Ebay Trust and Safety could learn something from the NY Subway Graffiti Problem

Posted on July 14, 2009. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , |

Graffiti Arrests

In the late 1970s, the crime was escalating out of control on the New York subways.  However, New York transit police representatives were issuing reports to the public claiming that crime on the subways was actually declining.  Several news organizations questionned the reality of the declining crime statistics, especially at the end of 1978.  The Daily News claimed that even transit cops were afraid to patrol the 42nd Street / 8th Avenue station, one of the first stations to get closed circuit television installed.   

During all of 1978, there were nine murders on the NY subway system.  In just the first two months of 1979 there were six murders.   The public was not convinced that that crime was declining on the subways.

According to the Transit Police Chief  at the time, Sanford Garelik,  crime on the NY subways were not as bad as the crime on the streets of New York.  The Chief insisted that it was the “perception of rampant crime” that was making people fearful.  He further stated that he believed the fear was exaggerated because adults were simply not comfortable riding in confined spaces with young people who are “loud, long haired and casually dressed”.

Despite being told that the subways were becoming safer and that their fear was unfounded, the public knew the truth because they lived it.  And the newspapers were anxious to publicly tell the stories of individuals who were suffering.  Suddenly the victims had faces and the country cried out in anger.  On March 6th, 1979, Mayor Koch demanded action rather than words and six months later Garelik was eventually fired when he wouldn’t resign. 

By that time, the NY police were recording more than  250 felonies on the subway system every week, a crime rate in excess of all other mass transit networks in the world.   The NY subways were not safe and by now it was clear to everyone, not just the NY riders who had been the victims for years, that the crime on the subways was simply out of hand.    

What did it ultimately take for New York to reduce the crime problem on the subways?  Someone with some intelligence and not an overinflated ego finally asked “the folks in the trenches” to give input as to how the problem could be solved.  Many cops revealed that they had been directed by their bosses to only seek out and deal with the most serious crimes and to ignore the “quality of life” crimes.  According to those cops, there was a major flaw with that strategy.  By ignoring the less serious crimes, you cannot establish a sense of order.

And, so it was decided that New York police would take all crimes seriously despite many objections from some higher ranking police officers.  And the decision was made to start with a crime that was clearly visible to everyone and which symbolized the subway crime problem — graffiti. 

The Transit Authority’s anti-graffiti budget was substantially increased.  The police began closely guarding train yards and made the more favored graffiti painting areas inaccessible.  Graffiti removal was a top priority.  Every morning, the Transit Authority pulled off the line any car that had been tagged the night before and it was put back into service only when the graffiti had been removed.

Tackling the graffiti problem on the subway was the first step in the plan for the Transit Authority taking back control of the New York subway system.  It sent a signal to everyone, especially the felons, that crime of any kind would not be tolerated. 

Establishing a sense of order began with recognizing the very root of the problem, that less serious crime was being ignored which created an atmosphere of lawlessness, and then empowering the Transit Authority cops and NY police to deal with all crime.

This recap of the New York city subway crime problem and the subsequent solution can be directly related to eBay.  It is widely acknowledged, even by eBay, there is a “trust” issue with the eBay marketplace.  The lack of trust in the eBay marketplace leads buyers to shop elsewhere but it also leads sellers who mistrust eBay to list their unique wares elsewhere online.  eBay has taken many steps to try and establish trust in the marketplace again.  But I believe eBay is ignoring the very root of the problem:

1. eBay changes the rules so frequently, and until recently, with very little warning so it is difficult for most users to keep up.  As a result, many eBay users violate policy unintentionally but, even so, are treated like a criminal element if they get caught violating a rule.  Personally, I was issued a policy violation warning in 2008 for a policy that had not yet been enacted and, even worse, had not yet been announced.  Several hours after my listings were removed and I received a policy violation warning email, eBay announced a new policy banning ebooks that was to take effect the following week.  I had not violated a policy yet the policy violation warning stayed on my record and my listings were never reinstated.

2. eBay knowingly overlooks some sellers’ infractions.  There is a post on the eBay Powerseller board titled “eBay now removes negative feedback for Diamond powersellers” which is a very passionate dicussion of how eBay has allowed one new seller (only 20 feedback) to violate multiple policies.  And this is not the first time eBay users have pointed out the unfair application of the policies and some large / favored sellers blatant disregard of the rules — in the past there was such a loud outcry over one airline company breaking the rules that eBay did ultimately take action.  It is one thing to give pricing incentives and better search placement to favored sellers but it is another thing altogether to allow them to brazenly violate the rules.

3. eBay is a self-reporting system which means that an eBay member reports a possible violation of another eBay member and Trust & Safety investigates.  The problem is that Trust & Safety is obviously too busy to investigate lower level policy violations, like keyword spamming, and even when eBay Trust & Safety has the inclination to investigate it is usually too late especially if the listing was in the auction format which ends in a short period of time.  As a result, eBay members often times give up reporting or harbor deep resentment and frustration.

Because of eBay’s adhoc and inconsistent application of the rules, there is a sense of “lawlessness” in the eBay marketplace which leads to a distrustful marketplace.  Granted that the days of the eBay Wild West, when eBay was “only a marketplace”, are finally over but eBay users violate policies and little is done.   

It seems that eBay has issued the same orders to Trust and Safety as the NY police issued to the Transit Authority cops: ignore the lower level rulebreakers and focus only on the most serious offenders who violate the most serious rules.

I personally have reported policy violations where no action is taken.  For example, for MONTHS I reported a sellers who was telling people to go visit his website (and he gave the URL) for cheaper prices and better selection.  Nothing was ever done.  After several months, I reported the violation to my TSAM and action was finally taken. 

However, the seller removed the URL, which was in huge font and bright bold coloring, in only a few listings (the ones reported) but did not remove them in any other listings.  Weeks later, he was required to remove them in a few more listings, which he did, but at the same time he put the URL back into the original listings that were first reported.  However, he did put the URL in a different location without the huge bold colorful font.  So, the seller (a large Powerseller) clearly was aware of the policy but chose to continue to violate the rules until he was caught and required to make the change.  And this is commonplace. 

Many sellers, especially large sellers, knowingly violate policy.  They have learned that eBay does not take lower level policy violations seriously and even higher level policy violation notices are issued rarely.  Thus, eBay’s inaction perpetuates the lawlessness in the marketplace.

For eBay to truly develop a marketplace that is trustworthy they will need to enforce ALL the rules ALL the time for ALL members.  If it is important enough for eBay to create a particular policy then surely it is important enough for eBay to enforce that rule.  To do otherwise sends a signal to everyone that eBay tolerates rulebreakers and dishonesty.  eBay can issue all sorts of press releases, complete with convincing statistics, touting just how safe the eBay marketplace has become and that might impress the analysts.  However, real users of the eBay system (just like the real users of the NY subway system) are acutely aware of the truth when it comes to eBay Trust and Safety.

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

7 Responses to “Ebay Trust and Safety could learn something from the NY Subway Graffiti Problem”

RSS Feed for TheBrewsNews Comments RSS Feed

Dead on. Absolutely dead on analysis.

The PTB do not understand why their lackadaisical, nonsensical, and sometimes willful neglectful, enforcement of the rules harms the marketplace. All they see are dollars and cents. Real T&S costs money. Side deals make them money. So they don’t bother with the pesky rules.

I hope the PTB read your article… it will tell them exactly why, to use your phrase, “they will need to enforce ALL the rules ALL the time for ALL members”.

I would love to see a disgruntled ideeli insider reveal the terms of their ebay value proposition.

Like Jack Shen who was openly ‘protected’ very large sellers are rarely bothered with being required to follow policy.

A perfect example is the eBay employee who had not bothered to remove the cash check or money order wording from his/her 1200+ listings.

Cash has been forbidden for years, ask me how I know. There was a time when I had 2500 individual multi-item listings. I was struggling to edit each listing manually doing maybe 100 a day and someone reported me. I had every one of my listings deleted. Not only the approximately 500 remaining with the word cash in them. All my listings were taken down and deleted, the majority of which were in full compliance.

Yet here we are, years later, and an eBay employee has in the listing they accept cash, check or MO.

Henrietta, thanks for the walk down memory lane. I, too, remember the days when one small infraction in even one auction description would result in 100% of your eBay listings disappearing. And I was never a fan of turbo lister so I would have to start over from scratch every time. Yes, those certainly were the days.

[…] gerieten die Verbrechen in den New Yorker Untergrundbahnen außer Kontrolle, so beginnt ein Artikel auf der Webseite von thebrewsnews.com. Doch was hat das mit eBay zu tun? Ganz einfach, der Autor […]

[…] eBay sellers frequently break rules and learn over time that eBay does not take lower level policy violations seriously and even higher level policy violation notices are issued rarely.  As a result, the message sellers receive is that eBay tolerates rulebreakers and dishonesty on the eBay site.  More detailed information can be read in my blog post titled “eBay Could Learn Something from the NY Subway Graffiti Problem” by clicking  HERE    […]

Ebay now beats down non policy violations and treat them as real violations to tout the big numbers.I list vintage red lights for firetrucks,They are noted as an exception to the law enfprcement policy,2 were pulled in 2 weeks,I was ignored for 1 more week til finally speaking with T&S who after 25mins on hold said,Tough it’s a violation.While a large powerseller lists new police sirens,Blantent violation,reported 6x and it stayed up the entire 30 days.Ebay are liars cons and theives.PS fees are forfeited for this violation.Surprise!Its corporate greed favoritism and plain rackateering.

Where's The Comment Form?


    The BrewsNews information blog about online sales, eBay, Amazon, Bonanzle and oh so much more!


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET News.com
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


  • Archives

  • Top Posts

  • Most Recent Comment

  • Calendar of Posts

    July 2009
    M T W T F S S
    « Jun   Aug »
  • Topics

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: