eBay’s Year of Extreme Changes Causes Extreme Pain for Sellers

Posted on September 4, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , |


There is no question that 2008 could be called the “Year of Extreme Changes” for the eBay community.  eBay is rolling out so many changes so quickly this year that heads are spinning and many eBay sellers are dizzily falling into a tailspin.  Distraught sellers are making noise at an unprecedented level.  eBay’s response to the angry sellers’ noise seems to be that change is necessary for eBay’s survival but that “nobody likes change” and that is why sellers are so unhappy.  That may be true but it is really so much more than that.  In a year of extreme changes such as this, there are really four distinct areas where eBay sellers are upset.
1. The changes themselves and the merits of those changes
2. The communication (or lack thereof) from eBay to the members informing them about those changes
3. The implementation of the policies and the resulting glitches and site issues
4. The indirect consequences – the unexpected implications resulting from the changes
I’ll start my discussion with the last area – the indirect consequences.  As I wrote in my earlier blog topic today – Implications of eBay’s New Paperless Payments Policy – there are consequences to all sellers when eBay makes changes, even when a particular change is not directed toward a specific seller.  When eBay enacts new policies, it is the sellers who are clearly the losers every time if for no other reason than because of the indirect consequences of the change.   
In eBay’s rush to implement many new policies and to make major changes to performance systems such as the search function, the eBay and Paypal sites are plagued with glitches and failed systems.  For example, the Paypal site has been down the entire day today and sellers have been unable to generate postal labels or check any details of payment.  In my opinion, the sheer number and extent of the site issues have reached epidemic proportions.  I keep expecting that I’ll wake up one morning soon to find that the eBay.com site won’t come up at all. 

It is an impossibility for eBay sellers to keep their business functioning normally at this time.  It is a bit like trying to continue travelling on a major highway that is under construction with the work crews furiously working among the cars and trucks going down the road since the traffic has no place to be diverted.  Every now and then, the work crews quickly throw up some concrete barriers to perform their work behind.  The barriers are constructed with the foreknowledge that some cars and trucks will unexpectedly crash into the hastily erected concrete but the collateral damage is deemed to be at an acceptable level all in the name of progress.

It is the communication from eBay that is one of the most disturbing aspects to me.  In my blog post titled eBay Enters the Customer Service Race to Win the Respect of Its Sellers , I wrote about how eBay did make a concerted effort recently to better inform the community of the major changes.  With that one exception, eBay has failed miserably to communicate with the member community.  They blame it on their “rush” to make changes.  eBay is moving at a fast pace in everything they are doing today, with a sense of urgency that they are not hiding, and they believe that urgency entitles them to avoid communicating with the public while they are busy making decisions behind the scenes about changes.  And eBay has said a number of times that they need to keep some of the specific details of the changes from sellers so that eBay sellers cannot “game the system”.  

Yet eBay is so busy making changes that they are failing to even inform their Top Seller Managers.  For example, today’s Auctionbytes article makes mention of a change that was announced on an eBay community discussion board rather than through a formal announcement.  I called eBay and spoke with a Top Seller Account Manager who finally, after 38 minutes of vehemently denying any policy change despite my insistence, did finally speak to someone at eBay who confirmed the changes as posted on the discussion forum.  The eBay Account Rep then expressed his frustration to me about learning of the policy change from a seller rather than from the company he works for.  eBay’s actions are not those of a company who is firmly in control of its future but rather it seems quite clear that the right hand at eBay is not aware of what the left hand is doing.  And, as a result, sellers fear that eBay is in a panic and we are more worried than ever. 

Of course, probably the biggest reason that eBay sellers are frustrated is because of the sheer number of changes as well as sellers do not necessarily agree with the changes.  Below are a list of just some of the new changes that eBay sellers have been faced with this year (I am sure I have forgotten several more):
Fee changes – two new fee changes with one revision to the first fee structure change
Paperless Payments Policy banning checks and money orders
Minimum DSR Standards
Limits on Shipping Charges for Certain Categories
Specified Domestic Shipping Required
Required Return Policy Stated
Item Specifics Required
Best Match Search (numerous changes)
Specified Item Condition Required
Specified Handling Time Required
Digitally Delivered Items only in Classified Format
Retroactive Neutrals counted in Feedback Percentage (reversed)
Redesigned Item Description Page (numerous changes)
Numerous Category Changes and Catalog Changes
Finding (numerous changes)
Identical Items Limitations
Links Policy (revised then reversed)
Feedback Recalculation to 12-month only
International Site Visibility
User Agreement and Privacy Policy Updated
My eBay Beta
Only Positive Feedback for Buyers
Anonymous emails for safer communication
Powerseller Rewards (revised)
PayPal “Pay Later” Option
Numerous Discount Coupons (don’t work with 3rd party checkout)
Live Auction Format Retired end of 2008
3rd Party Offsite Links Showing in Search Results for add’l eBay revenue
Identity Confirmation for Sellers (where eBay calls to confirm it’s you)
Certain Policy Violations will result in Listings Moved to Unsold
Launch of eBay Desktop
Launch of Seller Dashboard (numerous glitches)
Increased Paypal Protections for Powersellers then everyone
New Sign-In Process for Turbo Lister
Removal of Choice Policy
Mystery Auctions Prohibited
Removal of Multiple Listings Limit Policy
PayPal 21-Day Hold Policy
The list is overwhelming and yet I have been told again today that more changes are in the works.  If the changes already announced do not cure eBay’s ailments quickly enough, there are more changes ready to be enacted.  In my opinion, eBay is asking too much from sellers.  eBay is requiring sellers to adjust to 13-year’s worth of changes all at once, some of which are completely outrageous and all of which have unintended consequences.  And these changes, even the necessary ones, are not being communicated well by eBay to sellers.  eBay is worried about losing buyers, and rightly so.  I suppose eBay must think they are keeping their eye on that ball with everything they are attempting to do this year.  But while eBay is focused so intently on making urgent and immediate changes to keep the buyers happy, they seem to have dropped all the other balls they have been juggling.  There is no question that eBay has dropped the ball where sellers are concerned.  And everyone knows that a juggler who can only handle one ball at a time certainly isn’t worth the price of admission. 

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10 Responses to “eBay’s Year of Extreme Changes Causes Extreme Pain for Sellers”

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Excellent post, Brews. I think the thing that has must frustrated me is it’s been so hard to focus and stay on course with listing and selling. Part of the reason my sales are down is me and my uncertainty. I’m so frantic to learn what’s going on, am I wasting my time even being on Ebay?-they start the year saying they want small sellers gone, then quarter way they say: no wait, they will always have a place for us. It’s so damn frustrating. Sometimes, fear grips me about the future and I start searching around looking at new venues, only to be disappointed.

Honestly, I wish Ebay would just go down and put themselves and us out of this misery. Then, we could all proceed ahead. This year has literally been a complete waste for me, productive wise and revenue wise. And I’m a very disciplined person. All these ridiculous changes that in the end are going to bring us all down or hopefully will be reversed.

With all the presidential campaigning going on, we see how important good leadership is. John Donahoe, IMO, has played with Ebay and the sellers like it’s a new toy. I just hope, like most children, he gets bored with it, sooner than later.

I sold my first item in January and my head is spinning with all the changes. After reading your list of just how many there have been I feel a little better. Like Lisa above I am a disciplined, organised person, but I have felt at times like I was losing my mind. I constantly want to double check things, but can’t find the information. I have sent emails to eBay, and apart from the answers that don’t relate to the question, I have had out of date info!

In the UK the banning of items under 99p in BINs was announced on a forum, and I believe has yet to appear in an official announcement. eBay continually rams it down our throats that only a small percentage of buyers and sellers use the forums, yet suddenly they are a good enough place to announce something with devestating implications for some businesses?

But then we have the announcements that when neutrals were taken out of the feedback % they would no longer count towards SNP. They were wrong, neutrals do still count for SNP. So are they announcing things on forums so that they have a let out? If they want to change their minds they can just say it was never officially announced?

I think most of us are tuning out, its almost becoming comical to see how far they take these desperate measures to retain their brand and market share. And lets not make any mistake about this, Meg Whitman is still driving this company. She’s special advisor to John Donahue. Most CEOs would never be able to leave a company with this many executions needed to take place. But since she needed to make her political debut then she had to scale back. But all this is Megs doing.

Well, sometimes, such kind of extreme technological improvements are very frustrating for sellers. However, the new possibilities created within the e-marketplace will provide with real benefits in future.

Technology is continuously being evolved and the changes are necessary to win the market. Obviously here, the multichannel sales strategy aids merchants to keep the pace, and strategically, not putting “all eggs into the same basket” is a better-off indeed.

I don’t think this is Meg’s mess I think John Donahoe seduced the shareholders, investor analysts, and the board and drove her out. Of course she is still on the board of directors – how would it have looked for her to just up and leave both for her and for eBay.

From the news archives I have read it is clear eBay started going to hell when JD entered the picture- this trend is is observable in the news articles, the tales I have read from veteran sellers, and the stock price. This man is poison.

Minimum DSR Standards – B was 4.6 for raised search changed to 4.7

DSRs any below 4.3 in 30 day your outta here

it’s a long list above you might have already had these 2 – not sure

Aceflex – first, it is not the technology improvements that are causing the vast majority of problems. It is eBay’s changing of policies, and so many of them, that is causing the problems. eBay is not “improving” technology, they are completing changing the eBay marketplace and they are doing so without any real plan for what eBay will be in the end.

The “real benefits” in the future can only be appreciated by the sellers who are able to weather eBay’s storm of changes. For the rest, the reality is they are out of business. That is why I agree with you that eBay sellers MUST seek venues elsewhere in order to survive and to thrive in a difficult ecommerce environment.

I don’t think Meg was driven out, only because she’s about 100 X smarter than John Donahoe. She built Ebay into the powerhouse it became then it’s growth stalled (Wallstreet-wise) and Meg moved on probably more out of boredom than anything else. She had stated at one time that Ebay pretty much ran itself.

Than JD entered with all kinds of exciting plans to re-engerize the site. It’s obviously not panning out. In fact, most of his decisions are just plain stupid. At least Wallstreet is starting to notice. But Brews is right-most of us will soon be out of business, but not before Ebay is done toying with us and picking our pockets clean.

I do not understand how this is legal for Paypal to do in every single country that Paypal is available in…..?

I used to run a successful drop ship business on ebay for 7 years and my items were in the risky category so payment holds happened, buyers were never notified of the hold by Paypal or ebay. Why aren’t buyers notified by ebay or Paypal when they are the ones holding the payment?

This policy killed my business as it conflicted with drop shipping and my 30 day credit terms with my distributors.
I even had Top Seller Management at ebay tell me numerous times that my payments would not be held and then say it was an automated technical issue.

So many tech issues on ebay and Paypal – yet no emails from either company apologizing or explaining the issues and how it may cause delays.

I am now looking at bankruptcy as I live in a small Canadian town with high unemployment. My ebay business supported my wife, 2 year old and new born baby. We decided to have another child because my ebay business made it possible to do so.
Not anymore.

eBay is contributing to the downturn in the worldwide economy and I can’t believe that any government can not do anything about it.

I am talking with a lawyer over the financial and emotional hardship ebay.inc has me and my family.
They will not get away with this.

All the recent changes are a long-shot, desperate attempt to reverse eBay’s falling stock value. So far, the long-shot is proving to be only precipitating the fall.
Basically, eBay’s decided that auctions are passe and if they can’t compete with Amazon, they have not much to loose at this point. They know very well about sellers shifting their focus to other options, but they’re thinking, oh, well, it can’t get much worse than a $14 stock, we’re most likely done here unless a miracle happens and we can actually become an Amazon competitor, and so they’re focusing on acquisitions instead (they just bought a couple of advertising companies in Europe).
I think it will be several other companies that will fill out the gap once eBay becomes as “relevant” as Half.com is(because they’re NOT going to defeat Amazon). Amazon will continue to control the media categories, and other companies will do it right within their niche market, such as Etsy.

All I’m hoping for is 1 more year to continue with the volume we do on eBay, while continuing our transition to Amazon.

Look into Worthpoint.com, Bill is a well intentioned Sprint exectutive,a person that wants the best for sellers.

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