The Noise from the Hostile eBay Environment (an eBay OldTimer’s thoughts)

Posted on May 7, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , , , |

Originally posted by me on eBay Seller Central February 5, 2008 and Updated May 7, 2008 

I am one of those lily-white A2 (used to be A1) sellers on eBay who has been selling (and buying) for about 10 years.I manage 3 eBay seller accounts as well as multiple eBay buyer accounts.

I am college-educated (M.B.A. +  a lot more) and I am an eBay education specialist.

Like most eBay sellers, I turned to eBay in hopes of living the American dream to provide my family with a good life by working hard and wanting a fair profit for my honest dealings.

Like most eBay sellers, every time eBay made changes in the past I looked around and thought about going elsewhere. I researched extensively the alternatives.  After the January 2008 announcements, I took action and opened up an account on another site. Will I close my eBay store? Unfortunately I have too much invested on eBay to close the doors overnight (and I don’t want to stop providing my family with 3 meals a day). But I am branching out and testing the waters elsewhere with passion and determination. I am extremely motivated to make it work elsewhere.

Having given you some background above, you fill find below my thoughts about the eBay environment in its current state.


Why is the eBay environment full of hostility?  Below are my “Top 10” reasons.

1. In eBay’s system, a seller might have to hold on to an item for weeks or months going through the process of trying to get a bidder to pay. During that time, the item is taking up space, money is tied up, and time must be spent to “manage” the order. If the bidder ultimately does not pay then the seller still has to pay eBay for the privilege of listing the item and then has to put the item back into the marketplace, at which time the value may be lower. 
(Note: In contrast, Amazon authorizes payments prior to the seller receiving the order.) 

2.  In eBay’s system, any competitor can create a new ID and then bid on a competitor’s item for the sole purpose of removing the item from the market or to give negative feedback.  Also, any unscrupulous bidder can extort free or reduced-price product and if negatives are received they can simply start over and create another “throw-away” ID. 
(Note: Someone could purchase a competitor’s item on Amazon but only if they are willing to spend money to do so (thus actually resulting in a paid sale) and only if they are willing to reveal their name and address.  Also, Amazon is a “closed” system whereby Amazon removes unscrupulous buyers, as well as poorly performing sellers, from their closed system)

3. In eBay’s system, the rules are applied to sellers only ad hoc. How many sellers have had items removed (for any number of things such as keyword spamming or VERO violation) only to see their competitors continue to break the exact same rule for months or years with no apparent sanctions? The enormous number of hours sellers spend “self-reporting” could be better spent focused on selling and customer service.

4. The eBay fee structure is complicated and confusing to many sellers. In order to calculate the fees (in advance) for an item, a seller must add up the insertion fees, the final value fees (what a fun calculation that is) and then paypal fees. In addition, the insertion fees for items that do not sell have to be absorbed by the profit margin of those items that do sell, making it difficult to know in advance what kind of profit one could experience if an item sells. Now throw in to the mix the “possibility” of getting discounts for powersellers but only if certain conditions. Given so many different variables, an eBay seller can never predict with any reliability whether eBay sales will actually lead to gross profit.   In contrast, Amazon’s fee structure is simple and encompasses the fee for selling and payment processing.

5. eBay Help and Customer service is, for the most part, nonexistent. Live Help should more appropriately be called “No Help” or “Incorrect Help.”
Note: In contrast, Amazon will actually call you (either as a buyer or a seller) …. immediately!

6. The “value” of items on eBay has dropped significantly since eBay first began. The laws of supply and demand make eBay more of a “reverse” auction where everyone just keeps lowering their price in order to “make the sale”. Amazon is no different, however, in the mechanisms driving prices ever lower. However, eBay has been a safe haven for counterfeit products and also for sellers who obtain their product at zero cost (ie thieves find eBay a great place to fence their stolen merchandise).  So, in addition to market forces lower the overall prices, the counterfeits and stolen merchandise makes it profitable for that group of sellers to sell even below wholesale cost.  Lower selling prices combined with higher selling fees means that legitimate eBay sellers are being squeezed. When sellers are struggling day to day just to keep the lights on they have little time for providing good customer service. Most sellers know the value of good customer service but it’s hard to focus on that when you are worried if you can pay the mortgage this month.

7. Because manufacturers see the devaluation of their product on eBay, they often make it difficult or impossible for sellers to procure and/or sell items on eBay (can you say abuse of the VERO program?) leaving sellers frustrated.

8. There are “bad” sellers and “bad” buyers. The sellers who sell stolen merchandise, offer “presales” 90 days out and never deliver, or who ship a disposable camera (just to show delivery confirmation) instead of $4900 item are certainly doing well on eBay and don’t mind the fee increases. The buyers who know and understand the paypal system for getting partial or full refunds while getting to keep the product are certainly doing well and don’t mind the occasional negative feedback since they can easily create a new buying ID and start over. The rest of us…. good buyers and good sellers…. we’re angry and frustrated over eBay’s unwillingness to take control of their own site.

9. eBay keeps information about sellers hidden so that a seller never fully knows what is going on with their account. And with no notice, eBay removes entire product lines from their offerings (ex: Digitally Delivered items were removed from eBay without warning and 7 days in advance of a new unannounced policy change).   Big Brother eBay issues seller sanctions on a whim … Just like SoupNazi says “No soup for you today!” eBay sellers live in constant fear of having their livelihood removed on a whim when eBay decides to say “No selling for you today!”.

10. eBay sellers feel that management is completely out of touch. Sellers are treated with disrespect and distrust except when they are being completely ignored. The surveys conducted for eBay (I have participated in both types of eBay surveys – for buyers and sellers) are so completely biased that it borders on ridiculous. At the doctoral (Phd) level I studied survey methods and have actually helped participated in and help with behavioral studies, too. eBay’s “studies” are laughable and give no reliable information. The inaccurate and faulty data are then used by management to make decisions that make them appear totally out of touch with reality. Trying to implement some of Amazon’s established policies in an eBay environment is not going to offer the “easy fix” management is seeking. eBay needs to think outside the box and needs to truly survey their users (buyers and sellers) to find solutions to the difficult problems.

eBay’s Solutions
Removing eBay sellers’ ability to leave neutral / negative feedback is management’s “solution” to providing a better buying experience. We’ll just have to wait and see what comes out in the wash in the long-run. In the short-run, there is no doubt that the hostility on eBay will increase ten fold. Since the feedback change announcement, eBay sellers are scrambling to figure out how to block bidders and where to post their blocked bidder list to share with others. I’m sure we’ll see TOS changed so that buyers with low feedback or who have been given any negatives will be banned from bidding on items. Even if sellers’ fears are not based on reality, their fears will cause eBay sellers to take very real actions which will only serve to increase the hostilities on eBay.

In their speeches, eBay management says that they must change in order to compete in today’s environment. Ten years ago buyers didn’t have many other choices online like they do today (according to eBay management). To that comment by eBay’s management, I would say……. ten years ago sellers didn’t have many other choices online like they do today. The “good” eBay sellers are now frightened enough and angry enough to actually take action and give eBay’s competitors a chance.

As an eBay education specialist, I listen to the questions asked by new potential sellers and I understand their concerns and I see their hopes and dreams. As a Powerseller I know the frustrations of selling on eBay trying to make an honest living. And as an eBay buyer I experience first-hand the transactions from another perspective and can compare my eBay buying experience to my experiences on other retail and auction websites.

From my MBA studies I learned that change is most accepted when those that are being asked (or told) to change feel that they at least had input into the decision-making process.   
(I guess eBay’s current management skipped class that day to go to the beach and missed out on the lesson. From college I learned a lot … but then again I was in class every day and I paid attention.)

From my mother I learned that anything can be accomplished if you believe that it can. When I was 7 and said “I can’t do these Math problems” my mother looked me straight in the eye and told me that word didn’t exist in the dictionary and so I was never to use it again. So I picked up my pencil and finished my Math homework. To this day I’ve never looked for the word “can’t” in the dictionary but since my mother never steered me wrong before, I’ll just take her word for it.

From life I have learned that people are basically good. Individuals want to be treated with respect and they will respond accordingly. I have learned that good listeners are more likely to be considered good friends ….. each of us likes to hear ourselves talk and so (naturally) we like people who want to hear us talk!

In summary, the eBay environment is a hostile one for many reasons and eBay managements’ changes will not create a better environment. There is so much that eBay could and should do to improve their ” venue “. They could start by actually listening to the noise that is coming out from eBay’s hostile environment….. or else management could find themselves with nothing but empty silence.



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4 Responses to “The Noise from the Hostile eBay Environment (an eBay OldTimer’s thoughts)”

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I agree with many of your points here, and that’s why I’ve taken matters in my own hand to create a free service where sellers can share their blocked bidders lists. I’m putting the final touches on it as we speak and hope to go live within a week. It will be called and you can get a preview of the service on this blog post:

Spread the word!

A very well written post and your frustrations with eBay come across loud and clear. I will post a link to this article at to try and encourage other members to come and read too.

A very well thought-out summary of the situation. The real problem, that you shown in a number of examples is not with buyers and sellers but with Ebay’s management. Every single change that they bring in is cynically designed to maximise their income by exploiting their monopoly and keeping as much as possible by not providing any customer service, but expecting (mainly) buyers to police the site for them. For the vast majority of users, including myself, ebay has and continues to be a safe place to buy and sell, but Ebay are undermining this by setting buyer and seller against each other.

Ebay could have a good future, but might well just fade away unless the present management are got rid of. The best way to do this is to warn investors, a collapse in Ebay’s share price is realistically the best way to bring this about

I am a seller on e-bay . The new law about feedback ( no negative for buyers ) has caused me major grief . I have a buyer who has been threating me with negative feedback if I do not meet their demands . They want to return an item for a refund . I have no problem with that . But they are setting the demands . They want more money than sent to me . I know the item was in excellent condition , they claim it was repaired . A total scam artist . The item is a rare antique , I want to examine it first . Now I am the one who has a threat of suspension . I have 361 positives no negatives . This person knows the value of feedback to good people and is using extortion , harassment . and slander . Nothing done to help me the seller . The buyer can make up a lie and enter a dispute . I the seller have no way to respond to this abuse . This hostile person will more than likely send me their broke item and keep my good one .
E-Bay has to protect their sellers from these crooks .

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