is a stock image and/or representative of the item the buyer will receive and set the quantity of the listing to 10.

    The later is what you were doing thousands of times over. If that differentiator is clear to you, and you can agree to cease creating such listings, I will ask our Trust & Safety team if they can waive you 7-day suspension early. (Note regardless of being CEO & Founder I don't override our team members who are in charge of specific responsibilities, such as Trust & Safety, but I am happy to follow-up with them over the weekend if appropriate).
  • Hi, the listings for North Korea, Upper Senegal, Fezzan, India covers, Indonesia covers were all unique but were tagged as duplicates. If you look at the images, you will see so. You can also use image tools to determine if images are unique at the database level. When i requested specifics on the listings, i was told that they determined they were dupes and no further info was provided. I'm happy to provide the CSV dump for examination but this is why a self-check option would be optimal and then we can address each listing.
    Appreciate the feedback and happy to clean up true duplicates (I previously removed 60,000)
    Please consider the temporary relaxation of suspensions during this crisis, except for egregious violations and fraud.
    Let me know if they can restore the account so i can fulfill orders at least and start addl cleanup.
    I will submit a csv with unique items for your examination by Friday to see if your team agrees - again, many were incorrectly flagged as dupes.
  • "Relax" rules such as for what you were "flagged", during a crisis? What does the "crisis" have to do with following the rules, especially since your actions outlined by Mark have been ongoing long before any crisis happened?
  • edited March 2020 5 LikesVote Down
    Hipstamp warned you not just once and over a long period.......... what makes you so different from the rest of us? You are lucky that your sanction is temporary and so lenient. The other site don't mess around if you step out of line.

    Totally agree with you Michael.
  • Hi Mark, I have sent a sample of incorrectly flagged items (almost 15,000) which your algorithm identifies as duplicates.
    Here's just a few (anyone else on this thread can search for the listing # and compare the pictures, however, this can be easily done at the database blob image level, instead of just looking at descriptions)

    30562864^Indonesia #780//B242 Cover to Finland (1970-1999) Cover #7^88^Indonesia^780^general-issue^cover-postal-history-^multiple^^1^1^0.63^0.31^DCS-128-FDC7-3381-Q^^2020-01-28 21:45:55^0
    30562863^Indonesia #780//B242 Cover to Finland (1970-1999) Cover #6^88^Indonesia^780^general-issue^cover-postal-history-^multiple^^1^1^0.63^0.31^DCS-128-FDC5-2259-Q^^2020-01-28 21:45:54^0
    30778100^France #63 Used Ceres^171^France^63^general-issue^used^single^cultural-heritages-other^1^1^6.00^3.00^PVSC-4183-120-Q^^2020-02-01 02:07:57^0
    30778099^France #63 Used Ceres^171^France^63^general-issue^used^single^cultural-heritages-other^1^1^6.00^3.00^PVSC-4183-119-Q^^2020-02-01 02:07:53^0
    30788331^Upper Senegal & Niger #25 Used CDS SOTN CV$1.40 Camel Rider^171^Upper Senegal & Niger^25^general-issue^used^single^animals-mammals^1^1^1.05^0.52^hs19-2019-08-25-0681^^2020-02-01 04:24:54^0
    30788330^Upper Senegal & Niger #25 Used CDS SOTN CV$1.40 Camel Rider^171^Upper Senegal & Niger^25^general-issue^used^single^animals-mammals^1^1^1.05^0.52^hs19-2019-08-25-0682^^2020-02-01 04:24:50^0
    30776972^North Korea DPRK #126a CTO Imperf CV$12.00 Red Cross Doctor Baby^96^North Korea^126a^general-issue^used^single^organizations-red-cross^1^1^3.60^1.80^PVSC-6584-126aa-17^^2020-02-01 01:08:56^0
    30776970^North Korea DPRK #126a CTO Imperf CV$12.00 Red Cross Doctor Baby^96^North Korea^126a^general-issue^used^single^organizations-red-cross^1^1^3.60^1.80^PVSC-6584-126aa-21^^2020-02-01 01:08:53^0

  • In general, if a Seller lists thousands of duplicate listings, this is a very serious issue that negatively impacts our marketplace. When a buyer browses or searches our website, if they come across multiple copies of the same item, with the same picture, generally 1 of 2 things happen:

    1) They get confused and/or frustrated and contact us to ask us what's going on.
    2) They get confused and/or frustrated and they leave our website.

    In both cases, this negatively impacts our business, our sales, and the sales of our sellers.

    In general, this is resolved by contacting the seller and explaining the issue. From there, the Seller should do one thing to ensure their account remains in good standing - remove the duplicates. That's it. It would not be appropriate to instead send examples of other seller's listings believed to be duplicates, or to try and find ways around our policies.
  • edited March 2020 6 LikesVote Down
    If someone isn't willing to fix their problem like this, I'd boot their butt off if they didn't fix things by a date certain.. No prolonged arguments, or listening to, "Well so and so does it, so why can't I?" crud. It takes too much work to clean up after people who don't follow the rules. It's the only way to maintain standards, and as Mark said, maintains the integrity of the site for those who do follow the rules.
  • tl;dr
    Summary: we need consistent application of rules; agree I had duplicates; feedback on process improvement is provided.

    If you still want to read, apologies for the lengthy post:

    Michael, did you get a chance to look at the above listings that are obviously not duplicates? I've removed every listing in my store, and re-created at least 17,000 listings, which I know are not duplicates - which you can verify. If the clean up and/or verification on HipStamp WERE manual, I would agree, it takes too much work. But HipStamp uses Google as their platform, and database image comparison algorithms are well-known. Most of the listings incorrectly flagged as duplicates were not in fact so (17,000) - so I ask you before generalizing, did you look at the purported listings in question? I don't mind "hurrahs" for a specific business practice when your own business may be jeopardized by criticism of a particular platform/policy/etc, but I have been asking and providing specific examples of TOS issues/violations and I can't seem to get a straight answer. Wouldn't you be frustrated if a number of sellers got a pass for years, but YOU were singled-out? If you listed, say, 20 examples of TOS violations from other dealers, where no action has been taken, but your listings were singled out, would you think that's fair, even if YOU did clean up your listings? Based on your response above, if you are able to see thousands of non-compliant listings, with no adverse action taken, would that be OK with you (search for "combine", "boardwalk", or custom IDs in the headline - all obvious violations of the TOS.) Has any action been taken? I don't know. Should THAT affect my status as a violator of the TOS. Obviously not. If you were to do a search for almost any random stamp, and took the time to MANUALLY identify duplicates, you could find them: same listing with extra characters at the end or a counter, different catalog values for the same stamp in the same condition ($1.20, $1.25, $1.30) and so on. So how do you programmatically identify this? Distributed regular expression analysis - just Hadoop the load: for any given seller, search for Country+Catalog #+Condition+Image and ignore description. If the first 4 items are the same, then it's a duplicate.
    The majority of the listings that I have recreated were previously flagged as duplicates TWICE. The only items in my store right now are NOT duplicates - yet they have been flagged over and over as such. There's an issue with the automation that flags items as duplicates. Were there duplicates before? Yes, there were. I had over 110,000 items, and cleaned up down to 51,000. Could I have missed some? Yes.
    All I am saying, and this is why I have provided the data and CSV to HipStamp, is that maybe the automation is not working as designed, and by using my data and images, a process improvement can be made. Computers need to ACCURATELY identify this - not humans. Also, computers searching for just "Country+Number+Condition" cannot accurately identify duplicates unless they compare "Country+Number+Condition+Image" for a specific seller.
    We're human - we make mistakes. My own automation expanded and created thousands of duplicates - I've corrected the automation. What I suggested before - a 'self-check' button - is not unreasonable. Basically, what does Trust and Safety THINK are duplicates, and how can I convince them they're not. Let's say I have the 16,000 items in my store, and 'self-check' says, 'you have 6,000 duplicates. I can then go and check them, and provide evidence they're not - however, if the decision is final, then what is my recourse if they're truly NOT duplicates.
  • One more point, I believe there is a difference between constructive and negative feedback. Constructive feedback should not get you banned/cancelled/etc... Jingoistic-like praise can also be a bad thing. Directly addressing issues and not speaking in generalities can also be a positive thing. I've seen posters have their teeth kicked in for directly calling out sellers (I don't mind if you call me out directly with specific examples) - with legal arguments being made for this. There is a difference between fact and opinion: if I think that I suck as a seller, that's my opinion. If I state that xxx seller sent me a forgery, or yyy seller is listing duplicates and all of those can be proven, then that is a fact.
    I've seen a few posters just give up and drop out when they've been pummeled by other posters. My first language is NOT English, perhaps we can't perfectly express ourselves in the way that some may desire. Attacking a poster for their opinion is not necessarily constructive. Sarcasm may or may not work depending on what our native language is. My ***OPINION*** is that perhaps a snarky response to an unclear question is not necessarily the best - unless the purpose of these forums is to create a "bubble."
    Let the pummeling begin :(
  • Francisco, you could have, should have handled this with management. However, you chose to blast about this in public to try to intimidate the management. In my law enforcement days, I used to hear it all the time from people who I stopped for violations. Some would say the same things that you are, "There goes someone speeding. Why don't you go stop them?" The fact is that regarding your situation, I could care less. You got caught, fix the problem, and quit whining.
  • OK Francisco - Lets agree that most of your listings are not duplicates, they have individual photo's and descriptions.

    The point is - as Hipstamp say - buyers DON'T LIKE OR WANT to see a multitude of what appear to be same stamp listings from one particular seller. It just puts potential buyers off and they get fed up with having to wade through all this dross and end up leaving the site and going elsewhere. That buyer leaving has denied other sellers a chance to sell something to him/her.

    You may think - as your numerous posts show - that you have done nothing wrong, but you are just continuing to demonstrate a high degree of arrogance and selfishness which is not a positive character trait. You could always open your own site - then you could do exactly as you please.
  • A comment from a buyer: the quantity option is helpful if a seller is honest about it and also lists actual grades of the stamps.. I put many topicals together of like subjects and if a seller has multiples listed, I will buy from one site.
  • A seller is not permitted to state the grade of a stamp without a certificate of authenticity. A seller can state the estimated condition, however (fine, very fine, etc.)
  • edited April 2020 1 LikesVote Down
    Either term, "grade" and "condition" are acceptable descriptors to use for any stamp, certified or not. The "grade" of a stamp refers to its centering - Fine, F-VF, Superb. While "condition" refers to faults and other factors affecting the value.
    There is nothing to preclude a listing such as, "Latveria Scott #1, Grade VF, Condition poor, with corner missing, pulled perf, and heavy toning.

    Perhaps you were specifically referring to numerical grades, e.g. 90 XF, as used by grading services. Then, your statement is true. One cannot presume to know what numerical grade a third-party service would assign the stamp, because the numerical grade takes into account both the grade and condition of the stamp, and is for the proprietary use of the particular grading organization.

    From the Introduction to the Scott Catalogue

  • @Ted: "Perhaps you were specifically referring to numerical grades, e.g. 90 XF, as used by grading services. Then, your statement is true."

    Yes, that is what I was referring to.
  • When I first started to purchase stamps from TexPhil, I noted the large number of items that appeared to be duplicative of others. I found it annoying more than anything else. Over the ensuing months, Francisco cleaned up his act in that regard while expanding his single item listings at the same time. He made progress in deleting all duplicate entries. Thank goodness - he has better material for sale than many other HipStamp sellers.

    Unlike many other sellers, Francisco provides the option to purchase stamps as MNH, MLH and MH as well as used. Many other sellers should look at his site and learn from Francisco on how to create a site that many buyers like for its simplicity and content

    I see repeated listings posted by other sellers that state that the stamp I am about to purchase is a 'stock' photo and I may not get the item illustrated. I try to avoid those like the plague. Why are these sellers not being suspended? This practice seems to be fully accepted by the HipStamp staff. I feel this is the same as using the same photo to list 100 entries?

    Suspensions of sellers should only be taken as a last resort and after full coordination with management. If a seller is suspended, this should only be a decision made by Mark and he should send out an all hands message similar to those we receive concerning auctions, expanded capabilities and need for buyer input, I get approximate 15 to 20 of those messages each year.

    Some forget (especially the HipStamp staff) that suspensions impact buyers, too - how would you like to see a pending $250 sale disappear from your cart showing that all items were "no longer available?" The list I prepared contained more than 50 items ranging from 15 cents to $25. Including research time, it took me more than four hours to develop. After a while, I went to the Francisco's site and noted the deletion of all TexPhil items. The next morning, I went back to the site and observed that it now showed more than a 1000 entries from Monaco. Yet, HipStamp would not allow me to place an order - it clearly falsely stated that the seller was on 'extended vacation' - why does HipStamp have to post fabrications in its dealings with buyers. Remember that HipStamp can have all the sellers it wants - but it is nothing without its buyers. Has Mark ever notified his staff of that?

    I have to thank Francisco for bringing this discussion out in the open? Why shouldn't buyers have insight into how the site is working and whether HipStamp works evenhandedly for buyers as well as sellers?

  • Ron said

    I see repeated listings posted by other sellers that state that the stamp I am about to purchase is a 'stock' photo and I may not get the item illustrated. I try to avoid those like the plague. Why are these sellers not being suspended? This practice seems to be fully accepted by the HipStamp staff. I feel this is the same as using the same photo to list 100 entries?

    When the seller is stating that within the listing,there is NO attempt to deceive the buyer. The seller is telling you UP FRONT that the picture is a stock photo and is representative of the item you are buying. When a seller uses a "stock" photo and uses that same photo in multiple listings without stating that it's a stock photo,is a deceptive practice. When a seller lists an item here is it IMPLIED that the photo shows the EXACT item unless otherwise stated. Most buyers will assume that the picture shows the EXACT items they will receive. If the buyer is looking for very well centered items and the seller does not state in their listing that it's a stock photo,the buyer could end up with an item that is NOT at all what they were expecting.
  • Glad I saw this thread. I have always listed actual image of stamp being sold per listing. But I have a batch of more recent emails, for which I have from two to a dozen or more examples. I was planning to use the "quantity" option in a listing, use one picture, and include a statement to effect "This is a stock image, the stamp you receive will be of comparable mint never hinged quality." Just want to be sure this would satisfy terms of use on the sight. From what Mark Rosenberg says above in this thread, I believe I am understanding this correctly. Would appreciate confirmation.
  • Ronald, I have a few items where I do exactly what you said. My such items only come from the same sheet, are modern stamps, mnh, and are of the same quality as each other due to modern printing techniques.
  • Michael stated that there is no intention to deceive the buyer - horse feathers!. I am not talking about sellers who are listing a stamp with multiple quantities. I am talking about sellers who use this caption and have no multiple quantity identified. Do you mean they are not being deceptive when they ship you that single item listed as F-VF and the stamp received is not even Fine and the photo shows a perfectly centered item? That's why I avoid those listings like the plague. In the wide realm of commercial practices this is called 'bait and switch' even if you use the terminology stock photo. This is especially true in states with very protective consumer protection laws.

    I have been collecting stamps for over 70 years and I now purchase most of my stamps online. Mark knows how much I have purchased since HipStamp took over from BidStart. I am not a casual buyer - I have purchased from over 100 sellers in the past year alone, although the overwhelming quantity of stamps I have purchased have come from fewer than 10 sellers. But I do miss sitting down in a seller's shop and poring through his wares. I have been known to spend several hours in various shops and leaving with many stamps to fill those holes in my collection. I miss those days and the abilty to deal directly with the seller as well as other buyers who frequent the shop. I am especially proud have been dealing with one seller both online and in his own store for over sixty years. My dealings with sellers are based on trust developed over many years.

    Several of these 10 sellers do not even provide photos of their offerings. I know that any item I purchase from them will be as described as well as meeting my expectations. I have never felt the need to return an item to any of these sellers. Yet, I have never had trust in sellers who use the 'stock' photo terminology. They can be either lazy or sleazy. You will never convince me that HipStamp should condone this practice or look the other way for listing of a single stamp.

    In my earlier posting, I stated that Francisco's earlier practice turned me away from HIS site. Never did it turn me away from HipStamp. To say it turns people away from HipStamp is a feeble excuse.

    The HipStamp site is not perfect - there are things that need examination by the staff including the practice of showing an uncancelled stamp as a used stamp. Frequent inabilities of its software to keep track with the load. Frequent interrupts that cause items deleted from one's cart to appear in the final invoice to the seller and other instances of purchases being duplicated. These last two I have already identified to HipStamp and the tech staff is trying to replicate the problem.

    Truthfully I must rate HipStamp as an A+ website. It is truly the only online site that caters specifically to the needs of the individual stamp collector. Although I do purchase on occasion from E-bay, I find their process awkward and not collector friendly at all. Try searching for a single item from Costa Rica for example - I can sort by cost but not by country/catalog. You cannot sort by Scott Catalog, Yvert or Michel. A sort by year may be my best choice, however the seller must include the year in his listing or I loose a large number of hits.

  • Ron,

    First off you never stated that you weren't talking about sellers using that term when they are selling quantities of the same item. And most of the sellers using a stock photo when listing quantities are not trying to rip someone off. (But there are always the exceptions)

    Now if you have a seller doing that you need to talk to the seller first and if you don't get satisfaction from the seller,then report that seller to Hipstamp along with the documentation to show them what you did get. Second that could also fall
    under Paypal's buyer protection as a SNAD. (The SNAD does deal with bait & switch tactics)

    Hipstamp has neither the resources or the man power to look at each and every single listing,not with over 6,000,000 listings and counting. That is what the report buttons are for.
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