eBay Town Hall: What They Did NOT Say about PayPal Email Notifications

Posted on February 26, 2009. Filed under: eBay, Paypal | Tags: , , , , |

Yesterday afternoon I listened to the eBay Town Hall meeting.  I noticed (a) Lee went out of her way to thank callers and repeated how much eBay appreciated their comments, the (b) the irritating speech pattern “and so” was noticably absent when eBay employees responded to questions, (c) the topics were limited to those that had been announced in advance, and (d) the respondents appeared to give much more thought and take more care in answering questions.  In summary, eBay made more effort to control the dialogue and also to appear less harsh and more caring about sellers. 

But one very important point about the Town Hall yesterday was that I actually gathered more information about what was NOT said than what actually was said.  I will give an example of what I mean.  One caller asked why couldn’t eBay / PayPal have notified us in advance about the recent change in email notifications and why didn’t eBay take the time to explain why those changes were necessary.  The caller stated that most eBay sellers would not have been so upset had we been able to understand the need for the change and had we also been informed of the change. 

eBay’s response to the caller was that because there are so many changes happening on the platform that it is not always possible to notify sellers of all the changes.  No reason at all was given as to why the email notification changes were made.

PayPal made drastic changes to their email notification systen and they won’t say why the changes were necessary.   Sellers then must speculate why the changes were made.  So, I will speculate.

 NOTE: If you are not aware of what changed about the PayPal email notification you can read my blog post titled “PayPal Email Notifications Have a New Look” by clicking HERE

1. Disruptive Changes Made to Disadvantage Sellers who do Not Use PayPal to Create Shipping Labels

In the new PayPal email notifications, the email font is smaller and many parts of the email are a very light grey shade making it incredibly difficult to read, thus increasing the possibility of errors.  And many sellers who previously used to click on the SHIP TO address to paste into shipping software such as Endicia are now unable to do so easily.  It requires more steps to do so now. 

eBay/PayPal has now made it more difficult for sellers to ship packages and has increased the likelihood that errors will be made.  Why would eBay do that?  Well, either because eBay is ignorant and didn’t realize the changes would cause more work for sellers or because eBay made the “disruptive” changes on purpose. 

I could make the argument that eBay / PayPal made the “disruptive” changes on purpose.  The changes only disadvantage sellers who do not use PayPal to create their shipping labels.  Sellers who use USPS Click and Ship or Endicia, for example, are adversely affected by the changes but PayPal users are not. 

And to support my statement that eBay purposely disrupted sellers’ businesses (those who do not use PayPal to print shipping labels), let’s remember another previous change that was made in 2008 that also disadvantaged all sellers who do not use PayPal to create shipping labels.

On August 10, 2008 I wrote an article titled “eBay Order Details Page Leaves Buyers in the Dark” which can be read by clicking HERE  .  In that article I stated:

 A few weeks ago I noticed a substantial increase in the number of eBay buyers who emailed us to inquire about their order status.  What I learned through my communication with one buyer who traded screenshots with me, was that the shipping date was showing on the seller’s side of the transaction but was not viewable on the buyer’s Order Details Page.  A few days later I noticed that no Shipping Date was being shown on the Order Details page for me either.

Previously, the Shipping Date appeared on the line right below the shipping cost (where the red block is on the screenshot below):

When I saw that the Ship Date no longer appeared, I thought that eBay was experiencing another glitch, one of several new glitches that occur daily.  I waited a few days and when the glitch continued, I called eBay Powerseller Support.  What I learned was that there was no glitch but rather a planned eBay change.  eBay removed the Shipping Date on the Order Details page EXCEPT for sellers who print labels using PayPal.

If eBay thinks that they can get a seller like me to switch to using PayPal labels simply because they are making it more difficult for me NOT to do so, they are mistaken.  Their efforts to coerce me to change will not make me switch but instead will just continue to frustrate me and anger me every time I have an eBay sale.

2. Increased page views, which are good for eBay, are one result of the new changes. 

Because the description line is no longer “clickable”, eBay sellers now have to view 2 pages (first eBay.com then the page with the item description which is viewed only after the seller types in the auction number) instead of one page.  Many sellers, including myself, use the clickable link to view the description prior to shipping.  Again, eBay/PayPal has made another disruptive change which increases sellers’ workload while the disruptive change benefits eBay.

3. eBay is attempting to sever the directly link between buyer and seller and to instead increase the branding of eBay and PayPal.

The payment notification says “Please do not reply to this email.  This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response.”  Many sellers are reporting that they are already receiving emails with the return address of service @PayPal.com rather than the buyer’s email address.  Soon, I predict that all payment notifications to buyers and sellers will be devoid of the any return address other than the paypal one.  No more one click to respond to the buyer or seller directly which makes it much more difficult for buyers and sellers to communicate. 

And given that the PayPal logo on the email notification did not fade or shrink when the font size of the buyer’s address got smaller and less readable, and given that a new eBay logo now appears on the payment notification, it is evident what eBay / PayPal value most in the notification — their branding not the seller’s ability to easily and correctly get the package to the buyer.  

4. It’s all talk.

Despite eBay’s words about 2009 being the year that eBay will help to improve seller efficiency and despite all the talk about how eBay wants to “partner” with their sellers, it is simply that — it’s all talk.  And it’s all about eBay. 

eBay has trust issues: First, eBay does not trust sellers.  It is more than obvious by the policies they have put in place and by their actions and even in Pierre’s own words (when he said that sellers often times ask for things that are not good for themselves).  eBay does not trust sellers to be smart business people, to be good eBay citizens, or to take care of their customers without being under constant threat to do so.  Second, sellers do not trust eBay.  eBay has broken the trust so many times in the past with sellers that eBay has absolutely no credibility with us anymore.  None.  Zero.  Zip. 

Given that eBay doesn’t trust sellers and that sellers don’t trust eBay, I believe that eBay feels that they must make all decisions and create all policies with the intent of doing absolutely what is best for eBay despite the impact it has on sellers.  If it affects sellers negatively then so be it.  eBay is looking out for themselves (only) because that is what they believe they must do in order to survive when, in reality, if eBay would help sellers succeed then eBay would surely succeed as well.

Nothing is going to stop the downward death spiral of eBay until they have faith in their sellers and trust that sellers want to do the right thing.  Every policy that eBay makes that creates more hardship for sellers and that forces a bigger wedge between buyers and sellers is only going to hurt the eBay marketplace, not help it.  And it definitely won’t create a stronger eBay brand.

eBay may be trying to talk to us via Town Hall Meetings but they are failing miserably.  The excuse that eBay can’t keep us informed in advance of the changes because eBay is too busy making so many changes is unacceptable.  eBay has time to make cosmetic changes to the bulletin boards and to the eBay Main Street page but they don’t have time to keep us informed about changes they are making that directly impact our business today?  

I am especially disturbed that eBay chooses not to explain why the changes are necessary when I can only speculate the changes are made to benefit eBay exclusively while at the same time create more disruption and increased workload for me. 

When eBay is silent and don’t communicate with sellers, we are upset and with good reason.  But, then again, when eBay opens their mouth and talks we get upset (and rightly so, in my opinion).  So, what’s the solution?  I would suggest that eBay stop talking about all the great things they are going to do for us (sometime in the future) and all the many buyers they plan on bringing to the marketplace (sometime in the future) and instead roll up their sleeves and get busy.  

And since I’m not holding my breath that eBay will mend the broken relationship with sellers or take any actions that will actually going to improve my business on eBay I am continuing on with building my business outside of eBay.   If I am going to have to work harder then I certainly want to put my effort into increasing my bottom line rather than working more hours on eBay simply to accomplish the same sales as before. 

It is still way too early to give a year in review but one possible title in the running for December 2009 blog post is

eBay 2009: The Year of Increased Seller Inefficiency for Those Sellers who Won’t Implement eBay’s Best Practices (you know, the best practices of only using PayPal to Print Shipping Labels, always Offering Free Shipping Worldwide via the fastest service possible — like express mail, Leaving All Buyers Glowing Positive Feedback the minute they Pay, and Giving Partial Refunds after-the-fact to Anyone Who Asks for Whatever Reason)

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9 Responses to “eBay Town Hall: What They Did NOT Say about PayPal Email Notifications”

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This informative piece only makes me glad that I left eBay a year ago. More disruption, more spin, more trust in meeee, more work, stress and anxiety for sellers.

It is way past time eBay started sourcing and shipping their own product as Amazon does, let them walk in our shoes.

Meanwhile, my shoes walked me away and after a tough 2008 my books tell me ‘nothing but good times ahead’ even in the present economy.

Whaddya know? More than they do that’s for sure.

Re the ‘hard to read’ font on Paypal payment notification emails, change your Paypal email receiving preferences from HTML to Plain Text – problem solved 😉

Eddie, I have tried both ways (with HTML and without) and frankly I don’t know which one is worse. It’s true that without HTML, the font is bigger but the page is so incredible busy and so unorganized that it is clunky to read. I can’t say that it is any more “readable” in the non-HTML version.

And none of the other problems (like not having clickable links) are resolved in the non-HTML version.

Again, both options (with HTML or without HTML) create more work for me than the previous version. So, eBay’s “improvement” is only an improvement for them but is a big step backward for sellers who do not use PayPal to create shipping labels.

the NEW Ebay
the sight is running much slower, bogged down by ads, new tech stuff that dosent add a thing to a veteran buyers experience.
the number of items up for auction, the format that built this sight are significantly lower, per plan?
the customer service has turned into a joke.
the new search, and myebay tools are also slowed down by useless new tech
And I for having a distint negative opinion on these issues have became an enemy of the corporate ebay community.
you can block me, suspend me or ignore me but you cant change the truth.

I believe you are correct: The change is the PayPal e-mails was done to disadvantage sellers and to further distance sellers from buyers.

I would not be surprised if eBay had a group of 20-something MBAs (with no actual business experience) locked in a room somewhere with orders to find a way to completely sever the seller buyer relationship – to not give (those nasty terrible) sellers buyer’s e-mail addresses or even ship-to addresses. Far-fetched? Maybe not, as we know eBay is looking into its own fulfillment service.

Every change eBay makes benefits eBay only – and that includes the latest change to SOUND more seller friendly. They talk, talk, talk… but none of it is real.

There is a serious trust issue. I frankly don’t know if there is ANYTHING that eBay could do in the short term to earn my trust back.

Meanwhile I continue to work very hard to expand my business off of eBay.

As an eBay seller these changes over the past year are quite disturbing. It’s actually making it easier for scammers to have goods delivered then get refunded via Paypal.

Quote: “The changes only disadvantage sellers who do not use PayPal to create their shipping labels.”

Doesn’t that include EVERY seller who is not a resident of North America?

The other problem that needs addressing is that address lines run into each other without commas. This means that a locality finishing with a South, is not formatted differently to a state starting with a South. (EG: Vermont South Victoria vs Rapid City South Dakota). With the lack of format to these addresses, anyone who hand writes the addresses on their parcels without a sound knowledge of worldwide geography stands to incorrectly address some items. I now have to Google sections of some addresses to make sure that I have formatted them correctly and put either commas or line breaks in the correct position.


I couldn’t agree more with your write-up of the reason behind the changes. It is a lame attempt to force sellers to use the paypal shipping option. It won’t work. It just irritates me more, which is clearly their objective, which is perplexing. The new eBay is an unmitigated disaster. The system is painfully slow and every time or call or email they ‘blame the victim’. The problem is my computer, my memory, my cookies, etc. All of which are a joke. Every other website I use works fine. eBay is managed by a bunch of buffoons.

The recent Ebay “Town Hall” was shocking to hear. Ebay’s massive detachment from reality and disconnect from the disaster that is ebay 2009 is inexplicable.

The “Town Hall” could have been from May of 2008 when the ebay execs told everyone how great the new changes were even though they punished honest sellers, driving them away from the site).

The “Town Hall” ebay execs were clueless. No, they were somewhere way beyond clueless.

By the time of the February 2009 “Town Hall”, ebay has had months to see all the many ways the May 2008 changes are failing; they’ve had many chances to hear the anger of sellers expressed in every way possible, they have had many chances to witness the flight of sellers to other sites and many chances to read the many online critiques of ebay’s current “management”.

Their response – “La, la la, la, everything is beautiful at the circus.”

Of particular note were the “Town Hall” words of the architect of ebay’s severely flawed feedback changes, Brian “A neutral rating is a negative rating because it isn’t a positive rating” Burke.

Black is white because it isn’t red.

He still maintains that there is something ethical about telling buyers that a “4” Detailed Seller rating for a seller while punishing/suspending any ebay seller with a “4” average Detailed Seller Rating.

Black is white because it isn’t red.

Burke also believes that an ebay buyer who does not pay for an ebay item should be able to leave an ebay seller negative feedback for an auction never completed. That’s like saying a consumer can sue a retailer for a slip and fall accident when the consumer never entered the retailer’s store.

Black is white because it isn’t red.

As has happened in past “Town Halls” a seller phoned in with his own statistics showing how the May 2008 changes have damaged his ebay business. And as in similar past calls, Burke quickly hauled out the data, saying ebay’s “research” showed that the seller’s real world experience hadn’t happened or was an anomaly.

Black is white because it isn’t red.

Well you know ebay, you could roll around in facts all day long…

Amazing that none of the ebay execs behind this train wreck have been removed from the site for poor performance.

Sad that some wise long time ebay execs who understood the site have fled. Even the creator of ebay’s disastrous new “Search”, Raghav Gupta, left. He maintains that ebay is misusing his creation. His parting shot to his former colleagues at ebay was a poem titled “Ode to Ebay” in which he wrote.

As with all blinding power
The custodians went slowly sour
Took the community for granted
Seeds of dissent met with dour
The ecosystem was finally salted.

Black is white because it isn’t red.

Ebay is bad because ebay isn’t good.

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