Saturday, August 30, 2008

It Was Party Time Last Night

I am so over eBay. It has turned into one of those endless soap operas where the most unbelievable things happen every day, except this is real.

I still go to eBay, to check current pricing before buying elsewhere. It is getting much harder to find comparables with bids. Well, to be blunt, it is pretty hard to find anything on eBay these days.

There is a horrid fascination in tuning in for the next thrilling installment. I am sure it is not nearly as amusing for the poor sellers who are stuck like flies on corkscrew twist sticky paper pinned to the ceiling, buzzing angrily.

Six weeks ago I wrote an open letter to Lorrie Norrington in which I noted a report from Sellerdome that stated there was a 15% increase in the number of inactive registered sellers in the top 100,000 alone in the last month. I said "eBay is loosing good sellers like water through a colander." I got rubbished for that statement at Tamebay where Sue examined the statistics for the top 100,000 eBay sellers and concluded

There were some serious feedback issues going on amongst these sellers... we can’t claim that these sellers were any great loss to eBay: an average score of 95.2% is astonishingly poor for an eBay seller...
which missed my point! "eBay is loosing good sellers"

With 1.3 million sellers (Whitman) on eBay the top 100 thousand are less than 8% of the total. I was never one of the top 100K but I was a good seller with 100% feedback and lowest DSR of 4.6 for my outrageous S&H charges, which averaged $2.25. I am inactive.

This brings me to the 'party' last night. Sellers as far away from each other as West Hawaii to Tampa FL, Canada, PA, TN, CA, MN, IN, SC, and other places I forget were waiting for the 1000th registration on Together we welcomed a very startled gentleman from Everett WA at 1:26 AM EST. It was joyous, a community celebration.

80% of those Bonanzle registrations have joined since July 16th and the majority are off eBay. I do not personally know all those sellers, some may even be bad sellers! Any way you look at it, a lot of sellers moving off eBay onto one small but very promising venue.

In the last month Bonanzle which is still in beta, has moved in the Alexa ratings from a global 1,857,292 ranking on August 2nd to global 464,374 and US ranking 59,780 as of today.

Y'all come back!

Link: Bonanzle Blog

Friday, August 29, 2008

ProPay vs PayPal

Red INK Diary has moved, click here to go to this post on the new site and enjoy much more updated content!


Yesterday I got what I consider a spam comment from Brandon at ProPay. According to my posted spam policy I have deleted and reposted the comment, minus link. For future reference Brandon, hiding your Blogger profile and failing to leave contact information gives you and ProPay serious credibility problems with me.

ProPay as you may know is the beard (One who serves to divert suspicion or attention from another - American Heritage Dictionary) eBay suits have donned in hopes of avoiding lawsuits or deflecting charges of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, Sec.5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and Sec.7 of the Clayton Act which regulates exclusive dealing contracts, tying agreements, or requirement contracts.

Brandon wants you to know

"Right now we only offer a merchant account but at the end of September we will be announcing a new special account for our eBay customers. ProPay will charge a small yearly fee, but will provide several services and we will help our customers fight against fraud."

Isn't that nice?

I am sure that eBay has non standard merchant processing requirements for ProPay to fulfill in order to be allowed on eBay. Sellers will be told what ProPay has to offer on eBay right at the start of holiday shopping season. Would I use an untried payment processor at that time of year? In one word, no. Exactly what PayPal wants.

I do not believe at the present time ProPay is competitive with PayPal for smaller sellers. For web stores ProPay expects the seller to manually input the credit card information, this incurs a security burden I would be unwilling to assume. Further it would discourage my buying from any site using ProPay.

According to the ProPay EFT Agreement a merchant agrees;
As part of this agreement, you irrevocably authorize ProPay to debit your Checking Account for any fees, payments or penalties you owe or may owe ProPay relating to ACH or Intra-ProPay transactions. You authorize ProPay to initiate reversal or adjustment entries and initiate or suspend such entries as may be necessary to grant you conditional credit for any entry.

Gosh & WOW! That sounds worse than PayPal!

The company seems confused as to exactly what charges apply to the various levels of service. On this page Premium is shown as having an annual fee of $29.95 with 3.25% + 35c per transaction and processing limits of $500 per transaction and $3000 per month. Earlier this morning Premium was $59.95 per annum and Basic was 34.95.

I was unable to find any reference to international transactions and four telephone calls to the PR department during the course of the business day netted me voicemail. Here is a little quick comparison chart.

Once again eBay is comparing bananas to pineapples, just because they are both yellow they hope you won't notice. Looks more like a lemon to me.

Y'all come back!

Related articles:

Yes we have no bananas!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

eBay Scores Twofer on Doughnuts

That's a negatory good buddy
Just when you think eBay has scored an own goal so many times that the game is over they pull the rabbit out of the hat and do it again.

This time eBay has managed to alienate two completely different groups of sellers, at one stroke. Way to go guys! Doughnuts all round from media and clothing sellers.

What is the cause of the kerfuffle and precisely who is in a state of discombobulation? Remember the listing insertion fee decreases in February with the concurrent adjustments to the Final Value Fee? This is the same play.

There are some differences. The changes are deeper, deeper is Bayspeak for 'more'. We have the decrease in insertion fees and extension of listing duration which could be beneficial if it were not tied to a 'rebalancing' of the Final Value Fee.

Back in February it was an adjustment, that didn't fly. Six months later we are calling it rebalancing and that will not fly either. Its an increase.

Once again it is take it or leave it time for sellers in the USA. eBay said earlier this year that the USA would never be PayPal only. When eBay moves to an all electronic payment marketplace later this year it will effectively be PayPal only because the only alternative offered is not a viable alternative. Propay carries an annual subscription and a higher rate. I covered this back in May.

Here is the official word from the 8/20 Announcements workshop discussion thread.

"eBay will offer several other electronic payment options in addition to PayPal, namely ProPay to start, with more electronic payment providers to be added in coming months. Google's and Amazon's products and services compete with eBay on a number of levels, so we are not going to allow them on eBay."
Take that Google Checkout!

Y'all come back!

Bonanzle blog

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Its a Cluster Cluck

What are you thinking? Wash your mouth with soap!

I live on an island in the middle of an ocean.

Almost everything we use is brought in, either by sea or air. My family and I are of the agricultural persuasion, my husband is a rancher and I keep chickens, sheep, grow vegetables for the table, all those lovely time honored rural pursuits.

Arrrr! The soil and the man-ewer.

My local feed store is out of chicken feed. Next delivery is anticipated mid September. Maybe.

This is not a disaster on the same scale as the feed store running out of calf milk replacer when that is what keeps the orphan calf alive, (which has happened in the past,) but it is not good news for the chickens, or my egg customers.

Y'all come back!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good Listening

Startupnation podcast featuring Randy Smythe & Kevin Harmon on the subject of Change at eBay.

Listen to these two supersellers discussing the reality of eBay and e-commerce today. Click on the Startupnation graphic below to go there!

BUY THIS Jack Russell note card - CLICK

Reading to the Dog

A little girl is sitting on a bench in the garden reading to her Jack Russell Terrier dog, the dog is paying attention. It must be a story about rats or mice.

Y'all come back!

All Work and No Play

I thought it would be interesting to make a list of all the changes that eBay has imposed on and proposed to their customers in the last six months, February through August 2008. I never write about anything without verifying it and the project became a massive chore.

Not only was writing about change on eBay tiring it was depressing because every piddling little change involves hours of mind numbing back end work for sellers. There have been so many this year that often sellers have not completed one change before they have to start another.

I remember very well when eBay decided that buyers should not send cash in the mail. I don't have a problem with this policy overall, as always, it was the way it was implemented and phrased that irked.

At that time I had over 2500 store listings. Each one had to be edited. Many had sales, those listings had to be ended to edit them and then relisted. Simultaneously I was answering questions from potential buyers, picking, packing and shipping, taking care of my family, running my house, taking care of livestock, any small seller will be nodding their head at this point!

On the deadline for compliance I had maybe 200 listings to go and some nice person must have reported the violations. eBay took down every listing. Not just the ones in violation but every listing in my store. I was working on one which pouffed as I was editing. Every single listing, including those which had had the criminal phrase "cash, well concealed" removed, was permanently deleted, gone.

That was the first time I stopped selling on eBay, for almost a year, but I had all that inventory so I went back. This policy has since changed, now the listings are ended but stored, a good change.

We all know "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" and we can't have a dull Jack, or Jill either for that matter. Enjoy this amazing video from Alaska.

Y'all come back!

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Can't Get No Satisfaction (from PayPal)

With apologies to the Rolling Stones!

A Brief History & Timeline:

April 2008
ebusiness_supplies (EBS) eBay Australia's 7th largest PowerSeller, dealing in dirt bikes, quads, home gymnasiums etc places an announcement on their website stating that the company is now under new management. EBS business method was to pre-sell items on eBay at very low prices with high delivery charge mark-ups, then order and import them direct to Australia from China. Their stated delivery time was 30 days which was a violation of the PayPal 20 day delivery on pre-sale items policy in Australia at the time and invalidated any PayPal Protection right off the bat. The eBay pre-sale policy is 30 days.

May 2008
Buyers express concern over 'late' delivery.

June 2008
EBS fails to pay its eBay bill for May, but is permitted to continue listing and making sales. Buyers who have not received items bought in May are reassured by EBS that deliveries are imminent. eBay is running a heavy advertising campaign stating that buyers who pay with PayPal are 'protected' by the Buyer Protection Policy, it is the only safe way to pay. Concerned buyers who did not use PayPal are referred to the Vehicle Protection Policy.

July 2008
EBS fails to pay its eBay bill, again, now owing for May and June, but is permitted to continue listing and making sales. Buyers email eBay with concerns and receive bot driven rubbish in reply, some start leaving negative feedback. July 28th EBS goes into receivership. EBS still has active listings on eBay when eBay shuts them down. Within 24 hours all listings are removed. PayPal protection advertisement campaign ends, quietly.

August 2008
4000 eBay buyers are estimated to be out of pocket. Queensland Police receive complaints and begin a fraud investigation. eBay expresses unhappiness that EBS owes them $184,000 in unpaid fees for May, June and July "eBay is owed just as much as buyers"

Lots of media attention for a few days as buyers discover that PayPal Buyer Protection has more holes than a sieve, in fact, the holes in the scheme are big enough to ride a dirt bike through, but they do a great job of protecting PayPal. Announcement is made on eBay about a special fund.

"The PayPal fund will be available to buyers who have made recent purchases from this seller on eBay”

Note: The announcement does NOT say refunds will be made, it says the fund is 'available'. This is called BaySpeak, we did not say what you thought you heard us say.

The Reality

14th August an email from a buyer to PayPal

Could you please advise what is happening regarding the “special fund” that was to be set up for customers who lost their money with EBS? I understand that Mr Pipolo stated that all who paid by PayPal would receive refunds. Please advise. Many Thanks.

Same day reply from PayPal:

Thank you for contacting PayPal, my name is Ray and I am happy to assist you today.

I do understand that you need clarification regarding the refund EBS promised you.

After carefully checking the details of the transaction, it shows that you made the payment on the 14th of May. What you can do is to come to an amicable agreement with EBS to send you back the money you paid them.

It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal.

Sincerely, Ray
PayPal, an eBay Company

Polite but firm response from buyer:
Thank you for your response. The careful checking mentioned did not identify that this organisation (EBS) is no longer a registered user on Ebay. Additionally, it has gone into receivership. I'll ask the question again....

The Managing Director of PayPal has publicly stated that all PayPal paying customers will be covered for their loss by PayPal. I am able to provide the source of this quotation if required - hence, when will access be provided to the 'special fund' as described?

Later that day PayPal says to the buyer:

Thank you for contacting PayPal with your concern, my name is Nathan and I am happy to assist you today! I understand that you would like some further clarification regarding the ebusiness_supplies situation.

It is true that unfortunately, ebusiness_supplies on / recently became unable to fulfill certain purchases made by customers. The seller is no longer operative and is now in the hands of liquidators. I am truly sorry to hear that you were affected by this unfortunate incident. PayPal will be refunding buyers who made a purchase from this seller within the last few weeks as discretionary payment, which is a credit initiated as a courtesy and not compelled by legal right.

This situation is a unique event involving a merchant going into liquidation and is not a common occurrence. Please be assured, PayPal offers buyers industry leading protection. Buyers enjoy the security offered by PayPal. By using PayPal, you never surrender sensitive personal financial information to an unknown seller. We are very sorry this unfortunate incident has transpired.

Thank you for your patience and for being a valuable member of the PayPal community.

Sincerely, Nathan
PayPal, an eBay Company

August 21st
An announcement from PayPal on the boards

Customers who have been directly impacted by eBusiness’ collapse have now all been credited by PayPal to either their PayPal account or Credit Card.

Judging from current traffic on the AU Discussion Boards this is untrue.
Dear xxxxx xxxxx,

We have concluded our investigation into your Buyer Claim.

Seller's Name: EBS International Pty Ltd
Seller's Email:
Seller’s Transaction ID: 3BY14625XB903053W

Transaction Date: 7 Jun 2008
Transaction Amount: -$342.50 AUD
Your Transaction ID: 5LD50651CR229911F
Case Number: PP-508-829-798

Buyer's Transaction ID: 5LD50651CR229911F

You have received a refund via PayPal in the amount of $0.00 AUD.

Yours sincerely,

Protection Services Department

Now What?

To my limited knowledge there is not much that can be done. I hope I am going to get information from Australia soon.

Meanwhile it could not hurt to contact the ACCC and make an email complaint citing Part IVA — unconscionable conduct in commercial and consumer transactions and/or Part V — unfair practices, misleading and deceptive conduct. The ACCC consumer complaint information page is here You can also telephone them 1300 302 502

You should also contact your State or Territory Office of Fair Trading.

Bookmark this blog and come back soon for more information!

Y'all come back!

1.Sydney Morning Herald
“Those who paid using PayPal .... would be entitled to refunds .... (and) would be contacted in the next few days” Andrew Pipolo, Managing Director PayPal Australia. 29th July

2. The Sheet
"We are talking to the liquidator but the fund will compensate buyers who have purchased from EBS in recent times who have not received an item or a refund." Kelley Stevens, PayPal Spokesperson. 30th July

3. The Age
PayPal managing director Andrew Pipolo set up a special PayPal fund to deal with this incident and said everyone who paid for items using PayPal would be entitled to refunds. July 30th

4. ZDNet Business News
"Given the unique nature of this, and the size .... we're looking after our customers," the spokesperson said.

There wouldn't be a limit on the amount of money which the company would pay out, they continued, but added that the criteria for refund still needed to be worked out. "We don't know if everybody is due for a refund."

When the company has a better handle on the situation, customers will be contacted via message boards. At the moment, the spokesperson said, "it's all a bit fluid".

5. Angus Kidman at apcmag
"PayPal will be refunding buyers who made a purchase from this seller within the last few weeks as discretionary payment, which is a credit initiated as a courtesy and not compelled by legal right,"


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Show Me A Way Away From San Jose

This is part one of a (hopefully three part) series on life beyond eBay originally written by Mark Dorsey and Bill Harding of and liberally 'adjusted' (BaySpeak for = definition changed almost beyond recognition) by myself.

eBay's motto could be

Ask Not What Your Online Marketplace Can Do for You; Ask What You Can do for Your Online Marketplace (and you will use PayPal while you are at it.)

eBay was not built in a day or even in a year. It grew. One of the reasons it grew was the enthusiasm of thousands of small sellers all of whom told their friends "you can find anything on eBay" and at the time it was true. This is a classic example of ‘organic site growth’.

Many of us who boycotted in May have tried a variety of alternative sites. Some have crashed and burned, one turned into a cult complete with Dear Leader. Many have no traffic and one or two work quite well. The market is fragmented, buyers do not know where to go to look for whatever IT is that they desire today. They can't find IT on eBay anymore because their sellers have vanished; either off the site or into the swirling wastes of Best Match. Going through a bunch of alternative sites is boring and laborious.

As sellers we have learned that choosing a venue is not all about what it costs. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ does not necessarily hold true. It doesn’t matter how much you pay for exposure on a venue if that venue does no promotion, feed submission or SEO optimization. Conversely some of the low cost and free sites have excellent SEO policies.

Ideally a buyer would type their IT of the day into Google product search and find IT on which ever venue or website IT is. Before that can happen Google (or whichever search engine is used) has to be able to find IT. Helping the search engine find YOUR product is called Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is geekspeak for Show Me the Way Away From San Jose. Just kidding.

BUY THIS Dick Whittington note card - CLICK

What is SEO and How Does It Work

Search Engine Optimization is simply online marketing for your web pages. Search engines such as Google rank web pages depending on the content of your web pages. Sooner or later a search engine will inevitably notice almost any page you post to the web, but what we want to do is grab their hand and show them the quickest way to get to know us. We also want them to like us so they’ll come back often. The smarter the content, the better the chance you have at driving traffic (customers) to your web pages.

For example, let’s look at the page title of an item that Mark has listed at Bonanzle: “Heavy Duty Work Overalls.” At Bonanzle, we have a tool called Booth Stats that reveals the amount of traffic (number of page views) for any item. Booth Stats is a great tool to gauge how SEO-friendly a page is, since it allows you to measure the success of this one compared to others. Looking at Mark's overalls, the Booth Stats show that this item isn’t getting views, so let’s see what he can do with simple SEO to fix that.

If someone comes along and Googles “Heavy Duty Work Overalls Seattle” then we can be pretty sure Mark will have a sale. Bonanzle’s Oodle integration makes Mark's Bonanzle item amongst the top Google results for this query, but chances are slim that particular search is going to happen so he needs to make his listing more visible to search engines. Let’s optimize or improve the page title so it will be more visible. We’ll change it to “Carhartt Type Heavy Duty Work Overalls.”

Now, we’ll still have an equally good chance to get noticed if a user searches for the original query, but we’ll also grab traffic from anyone who searches for the more specific (and illustrious) “Carhartt” brand overalls.

Some points to ponder about search engines:

There are two methods of SEO. Organic search engine optimization provides free search engine positioning, instead of paid for results.

Search engines use automated software agents called spiders, crawlers, robots or bots to crawl text. They are very simple automated data retrieval programs. They can only gather what they can see.

It is all about words. Bots don't understand frames, Flash, images and JavaScript. They can't click buttons, so if there is no static link for them to follow, they will not follow it. They can't navigate drop down menus. They will not run a search on your website to find the content. They can't index a dynamically generated website.

Listings need pictures to sell but bots do not 'see' pictures. Use the 'alt' tag or title whenever possible on your pictures because that tells the bot what the picture is about, if you use the right words.

Google no longer indexes any Auction format pages. The reason for this is that the indexed page has a much longer life than the auction. Months or years later it will come up in search and the searcher is then disappointed because it is long gone (eBay redirects all such queries to the home page).

In part two of this series we are going to look more closely at the content we put into our web pages and make sure that we maximize our chances to be preferred by search engines.

Y'all come back!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The eBay Point of View

A long time ago, the Lion, the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf agreed to go hunting together, sharing with each other whatever they found.

One day the Wolf ran down a Stag and immediately called his comrades to divide the spoil.

Without being asked, the Lion placed himself at the head of the feast to do the carving, and, with a great show of fairness, began to count the guests.

"One," he said, counting on his claws, "that is myself the Lion. Two, that's the Wolf, three, is the Jackal, and the Fox makes four."

He then very carefully divided the Stag into four equal parts.

"I am King Lion," he said, when he had finished, "so of course I get the first part. This next part falls to me because I am the strongest; and this is mine because I am the bravest."

He now began to glare at the others very savagely. "If any of you have any claim to the part that is left," he growled, stretching his claws meaningly, "now is the time to speak up."

Might makes right.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Can eBay Get Worse For Sellers?

In one word? YES!

Auctionbytes Blog has a post and there is an article and a survey for you to check out.

Lots of rumors flying around. Points to ponder:

High sales season is approaching fast, and in keeping with eBay's customary 'squeeze the seller' policy this is a good time to apply the thumbscrews. If you are still committed to the eBay venue with no viable alternative "Watcha gonna do?"

Bear in mind that this is all speculation and there is no way for a rational person to predict with any certainty which way eBay will go. How could this be better or worse for you as a seller?

I have chosen an item which sold, Fixed Price for $9.99. Shipping on this item, which weighs 14oz packed is $5 and it will ship Priority with delivery confirmation, I will use PayPal and PayPal Shipping. I have not specified cost so there is no profit calculation. Subtract cost from net on sale to get pre-tax profit. Seller is not a PowerSeller.

Note that percentage of 'eBay take' will decrease somewhat for items which sell higher than $25.01 and further decrease for sales over $1000.01

eBay & PayPal 'take' as of today is 19.5% of sale price.

Plan 'A'- no Insertion Fee, 15% FVF on Sale price but not shipping.
eBay & PayPal 'take' is 22.3% of sale price, this is a 2.8% increase, for eBay.

Plan 'B'- no Insertion Fee, 15% FVF on sale price and shipping.
eBay & PayPal 'take' is 29.8% of sale price, this is a 10.3% increase, for eBay.

I have seen many posts today with the writers uttering cries of delight at the prospect of zero insertion fees. Here is one who has completely missed the point; eBay increasing their take on anything that does sell.

As a powerseller with over 20,000 feedback and great DSR. I would list list list and list some more. Everything in my store would be out on auctions. Thats about 15,000 items. Talk about flooding a catagory.

I am not totally convinced that free listing would cause eBay to be flooded. If that was the case why are all the other free to list sites not flooded?

We have to remember that eBay the auction site is a very small part of eBay Inc. Looking at Marketplace (which includes Kijiji,, StubHub, etc) earnings Q1 08, John Donohoe stated that advertising revenues were up 151%. I think advertising is where eBay is going now.

Finally a quote from an interview with Randy Smythe that Ina Steiner did almost two years ago where he asks eBay a speculative question.

What do you want to be? Do you want to be a shopping portal, or a shopping destination? Make up your mind.

They're saying, well we need monetize our null searches, right? We have millions of null searches every single day, we need to monetize that. That's fine. But tell your customers, your sellers, that you're becoming a portal, so they can go and buy keywords ... and move on to their website and not pay you to list product on there.

Points to ponder indeed. I think the evidence is clear, eBay wants to be a shopping portal. If is a desirable seller despite a very low sales : listings ratio with free listings, more is better. More space for advertising will do the trick for the next quarter or so. What do you think?

Y'all come back!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Advice For eBay Buyers UPDATED

Buying on eBay got a lot harder this year. eBay has been making improvements to their search engine. They have made so many improvements that it can be quite difficult to find what you are looking for. Here are a few hints.

Finding, or not

UPDATE: Keep the search simple. Think hard about words that describe what you are looking for and use them in your search request.

After you have made your initial search and noted the number of items returned, you may want to check the 'include title and description' box, this is a choice which may appear after you have entered your search terms the first time. A seller can not put every word that may be searched for in the title, many times the word which you associate with the item may only appear in the description.

Don't be surprised if the search page looks different each time you visit, eBay likes to make sure you are awake. Today many of the search options were in the left nav bar.

You must search using eBay's Best Match which eBay thinks is smarter than you are. You will probably get better results by using the Sort by: box right above the first item. Time ending soonest will make sure you don't miss the perfect item from the perfect seller while looking at other stuff eBay wants you to see first.

Choices choices choices!

When you have entered your search terms make a note of the numbers of items found. After checking the first page keep scrolling to the very bottom, past all the advertisements to find the next pages. Below the additional pages bar you will see in teeny tiny print three more options in a Get more results box. You have three options to check there to see items that eBay's very confused search engine thinks are identical, to check items listed at a fixed price in eBay Stores and thirdly if you want to shop internationally.

More choices

If you are able to find what you are looking for on eBay it does not hurt to run a Google Shopping or product search to see what other options are out there on the web.

Many good eBay sellers are now ex-eBay sellers including me! Quite often you will find we offer better prices because we are not paying 30% plus of our gross to eBay and we can pass those savings onto our customers.

Many current eBay sellers only sell old or slow moving stock on eBay and have websites for their better inventory.

Pick your seller!

* Don't assume anything.
* Read the whole listing, all the words.
* Read where the seller will ship to and how it will be shipped.
* Remember to add the cost of shipping to the item price so you know what it is really going to cost!
* If you have any questions ask the seller, if they don't get back to you before the item ends don't be sad. Chances are very good an identical item is already listed or will be listed very soon, most sellers of truly unique items are no longer selling on eBay.
* Read both the feedback received and the feedback left for others.
* Personally, I don't buy high priced or electronics items from sellers who are brand new.
* If in doubt, don't! If it looks too good to be true it probably is.

Big is not necessarily better.

The largest seller on eBay is Buy with over 800,000 listings. Buy is the eBay name or user ID for a company called Before you buy something from Buy you should probably do three things:

1. Go look at other customer comments
2. Search for the same item on Google, you will always find it elsewhere and usually for a better price. Remember to add the shipping cost to the item price so you are comparing apples to apples.
3. If you must buy from Buy pay with a credit card, not a debit card or PayPal for maximum buyer protection. I am not saying they are dishonest. They are just huge and have terrible customer service.

Y'all come back!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


"To realize our true destiny, we must be guided not by a myth from our past, but by a vision of our future"

Professor Mark B Adams.

Y'all come back!

What Goes Around

Aphorisms of the day:-

What goes around comes around.
Pride goes before a fall.

I just read one of the poorest excuses for a blog ever, at the Wall Street Journal of all places. A rehash of rants from February paired with words of wisdom from a Guru and not worth wasting time on other than the comments.

I am beginning to regard most market analysts and 'journalists' with scorn. The shame is that people who read them for information may well be more informed than the writer. If they are not, they will never know they have been fed inaccuracies and downright wrong information. This is a disgrace.

If sellers are paying for listings that are hidden they will not list.
If buyers can not find what they are looking for sales will drop.
If a venue fosters an atmosphere of dislike and mistrust, visiting there will not be a pleasant experience and visits will drop.

What goes around comes around, or, to put it another way "they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same" (Job 4:8)

eBay did not become a mega-giant one size fits all sales venue overnight. Neither will any of the new ‘alternatives’, but if sellers start listing on the ones that have Google feed and fit their buyer demographic; then as eBay provides a deteriorating buyer & seller experience so the market will shift.

In the words of the immortal Charles Schultz

"No problem is so formidable that you can't walk away from it."

Small sellers grew eBay to what is was a year ago, it is on the downward slope now but with the help of Google Shopping search small sellers can grow replacements.

Y'all come back!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Message From Australia on Change at eBay

"To me, the biggest change in connection with eBay this year..."

Hmmm, yes, it really is only this year. It feels like half of the ten and a half year period that I have been on eBay, but it really is only this year. There have been adversarial issues in the past, but nothing that prepared eBay's actual clientele for the treatment they have gotten this year. I am sure that there were cheers from some sellers when it was announced that Meg Whitman was departing from the eBay corporate structure, but I suspect most of those who were cheering would welcome her back with open arms if she returned to eBay now - assuming of course that those who were alert enough to the issues that Ms Whitman presented, have persisted with eBay this far since.

Some of the shifts are downright bizarre in the business sense. It is one thing to accept that there is a need to keep buyers happy so that they will return to the site and spend money and keep the wheels of commerce turning, but this years shifts in attitude, have created an illogical aura that the buyer is eBay's customer, and the seller is a supplier who is not to be trusted even though they are the ones who pay eBay's bottom line from all angles. PayPal is free to buyers, the so-called "protection" insurance scam is free to buyers, and of course the sellers (rightly) pay the listing fees and commissions for the items they sell, but sellers who attempt to pass on their costs and fees at any point in the transaction are now to be held in contempt (even though the majority of buyers actually see through the flaws in this logic).

Sellers are now the enemy in eBay's eyes, and in order to stop off-site sales and to increase the use of PayPal, eBay is attempting to convince the buyers of this. If they succeed, though, why would buyers return to eBay at all?

So the eBay seller is now an outcast in their own marketplace. The current and recent changes have removed everything intuitive from the search engine on eBay, and punishes sellers for having the audacity to try to build a profit margin into their business, while eBay itself steadily increases the fee structures imposed on sellers. My own business is probably paying at least 25% more in fees this year to eBay, through the listing fee "reductions" and "free" gallery adjustments at the beginning of the year on the USA site, and through the enforced acceptance of PayPal on the Australian site, add to this the steadily increasing postage costs and the inescapable increases in fuel costs which both affect every eBay business but are beyond eBay's scope and control, and I am thankful that I sell old and unusual items which create auction competition and a decent profit margin - I don't know how anyone can "retail" new stock on eBay. At the same time as eBay reaps their increased fees though, they are "rewarding" and "incenting" sellers to REDUCE their prices and offer free shipping - those who don't are punished through poor search exposure and are effectively being labeled greedy and arrogant by, umm, the greedy and arrogant.

The change has been constant and relentless this year for both eBay's customers, and those who buy on the site. Buyers I speak to in person complain of constantly having to relearn how to use the site, how unnecessary most of the change seems, and some reduce the amount they use the site for these reasons. Having to re-adjust each time you buy is just hard work, and becomes hard to justify when it is so constant. Everything that made this marketplace work is being interfered with, and yet the marketplace still works in spite of the way that eBay manages it and interferes with it. How this business model can survive though is beyond me, other than it's mere market dominance meaning that it continues to steamroll through eBay's section of the overall marketplace, replacing it's cast off sellers and buyers at a fairly steady rate. In doing so though, even if it remains a place of commerce that is viable to some, eBay has trashed it's brand beyond recognition this year. Sellers like me continue because, at this stage, it is still viable for my own business model and lifestyle, but any sense of loyalty that I had to eBay has been killed this year. I have plans loosely in place so that I can walk away from the site as soon as it is either nonviable, or I am squeezed out overnight by either policy changes or just waking to find that I am not a registered user. So be it.

Ranting yet again, Kevin

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Nature of Change

Yesterday while I was being lazy watching reruns of Ice Road Truckers and napping, two of my favorite bloggers were busy, very busy.

Scott Pooler at Trading Assistant Journal has an immensely interesting (to me) article on changes eBay has recently made to its affiliate program, and potential consequences thereof.

Randy Smythe on My Blog Utopia! wrote on the subject of change which has been on my mind today. He also wrote a separate post comparing Amazon to eBay in apples to apples mode. Good stuff and food for thought, almost as much non ranting reasoned brain food in the early comments as in the post.

Onward; the nature of change...

Full disclosure: I am at the life stage where change, simply for the sake of change is unattractive. I tend to look at change very closely to see if there are benefits to ME.

Change on eBay this year has been and is continuing to be overwhelming. Not only the announced changes, and the revisions to announced changes but the unannounced quietly implemented changes have devastated sellers.

What is the biggest change?

To me, the biggest change in connection with eBay this year is not the changes to feedback, including DSRs, the fee decrease paired with the 'adjustment' or even the unfinding of Best Match, it is the divisive and adversarial tone that pervades the whole site. It is malicious, petty and almost gleeful from the upper stratosphere of executive offices through the Public Relations department right down into the telephone banks of Customer Service (for PowerSellers only) and it is aimed at sellers.

* eBay is no longer the seller's business partner.

* eBay is the guardian and protector of buyers from the bad sellers. Increasingly, bad sellers are defined as non PowerSellers.

* The real bad sellers are left undisturbed because the theory is that the DSRs will sort them out and route them off the site, meanwhile burned buyers are collateral damage who may be offered coupons as compensation. Good luck with that.

* PowerSellers are promoted as being eligible for all the discounts and goodies which causes resentment of them from the smaller sellers.

* Meanwhile PowerSellers are quietly loosing their perks because the goal posts shift and it is hard to make goals if you don't know what you are aiming at.

* Buyers are educated and encouraged to find fault with nearly impossible expectations of sellers.

eBay has become a stew of nastiness. Little sellers against big sellers, buyers against all sellers, all sellers wondering where the nice friendly buyers from the old days went and eBay stirring the cauldron with a big spoon.

Y'all come back!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Update EBS Liquidation and Investigation

For victims that have not received the EBS liquidators report, please contact:

SV Partners liquidators
phone: 07 3310 2000

they will place you on the unsecured creditors list, and at the moment it looks like you may receive around 30% of your money once EBS' assets are sold.

You can also try for a Visa/Mastercard refund. In Australia, as in the USA, MasterCard® and Visa® Card Association rules and regulations govern liability with respect to disputed transactions; which includes a 90 day window of opportunity for chargebacks. In the event that a merchant collapses then the acquirer bank (the bank which issued the credit card) meets its scheme obligations and then gets into line with the rest of the unsecured creditors for whatever it is owed. Contact your bank.

If you paid with PayPal and have been refused a refund, ask again. Ask to speak to a PayPal supervisor, be prepared to argue a lot. You may get a refund, others have! As is usual with eBay a 'wait patiently' announcement was made on the Round Table board on 29th July, and nothing since.

Detective Senior Constable Michelle Cavanagh, a member of the fraud squad at Queensland Police, said she was waiting for information from the liquidator to determine where all the money has gone, and whether anything illegal has taken place. The Queensland Police fraud department had received 16 complaints so far, she said. An investigation is in process but it could be months until the investigation is complete.

Y'all come back!

Eggs in A Basket

A thread posted on the eBay discussion boards yesterday, now deleted said

Just a couple days ago's listing count was hovering just above 500,000 but now all of a sudden it jumped to over 800,000.

eBay's daily listing totals in the last week have dropped from approximately 15.3M to 14.5M ( 0.8M) and of that 14.5M, around 18% are listings. That is a lot of eggs in one basket.

My friend over at The Brews News has a moving and powerful post about a conversation with an eBay rep and the future of their business

I hope the “smart” people at eBay making the decisions can find a better way to communicate their plan to the rest of us less smart folks. If the eBay decision makers have a plan, now would be a good time to unveil it since eBay sellers are really in the dark.

and in an earlier post on the same blog . . .

There has been a slow movement of reputable eBay sellers who have been leaving the last 3 years but after January 2008 there appears to be a mass exodus. Sellers are leaving in such alarming numbers that it is more like a stampede out of the gates than a gradual movement. The severity of the problem is not being shown in eBay’s statistics yet because there are many sellers just like us who are trying to liquidate their current eBay inventory at a rapid pace. We are working hard to be set up in time to take advantage of our sales opportunities on Amazon and our websites for the 2008 holiday season.

Brews is not a small seller like I was and many of you were. They employ people, have a warehouse and a loading dock! This blog is written by a business person, a ten year eBay seller. Not a ranter. Not a whiner. A professional seller . . .

How sad that a seller with ten years on eBay, over 34K positive feedback, an average 99.8% 12 month rating, and three selling identities, is taking their basket of eggs and leaving. What eBay buyers will get is leftovers,


Y'all come back!

Friday, August 8, 2008

eBay PayPal Only Policy

This post was written in August 2008. Information may be out of date.
Red Ink Diary has moved lock stock and barrel (including this post) to HERE where you can read the latest eCommerce, Bonanzle, PayPal and eBay news.

It is hard to pick a single subject when it comes to writing about eBay, they have outraged so many of their customers they may well be the most hated corporation in the USA. It is very hard to remain objective about anything when it affects the way you earn your living. It is hardest of all to change the way you do business after years of learning that 'this' is the way it is done; but change we must if we are to survive as sellers with or without eBay.

eBay has asserted there is no PayPal Only in the USA policy. The reason for this is that we have laws preventing it. There may be no such official policy at eBay but we have now reached a point where there is a de facto policy, and this is open contempt of the law.

Here is a link to the relevant eBay page.

All new sellers must offer PayPal as a payment option.

I received this document last night from a colleague. I urge you to read, cut and paste anything that reflects your opinion and then forward a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Attorney General of the state in which you live and do business.

I would like to point out that I do not personally have a problem accepting any kind of payment, even PayPal. I am infuriated by eBay's open contempt both for the law of the land and their customers. It is a corporate disease and the only cure for that disease is legal action. I realize that almost nobody has both the desire and the financial means to take eBay to court but what you can do is make noise. Look at the example of what the Australian sellers accomplished, eBay backed down but is trying the same back door policy there as they are using here, clearly expressed in the Discouraging Payments Policy.

You have three choices. Accept everything eBay does to you, quit or fight back.
What will your choice be?

Y'all come back!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The FUBAR Effect eBay IT up

We often hear the phrase "Amazonization of eBay" these days, which is in my opinion a legally actionable insult to Amazon; but maybe it is time to coin a new phrase to refer to the FUBAR effect on the site, used as a verb, to "eBay IT up.""

An astounding statement after the eBay announcement regarding the PayPal transaction reporting requirements which will become law in 2011 as part of the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. Under the legislation, PayPal will be required to report to the IRS the total payment volume received by PayPal customers in the U.S. who:

1. receive more than $20,000 in payment volume in a single year; and
2. receive more than 200 payments in a single year.

This is in no way shape or form eBay's fault. It is just another step in the transformation of America into George Orwell's 1984 by our elected officials. Big Brother is watching you and wants to watch more. I don't actually have a problem with it, I pay my taxes.

BUY THIS Noah's Ark Note Card - CLICK

One good thing that may come out of it is that eBay and PayPal will be forced to upgrade the ancient version of Quickbooks they bought off Noah's online garage sale. The one that is not compatible with anything newer than an Apple IIe. We can always hope.

Ken Swab who is the senior Federal Government Relations officer at PayPal blogged on this on Tuesday morning. He said:

I want to emphasize that this new law affects a small percentage of PayPal customers.

Say what?

Either this guy doesn't know what he is talking about, always a possibility, or eBay as we knew it has disappeared a lot faster than we ever thought it could.

$20,000 a year averages out to $1666.66 a month, making you a 'gasp' PowerSeller! It would not be unreasonable to peg overhead at 30% of that if you include all eBay and PayPal fees, item cost, repeat listings, internet access, hardware, software and postage and packing expenses. Pre-tax, federal and state, net would be $1165 a month (rounded).

On a 60 Minutes program aired March 11th this year just before she retired, Meg Whitman said
"We have about – around the world, about 1.3 million people make most, if not all, of their living selling on eBay."
This was echoed by presidential contender John McCain in Martin County Kentucky who can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, 25th March 2008 (1:28 into the tape) adding the information
"... most of whom are in the United States."

Yet Ken Swab "says this new law affects a small percentage of PayPal customers" The question is who is eBaying it up? The ex-CEO of eBay, Presidential hopeful John McCain or Ken Swab?

Ms Whitman, $1166 a month pre-tax is not making a living. Advice to you folks out there hopeful of "making a living on eBay" . . .Don't quit your day job!"

Y'all come back!


Scott Pooler on Trading Assistant Journal has a different angle on the same subject.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Out to Lunch

My brain is out to lunch today!

Y'all come back later! OK? See you then.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Phishing Storm Aimed at PayPal

Today Richard Brewer-Hay, the eBay corporate blogger had a post about PayPal's 10th birthday on eBayInkBlog.

To celebrate the occasion the Phishing crooks & scammers have unleashed a storm of phishing emails.

On July 7th Richard had a post about phishing. I commented at the time,

The simplest, safest and most secure way to put an end to PayPal phishing would be for PayPal to cease putting clickable links in emails. Any customer communication requiring input from customers should be on the secure site.

“You have a message from PayPal which requires response, please log in to your account to access it.”

About three weeks later somebody called Square said,
Henrietta’s suggestion sounds simple enough, but it was already done in the last year and then changed back. I don’t think there was any explanation when it happened or was reversed, I’m guessing that enough sellers, who get tons of these emails and end up click on the transaction link to get more info, complained about the inconvenience. It may be like a safer approach, but it’s also creating an extra step to check on your payments, which is a pain when it multiplies out many times.

I have no knowledge whatsoever of PayPal doing what Square says they did, you would think I might have noticed since last year I was still selling actively on eBay and I accept PayPal on my website, but whatever. Personally I would never, ever, click on a link in an email purported to be from either eBay or PayPal. My advice to you dear reader would be to do the same, send them straight to

I have received three very high quality and almost believable Phishing communications today. You can see two of them here and here. Links have been disabled!

Giving credit where it is due PayPal responds very fast to reported phishing attempts.
Dear XXX,

Thanks for taking an active role by reporting suspicious-looking emails.
The email you forwarded to us is a phishing email, and our security team
is working to disable it.

Do you have any knowledge of PayPal ending clickable links in email messages last year and then reversing it?

Y'all come back

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Obstruction of Justice as eBay Removes Evidence

I really hate to keep banging the drum on this ebusiness_supplies scandal in Australia. The fact of the matter is, not only is PayPal Australia back-pedaling as fast as they can on Buyer Protection

I emailed Paypal and after about 5 emails and a lot of frustration, I got the buyer protection ... Paypal was a disgrace really, they closed the dispute and blew me off initially. Until I wanted it in writing that they would not honour the Protection..only then did they come good.
but eBay is busily removing any trace that the seller existed.

It is fact that eBay did nothing to shut down this seller for weeks despite repeated reporting of policy violations in listings. It is also fact that because of the policy violations many of the listings which carried PayPal Buyer Protection buttons were not eligible for PayPal Buyer Protection. This is deceptive trading any way you look at it.

There is some speculation in Australia that eBay took no action beyond removing active listings in order to run the clock out on time limits for filing a dispute. This would not surprise me at all.

What does surprise me is that eBay would remove evidence in what is now an active criminal fraud investigation. This is obstruction of justice.

eBay and Paypal are NOT serving the best interests of the buyer. Naturally eBay claims they are "simply a venue" but I wonder how long that will serve as an excuse in Australia.

Y'all come back

Western Australia Today

Red Ink: July 29th 2008
Red Ink: July 28th 2008

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Its Saturday, Lets Go Holoholo

Holoholo is a Hawaiian word, it means something along the lines of a fun trip, goofing off. As with so much in the islands it is also a hula, learned by little kids and remembered always. Here is Holoholo Ka'a, from the days when a ride in a car was something special. Listen carefully, there is an english verse towards the end.

Now that we are in the mood, first stop Genuine Seller, Mr 'How to Amazon', Steve Lindhorst, author of Selling On The River, is an ex-eBay employee and an excellent writer. Read a recent post "eBay and New Coke - Lessons Lost", no rant just a succinct analogy.

We've all been in those malls on the edge of town that only have a couple of second rate shoe stores and a lot of closed stores - after a time or two of not finding what you came for, you don't go back right?

Next stop The Brews News who has an excellent post on the fallacies of the PowerSeller discounts written from the viewpoint of a PowerSeller, and someone who walks the walk, daily. Here is a taste:
In our business, we always prioritize orders that are placed through our website and through Amazon because the rewards for shipping timely are greater for us on those venues. We still ship eBay orders timely, just not necessarily the same day or the next day. And that is because even if we ship eBay orders 2 or 3 days after we receive them, our DSR for Shipping Time will never fall below our DSR for Shipping & Handling. We provide very good service to our eBay customers but we provide the BEST customer service to buyers who purchase from us elsewhere.

A quick hop across the pond to international eBay trader Ed at Buildaskill who highlights yet another example from the dirty tricks (or is it just plain incompetency, you decide) department at eBay. Check your invoices!

On to my Twitter friend Randy Smythe, the master of concise and incisive, on his My Blog Utopia! for a very interesting post on traffic sources.

Scott Pooler at Trading Assistant Journal has an informative piece on a nifty free tool.

Finally check this out, full disclosure: There are mature words in this blog, if this bothers you please don't go there!

I hope you enjoyed going holoholo with me,

Y'all come back

Friday, August 1, 2008

K.I.S.S at Bonanzle

Keep It Simple Sweetie at Bonanzle

This is an interesting site, it was launched two months ago, still in beta, but remarkably functional. This is one of the few new sites that is oriented to buyers on the home page. How about that!

Support is speedy, friendly and to the point. At this time Seattle based Bonanzle is fee free. Unlike some other sites, there is an advertising budget but organic traffic is gaining velocity. The goal was to target primarily sellers in July, and then target both buyers and sellers thereafter. I have seen booth numbers triple in the last two weeks. I am pleased to tell you there have been sales.

So What is Bonanzle?

Bonanzle is bright and uncluttered, easy to navigate and it feels friendly. It appears to be a hybrid of Craigslist, Etsy and the very very old eBay (the community feel) but better and it is not auction format, fixed price only. Booths (Bonanzle for store) have a cart!

This is not a cookie cutter out of the box sales site. It is a carefully thought out uniquely designed sales venue into which founder Bill Harding and his team have put a tremendous amount of work over the last year and a half.

You can entertain offers on your items if you wish, or not, as you choose. You can ship or offer local pickup for large items like couches and furniture. It is extremely web 2.0 in that there is a live chat option, you can list multiple means of contact, IM, Skype, e-mail, social network, website, blog, or plain old fashioned phone.

The listing format is great. It is truly simple and intuitive. When you click the Sell button a single screen comes up, just that one screen has all the fields you need. No html, decimal free (list in round numbers) and you can duplicate items if you have wording or layout you want to keep consistent.

Pictures are quick and easy to upload from your computer, there is a built in editor and more importantly your pictures look good on the site.

I found the listing process to be extremely fast to learn, completing my first ten items in about 20 minutes. Once I had the process down I was listing an item a minute. Wheeeeeeee! There is a feedback grabber from eBay and I believe you can also bulk import listings from Excel, eBay and Craigslist.

Each seller can have a Bonanza once a month, a Bonanza is a short term super sale.

For a few hours we will let all visitors know that you are having a sale, that they had better check it out, and that all in all, we think you are pretty great. You choose the time to put your goods up for sale. We direct site traffic to your booth. Magic happens..

Bonanzle welcomes non US sellers, Bill says
We're open to sellers from other countries registering (quite a few already have), but our shipping is only setup to specify rates within the US right now, and all our prices are in dollars, so it is admittedly not ideal for them yet. We're hoping to add more internationalization in the coming months.

Bonanzle for buyers
As a buyer you have complete control of how you search. There is a semi-conventional search box on the home page which allows you to search by keyword and then price or speed. You can search for local items, most recently listed, shop in a Live Booth (where the seller is online) or browse more conventionally by category. In the Booths you can choose from six sort options.

Bonanzle has a unique cart system, the buyer drags items to the sellers cart, checks off options and makes an offer if that option is checked. The seller can fine tune with any shipping discounts etc and respond. Currently the site is set up for Paypal and Google Checkout.

I have tested quite a few sites since February and I now know which ones I do not want anything to do with. My gut feeling on this one? I like it, it is going places. I am in on the ground floor, which is a good place to be.

So here is a special offer, all sellers who get in and stock their booth before the beta period ends will be grandfathered in, and not be charged fees for six months after everyone else starts getting charged.

Tell 'em Henrietta sent you, (full disclosure, I am not getting paid to do this)

Y'all come back