Monday, June 30, 2008

eBay Fighting for Consumer Choice?

eBay's time honored defence, 'we are only a venue,' once again cut no ice as a French court today ordered eBay Inc to pay 38.6 million euros ($61 million) to luxury goods group LVMH for allowing the sale of fakes on the site. The verdict directly challenges eBay's argument that it is not directly responsible for what is on its Web site.

The ruling was immediately appealed by eBay. As of this writing I found approximately 2479 Louis Vuitton items listed on the US site. Here is one for $4.25 and another 'sure to be genuine' item starting at 99c with $9.50 shipping.

On June 4, another French court ruled against eBay in a case brought against it by luxury goods retailer Hermès over the sale of three Hermès bags, including two fakes, on for a total of 3,000 euros. That court ordered eBay to pay Hermes 20,000 euros ($31,548) I found 2351 Hermes items listed on this evening including a wonderful selection of men's pure silk ties starting at 1c...

Still pending in France, the Conseil des Ventes, the group that represents mainstream French auctioneers, has also sued eBay, which it accuses of trying to circumvent laws regulating the auction sector by claiming to be a broker.

French cosmetics company L’Oreal is suing eBay in 5 European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, UK and Spain - for selling counterfeit bottles of perfume. L’Oreal claims they’ve tried to reach an agreement with eBay on this matter, but in the end had no choice but to sue them.

Last year in Germany, Rolex sued eBay claiming that their trademark was infringed upon by eBay customers selling fake Rolex watches on the German Web site, resulting in unfair competition. The German Federal Supreme Court in a judgment published on 19 June 2007, found that although eBay does not aid or abet any trademark infringements of eBay sellers listing goods on its web pages, eBay qualifies as an “intermediary” & is liable as a “contributor” pursuant to German and European trademark law.

Meanwhile back in the USA in 2004, Tiffany & Co. secretly purchased about 200 items from eBay in its investigation of how the company was dealing with the thousands of pieces of counterfeit Tiffany jewelry. The jeweler found that three out of four pieces were fakes. In addition to accusing eBay of facilitating counterfeiting, Tiffany & Co. contends that eBay "charges hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees" for counterfeit sales. A ruling is expected on that lawsuit shortly.

Here is the supreme irony:

eBay spokeswoman Nichola Sharpe said. "If we don't put our foot down now and strongly fight it on behalf of consumers' choice, we'd be letting them down. It's an anticompetitive business practice that will restrict consumer choice."

If you didn't know better you might think she is speaking on behalf of Australian sellers.

Y'all come back

Sunday, June 29, 2008

eBays Abandonment Issues

eBayInkBlog had a post last week about a survey commissioned by PayPal conducted by comScore from March 25 to April 18, 2008. This survey has been previously offered (not by eBayInkBlog) as supporting VP, Seller Experience Dinesh Lathi's statement at the PeSA Summit on April 24th 2008 "The fact of the matter is that free shipping is the standard for eCommerce now. Sellers who want to meet buyer expectations need to aspire to that."

Deeply Die Cut & Embossed Santa on Horseback Easelback Card Uh Huh. eBay have no desire to increase Final Value Fee revenue from shipping and handling costs factored into pricing on 'FREE' shipping. Nope. We sellers all believe in Santa Claus too. Click the image to buy this unusual free standing Christmas card.

Reading the press release it quickly becomes apparent that the survey has nothing to do with eBay, per se. eBay sellers do not have shopping carts on the site. It surveyed online shoppers in the U.S. who recently abandoned the checkout flow on either a large or small merchant Web site.

The survey should be of interest to all eBay sellers who have moved inventory from eBay to stand alone websites as part of their exit strategy. We all know that buyers often have unrealistic expectations of shipping costs. On our own websites the burden of educating buyers falls squarely upon us. I chose to add shipping weight information to each item description together with a separate shipping and return information page.

If all else fails you could try this solution. (Thanks colderICE)

Y'all come back

Friday, June 27, 2008

Its Aloha Friday

Here we are again, another Friday. Aloha is a very useful word, on a superficial level it means hello and goodbye, it also means love. Aloha is a spiritual thing, the Hawaiian dictionary says

love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity, greeting, salutation, regards; sweetheart, lover, loved one, to love, to be fond of, etc.
About the same time Noah was getting off the ark I arrived in Hawaii with two small children and not much of a plan. Yes I survived, and so did they, how did you guess? Over the years life on a large rock complete with volcano in the middle of an ocean has changed, not always for the better. It has been a gentle change, barely noticeable, it crept up on us starting with 'the traffic light'. Cable TV, a McDonalds, Costco followed by WalMart and KMart, the big box stores have probably made the most difference. No more back to school with mail order from the Sears catalog or Christmas with the Wish Book. No more back to school, the kids grew up and left.

What does this have to do with eBay?

eBay has changed, everything changes but eBays changes have been discordant in the geological sense. eBay has not evolved naturally. Previous CEO Meg Whitman often talked about pulling levers when needed to bump figures for the analysts on Wall Street. That was one thing, current management is completely different. eBay today is like living with a volcano which erupts violently and without warning, causing earthquakes and poisoning the atmosphere.

On the blogs in the days since eBay Live a recurring theme seems to be "They just don't get it". Why they just don't get it is incomprehensible. Since January the selling community has explained, signed petitions, ranted and blogged. At eBay Live sellers reasoned and explained, ranted and blogged. They (eBay management) don't get it because they are not listening. They are acting, a series of charades, the words are listening, transparency, working. The body language tells the truth, control, rejection, impatience, boredom, watch the videos.

I think the only way for 'them' to get it would be to sit down in front of a computer and manually edit 3500 store listings to remove the word "cash" while simultaneously answering emails from potential buyers, processing and packing orders, restocking and doing the daily inventory check on renewing listings (which mysteriously declare you have 99 in stock when you know you only bought a dozen in the first place and have had sales). They don't get it because they have never walked in our shoes.

What I see more and more in what is left of the eBay community is apprehension. Management is talking about monumental changes to the listing form, feedback, checkout, communication and finding "by the end of the year". Here is the disconnect, the end of the year is the peak selling season. These 'improvements' will come at a time when sellers do not have time to deal with them if they hope to make enough sales to carry them through the mid January through March drought.

On my morning blog round today, The Brews News headline is "2008 is the Year to Finally Become eBay Independent". Randy Smythe's blog theme is "Empower sellers and get out of the way!". His a post says "Please do not wait until there is little hope left to make the change in your business." Scott Pooler continues the saga of his client who is restricted from listing and unable to find out why because there is no communication from eBay. Tamebay has a quitting eBay story. AuctionBytes is about pornography for sale in listings, read the comments.

So much gloom, but it is Aloha Friday so to cheer y'all up, crank up the volume, listen to the Aloha Friday song, while you look at pictures of old Hawaii and put a little doo be doo in your day! (Translation below the video)

Y'all come back

Here is where I sit, all cloudy and blitzed

with the Primo bottles lying everywhere

Got a guitar in my hand and a Wesson Oil can

Under my okole for a chair.


It's Aloha Friday, no work till Monday.

Doo be doo, doo doo be, doo be doo be doo be doo!


The cousins all here, drinking up my beer

got keikies running everywhere.

I got some poki on the side while mama's trying to hide

the Miller and the Heineken beer.


OK. You know when you wanna get away, I mean one ting

about Friday ma, da working work is ovah yeah.

Frankly, ya, I feel good man.

I work hard all week long.

I can't wait to get away, you know like down like the beach.

I'm cruise dis weekend yeah, get one hot concert too man,

dat's the most important ting. But main ting too,

is to get enough money fo gas and to go out to da disco.

I like to see all da beautiful chicks Yeah!

So now I gonna jus kinda cruise, take my Bank Americard,

you know adderwise, how can I get money?

Right, plus den my friends always say

eh braddah, you can buy me one drink then.


Kimo and the crew sucking up the brew

pulehu meat smoking on the side

All the surfers are a-droppin'

while the highschool are a-poppin'

down Kaluakaua for a ride.


It's Aloha Friday, no work 'til Monday.

Doo be doo, doo doo be, doo be doo be doo be doo!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

ACCC Guidelines for Conferences


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) tries to conduct conferences in relation to draft notices as informally, flexibly and speedily as possible.

An interested party attending a conference may have the assistance of outside legal or other professional advisers, however, they are not entitled to participate in the discussion.

The conference will serve a useful purpose in that it gives the ACCC and all interested parties the opportunity to meet face-to-face to discuss the operation and effect of the notified conduct and the ACCC's draft notice proposing to revoke the notification. The notifying party and/or interested persons have the opportunity to persuade the ACCC to accept their view. The ACCC benefits from direct contact with the parties, and its perceptions of public benefits and detriments are tested in a forum of interested parties where points are often quickly and forcefully made.

1. Preliminary procedures

(a) When you arrive at the conference you should identify yourself to ACCC staff before the conference begins. Further, please complete the attendance book when arriving at the conference. This assists ACCC staff to identify attendees for the purpose of recording the discussion.

(b) The Chair (a Commissioner) will open the conference by welcoming those present & outlining the requirements of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and the manner in which the conference will be conducted.

2. General procedures

(a) The conference has been convened to discuss the draft notice, to canvass points of view and to assist the ACCC's weighing of issues and its interpretation of the information given to it.

(b) The procedure is discretionary. The Chair controls the order of discussion, and may take particular topics separately, so that all the discussion, on any given topic may be heard at the one time.

(c) The conference is not a court, and there is no right of cross-examination. You may request the Chair to ask questions of other parties present, but the Chair retains the discretion as to whether your questions will be put. The Chair, of course, may also directly question the parties at the conference, and they have discretion whether or not to answer.

(d) A record of the discussion will be made. The conference record is placed on the puulic register, and all who attend the conference will receive a copy.

(e) When the Chair believes that all present have been given a reasonable opportunity to express their views, he/she may terminate the conference.

(f) The Chair (and any other Commissioner at the conference) cannot give a final decision at the close of the conference. Each Commissioner is only a representative of the ACCC and is required to report back to the ACCC, which will make the final decision.

3. Other matters

(a) Following the conference, the ACCC will review the draft notice in the light of discussion and further submissions made at the conference (or within a set period of time after the conference), and will make its final decision as soon as possible thereafter.

Y'all come back

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The eBay Master Plan, Fact or Fiction?

This comment appeared for nano-seconds on an eBay Discussion Board. It has been seen on other boards, again for seconds. When I first read it I thought it was persuasive, maybe too persuasive like the urban myth internet spoofs we all fell for at least once and forwarded to every one in our address book.

Is it for real? I don't know. Is it interesting, yes and very plausible. It is just goofy enough that it fits the current Corporate mentality. Thanks to Anna who has guest blogged here. Enjoy.


I posted this at the feedback forum at eBay but it was killed by staff less than a minute later. I should have known. My ID will be toast soon anyway. This was the only other place I thought where my statement might have an impact. Do with it what you will. After Chicago, my only desire is to be heard.

There will be those who will not believe me and I sympathize. I wish the facts were fiction but to deny what I know would be to live in a fairyland of make-believe. I understand that the bulk of this “manifesto” reveals a plot so against the spirit of eBay that it will be dismissed as lie. So be it. I cannot force the world to accept it. All I can do is state the truth as I know it and leave it to you and to your common sense and experience to judge.

The deck is stacked against me. Aside from the natural resistance to believe I know that the boards are stocked with eBay’s tools. Their goal will be to discredit me. I will be accused of being a “disgruntled”, “paranoid”, and “emotional” seller. Their words will be specially chosen for effect. That is part of the function of the tools and I am not fazed by it. However, to protect my own identity within the corporation, I cannot be too specific lest the details single me out to the powers that be.

What I intend to reveal is common knowledge to many in the management division behind the scenes.

By the way, the tools are not only the mouthpieces that promote the policies. The psychological tactics employed by the powers that be are far deeper and grander than that. The subtlety of the method is remarkable. The tools come in a wide range of flavors with their own, individual “characteristic” rhetoric. From those who are “for” the policy - and spread various degrees of hostility toward the sellers - to those who are “against” the change - and spread panic and further the divide with the buyers. Both serve the same exact purpose: a manipulation designed to remove the more involved and savvy small to large sellers who will not fit into eBay’s future business plan.

First, let me correct the record regarding the concept of sellers extorting positive feedback. While the violation was known to happen, the activity amounted to less than a tenth of a percent of the yearly transactions. Further, it involved sellers whose feedback percentages were below 80%. The absolute majority of sellers did not engage in such practices. Nevertheless, the powers that be could not resist the fact that promoting this notion of feedback extortion as a wide-spread phenomenon would be the perfect cover with which to hide the true intentions of the policy.

The powers that be want to transform eBay into an overstock warehouse venue. A kind of outlet store for the internet much like a cheaper and streamlined version of Amazon. From a strictly business point of view, given the size of eBay and the growing costs of doing business, it makes a certain kind of sense to shift gears. Think about it: when eBay started, sellers were about rare and unique items but here and now the majority of items are common, used counterparts of what can be found new online at retail sites. Truly rare and unique items are sold at real auctions; the “stuff in your attic” isn’t glamorous enough and won’t keep eBay afloat any longer.

The trend away from the rare and unique to the big box retailer is not new. Several years ago the powers that be noticed that the big “powersellers” were simply listing items that existed in their retail stores or inventories. Thus the concept of “buy it now”, “best offer”, and “eBay stores” were created. It was the nascent stage of the plan yet to be. Little by little, without the population noticing, the mechanisms required to replicate the average retail storefront were already in place - and with its rise came the slow, steady downfall of the auction format.

Yet outright pursuit of a retail venue would have led to a major problem that at the time could not have been surmounted. The vast majority of people, on and off line, know eBay as precisely the place for auctions of rare and unique items. The sellers and buyers held onto that perception too but in truth their opinion even involvement in new and improved version of eBay is irrelevant by a certain Machiavellian calculation made by the powers that be. As part of the plan, eBay calculated thus: even if they lost the sellers as part of the change, the buyers will be coming back to buy regardless of who or what operated within the retail-outlet venue.

No, it was the stock holders who the powers that be feared.

Only the stockholders had the power to change the direction set forth by the CEO and the board. So it became imperative to change the equation. Part of the plan is to devalue the stock gradually so that investors merely dumped the stock as opposed to wanting managerial change ala Yahoo. Then to buy back the stock at lower cost and to such a volume that no rebellion against the powers that be were possible.

By the end of July that phase of the plan will be successful and there est of the plan will be revealed without fear of backlash from those who otherwise would have had the power to pull eBay back from the brink.
Indeed, if you believe the current changes are obvious signals that small sellers are not wanted - be prepared - you have seen nothing yet.

So far what have they done? All they have managed to do is silence a seller’s ability to warn others about buyers (half of the purpose behind the original idea of feedback), burden you with higher and higher fees, dangle “treats” like discounts while setting the bar of eligibility so high that the rewards cannot be reached. and, by the way PayPal deals with “complaints” leave you vulnerable to fraud. What if worse was yet to come?

They know if you do not feel safe that you will not use eBay. The changes that have been enacted only eliminates the small sellers. Meanwhile they want to eradicate the mid-sized seller too. And they want to ensure that both do not return.

For the mid-sized seller the DSR became the tool of choice. The powers that be raised the level of what is a good seller artificially high. No manipulation is required; they know exactly the effect of the policy. This is why buyers are told that 4 is a good score and sellers are told that 4.9 yields discounts and higher listing placements. As long as that fractured point of view exists, eBay does not need to interfere with the DSR as has been suggested, the buyers will be killing the sellers naturally.

By August there will be no pretense and the intentions of the new and improved eBay will be clear. The following is only a partial list of the rules that will be imposed. It comes from a memo that circulated within my corner of the managerial department the week before Chicago. I cannot be too specific about certain items and I cannot reveal details of the latest additions without endangering my anonymity.

1. Neutrals will be converted to negatives complete with red icons and reduced feedback scores. Afterward neutrals will not be offered as a choice of feedback.

2. The entire process of feedback will be automated. Buyers and sellers will chose standard feedback from a list. For sellers this operation will be performed automatically upon the buyer winning. For buyers there will be an extra free line with which to add a few comments about the seller without restriction to content. Replies will not be allowed.

3. The implementation of a stricter rules regarding shipping. From the boxes, packing, labels and tapes to where you can buy postage. Orders have been placed for prototypes of “eBay” boxes. UPS and FedEx will be instructed not to accept “eBay” merchandise if it’s not inside “eBay” boxing. They will know, of course, because when sellers buy the “eBay” postage from the “eBay” source, a detailed list of contents with item numbers will be available to the shippers upon scanning a bar code. As for those who continue to use USPS, another level of quality control will be implemented - buyers will be asked, upon confirmation of delivery, if the seller used “eBay” standard shipping items. Naturally, no verification of the buyer’s truthfulness will be attempted, and continued ‘infractions’ will result in suspension. eBay will have other ways to check if a seller is not using the “eBay” equipment - as they will be required to buy at cost the supplies immediately after items are listed. (This is such a large scale operation behind the scenes that I feel comfortable sharing as much of it as I know.)

4. Sales taxes will be included automatically; shipping cost and sales taxes will be used to determined FVF.

5. Item descriptions will be “standardized” with templates which include the posting of a new, universal return policy. Only yearly subscribers to the retail-outlet venue can opt out of these universal return policies but even they cannot alter the template structures being devised.

6. Strikes against buyers will be eliminated as the whole concept of a buyer and bidding will be altered. FVF will be calculated when payment is submitted.

7. Time to Close will be eliminated entirely. Best Match will be the non-alterable default. Best Match is a system that caters to the needs of shoppers not bidders.

8. Placement within Best Match will be determined by several factors, the most important of which will be the extra display features added onto the listing.

9. DSRs can be removed by retailers and powersellers who pay a certain yearly fee.

10. The end play itself which consists of four phases:
a) the main focus shifts to retail sellers whose fees are on a per listing basis
b) stores will be replaced by a classified section, fees will be based on yearly subscriptions and FVFs
c) occasional auctions will be conducted for unique items (celebrity auctions, items that have been featured on the news, etc.)
d) total elimination of auctions for regular sellers.

From the point of view of eBay’s agenda to change gears these alteration make sense. The powers that be want to turn eBay into a retail venue format. Therefore the “buyer” must be changed - bidding and commitments to buy are part of the past. In a retail venue, the item is either in your cart or not and you only commit to buy when you pay at checkout. The seller is also redefined in the way they will be required to do business. They will be forced to copy the methods of retail stores.

The goal is to become Amazon Lite. Unlike Amazon the merchandise will be stocked by the retailers in their warehouses, eBay will be just an electronic centralized venue for outlet sale - a “trusted” name with a wide customer base and popular name recognition.

That is the future and as I write this I know that it cannot be stopped. There are no investors with enough clout and will to challenge the CEO. Stock holders will simply walk away. eBay will not sink, however, it will be exactly in the position its rulers intend it to be at.

Sellers, my advice is simple. You are not wanted. Leave. If you stay, you will be crushed. Leave. Go away. You cannot win.

I am sorry because for too long I have been a complicit tool behind the scenes. I was part of those teams and think tanks that spearheaded many of the “innovations” you know very well and which will be used to destroy you. I know I will not be believed. I will be mocked and ridiculed by the tools and even those who are real, actual people will be hesitant to accept what I have to say. What has been done to this community, the plots and schemes hatched in meetings and across memos, is far, far worse to endure within my soul than any treatment I will receive at the hands of the tools by posting this. You do not know how much they hate you. It is my conscience that I want to clear going forward. Again I apologize. There should have been a better way for the powers that be to effect the change they wanted for eBay - instead they succumbed to cloak and dagger deception.

RIP eBay


There you go, fact or fiction, time will tell.

In the same vein I would like to point you to a recent post by Randy Smythe on My Blog Utopia! This lady has a bit more credibility and awesome crystal ball skills.

Y'all come back

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sing Along! Accentuate the Positive

A highly respected European pro-eBay blogger expressed a desire that some eBay bloggers read this article. Its very interesting so I thought I would give it a try. When you write a blog titled "How eBay lost ITs groove. A chronicle of eBay's destruction of the community." a real challenge is presented. One of the things I learned on eBay was to repeatedly rise to a challenge so I am going to accentuate the positive things about my ten year eBay experience and count my blessings.

1. Friends. I have made friends on eBay, some of whom I may never meet, others who have literally changed my life. Thank you eBay, genuinely & especially for Becky, Deb, Judy, Lidy & Lori.

2. Investments. My best friend (shades of kindergarten) whom I met on eBay, indirectly led me to bricks and mortar investments which have freed me from the need to earn a living on eBay. Thank you eBay.

3. Cattle. Yes cows, MOO. An eBay friendship led my husband to the source for some of the finest registered Angus seedstock available in the USA today, which is now enjoying a tropical lifestyle while growing a foundation for what will one day be the best registered herd west of the Rockies. Thank you eBay. The girls say thank you too, they like the climate.

4. The Answer Center Volunteers, my mentors, who taught me how to be a good seller on eBay and begun my education on the fine art of e-tailing; which is not exactly the same thing as retail but close enough to allow you to make some big mistakes. Thank you AC Volunteers wherever you are now, especially Bob & Glenda who are hopefully enjoying a yak dung free retirement. If eBay had customer service there would be no need for an Answer Center, so thank you eBay for your non-existent customer service.

5. Reality Check Back in 2006 I had sunk a considerable amount of cash into stock, eBay stores were in search and I was selling everything I had. The month I was one sale off PowerSeller status (my goal at the time) stores were taken out of search and sales came to a crashing halt. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. I learned that I could not keep all my eggs safe in the eBay basket. Thank you eBay for forcing me to make new baskets. I did not appreciate it at the time but now I know it was a good thing.

6. Web Skills If I had not had my reality check in 2006 I would not have learned how to build a web site or a shopping cart. I know it is not perfect but I built it and I am proud of it, so thank you eBay for opening up a whole new world of learning experiences.

7. Google Checkout. I was a PayPal user before eBay bought it. I was a PayPal enthusiast, and remained one until this year. The changes in PayPal's User Agreement led me to remove my funds from their Money Market Account and explore payment alternatives. Much to my surprise I discovered that Google Checkout was not only a lot more convenient but safer and a better deal. Thank you eBay for fixing PayPal to a point where I will shortly be all Google Checkout.

8. Alternative Venues If eBay had not started a war on small sellers there would still be no viable alternative venues. I boycotted loudly, most eBay sellers did not, they simply left, fairly quietly. The exodus of eBay refugees has given a much needed boost to these sites, many of which also have a much more viable fee structure. Thank you eBay for showing me that if I pay less to sell my low GMV items I get to keep a higher percentage of my gross.

9. Feedback Changes Yes I am going to thank eBay for the changes they made to feedback this year. It wasn't the adjustment to Final Value Fees that drove me to boycott eBay, or the increasing micromanagement of my business by suited theorists who know less than I do. I boycotted eBay as both a buyer and a seller because eBay put me in a position of extreme vulnerability with my feedback. I spent a lot of time, money and effort building a stellar longterm online reputation, only to be told I had no track record, it was meaningless to eBay. While it is meaningless to eBay it is a valuable asset elsewhere so I quit while I was ahead. I am grateful to eBay for shoving me out of the nest. I no longer log on every morning stressed, anxious and apprehensive as to what business devastating new policy will be announced. Thank you eBay.

10. Networking The changes on eBay this year and the subsequent February boycott together with increasing censorship in eBay Groups led to the foundation of off eBay Groups. Some of them were just rant centers, others have developed into valuable resources. A place where you can find a fellow seller who has made the transition to an alternative venue and will assist you to do the same thing. This is the eBay Community Spirit, no longer to be found on eBay but alive and well elsewhere. Without eBay there would be no such thing as eBay Community Spirit. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you eBay for once upon a time being the kind of place that engendered the eBay Community Spirit.

So dear reader I have counted my eBay blessings, I feel good. Do you have eBay blessings to share?

Y'all come back

Monday, June 23, 2008

Throw This eBay Stock Away

Oh MY!

Rick Munarriz of Motley Fool says this today

I've been tossing a few stocks into the trash bin this month. It's not because I'm a meanie. I'm a bull at heart. However, I feel that if I'm holding onto an inferior stock -- with superior alternatives readily available -- I owe it to myself to move on.

So I'm back for another week of cleanup duty. I've got one stock that I suggest you dump, and three potential replacements that I believe will outperform the equity that I'm trashing.

Who to heave this week? Come on down, eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY)

Y'all come back

PayPal Nightmare Read Your Agreement

This video is over a year old but it is just as pertinent now as it was then. This will be included in my submission to the ACCC. That fight is not over yet.

There are a lot of changes to the PayPal User Agreement and they are not in your favor.

Check back later this evening for my take on PayPal's take.

Y'all come back

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Fair e Tale

Once upon a time, long long ago, a young Prince traveled far from the land of his birth. One day he came to a place he wanted to live so he stopped traveling and made a Marketplace. Many good people came to the Marketplace to trade and were happy and stayed with the young Prince. Life was good.

More people came to the Marketplace and it grew, it grew very large and all manner of wondrous things were found there, so more people came and it grew again. Life was good but the young Prince was growing tired because it was very hard work, so he found a Manager for the Marketplace. The Manager came to be known as the Queen and the young Prince was able to go away from his Marketplace and play. He was happy and life was good.

In the fullness of time the Queen decreed that certain traders who pleased her would become nobles in the Marketplace, which had changed as it grew. The nobles were pleased and worked even harder so the Marketplace became very very rich. The Queen was rich and happy, the Prince was very rich and happy, the nobles were happy and even the ordinary people were happy for they too could aspire to become nobles. Life was good.

Time passed and the Queen was very very rich. Life was good but she was bored and wanted to be like the very very very rich Prince before her, to leave the Marketplace and play. So she found a new Manager, an educated man who knew all kinds of theories and was a Consultant; which made him very important. The Perfect Ruler for the Marketplace and so the Queen was able to leave with all her wealth to go play in the Land of Politics, and she was happy.

The Perfect Ruler surveyed the Marketplace and was not happy. It was too cluttered. It looked like a Flea Market and it was noisy. This was not befitting to the dignity of the Perfect Ruler. This must be changed, forthwith, and it was done as the Perfect Ruler desired. Theories were made. Rules were changed. Suddenly, life was not good for the ordinary people who were told "Work harder so you too may become nobles and pay more taxes for the good of the Marketplace."

All the nobles and the ordinary people cried out most piteously but the Perfect Ruler was resolute. It was for the good of the Marketplace, for if the Marketplace did not make him wealthy then life would not be good. The ordinary people and some of the nobles revolted for the Rules changed daily and they were working very very hard, but the Perfect Ruler was resolute.

As time passed some of the nobles were no longer nobles, they looked around and saw many of their fellow nobles had also been demoted. Life was not good so they left, as did many of the ordinary people. "You are revoltingly bad sellers" said the Chief Assistant to the Perfect Ruler "and we are routing you out of our Marketplace" yapped the Town Crier. There was much less noise in the Marketplace and the Sellers of Fleas had all gone so the Perfect Ruler was happy and went off to play with his numbers.

Then the Perfect Ruler went to the Marketplace to make an announcement.

Where there were once 100 nobles of the Marketplace there now are only 50. If there are 15 nobles who constantly please the Perfect Ruler with their delightful scores, they are now 33%. Scores are up! The theories are working, zero plus zero gives us a BIGGER ZERO, the Chief Assistant has a dog named Lucy, and this is a good thing.

The people were surprised & delighted (and excited too) so they cheered and cried out "All praise to the Perfect Ruler of the Bigger Zero". Then they went home and worked even harder on their exit strategy.

The End.

Y'all come back

Friday, June 20, 2008

eBay Live 2008 Exhibit Hall

Where is Baghdad Bob with a good line of spin when you need him?

Y'all come back

eBay 'Seller Out of Business Overnight' UPDATE

A narrow escape for Scott Wingo, read all about it on eBay Strategies Blog

The definition on the video clip is terrible but this is something we are not hearing about in the press on eBay Live 2008. Turn the volume up.

The 'eBay employees' did not seem to have an answer. Scott says they were Channel Advisor's Michael Jones and eBay's Todd Lutwak.

Y'all come back

Thursday, June 19, 2008

eBay: Not Wanted Dead or Alive

First day of eBay Live 2007 is over and the big question is "Is eBay still Alive?"

A great picture of the seething crowds from RBH at eBayinkblog

Some rumblings from the eBay annual shareholders meeting this morning which was held in a safe bunker some distance away from the mobs of disgruntled sellers.

There were several questions from shareholders about the value of eBay's shares, and CFO Bob Swan said the company believes the shares are undervalued. Another shareholder asked whether eBay had considered issuing dividends, the answer was no. eBay closed today at $29.17.

President and CEO John Donahoe said "Our role is to enable the marketplace, we are the custodians and stewards"

Good coverage from Richard Brewer-Hay here

Scott Wingo, eGuru extrordinaire and Chief Whiz at ChannelAdvisor had a hysterically funny post on this year's eBay Live theme "eBay Heroes".

Skip McGrath, long time eBay cheerleader and author of many how to eBay books, thought attendance was way down this year. On his blog he shares this insightful thought (don't bother commenting he has not moderated a comment in months)

What I think has happened here is that so many sellers have been turned off by the new policies they just didn’t care. Basically eBay has a PR problem and it’s not with the general public –it is with the community.

Hmmm. Skip missed out on a great career as a diplomat.

Sue Bailey from Tamebay also estimates attendance at 5000 and notes many vendors just did not show up.
Sellers I’ve talked to today have been generally unhappy at the level that courses have been pitched at: “too basic” is a constant theme. There’s one stream just for beginner sellers, and another “Beyond the Basics”, as well as classes for PowerSellers and more on growing your business: all of these have been complained about as being too easy, and way below the level required. “I think I should be teaching them,” said one seller who had left *two* classes in the first session as being just too basic for his needs.

There is a clue there folks! eBay thinks we are so stupid they need to step in and manage our businesses to take care of "their buyers" but they are trying hard to edjimakate us.

One of my favorite bloggers and all around nice guy Randy Smythe was there and said

I've talked to quite a few large sellers and the general consensus is "we've moved on" For some eBay has become a liquidation channel for others it is now the smallest part of their business.

I have saved the best for last, Ina Steiner and her Auctionbytes team have been blogging all day, providing up to the minute commentary and reporting, a SUPERB job!

From the Improving Your Visibility in Best Match Search Results session with Lynda Talgo and Jeff King of eBay:
"By removing the mutual feedback removal, what is the incentive for the seller to fix the problem?"

Talgo replied that when mutual fb removal went bye-bye, for "most sellers nothing changed, and for "a few" their feedback dropped 5-8-10%, because they were creating so many bad experiences" [relying on mutual feedback removal to solve problems].

"all sellers are faced with the same situation ... focus on the info you do have...and if you get the random wacko buyer, that's it."

So now you know, and this random whacko ex-seller says ...

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PayPal The Naked Truth Part I

A close examination of PayPal's much touted Protection reveals that it is full of holes. There are so many holes it is hard to understand how PayPal has the audacity to claim ownership of the scheme or that their payment service is 'safer'. Yes PayPal has a guarantee, but the merchant is the one that pays.

Dealing with PayPal as a merchant it is important to understand that PayPal protects itself first then buyers. Paypal conducts super secret investigations and has never responded to any inquiries on a reversal. They do not want seller facts to interfere with their reversals. They do not have any provision for their customers* to talk to a live human being on a phone. That should tell you something right there.

*Customers are the people who pay fees for a service.

Quick Facts

PayPal has 10 different Legal Agreements.
PayPal has no obligation to inform their customers when they amend any agreement other than by posting a notice of 'substantial change' on the website 30 days ahead of proposed change.
Signing in to the PayPal website legally constitutes your acceptance of all Legal Agreements.
PayPal posts notification of changes on your My Account Overview page via a link on the bottom of the left sidebar titled Policy Updates.

The current User Agreement reads:

4.3 Use of PayPal on eBay. Sellers who offer PayPal as a payment method in their eBay listings (either via logos or through text in the item description) must accept Card Funded Payments. Sellers must have a Premier or Business PayPal Account, or be willing to upgrade from a Personal PayPal Account to a Premier or Business Account upon receipt of a Card Funded Payment. Sellers may not communicate to buyers that they only accept, or will not accept, specific forms of PayPal payment.

This is the posted change on the PayPal website:
Effective Date: July 9, 2008

Beginning July 9, 2008 the PayPal User Agreement is being amended as follows:

1. Section 4.3 is amended so that eBay sellers must accept international PayPal transactions if the eBay listing offers shipping outside the US.
2. Section 13.1 is amended so that the Buyer Protection Programs do not cover Classified Ads on eBay.
3. Section 14.2 (Alternative Dispute Resolution) is deleted.

This is amplified according to an article on AuctionBytes in which PayPal spokesman Michael Oldenberg states that currently Section 4.3 has three parts, (a through c) and will be adding (d) and (e) as follows:

Section 4.3: Use of PayPal on eBay. Sellers who offer PayPal as a payment method in their eBay listings must follow these requirements:

(a) Accept PayPal if the eBay listing includes PayPal as a payment method.

(b) Accept all PayPal funding sources from a buyer, including but not limited to eCheck and credit cards.

(c) Have a Premier or Business account or be willing to upgrade to a Premier or Business account upon receipt of a payment.

(d) Accept international PayPal transactions if the eBay listing offers shipping outside the US.

(e) Sellers may not charge a surcharge for accepting PayPal as a payment method.

Oddly enough I can find no reference to Section 4.3 (a), (b) or (c) anywhere in the User Agreement on the PayPal website. What is quoted above under Current Legal Agreement is what is on the website.

Does PayPal think that informing AuctionBytes is legal notice?

There are major changes to PayPal Pro/Virtual Terminal Agreement, if you use this I strongly recommend you print out the current Agreement so you can compare it side by side with the new one.

PayPal offers two separate protection schemes; in the next post we will examine both.

continued . . . . . . . . .

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

THIS Buyer Will NOT Be Delighted on eBay FRAUD! FRAUD! FRAUD! FRAUD! FRAUD!

Please go look at eBay auction number 250258219915
and then scroll to the bottom of the page and report it as you leave. The reporting process is so 'convenient' it will take you longer than to read this entire blog post.

This Buyer will not be delighted, he or she thinks they are getting a new Apple 16GB 3G iPhone, that is probably why bidding is up to $400 with 36 bids.

What they are in fact bidding on is an email address.

In this listing, You are bidding / purchasing / buying the following email address:

This deceptive and misleading auction, which has been reported innumerable times, and is still not removed by eBay is precisely the kind of delightful experience which will guarantee that buyer never comes back.

Wake UP eBay. You have less than 24 hours to prevent this.

UPDATE: FINALLY this rotten fraudulent listing got pulled. 2 days after the initial report. Now the question is "Did the zero feedback seller get NARU'ed?"

Y'all come back

Complaints; eBay at Better Business Bureau

You hear it all the time.

"There has to be something I can do, I will complain to the Better Business Bureau!"

The Better Business Bureau is useless. There is a direct conflict between their mission statement,
to promote and foster the highest ethical relationship between business and the public
and their source of income; funded by annual dues from its business members.

These dues are based on the overall size of the company; specifically, the number of branch offices and the number of total employees in one city or town, fees are adjusted on a sliding scale. The more branches and the more employees a company actually has, the more expensive their monthly dues will be. How large a proportion of the San Jose BBB income comes from eBay?

As a small business with two 'employees' (actually working partners,) my dues are $350 a year, and no I will not be renewing next year. The organization which on April 8th 2008 gave eBay
The Better Business Bureau President's Award for sustained superior performance. . . to recognize businesses and executives exhibiting integrity in the marketplace and exemplary dedication to fostering trust between businesses and consumers.
does not inspire a desire to have my business associated with it in any way.

The San Jose Better Business Bureau says eBay Inc has a 'satisfactory' record and
the BBB processed a total of 3274 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.Of the total of 3274 complaints closed in 36 months, 1099 were closed in the last year.

If you want to waste your time filing a complaint with the BBB go right ahead. I do not believe it will result in any appreciable ROI. (Return On Investment)

The only thing it will do, if you cross every 't' and dot every 'i', is to push the numbers up. Don't expect any more and you will not be disappointed.

Y'all come back

Sunday, June 15, 2008

If I Were Queen of Google

Once again Randy Smythe has a whole jug full of blog juice over on My Blog Utopia!, his recent post Tin Hat Warning has some very interesting observations on Google vs PayPal.

I don't see what makes eBay/PayPal expect to be treated as if they were 'special', it certainly can't be the golden rule of "do as you would be done by". I notice recent press releases have a distinct whiny "why are you picking on us" quality to them. Looking at the rather long list (Table of Contents >> Item 3) of litigation in process all over the world (but most notably in Europe) with eBay as defendant it would appear that there are a lot of fleas out there of all sizes and they are biting.

eBay/PalPal routinely stomp anyone smaller and weaker than they are. Most of the time they can't even be bothered to explain why they are stomping and they certainly don't believe in any of that silly constitutional stuff like innocent until proven guilty.
Google is not smaller and weaker yet eBay has forced PayPal onto sellers using their venue while blatantly blocking Google Checkout. It is only very recently that the wording has been changed from

"This policy is designed to promote safe online shopping, and to encourage online payment methods that are safer, easier to use, and offer high levels of protection for users"
"eBay wants to help ensure that the marketplace offers buyers safer online payment choices".
in the Accepted Payments Policy. In fact eBay has very quietly been doing a lot of rule revision lately.

As a retailer, I want to offer my customers choices, I don't need to control them. I see no difference in customer protection if a buyer pays through Google Checkout with a credit card, or PayPal likewise. The big difference is convenience, GC will not harass (are you sure?) my customers repeatedly to pay from a bank account (are you sure you are sure?) like PayPal does (are you really sure you are sure?). GC does what they are supposed to, process the charge, inform me and deposit to my bank account, all for 30% less in fees.

If I were Queen of Google I would make a royal edict that anybody who didn't let me play at their house couldn't come and play at the palace. I am sure the Royal Lawyer could dress it up nicely in Bayspeak.

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These Boots Are Made For Stompin

Often at the moment when things are happening we are so busy reacting, doing damage control or simply trying to understand, that it becomes very difficult to look up and see what is ahead so we can be pro-active.

We know we need a plan. Success does not come to those who do not plan. Most of you reading this had a plan which involved eBay. eBay, which likes to keep plans secret, has announced so many major changes recently; implemented with their normal lack of forethought (or maybe not, who knows?) that any pre-existing plans we had are worthless. Sometimes I feel as if management is busy fiddling while eBay burns, Donohoe as Nero.

My plan was to 'duck and cover'. I certainly suffered from 'unease and paranoia' for a while there! I pulled my listings and joined the boycott. I have come out of this with my reputation intact which was my goal. Now it is time to look forward and make new plans; so let us take a step back together in order to try & see more clearly what lies ahead.

I just finished re-reading John Lawson's (President of 3rdPowerOutlet) funny and very informative three guest blogs on Scott Pooler's Trading Assistant Journal. Please go read John's takes 1, 2 and 3 on the Pesa/ECMTA Summit in New Orleans April 23rd 2008, be sure to read the comments on Part 3, and then come back.

For me, a very small ex-eBay seller it is interesting to read what the 'big boys' worry about. To summarize, in order, Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) and feedback, eBay's desire to see free shipping, and DSRs. In the comments he mentions being unsettled about the secrecy surrounding the deal. SNAP! Exact match. These are what would prevent me from returning to eBay in the forseeable future.

In many ways I agree with John on the question of feedback. I would agree totally if the whole feedback/DSR scheme weren't so loaded and so tied to finding. If I had more belief that eBay would step up to their responsibilities, which they never have, I might be able to swallow it. eBay's whole historical modus operandi has been to strap on the bovver boots and start stomping first, then look at the dead seller on the floor and go 'Ooopsie, a glitch'.

Just about a month after implementation of feedback changes there are a lot of damage reports on the boards both in the UK and Australia. I admit I don't check the US boards, it is a disassociation thing and I will not apologize.

To summarize, we have sellers being suspended or restricted. Sellers who have not been TOLD WHY they are suspended or restricted, or how long they are suspended for; because eBay does not know, it is an automated process with no appeal. Sellers who have no access to their dashboards so they can complete their contractual obligations to buyers of listings ended prior to suspension. A venue which obliterates those listings in the suspension process so sellers loose all the data, and that my friends, is pure spiteful pettiness.

What do you think? What direction does your new plan take you?

Y'all come back

Saturday, June 14, 2008

eBay Alternative Venue Delcampe

I made an amazing discovery today.

I am a certified packrat I have a lot of 'stuff'. In fact, I confess, my house is bursting at the seams with 'stuff'; antique and vintage sewing machines (too heavy and expensive to ship plus they take a LOT of space); vintage English transferware (too heavy and expensive to ship plus they take a LOT of space), I am an omniverous reader so I have many books. I started collecting Victorian and Edwardian era advertising trade cards(* BUY this one here*) for sewing machines, which led to greeting cards, then postcards. You get the picture!

Boycotting eBay since February 18th put a serious crimp in my addiction. This is a good thing because I probably bought as much, if not more than I sold. I am part of the 'clutter', the 'noisy minority' who has been 'routed off the site'. eBay seems oblivious to the fact that I and many of my co-sellers were buyers, and we are gone.

THIS is what I discovered today, click the banner.

Full disclosure: If you sign up I will receive a small, one time affiliate link payment.

I searched the site for "postcards South Dakota" and to my utter astonishment instead of one, or none, I found 263, from several different sellers.

This site is a treasure trove, it is clean looking and simple to use. The site may be viewed in French, English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish, naturally your listings will be seen by potential buyers in all these languages. Registration was quick and easy, the search engine offers many choices and produces what you have asked for, not what the site thinks you should see. Amazing.

Delcampe has customer service, it is called customer support and is available both online and by telephone/fax in all six supported languages. There are published telephone numbers for 11 different countries, therefore no international call is required. Unbelievable! But true!

Delcampe is a website run by collectors for collectors.

Sébastien Delcampe, the founder of the website, happened to be fond of collections and computer science. He used to be a seller on a Belgian website where all kinds of items were sold. Sébastien thought that a website specific to the world of collecting was missing so Delcampe was started in 2000.... In a few words, if the Delcampe Team shapes the body of the website, the members are the soul of it. Since the beginning, the reputation of Delcampe is spreading among collectors by word to mouth. This is mainly because we have always been doing our utmost to offer the best services fitting the needs of the members. If we do what the majority wants, they can only speak well of the website.

Selling Fees in US$:
Registration is free for both buyers and sellers. There are no insertion fees, you are given a storefront at no additional charge. You may list Auctions or Fixed Price. Sales fees are calculated on a double sliding scale, no sales no fee. Based on the gross sales of the month and billed at the beginning of the following month, rates range between 5.5% with volume of less than $750.00 down to 2% for sales above $15,000 plus what they call a tariff applied on sales exceeding $750.
Example: Last month, you sold for a total of 800.00 USD. The commission due at the beginning of the following month will be: 0.05 x (800-750) + 41.25 = 43.75 USD
There are many upgrades and choices. Go check it out.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to look at postcards.

Y'all come back

Friday, June 13, 2008

Red Ink Worldwide

In the last month Red Ink Diary has been visited by readers from the following countries:

Hong Kong
United Kingdom
United States

I am awed, thank you.

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Spruiking Consumer Protection with eBay

Another inspired comment from my friend Australian Seller Kevin T, too good to leave in the comment section for Friday the 13th

"eBay believes the consumer benefits of this initiative are worth fighting for on behalf of its buyers which will ultimately benefit sellers."

Yes, I believe that those are the same buyers that Simon Smith basically said were too ignorant to make informed decisions about payments, or "The issue is people don't make an informed choice." to be precise.

You have to love the structure of that top sentence though, sellers are truly an afterthought, they are not the ones that are considered worthy of "consumer benefits", even though they are the consumers of Ebay's services, and pay their fees. In fact if you return to the APC article covering the first Melbourne meeting you will see that Simon Smith states "We're not allowing people to offer unsafe choices, just like in this democracy you can't go out and buy heroin on the streets.", while the team admitted that the serious flaws in offering PayPal on Pick-up-only items leave sellers very vulnerable, "It is something we are looking at -- I agree, it's an anomaly." Six weeks later, they are still forcing unsafe choices on sellers, and spruiking consumer protection for buyers.

**Henrietta says: Its hard to 'look at' something when you only have three functioning brain cells, you need one to just keep breathing.**

This "anomaly" is not new - it has been a problem at least since the beginning of 2007 when new members were required to offer PayPal on all listings - including pick-up-only items, and some have been burned.

However this week, with the introduction of the Discouraging and Misleading Payments Policy in the UK, that stalwart for punishing members whose listings are only "within the letter of the policy", Richard Ambrose, is quoted from the UK Power Seller board:

"The position on collection only is the same - PayPal has to be offered on all listings, and sellers can’t discourage buyers from accepting it. We’re aware that this creates a risk of sellers not being protected from chargebacks after in-person collections. We are considering how to protect sellers there, though it may require some major changes to the PayPal seller protection programme that wouldn’t be quick to bring in."

Well, obviously since it is already 18 months since the problem became apparent, it won't be quick to bring in, will it? But being at risk from PayPal payments is different to being at risk from other forms of payments - Ebay doesn't make a profit on other forms of payment!

Kevin the Cynical

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ACCC Just Doesn't Understand eBay

eBay has released a media statement regarding the ACCC’s draft notice. All the right 'button' words are present, poor Usher must have been up all night polishing. I am not sure what is meant by

eBay intends to work with the ACCC

It sounds sinister. Perhaps we should have a whip round to get tin hats for all the commissioners just to be on the safe side.

The statement reads as follows:

ACCC draft notice undermines online consumer protection
eBay will continue to fight for safety benefits for consumers

eBay challenges yesterday’s Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) draft notice and is disappointed that the ACCC’s current view delays the opportunity to provide consumers a more secure way to shop on with confidence.

eBay intends to work with the ACCC and hopes to achieve a final outcome which has the safety and security of eBay’s members as its paramount objective. eBay will delay the removal of other payment methods from the site until Tuesday 15 July.

PayPal offers consumers a range of payment choices, including bank transfer and credit cards. It’s a safer and easier online payment system that significantly enhances protection for eBay buyers and sellers.

eBay is pleased to confirm that PayPal buyer protection will jump to $20,000 on for purchases paid for using PayPal from Tuesday 17 June.

eBay believes the consumer benefits of this initiative are worth fighting for on behalf of its buyers which will ultimately benefit sellers.

What does this mean for you?

PayPal Buyer Protection will still increase to $20,000 on 17 June 2008.

From 15 July 2008, the only payment methods sellers may offer on will be PayPal and pay on pick up.

Selling on
Current policies regarding accepted payment methods do still apply. This means PayPal is required on all listings on Other payment methods (i.e. bank deposit, cheque/money order) may also be offered until 15 July 2008.

As previously communicated any listings that do not comply with eBay’s Accepted Payments Policy will be removed.

There are a small number of categories excluded from these changes. Learn more about these exclusions.

Buying on
To ensure you benefit from PayPal’s Buyer Protection Policy, eBay strongly recommends you use PayPal when paying for your purchases on

From 15 July 2008 the available payment methods will be limited to PayPal, Visa/MasterCard, or pay on pick up.

Please note that some of our onsite communications will still refer to changes taking place on 17 June 2008.
These communications are being updated and should reflect the new date of 15 July 2008 within the coming days.


The eBay team

Talk about lay it on with a trowel. Have a nice juicy raspberry eBay.

Y'all come back

Thursday, June 12, 2008

NO! To PayPal Only in Australia!

With just a few words, well, 42 pages actually, the ACCC has denied eBay's proposed PayPal Only in Australia Plan.

The ACCC considers that the notified conduct has, or is likely to have, the effect of substantially lessening competition in the market in which PayPal operates. The ACCC also considers that the notified conduct is likely to result in reduced choice for consumers, higher transactions costs and reduced innovation in online payment systems.

Therefore, the ACCC concludes that the substantial anti-competitive detriments outweigh any public benefits resulting from the notified conduct.

For the reasons identified above the ACCC considers that the notified conduct has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition and the benefits do not outweigh the detriments.

Accordingly, the ACCC proposes to issue a notice to revoke notification N93365 lodged by eBay International A.G. on 11 April 2008

Shot down in Flames!

Don't MESS with Aussies eBay.

Y'all come back

Update: The photo is from the 1990 inundation of the village of Kalapana on the Big Island of Hawaii. Ua mau i ka mâlie o Kalapana

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Is eBay Live?

Please go to Randy Smythe's Blog, My Blog Utopia! and read his post entitled
"A Walk Down Memory Lane" in which he reminisces about all the eBay Live conferences he has attended beginning with the first one held at Anaheim California 2002. It is amusing and educational.

Ina Steiner over at AuctionBytes has a series of retrospective articles from eBay Live 2007 held in Boston. I was particularly amused by her coverage of the eBay Live TownHall. Ina is currently attending the Internet Retailer Conference in Chicago. She has posted many, many pictures but these, one of the PayPal booth, another of Google plus (just for fun) Google Checkout were special. Thank you Ina!

Also last year, the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PeSA) published a paper "Unhealthy eBay marketplace Dynamics - Seller Perspective" available here. I found this quote quite compelling:

In the past, PeSA has not had an issue with eBay fees. Our perspective was based on value received and that as long as sellers were receiving value for those fees, we found it to be a fair relationship. However, over the past 2 years, sellers have seen eBay’s take rate of member sales increase, while the value received has diminished. Sellers, not eBay, have felt the impact of the additional cost and lower sales.

Beautifully put, and if they had just shut up there, things might have been different. But no! They went on:

eBay should reward positive contributors in their marketplace. Sellers that have shown outstanding contribution to the marketplace should be rewarded with better placement in search. If the better sellers are shown higher in search, then buyers would have a greater chance of a positive buyer experience. As more buyers have positive experiences, they will return and be more active. As under-performing sellers find themselves in lower placement, they will have a strong economic incentive to pursue best practices.

Sound familiar? With 20/20 hindsight vision; this recommendation paired with eBay's inability to comprehend the basic principles of retailing, and matchless propensity for getting it wrong is the root and cause of all our problems today. Go PeSA!

Interesting article from Scott Wingo on Seeking Alpha, he has just discovered that when you go to leave feedback a pop-up box appears saying "You should leave honest and accurate feedback without fear of receiving negative or neutral ratings." Knock me down with a feather!

This year's eBay Live will be held in Chicago from June 19-21. It is the first that has not only failed to sell out but is still offering tickets at early bird prices. I wonder why?

Y'all come back

eBay Strike or Split?

The boycott is well into its sixth week and sellers are falling like ninepins as eBay fails to follow through on their promises to remove feedback from Non Paying Bidders (NPB) and other malicious feedback practices. The ninepin analogy is particularly appropriate as troll buyers add seller after seller to the ranks of STRIKE!

Last week in the UK a NPB left 106 neutrals and negatives for sellers in a single day. I emailed one of those sellers who told me that although the feedback had been removed and the buyer NARUed he had not been credited for the fees. We are not talking small change here, he got hit on 40 items.

Tamebay had an article with 165 comments two weeks ago covering the initial effects of this policy in the UK. Well worth the read, down to the last comment (if you can bear to). This is a response from an eBay rep.

No.24 Richard (from eBay) on May 29th, 2008 11:58 am

Morning everyone,

The individual cases that are brought to the boards are, by definition, edge-cases (or ‘dolphins’, whichever phrase is most useful). If you only look at them, you might well conclude that the system is unfair (though there are a fair few on the boards that haven’t stood up to friendly scrutiny from other posters).

We are looking at the bigger picture - the vast majority of sellers being restricted by these new SNP rules richly deserve to be, and we’re removing more poor sellers from the site than ever before. The site overall will benefit from that, even it’s painful in the short term. There are also thousands of other sellers who are sharpening up their selling practices and customer service in response to avoid the risk of sanctions. This picture is largely invisible if you don’t have access to data from the entire site and the entire SNP programme, so I can understand the unease about individual seller cases.

All that said, we are learning from the ‘edge-cases’ and will evolve the system where it makes sense to.


No.66 isn’t possible to be suspended for a single negative. The new programme may be harsh, but it’s not that harsh.

In Australia the situation is deteriorating rapidly as eBay prepares to enforce the PayPal only rule. Forum threads are being pulled almost as fast as they are put up. I am now copying and pasting to read at leisure because if I do not the thread poufs halfway through!

This seller received a 30 day suspension for one negative and one neutral from the same buyer over $15 worth of vintage jewelry.

We received an email telling us we were restricted but nothing seems we are on a limit ( not sure what) due to the 1 neg we received from a non paying bidder. We are over the 5% dissatisfaction rate in 30 days allowed by Ebay.

Note the word seems. This seller is guessing at the reason for their restriction as there is no mention of it in their restriction letter nor does it tell them what the restriction is. Another seller;

1875 positive 100% until 2 mths ago, 1st neg as a buyer, then a few days ago 1st neg as a seller. Seller left neg 1 month after transaction without any communication just right out of the blue. I have no open disputes. My rating is now 99.6% & I am restricted from selling as I am now a under performing seller.
Today I tried to relist some items that ended but got a big red message telling me I have a selling restriction so can not list at this time....I rang eBay customer service yesterday & was told nobody knows what the restriction is. Their advise was to try & list & if it won't allow try again a couple of hours later & keep doing this until I am able to list again

A third seller:

They tell you to resolve outstanding disputes even though I have none, and to ensure any outstanding transactions are finalized in a positive manner. To to this both parties must leave feedback. I thought feedback was not compulsory??

On a personal note I am not reliant on eBay for my income; I was able to abandon the ship long before it started sinking. A question for my Australian readers, is this kind of trading behavior covered under the Trade Practices Act 1974? Isn't the Act designed to protect you in your dealings with business; prohibiting a business from using its superior bargaining power in an unconscionable way?

Y'all come back

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What Have We Gained From The eBay Boycott?

There are two comments on my post yesterday, both from eBay sellers who think the eBay boycott has been unproductive. I respectfully disagree.

The initial boycott which ran from February 18th through February 25th was not expected to result in an immediate reversal of eBay's plans. Far from it! We are realists and know from past experience that communicating with eBay is generally one way. We speak, they ignore. The first boycott was intended to let eBay know that they were about to step over the line. Did we achieve that? Yes. Did eBay believe we meant it? No.

The First Gain was Publicity
Because there was a lot of media attention eBay was forced to respond. The response was predictable, exactly like the parent who's four year old child announces they are going to run away from home. This condescending dismissal galvanized already angry sellers, gaining more negative publicity for eBay.

Then came Networking
From publicity came momentum. More eBay sellers became aware of what was going to happen, were angered by it and joined. In turn they generated more publicity. Groups formed, off the censored eBay boards and networked. Boycott eBay on Delphi was and is probably the most active. One of the benefits of networking was that many alternative venues were found and discussed. Sellers created support threads to help each other with the ins and out of learning new venues, setting up Google Checkout etc. This encouraged sellers to branch out, which led directly to the rapid growth of and eCrater, which together with iOffer were voted as having the best prospects of becoming a viable alternative venue. Etsy registered their 1,000,000th user today one week short of their third birthday.

International Solidarity
The power of networking brought us in contact with sellers from Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the UK. This is amazing. For example US sellers made submissions to the ACCC in Australia so that the ACCC would know that eBay's claims were not universally accepted and that PayPal was problematic in the USA too.

We Prepared & Learned
We learned that we did not ever want to allow another site to achieve the kind of power that WE gave eBay. Other smaller sites than the four mentioned above, also saw growth because sellers quickly realized that there is no 'one site fits all'. We prepared for what we knew was coming in May and that two month hiatus between the initial one week boycott and the May 1st beginning of an open ended boycott gave us time to make a smooth transition with minimal damage.

I personally know one PowerSeller, a good man who is the epitome of anti-boycott and 'nothing will happen to good sellers' sentiment, he has never had a neutral or negative. He made the mistake of believing that eBay was run like a business; that mistake has effectively put him out of business.

Y'all come back