One Seller’s Comments About the eBay Ban on Ivory Sales

Posted on October 22, 2008. Filed under: eBayInkBlog | Tags: , , , |


On the eBayInk Blog, a recent article titled eBay to Institute Global Ban on Ivory Sales announced that sellers on the eBay site will soon be banned from selling most ivory items.  The article went on to state the reasons for the ban.  I won’t comment about how I feel about the specific policy but I want to make a few observations from the viewpoint of a business person who happens to sell on eBay:

1. I am a business, just as eBay is a business, and when I make decisions that affects others I do my very best to give them as much “lead-time” as possible.  In this case, eBay gets high marks from me for announcing the new policy BEFORE it goes into effect thereby giving sellers time to make the adjustment.  That has not always been the case as this year eBay has enforced unannounced policies creating much frustration within the seller community.  IF eBay holds to the timetable they publicly state in the article and does NOT begin enforcing the policy earlier than stated (which eBay also has had a history of doing) then I would say that eBay has been a responsible steward.  One note, however, is that I think there should be a formal announcement on the eBay website itself as not all sellers read the eBayInk blog faithfully like I do.

2. In my business, I make decisions that will hopefully increase my profitability but I also consider what I am willing to do to make money within an ethical and moral framework that I have established for myself.  There are some very profitable products that I choose not to sell, for example, because I do not feel that line of product is right for my business.  I always say that if I could not stand in front of my children’s classroom and describe what I do and what I sell with pride then I shouldn’t be selling it.  My decisions and the choices I make for my business are mine alone to make because I have to live with the results of those actions.  I would never question someone else’s business decision that was based on their moral or ethical beliefs just as I would never want them to question mine.  eBay has decided that they do not want ivory sold on their site and that is their choice to make. 

3. eBay is obvsiously struggling to define itself and one consideration for them is probably how eBay can transform the site into a platform that is less risky than it has been.  The risk for everyone – buyers, sellers, and eBay themselves – have been incredibly high, too high in fact.  Not only is eBay removing poorly performing sellers to reduce the risk that a buyer will have a bad experience but eBay is having to consider legal risks and ramifications that it may never have had to face before.  The legal battles eBay has both won and lost this year have been expensive and have surely taken a toll.  It is no wonder that eBay would ban the sale of ivory rather than spend considerable amounts of effort, both time and money, to make sure all sellers are in compliance with the legal requirements.  So eBay probably views the ban as a good business decision as well as good moral decision.

From the viewpoint of an eBay seller, I appreciate eBay’s efforts to make a public announcement to explain the reasons for the policy change.  And, most importantly, I applaud eBay’s decision to give sellers notice before implementing a new policy which could materially affect some sellers who currently offer ivory items on the eBay site.  I do not always agree with eBay’s decisions but I understand their need to make changes to their site.  This time, eBay has earned my respect for the way in which this new policy was announced. 


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