Thursday, April 10, 2008

MayDay! MayDay! MayDay!

May 1st 2008 is the day online Sellers of all sizes from Mom & Pop with 10 listings a week to Power Sellers with thousands of sales monthly will withdraw their business from eBay.

eBay Sellers are entrepreneurs, individualists to the nth degree yet they are united in their resolve to remove their business from a corporation which has shown nothing but contempt for its customers. eBay will not even acknowledge that Sellers are customers.

Here is a list of eBay Seller concerns, this list is not in any particular order and I may well have left out some points. It should be noted that all of these concerns are closely inter-related. Sometimes it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

1. Implement some form of Buyer verification. This will prevent fraudulent buyers from simply returning with a new eBay ID after being NARU (Not a Registered User) or banned from the site.

2. Rethink the new feedback policy due to be implemented in May. There are other ways to deal with the problem of retaliatory feedback without preventing Sellers from leaving negative or neutral feedback for Buyers. Banning automated like for like feedback programs would be a start. As it stands buyer will have five opportunities to register displeasure with a Seller who has no ability either to judge the caliber of the buyer, (who will only have positive feedback), or protect themselves from malice.

3. Fix the Detailed Seller Ratings To tell a buyer that 4 is the correct score for 'shipped quickly' is deceptive, more so when Sellers are being rated on the speed of the USPS not the speed with which an item is out the door. A score of 4 carries severe penalties for a Seller. Items with free shipping should not be rated on shipping costs, this is a simple programming change. 'Would you buy from this seller again' would be a more accurate question.

4. Customer Service is a joke. Three identical queries will produce (eventually) three different responses none of which answer the question asked.

5. Enforce regulations eBay relies on customers to police and report listings which contain policy violations. The reporting mechanism is so poorly framed that it is almost impossible to report certain violations. eg banned seller returning with a different ID. We don't need any more new rules until the old ones are fully implemented.

6. Fix Search or Finding or whatever you want to call it The recent 'improvements' or Best Match currently result in buyers being unable to find what they are looking for. Some previously effective listings do not receive a single view. Tying 'finding' to DSRs means that a low volume Seller can easily be sabotaged by a competitor who simply buys an item under a new ID and leaves a score of 1. It seems incredible that a low volume seller, a fee paying customer with a long term track record of excellence can be judged guilty and condemned by one 'anonymous' rating from a new buyer. Please do not expect Sellers to have faith that an already dysfunctional Customer Service department will fix this.

7. Respect eBay recently announced that it would ban digital sales in five days citing suspected feedback manipulation. eBay then immediately began ending digital sales listings. Listings sellers had paid for, some that very same day. Thousands of Sellers found themselves instantly out of business. This is not the first time eBay has reacted with a sledgehammer to kill a flea. This pattern of corporate behavior is indicative of total disrespect for the businesses that pay to list on the venue. How can anybody run a business when your 'landlord' changes the terms of your 'lease' without warning or notice? There are several ways to limit feedback manipulation, including restricting feedback to items sold over a predefined price. Most Sellers tend to think they are selling items not feedback.

8. Micromanagement eBay frequently declares in legal filings that it "is just a venue" and therefore not liable for anything. eBay does not however act like just a venue. eBay micromanages the business of its customers, for example preventing Sellers from utilizing legal and proven payment methods in favor of its wholly owned subsidiary Paypal. Paypal's business practices are covered here

9. Dishonesty is rampant in the eBay corporate environment. Recent examples include:

(a) eBay's denial of censorship on the Discussion Boards,
(b) the 'test' revised to 'glitch' that caused listings to appear on the site during the recent boycott. eBay stated publicly that there were only 5000 listings, later revising the figure to 35,000. Unfortunately there is proof (in the form of saved screen shots) that the total listings inflating statistics during the February boycott were closer to 245,000.

Its a Secret Any successful business relationship must be based on mutual benefits. Happy confident performing Sellers will have happy and confident customers or buyers. Buyers pay for items and in turn Sellers pay fees. Logic would dictate that eBay should be open with its customers, fee paying Sellers, regarding the direction eBay management wishes to take its business. Unfortunately logic is absent. eBay prefers to make a series of pronouncements to which sellers can only scramble to react.

When a renowned and respected Seller like Skip McGrath who makes his living selling eBay how to books says "I try and make a habit of checking the eBay announcement board frequently so I can keep up with all the changes on eBay, but for the past few months I've been almost afraid to. It seems every time I look at the announcement board, eBay smacks me upside the head with some new draconian policy." then, San Jose, we have a problem!

eBay doesn't think so, it is dismissive and disrespectful. I think I speak for many other Sellers, not just myself, when I say that I would rather be told upfront that the corporate direction has changed and to take my junk & leave by a specific date.

Is there a solution?

Probably not. eBay has said quite clearly "We're not changing our plans,"

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