Dec 5, 2007

Is ebay just too big for it's boots? 

Ebay was a great concept and virtually created the on-line auction paradigm.

Like many successful organisations that grows fast - there is a danger of loosing sight of what makes their business successful. If my friends experience is anything to go by ebay is entering that arrogant phase that very rapidly growing businesses seem to go through just before they have to eat some humble pie.

How do ebay make their money? By selling things - except unlike most businesses the things they sell are not their own and they are not buying from bulk suppliers. They are simply a middle-man sitting squarely between the seller and the customer. They provide a channel and should consider keeping both ends of that channel happy.

It would appear that bay is loosing sight of this - particularly of it's relationship with it's sellers. My friend, an occasional ebay user, sells various things on a non-commercial basis through ebay and has done so on and off for a number of years. She has a 100% reputation and no negative marks.

Today she received and email entitled "eBay Listing Removed: Keyword Spamming". At first this was taken as spam itself - but a quick check at ebay showed her listing had in fact been removed - completely - deleted. A message in her in-box explained why - in ebays unilateral opinion she was 'spamming' - for which ebay has a different definition to the rest of the world :

"Keyword spamming is using brand names or other inappropriate keywords in an item title or description for the purpose of gaining attention or diverting buyers to a listing"

The offending keywords? "as new" in the listing title. This product has been out of the box once - used once - then put back again. It is "as new". Specifying something as new is not listed as a banned description on ebays spamming page, neither does that fall clearly into any of the practices that are not allowed.

How else is one to describe a product 'as new'? On Amazon 'as new' is a whole category! Yes, it will make that listing stand out from others that are maybe a year old and been in continuous use. Maybe 'old and well used' would have similarly fallen foul of these arbitrary rules.

As for "for the purpose of gaining attention or diverting buyers to a listing" - ebay is a shop front. You want people that want to buy an X to find your listing. I guess listing something and then in the title just say 'I have something for sale' would be fine here - no way that's going to stand out in ebays listing!

The process by which ebay distributes it's justice is similarly authoritarian. An email and automatic removal. Not just de-listing - but deletion without the option to edit and repost. Anyone that has used ebay knows how time-consuming their interface is to get anything listed in the first place especially if you take pictures (which of course should be similarly banned because that makes your listing stand out from others).

There is no opportunity to appeal - no warning beforehand - no automatic checking when you post a listing and no one to talk to. No recourse at all.

In this case the product had been listed for 3 or 4 days, and had attracted 6 bids.

Of course ebay have added the immortal words "We value you as a member of our community and wish to continue this relationship, so we must ask you to refrain from further breaches of the User Agreement and eBay policy" - so that's OK then.

She has now closed her account on ebay and they have lost all her future business. Not much admittedly, but if ebay continues to treat it's suppliers with this level of contempt it's likely to loose more.

My friend also sells on Amazon. Apparently it has a much friendlier interface, is easier to use and seems to have some respect for people that list products, which is strange given that Amazon could quite happily survive without individual suppliers, whereas ebay arguably couldn't.


Further evidence today that eBay has lost site of those that make it successful.

In this report from the BBC - eBay are now to prevent sellers from leaving negative comments about problem buyers, while buyers continue to be able to say what they like about sellers. Thus one beligerent buyer can potentially ruin the reputation of a seller. The only recourse for the seller is to complain to eBay, and we've discovered just how good they are at listening to buyers.

I remind ebay again that they depend on their sellers as much as buyers and they really ought to think seriously about their shoddy behaviour towards that segment of their audience.

Comment by jonw - Feb 5, 2008 16:09
Certainly with CD's that explains why vendors use the words 'Like New' which to me sounded strange, but I come across it often, so maybe your friend should say 'Like New'.
Comment by PeterJP - Jan 27, 2008 7:44
Just happened to me as well. I have been a member for years and have had over 440 transactions - all positive feedback - and this morning I had 11 items deleted because 'as new' was in the title. The clothes I was selling is 'as new' - some had not even been worn but only washed prior to intended wear! Thus, I think a suitable description is 'as new'. I have never had any problems with this before despite listing many items 'as new' - and when they removed my 11 items - they left one of my listings which also has 'as new' in the title! Nowhere does it state that 'as new' is a prohibited term - and I have emailed ebay and told them this! I have also told them that I am cancelling my account as soon as one of my approved listings ends tomorrow afternoon - it has bids for over £40 so I am not leaving before my money comes through!! But that is it! I am done with ebay! I have had similar bad experiences with paypal via ebay - where I ended up losing a mobile phone, the postage for it, the payment etc. because of a scam where ebay sided with the people who were obviously scamming us (0 feedback - brand new members) instead of us who had never had any complaints and who had 400+ posititive feedback! We could not believe it back then - and stayed away from ebay for a year - but now I have really had it - and that is it for me and ebay! Idiots!!!
Comment by Maria Dumas - Jan 26, 2008 12:05
I prefer Amazon over Ebay for selling because they organise the buyer's payment for you. None of that wondering if the cheque will bounce.
Comment by bentley - Dec 6, 2007 8:10

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