Does eBay Deserve Our Respect?

Posted on May 25, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , , , |

eBay sellers have a relationship with eBay and eBay has made it clear that they want the relationship to change.  In our lives, we have professional and personal relationships.  Sometimes in a relationship there is a difference in dominance, such as with a child and parent as well as with an employee and employer.  The parent’s love for the child is what drives the relationship and the parent often times has to be the authoritarian figure.  The balance of power is meant to be unequal as the older and wiser parent molds the child until the child reaches adulthood at which time the balance of power levels out.  In a business relationship, it is mutual dependence that drives the relationship.  An employer who is too restrictive and controlling and too secretive about employee compensation incentives will undoubtedly have very unhappy employees who may, at times, actually work against the goals of the company even knowing that those very actions make the company weaker and less able to care for its workers. 
As an eBay seller, I believe that my relationship with eBay is more like one of a landlord and tennant.  Ebay rents me a space in their virtual real estate holdings and I conduct my business there.  For more than 10 years, eBay has been an absentee landlord and the undesirables have taken root, all the while eBay has just been increasing the size of their real estate holdings.  There was never an application process to approve new entrants.  There were never many rules and most of the posted rules went unenforced.  As long as you were able to pay the ever-increasing rent you were allowed to stay.
Then eBay looked around one day and realized there were others who were building virtual real estate spaces and their spaces were considerably nicer.  The rent in these places was higher and the rules were stringent but the spaces were always full and there was a waiting list.   The infrastructure to support such a nice facility is very expensive, though, and for many years eBay had not seen the value of spending time or money to make sure their facilities were functionning properly.  When you are the only real estate office in town, what do you care if the place you run is a slum as long as the money keeps coming in.  The tennants could complain loudly about paying rent for dilapidated facilities that were being overrun with unscrupulous neighbors and eBay had to do nothing because everyone still continued to pay.    
It is only now that eBay is taking action, when the real estate competitor appears to be a credible threat and so many good quality eBay tennants are leaving completely or reducing the size of the space they rent on eBay.  The eBay of 2008 is taking action.  The question, though, is whether eBay’s actions are the right ones and whether the actions are coming too late.  Instead of being the innovator and leader in the field where they once had complete dominance, eBay is now lagging behind and their plans to fix their own marketplace may be coming too late for them to attract the kind of clientele that has been flocking to the competition.  Just like Wal-Mart’s attempt to attract the affluent customer has failed, eBay is going to have a difficult time convincing the best online shoppers who spend the most money to visit the eBay marketplace. 
And what about eBay’s new rules for its tennants?  It would take me hours to comment on each of the recent changes so I won’t.  The one comment I do have is that eBay is changing the rules so quickly and so dramatically that it is almost impossible for anyone to keep up.  One day eBay is holding workshops to help sellers with their digitally delivered product sales then the next day they are removing those very products from their site without warning or notification of a policy change.  And, to further add insult to injury, eBay is retroactively removing feedback for digitally delivered items sold from November 2007 onward at the very same time they are retroactively applying the scoring of neutral feedback.  One day eBay says that the standards for sellers to receive increased exposure in searches is 4.6 and then eBay quietly changes the FAQs on their website to increase the requirements to 4.7 for increased exposure without notifying those to whom the rules apply.  And there is no clear explanation on how the new 10-item search limit is going to work – is it 10 items per page as Donohoe said or 10 items per entire search as Griff said.  The eBay website says the limit is for 10 items per search set but nobody can get a clear response as to whether a search “set” is a page or an entire search.  Even eBay Powerseller representatives cannot agree on the definition. 
Of course it is eBay’s Playground and they make the rules.  We are not children who need to be sent to our room when we break an unwritten rule we didn’t know existed.  We are business people being asked to follow certain rules in the eBay markeplace where we rent a virtual space to sell our goods.  Those of us who are being asked to follow the rules would just like to know what the rules are.  Maybe if we knew what the rules were, we could ultimately have some respect for them and for the new type of relationship eBay wants to have with us.

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One Response to “Does eBay Deserve Our Respect?”

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Respect is earned.
eBay has done nothing to earn respect from sellers in several years.

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