eBay Employees vs eBay Sellers: Definition of Success Depends on Perspective

Posted on May 14, 2010. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , , , |

This morning I logged into Twitter and I noticed a rather lengthy series of tweets from the host of eBay Radio, Jim Griffith.  The posts were filled with sensationalism by listing dollar amounts in the thousands, and some in the hundreds of thousands, along with links to the eBay listings.

Then, after the listings, Griff stated “And what do all of these eBay listings have in common? ALL of them were Collectibles. And, nearly all of them were listed by SMALL SELLERS.”

He follwed up  with “Now, let’s all plan to celebrate these and the millions of other successes on eBay every day by meeting up in Las Vegas on June 23 and 24th for a big fun educational 2nd Annual eBay Radio Party!”

So, then, Jim Griffith directly said was that all the listings examples he provided were successful collectibles listings from mostly small sellers.  My curiousity got the better of me so I checked out the listings.  I wanted to know how Griff defined successful collectible listings.  But because my definition of “successful” does not include current listings, I only reviewed the listings that had already ended.  The reason being is that a current listing could still be ended by eBay or the seller and without knowing the final price yet of the listing it wouldn’t really be fair to evaluate the successfulness of the listing.


Were the listings “ALL collectibles” as Griff had stated?

eBay has a collectibles category where one would expect all of the “successful collectibles listings” to be found.  However, Griff included in the list several auctions which where anything but collectible items.  Some of these listings were:

330431040306 Jewelry – new diamond ring

360246023773 Clothing Shoes & Accessories – Hermes Bag

130380932017 eBay Motors – Porsche car

370370024953 Jewelry  – new watch


Can a listing that definitely does NOT sell be considered successful?

Some of the listing examples provided were for items where the Reserve Price was NOT met.  That means that the bids were not high enough and, thus, the item was NOT sold.

130388740380 a 1957 Les Paul guitar that did not sell for $29,675 (Reserve not met)

120567335435 a Toy that did not sell for $5975 (Reserve not met)


Do most sellers consider a listing “successful” when it sells for less than 30% of its appraised value?

270566602914 Painting sold for $20,676 and was appraised by Sotheby’s for $70,000 – $90,000 and for which the owner actually paid $63,000 in May 1998

330431040306 Jewelry (new diamond ring) which sold for $14,388 where the appraised value was $122,300 and the wholesale value was $60,000


Does the buyer have to be satisfied (or even pay for the item) in order for the listing to be defined as successful?

There were a few listings that, with a little stretching, might be considered to be “successful collectible listings” but none of the buyers had left feedback at all for the seller.

140402532235 Fan ended at $14,322.44 and for which no feedback was left by the buyer.  In fairness, the listing only ended 9 days ago so perhaps the buyer has not received the item.  According to the listing, there is only one other known fan like this one and potential buyers wanted the seller to end the listing early.

120554102306 Antique Book  that ended April 12, 2010 – no feedback left by the buyer and the seller has not left feedback for the buyer so perhaps payment was not received for this listing.

200457562902 Forbidden Planet Ray Gun that ended April 8th for $23,200 and for which the seller indicated that the list item just like this one sold for more than $40,000 on eBay.  No feedback has been left by the buyer and the seller has not left feedback for the buyer so perhaps a payment was not received for this listing.

As a matter of fact, in every instance I looked at there had been NO FEEDBACK left by buyers for any of the closed listings that appeared on Griff’s successful collectible examples list.  I would have expected to find some feedback left.  So, then, since there is no independent verification of the transaction being completed (as evidenced by feedback), I have to wonder whether the listings provided by Griff actually resulted in a sale that was paid for.  In every example I looked at but one, none of the sellers had left positive feedback for their buyers which leads me to believe that the majority of these listings, while very sensational, never actually resulted in a listing where the seller got paid. 


Defintion of Success Depends on Perspective

From eBay’s perspective, all the listings Griff included were “successful” because final value fees were generated and the listings have an element of sensationalism that could be exploited to give the perception that great things can be accomplished on eBay.  However, from a seller’s perspective, the long list of auctions would not be defined as successful.  For me, the very basic definition of a successful listing is one where I actually receive payment.  It doesn’t matter how insanely high the bids are if the high bidder never pays.  And success, for me as a seller, is based in the reality of profits.  If I pay $60,000 wholesale for a diamond ring then sell it for $14,388 it would be impossible for me to define the listing as successful.  I could perhaps define it as a necessary listing if I absolutely positively needed the cash and had to liquidate the diamond ring to get whatever I could for it.  Perhaps as a stretch, a seller might define this as a successful listing in that the item did sell for at least something.

I think that Jim Griffith’s examples of “successful” listings highlight the basic problems eBay has had and continues to have.  eBay needs small sellers and I do think eBay realizes this.  The problem for eBay is that they are not willing and/or possibly not even able to align themselves with small sellers.  Instead of eBay being the place for small sellers to be successful, it is actually that small sellers are successful in spite of eBay. 

Instead of categorizing specific listings as being unsucessful or successful, it is really a comprehensive measure of success that is needed.  I believe that there are successful online sellers who sell on eBay as a part of their overall business strategy and most of them don’t have the one-time sensationalism of the listings Griff provided as examples of successful listings.  If Griff was generating the list as a motivational tool to encourage small sellers to begin or continue listing items then I just have one thing to say:      “Good Luck With That.”

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8 Responses to “eBay Employees vs eBay Sellers: Definition of Success Depends on Perspective”

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cliff Aliperti, TheBrewsNews. TheBrewsNews said: eBay Employees vs eBay Sellers: Definition of Success Depends on Perspective http://tinyurl.com/24jdmlv TBN BLOG POST […]

Another possibility is that in the above listings where feedback hasn’t been exchanged is shill bidding. Realizing the item wouldn’t sell for anywhere near its value, the seller lives to sell it another day (probably under another ID) with a higher starting list price.

As for Griff the Magic ‘Seller Advocate’ (ROTFL), I resurrect Ming’s ebay’s Law #1:


There’s another thread about what preceeded this on auctionbytes today (5-14-10), and it illustrates beautifully just how anti seller Griff actually is.

Anyone who actually believes Griff will help them is naive.

I’ve sent him three or four appropriately and courteously requests for help under my ebay ID, and he never responded to any of them.

Griff is absolutely useless.

Good investigative piece. Great to see you back.

On a regular basis eBay tosses out these spectacular sales to the press. It is great Public Relations.

Then like the event below, reality sets in:

3 million records and 300,000 CDs for $3 million starting bid

Guess as a ‘Circus Barker’ Griff has to make due with the material he’s given.

> From eBay’s perspective, all the listings Griff included were “successful” because final value fees were generated and the listings have an element of sensationalism that could be exploited to give the perception that great things can be accomplished on eBay. However, from a seller’s perspective, the long list of auctions would not be defined as successful. For me, the very basic definition of a successful listing is one where I actually receive payment.

eBay sellers should post the above conspicuously at their place of business.

All sellers should have their own measure of success. An eBay seller should never assume that eBay INC’s measure of success is the same as theirs.


“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”
Elliot Carver, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

I think Ebay management better step down from that cloud they’re on or at least quit smoking whatever it is they’re smoking and get real! After 12 years (the last 10 successfully listing and selling my artwork on Ebay) I’m forced to move on. I can no longer afford to hand my fee money to Ebay in exchange for a few miserable view on my work and no bids. As to this end there is a thread on Ebay’s seller central board with over 3,100 posts from disgruntled sellers who are complaining of no sales and no traffic. I might add I’ve put this same artwork on Overstock where some have already sold and others are getting decent views! I don’t expect Overstock to compete with Ebay but now even EBAY cannot compete with what Ebay used to be. More and more of us move on every day – a look down the threads on that seller central board tells one that. If Ebay really does want the small seller then the time to act is NOW! Going into the summer doldrums is only going to make Ebay scramble for every dollar it can find. Donahoe has already suggested his plan needs a couple more quarters – ha! His Ebay needs life support!!! The madness continues and while Ebay management continue to kid themselves and try to kid others – the ship slowly takes on more water as it heads for the bottom!

If the listing results in a non sale because the bidder defaults it is still a successful one for eBay.

Why? Not because of Final Value Fees which would eventually be refunded.

The value of the bid is added to the GMV claimed by eBay’s ailing marketplace division. These numbers are quoted to stock market analysts in several forms including “growth”, “velocity”, “market share”.

The $3M+ bid on the record collection and the twice failed attempt to sell the crypt next to Marilyn Monroe were substantial amounts. The listings Griff touted, putative sales over a relatively short time frame, add up to close to $200K.

I wonder what the true figures are for NPB listings.

I’ve had over $11K of ‘successful’ sales in the past 30 days…

…that were not paid for.

These included a motorcycle that sold for over $3,700 to a buyer that after the fact discovered they could not get financing for. We did sell that item again – for $350 less.

These also included a Jeep that sold for over $3,500 TWICE. BOTH to 0 FB Bidders. One didn’t bother to answer a dozen attempts to contact them to arrange for payment and delivery. The other took 5 days to respond – to say they couldn’t ‘afford’ it after all.

Then there’s the usually (these days) over 15% of ‘regular’ sales that result in UPI’s.

Success? Sure, if one counts eBay listing fees they collect anyway. Sure, if one counts the sold ratio they brag to the street.

Not so much if one count’s actually completed sales that are paid for (and at that, not eventually ‘refunded’ because of some un-dreamed of attribute on buyer inspection).

How do these PPL SLEEP at night?

Here’s bit of the ‘rest of the story’..

$19,299.99 Beer Can

Last year, as in 2009, an even better example came to ebay. Seems that the best it could muster was a little more than $4K – not too shabby.

The beer can immediately went to an online/live auction firm where it went under the hammer a few months later. Final bid: $14,400.

Forget about shills – that opportunity existed in both places. Forget about desirability – there’s a LOT more beer can collectors than there are those beer cans.

You can even forget about the economy, per se, as the factors of Better Example and eight years later do (appear to) make allowances for the economy.

This is all about visibility, or rather, the lack thereof. As much about not being shown as it is about no one to see IT. They simply quit coming to ebay.

Too damn much trouble. Too much meddling by too much management.

I was talking to a friend last week about how I had a lot of items I needed to list and sell online and she remarked that she doesn’t shop on eBay any more because it’s “all professionals and big companies” that aren’t what she’s looking for when she shops on eBay. She said it used to be fun to shop on eBay because of all the nice people and interesting stuff, but she’s not seeing it any more. So, eBay has shot itself in the foot and still refuses to acknowledge that they may have made a mistake. I supported them for a long time, but now I’m feeling that they just aren’t providing enough value for what they charge. To echo my friend, it used to be fun to sell on eBay, but now it’s just an expensive hassle.

Interestingly, I had my first sale on Atomic Mall this week and my second on Ecrater just a few days later. Looks like these eBay alternatives might be gaining some traction. At the very least, they seem to be getting good exposure on Google. An informal survey of my friends and co-workers showed that most of them start their online shopping on Google these days.

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