eBay: Home to Those Who Do Not Have to Follow the Rules & to Those Who Do Not Care Whether They Follow the Rules

Posted on September 3, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Last year I wrote a blog post titled “How did eBay Become the Company Everybody Loves to Hate?” (click HERE for that article) and in it I classified sellers into three groups – Hobby Sellers, Profit Sellers, and Scammer Sellers.  And I described how each of these groups were being affected by the changes eBay was implementing and how profit sellers, in particular, began looking for alternate channels many years ago.

Today, I would say there is a new classification system for eBay sellers who are currently selling on the platform.  I would classify current eBay sellers into one of the five main groups below:

Diamond and High Profile Sellers
These sellers have built a business outside eBay and are being courted by eBay who is offering them financial incentives to list their items on the site.  These Diamond and High Profile sellers generally do not have experience selling on eBay which is a very unique venue and sometimes their reputation on eBay suffers as a result.  Or the Diamond / High Profile seller’s goal is to use eBay as a place to find new buyers for their off-eBay business and, thus, they direct buyers to their site(s) outside eBay.

Multichannel Sellers in need of a Liquidation Channel
Many ecommerce sellers who were once eBay-only sellers have found profitable venues outside of eBay.  A multichannel seller needs profitable channels, such as their own website and Amazon, but often times also needs a channel where they can liquidate their stale inventory.  eBay serves Multichannel sellers well in that respect.

Reluctant eBay Sellers Who Have No Place Else to Go
I talk to MANY current eBay sellers who sell on eBay reluctantly.  They tell me all the time that they would go elsewhere if they could.  Some eBay sellers cannot sell on Amazon because of Amazon’s restricted categories.  Some categories have not yet been created on Amazon.  And some eBay sellers tell me that there simply is no demand for their product outside of eBay.  To put it simply, these sellers are “stuck” on eBay with no way out.

Leftover Sellers Who Are Not Wanted Elsewhere
This group of current eBay sellers are quite an interesting bunch.  These are sellers who could sell elsewhere and many of them have tried selling elsewhere but they are not welcome on alternate platforms.  These sellers don’t like to follow the rules and are always looking for an unfair advantage.  For example, for one brand I sell I have seen many current eBay sellers try their hand at selling on Amazon but they do silly things like put their website URL on the picture they upload to Amazon or they put the words “Free Shipping” in the title which is not allowed since all sellers on Amazon share the same picture and title.  These type of sellers don’t last long on Amazon.  But they are more than welcome on eBay.  A search of the top 24 eBay stores for one brand that I carry revealed something very interesting.  Among the list, my store was included as well as one store that I had reported previously for having their URL in their listings in huge bold font.  The seller removed the URL temporarily then put it back in their description in smaller font and in a different place.  Eventually, because of me reporting the seller repeatedly to my TSAM, the seller was forced to conform to eBay policy.   So, of the 22 remaining top stores for the brand, at least 8 had serious violations.  Among the violators, one seller is making homemade items that he is advertising as a major brand (these are not just copycats but rather these are items that the manufacturer never even made) and one has a huge portion of his listing devoted to his phone number, email address, and information on how to join his email newsletter mailing list (off ebay) to get good deals on future purchases.  Of course I have reported both of these sellers in the past multiple times but nothing was ever done.  eBay welcomes these sellers with open arms, the same sellers who are not welcome on more reputable and trustworthy sites like Amazon.

Newbie sellers
New eBay sellers are probably the rarest of the bunch because they don’t survive long.  Learning the technical ins-and-outs of eBay is time-consuming and then it is almost impossible to become educated on the myriad of every-changing eBay rules and policies.  For those that at least manage to get some things listed without violating too many major policies in the beginning, there is then the issue of having to navigate the new PayPal policies of 21-day holds.  And, if that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of shark buyers out there waiting to prey on the uninformed newbie.  Too many times new sellers are elated at their $300 or $400 sale where the buyer pays quickly only to learn after the fact that if they didn’t purchase signature confirmation then the buyer will automatically win an INR claim from PayPal.  The “educated” buyer is able to get quite a few free items from newbie eBay sellers.  Most newbie sellers give up quickly since the cost to learn to sell on eBay far exceeds their initial expectations.  Most new eBay sellers expect to begin making a profit right as they come out of the selling gate and, thus, they are shocked when their Paypal funds are held and they begin losing money to unscrupulous buyers who are just waiting to take advantage of them.

If you really break down eBay sellers into the classifications above, it is easier to see why eBay is having such a tough time creating new seller policies and new seller requirements that will motivate sellers to perform in the way eBay wants or thinks that sellers should perform.  After all, one group of sticks and carrots that will motivate the Reluctant eBay Seller with No Place Else to Go won’t necessarily motivate the Leftover Sellers since the Leftover sellers will spend more time and energy trying to figure out ways to circumvent new policies rather than to conform to new policies.  Or they will simply ignore the new policies since it is doubtful that eBay will take any action. 

What I am hearing lately from eBay sellers is something like this: “I just read that eBay is coming out with some new policies.  Recently eBay made me remove the wording in my listings where I said I would accept checks and money orders and when I had to remove that wording I went ahead and included some things that were less than flattering about how I feel about eBay’s new payment policy.  And now eBay says that I can’t have that type of wording since it is too negative.  Well, I am tired of revising my auctions.  I’ll  just let the auctions go until eBay forcibly removes the listing…. which might be never.”

So, even those eBay sellers who haven’t been rule breakers in the past (they dutifully revised their listings again and again and again with each new policy announcement throughout 2008 and 2009) are beyond the point of caring anymore about policy compliance.  And since it is common knowledge that eBay doesn’t take action against 99.99% of the rulebreakers, sellers who are tired of all the rule changes and tired of revising their listings are not really motivated to comply with the new policies. 

Every time eBay creates new policies that require sellers to revise each of their listings individually, there is more of a risk that good sellers will abandon eBay.  A good seller, who feels compelled to follow the rules, will consider starting over on a new venue when faced with the task of having to revise their listings for the third time in a year.  The eBay seller who isn’t worried about complying with the new rules will just continue selling on eBay with the same auction description.  So, again, it is the conscientious seller who is the one motivated to leave eBay.

One of my most visited and popular blog posts ever is titled “eBay Trust and Safety could Learn Something from the NY Subway Graffiti Problem (click  HERE to read that article).  In that article I stated “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.”

The sellers who have choices on where they can sell and the sellers who are conscientious in following the rules are the ones who are abandoning eBay in favor of spending their effort starting over elsewhere rather than spending their time revising old eBay listings. 

And those who are staying behind after all the rule changes and will not be changing their listings once again to comply with new policies can be divided into two groups: those who do not have to follow the rules (the Diamond sellers and/or high profile sellers) and those who simply do not care whether they follow the rules for whatever reason — whether they want an unfair advantage by knowingly breaking the rules or whether they are just tired of revising their eBay listings repeatedly  for 2 years straight.  After this latest round of announced eBay policy changes go into effect, perhaps I will add a new seller classification to my list above called the “Apathetic eBay Seller”.  Many eBay sellers I know have simply stopped caring anymore.

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5 Responses to “eBay: Home to Those Who Do Not Have to Follow the Rules & to Those Who Do Not Care Whether They Follow the Rules”

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People ask me about getting started selling on eBay, and I reply to them: don’t bother. Put me in the Reluctant-yet-reforming category.

One little victory for me though; for the first time yesterday I sold more on my website than I did on eBay for the day. And so the fight carries on.

To other Reluctant sellers: it really is true- there is life after eBay.

Here is one more catagory: the Cash Flow Sellers. Back in the day, Randy Smythe wrote about large sellers who are “addicted to the ebay crack” of cash flow. So true, now more so than ever.

Many sellers are way past the hope of turning a profit on ebay but they are still doing enough close-to-break-even-revenue to keep paying themselves enough to live on. Meaning, the P/L statement is at a permanent net loss and if they close up shop, they will have to declare bankruptcy or be stuck with paralyizing debt. They aren’t making any money, they are just moving money around.

Best Match/Fixed Price in October 2009 killed all exposure for countless sellers….and all that is left is “the crack”

I accepted that I couldn’t compete against sellers who weren’t making any money but weren’t going to ever go away. I now only sell in a small niche on ebay; in time, it will likely only become a hobby business but that’s OK. That’s what ebay is counting on from sellers like me anyway….

““For eBay to truly develop a marketplace that is trustworthy they will need to enforce ALL the rules ALL the time for ALL members.”

Ah, but if you seriously intend to enforce your rules then you have to be careful about not making too many rules or unenforceable rules. You have to think ahead what you want. The hazard of over-regulation is that it turns everybody into a rule-breaker and engenders contempt for the rules. If you are planning to set up a tyranny, that may be fine with you, because now you have cause to punish anybody as a rule-breaker if you want. Not that I think eBay planned to become a tyranny. I think they just blundered into the situation.

Count me in as a reluctant eBay sellers. Antiques still do well at auction, and no other site has the volume of eBay. Amazon is not an option for antiques either.

what i want to know is WHAT THE HELL DO I DO AND WHERE DO I GO!! i keep trying to give ebay the benefit of the doubt but this month takes the cake….. $700 sales $458.55 in fees and that does not include the paypal fees. With all the competition from counterfieit sellers and chinese crap i am basically SCREWED!!! And i feel that i have no where else to go.
I am starting a facebook page.. i know LAME.. but people seem to take notice of facebook groups once they get large enough.. so i am going to give it a go, maybe they might take out at least 2/3 of hte killer fees for stores.. listing gallery and subtitle fees. at least if you only pay on what you sell you can work that. Can i ask though as i am not so computer litterate… would it bepossible to start our own worldwide market place without so many of hte fees? i know i am a hopeless dreamer who is always looking for the utopian society.. but can we make it ourselves?

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