Disputes 101

Ted Rodney • May 11, 2018

Disputes are a fact of life on any trading card market like Cardsphere. Let's face it: the postal systems are imperfect, card condition is massively subjective, and people make mistakes. I like to think one of the advantages that Cardsphere offers is that the owners deal with all customer service issues directly. While I won't pretend that working disputes is my favorite part of the day, it's something that I intend to continue doing because I know that outside the two traders involed, only someone with some kind of stake can really care about finding the best solution.

Call your telco some time and tell me I'm wrong!

At any rate, I want to take this opportunity to talk about our current dispute process, how users can optimize their experience with it, and also a bit about our plans to improve things in the future.

Disputes Today

Cardsphere's developers employ Agile development practices. This means that in many cases, we will ship barebones features and improve upon them over time. While we have a come a long way since May 21st 2017, the dispute system not fully baked yet.

Happily, entrenched users teach new users how to do disputes, and often provide tips on how to best use it. But it is still pretty barebones:

  • Need to copy in links instead of uploading card images directly.
  • No dashboard to review old disputes or manage those ongoing.
  • No way to self-resolve issues when traders agree.

All disputes happen within our messaging system as far as traders can see. For my part, I have a dashboard where I can see an enormous amount of data about both parties. I have a quick view of stats that show me things like the min/avg/max values of trades that are successful vs. those that are not, the overall rate and number of disputes in which the traders have been involved, and if needed the entire trade history of both parties.

I know my answers in the disputes sometimes seem brief -- this is because my time is spent looking through the data and making sure things are on the up and up. I also don't use canned answers -- I may respond with similar patterns, but I'm typing it myself every time. My apologies for my many, many typos.

Here are some tips that will help me help you:

1. Don't Lose Your Cool.

It's upsetting when something goes wrong, and it's very easy in these situations to imagine the worst of the other party. I totally get that, and I mean it. I've had it happen to me.

But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of users are honest, good traders who are invested in building a trustworthy community. Week after week I see it: people contact me often because they've been refunded for cards that eventually come in, and want to make it right. Also, I see very many disputes where people are friendly and patient, and guess what? People who handle things this way continue trading with one another, and build strong relationships.

Meanwhile, people who fall into the trap of being harsh or accusatory usually end up being stuck in the dispute process for longer, and often get blocked for trades at the end of it. In this manner, a bad attitude will eventually starve you of trading partners.

And of course, I may speak to you about how you're communticating as well. So be cool. Like Fonzie. It works.


2. Understand the Rules.

Surprisingly, I encounter people who don't know the rules pretty often. I know it's not a lot of fun to read the Terms and Conditions (imagine writing the things), but you need to understand how things work or else you could be very disappointed in the results.

We're happy to discuss our policies with anyone, and have actually updated them a few times in the last year due to community and private discussions. But you gotta know them.

We have covered a lot of ground in the Terms. If you don't know the answer to any of these questions, you should take the time to read them:

  • How long should I wait before opening a dispute?
  • Is it all right to cancel a trade to send for a better price?
  • Can I send fake trades to transfer money?
  • Who pays if extra postage is due?
  • What if I forgot to change my mailing address when I moved?

3. Explain the Issue.

If you're the party opening the dispute, explain what the issue is you need help with. For example, if you have a problem with a card's condition (this is far and away the leading disputed issue), state the problem clearly:

"The foil Dark Depths has a lot of scuffing on the front and back. I think this is an SP card rather than NM."

Also for card condition, provide a link to an image of the cards. You can do so using IMGUR or Google drive, or even by dropping the image into Cardsphere's Discord server #cardcondition channel.

If a package is late, or your trade partner is not responding to messages, just explain the situation. Be clear and always provide as much information as possible. You can never have too much data.

4. Offer Solutions.

Let the Cardsphere admins know what solutions you're willing to accept. If someone has sent you the wrong language or set, explain whether you're willing to make an adjustment on price, or if you just want to return the card.

If you have sent the wrong card to someone, let them know what you're willing to do to fix things. One scenario that I see from time to time is people sending nonfoil instead of foil, realizing the mistake and offering to let the receiver keep it for their trouble while the proper card is shipped out late.

Whatever you can work out amongst yourselves gets everybody trading faster. I process the trades once a day, sometimes skipping a day on the weekend, so the more you can negotiate and agree to without my help, the better.

If things don't work out, I will see that you tried, and work with both sides to come to a satisfactory conclusion if possible.

5. Be Excellent to One Another.

Bet you didn't think I would follow up a Fonzie reference with a Bill & Ted one, huh? And for all you kids who are too young to get those references: yes, I AM jealous.


I am also repeating myself. I know. But this one's important.

Be nice. Keep the community growing and improving by doing positive things for your fellow trader. People say that the good you put out into the world comes back to you, and I can really see that in how we deal with one another. This is precious. And remember we help ourselves by doing this, more happy traders using Cardsphere means more trades for everyone.

Disputes Tomorrow

In the year ahead we will be looking to resolve some of the shortcomings of the current solution. We want to make it easier for people to self resolve disputes, so admins only need be called in when necessary.

You can expect to see these things start appearing in stages. We are still talking with the community about implementation ideas, and encourage anyone with strong feelings to let us know what's on your mind.

Definitely, we need to make it easier for people to share images. We need to provide a defined area in the UI to access your current and historic disputes so it's easier to keep track of adjustments and with which traders you had good and bad experiences. And because most of the time traders can sort things out on their own, we need to make it so that you can fulfill agreements without our intervention.

I know that with your help, we'll get all of this done the right way, and doing so will help continue fuel the explosive growth of our community.

Thanks guys, and GL HF.