eBay

eBay Deal Finder: The Real Deal or a Real Dud?

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , |

Today when checking my eBay listings I happened to notice something on the homepage that I had not seen before.  I’m sure most eBay buyers have seen the eBay DealFinder before but I only sell on eBay, not buy, so it was new to me.

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What struck me right away was how eBay stated that they compared prices between eBay and other marketplaces  NOT CONSIDERING shipping charges.  This seemed so ironic to me given how eBay has been hitting their sellers over the head with information about how sensitive online shoppers are about shipping costs.  Heck, eBay sellers are even graded on their shipping costs via Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs).   Given that eBay chose to compare prices excluding shipping costs tells me that eBay is admitting that shipping costs on eBay are higher than other marketplaces especially because marketplaces like Amazon are known for its free shipping model.

Next I clicked on the link that said “see more deals”:

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I decided to check out eBay’s claim that they had the best price on an item.  So, I chose an item from the front page that was relevant to business — an Intermediate Accounting Book. 

While eBay stated that Walmart.com had the next lowest price I found that to be woefully inaccurate.  There were plenty of Amazon third party sellers who had lower prices than Walmart.com which tells me that eBay must only be comparing the prices of items sold directly by Amazon.com not any of its third party sellers.

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Yet, still the eBay seller had the lowest price. 

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But wait a minute…. the eBay seller had the lowest price for a completely different book.

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SUMMARY

 eBay compares its prices to competitors’ prices excluding shipping and eBay doesn’t include the prices of other platforms’ third party vendors despite ALL of eBay’s sellers being only third party sellers.  And, worst of all, eBay employs an apples-to-oranges price comparison model by promoting eBay listings as “deals” that are for a completely different item than the ISBN advertised in the item specifics.

Conclusion?  The eBay Deal Finder is certainly no “real” deal.

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Layman’s Version of New Visa Mastercard Requirements For PayPal Merchants

Posted on July 19, 2010. Filed under: eBay, Paypal, Tips & Hints - Website Sales, Tips - for the eBay Seller | Tags: , , , , , , , |

All ecommerce sellers who accept PayPal will need to accept the new Commercial Entity Agreement by October 1, 2010 in order to continue receiving Visa and Mastercard funded payments.  

Accepting this new Commercial Entity Agreement actually means that you are agreeing to accept each of the different commercial agreements for several banks.

  • Commercial Entity Agreement with JP Morgan Chase
  • Commercial Entity Agreement with HSBC
  • Commercial Entity Agreement with Wells Fargo
  • Commercial Entity Agreement with Wells Fargo – Pro
  • Commercial Entity Agreement with National Westminster Bank
  • Most of the Commercial Entity Agreements are very similiar but there are some differences.  While the agreements are obviously very complex, I have tried to boil them down into a short list of 5 Do’s and Don’ts that encompasses the highlights of various agreements. 

    1. WHO can and should give and get information?

    Ecommerce merchants must clearly identify themselves to buyers so that buyers know from whom they are purchasing.  This includes the requirement that sellers provide the address of their permanent establishment on their website if they are accepting PayPal payments on their website.

    Sellers cannot ask buyers for their Visa/Mastercard information (card number, expiration date, CVV2 number) and if for some reason the seller gains access to this information, either by design or by default, then the seller agrees to notify PayPal and the buyer promptly.  This is a major requirement because all sellers who accept PayPal must be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.

     2. WHAT must sellers do in the event things do not go as expected?

    If sellers plan on limiting the return of their item, they must clearly indicate that to the buyer BEFORE the purchase (thus explains eBay’s requirement that all listings have a return policy stated).  If the seller does not want to offer a refund for the return of an item, they need to state something like “NO REFUND, EXCHANGE ONLY”.  Of course, the seller must always provide the item as described.  For example, if a seller offers a blue shirt but delivers a red shirt then Visa / Mastercard would expect them to give a full refund.  But if the seller delivered a blue shirt but the buyer decided that they didn’t want the shirt because it didn’t look good on them then the seller has a right to offer to exchange the item rather than refund the purchase price.

    In the event of a chargeback, sellers must work through PayPal to resolve complaints.  This is often a source of seller frustration because PayPal decides which chargebacks they will fight.  

    3. WHEN can an ecommerce merchant accept PayPal?

     Sellers can only use PayPal to accept payment for goods and services they have provided within a 30-day window (and the days are counted as BUSINESS days).  PayPal cannot be used to collect payment for any previous “debt”.  So, for example, if you are a service provider who offers payment terms (ie customers normally pay their invoices by check within 30 days)  and your customer doesn’t pay your invoice then you cannot agree to accept PayPal for the service you provided 6 months ago but never got paid for with a check. 

    PayPal also cannot be used to accept payments for any good or service that would be considered illegal.  

    Partial shipments can be billed separately so that means one shipment tracking number must be provided for each and every PayPal payment.  If  an eBay buyer purchases 3 items and makes 3 separate payments, each with full shipping cost, a seller who combines all 3 items into one package and gives back a partial refund of shipping for each transaction is at risk for 2 out of the 3 transactions since there will only be one tracking / delivery confirmation number available.

    4. WHERE can ecommerce merchants indicate to buyers that they accept Visa / Mastercard?

    Sellers can display the Visa / Mastercard logos on their own websites as long as the logos are not misleading.  Sellers cannot make it appear to potential buyers that they are accepting Visa / Mastercard directly unless they have their own merchant account.  So any ecommerce merchant who accepts Visa / Mastercard only through PayPal must make that clear by using appropriate logos and wording.    And ecommerce merchants cannot display logos in a way that would imply that Visa / Mastercard endorses the product or the website.

    5.  HOW are ecommerce merchants expected to accept PayPal?

    Sellers cannot establish a minimum or maximum transaction amount.  If a buyer wants to use PayPal for a $1  purchase, for example, then an ecommerce merchant must accept payment and must not charge extra (surcharge) to the customer who uses PayPal.  This provision applies to U.S. sellers but some countries do allow merchants to add a surcharge if it is disclosed in advance.  But this is strictly forbidden in the U.S. 

    Additionally, sellers cannot in any way try to discourage buyers from using credit card funded PayPal payments.

    NOTE that I am in no way giving any financial or legal advice, just doing my best to summarize all the lengthy legal agreements of the new Commercial Entity Agreements.

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    Fact or Fiction? NonPaying Bidders Can Leave Negative Feedback for eBay Sellers

    Posted on July 10, 2010. Filed under: eBay, Tips - for the eBay Seller | Tags: , , , , , , |

    In eBay-sponsored Webinars and Radio Shows this year, various eBay employees (including John Donahoe himself) have been proud to announce that eBay is now offering sellers protection against nonpaying bidders.  eBay states that nonpaying bidders should not be allowed to leave negative feedback for sellers.    It does make for a great “story”.  However, unfortunately for sellers, it is truly a work of fiction with only a very small basis in fact.

    Deadbeat bidders “should not” be allowed to leave negative feedback for sellers but, in actuality,  they can leave negative feedback in all instances except one.  And, of course, eBay does not make that clear to sellers.  And, as a matter of fact, whenever sellers call in to speak to eBay customer service they are most often told that there was some kind of glitch that allowed a particular buyer to leave negative feedback even when they didn’t pay.

    Thus, I am writing this blog post to lay out the facts which are quite different from the eBay “fiction” (the nicest word I could come up with).

    So, whenever an eBay bidder doesn’t pay there are basically 4 different actions that an eBay seller can take.  Below is the level of protection a seller has / doesn’t have in terms of having their reputation tarnished with negative feedback:

    1. Seller Takes NO ACTION against the Buyer

    Can Negative Feedback Be Left – Yes
    Can Negative Feedback Once Left be Removed for Reasons of Nonpayment – No

    2. Seller Files a MUTUAL CANCELLATION against Buyer

    Sometimes a buyer asks a seller to cancel the transaction which would then result in the buyer not receiving any adverse action on their account.  A mutual cancellation means that the bidder does not receive a nonpaying bidder strikes and is, thus, eBay does not consider the buyer has done anything wrong.  Often times sellers will agree to a mutual cancellation because they are fearful that buyers will leave negative feedback if a seller reports them for nonpayment.  Most of the time sellers think they are “protected” from negative feedback but they are not.

    Can Negative Feedback Be Left – Yes
    Can Negative Feedback Once Left be Removed for Reasons of Nonpayment – No

    3. Seller Files Unpaid Item Dispute MANUALLY against Buyer

    Can Negative Feedback Be Left – Yes
    Can Negative Feedback Once Left be Removed for Reasons of Nonpayment – Yes (at eBay’s discretion)

    4. Seller Files Unpaid Item Dispute AUTOMATICALLY through Unpaid Item Assistant against Buyer

    Can Negative Feedback Be Left – No (once the dispute has been opened)
    Can Negative Feedback Once Left be Removed for Reasons of Nonpayment – Yes (at eBay’s discretion)

    NOTE (1): If a buyer ends up paying with an electronic payment method after the UPI Assistant opens a case then the buyer can leave negative feedback.

    NOTE (2): UPI Assistant works with the eBay Checkout system but not all third party vendors have systems in place that support sellers using the UPI Assistant

    For any sellers who are not familiar with eBay’s UPI Assistant, there is a 2-minute video of eBay’s Jim Griffith explaining how the automated process works.  Click  HERE  for that video.

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    The Stage is Set for eBay to Once Again Allow Sellers to Accept Checks and Money Orders

    Posted on July 3, 2010. Filed under: eBay, Paypal | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

    In the eBay Bulk Edit process, sellers are now presented with an option to change their choice of whether or not to accept personal checks and money orders in addition to accepting electronic payment methods and payment upon local pickup.

    It is important to note, however, that while sellers can now choose to change the payment options to accept checks and money orders in their listings that the revised listings do not show to buyers that they have the option of paying with either of these methods.  However, some buyers have reported that their eBay invoice offers them the option to pay via check or money order.

    So this leads to speculation about whether or not eBay is going reverse themselves and once again allow sellers to accept checks and money orders as sellers had previously been allowed to do.  There are rumors that perhaps eBay is going to allow checks and money orders again only for categories such as collectibles. 

    Or perhaps eBay feels that they need to prepare their platform to allow all sellers to accept checks and money orders for all categories given their recent court case loss.  eBay recently lost a  court case by default judgement in a Detroit class action lawsuit which would seem to set the stage for eBay being required to open up sellers’ payment options to include checks and money orders.

    Those of us on eBay who are sellers often see the platform changes in the programming BEFORE policies are formally announced.  Take, for example, my blog post which shows how sellers such as myself saw new changes to acceptable payment methods occurring in our listing processes but eBay failed to acknowledge at that time they were programming in new policy changes but rather claimed what we were seeing was “a glitch”. 

    Whether eBay is going to partially or fully roll back their electronic -payments-only policy is yet to be seen.  However, it appears that the stage has been set to allow for that possibility in the future.

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    New eBay Product Pages Now Rolling Out to All Categories

    Posted on June 16, 2010. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , |

    In February 2009 eBay made some important design updates to its Book, Music, Movies and Video Games Product Pages.  And then in the July 2009 Message to Sellers, eBay announced

    “Product pages are rolling out to more buyers, so list with product details to make sure your listings are included.   Also, eBay will start selecting sellers’ photos for inclusion in the eBay product catalog on September 1.  If your photo is chosen, your user ID and a link to your profile page will appear on the product page.  If you’d prefer not to have your pictures selected, opt out no later than August 31.”
     

    And now almost a year later, eBay is moving forward with their plan to create more product pages.  Most sellers can expect to see the following screen sometime in the near future:

    Some sellers attempting to relist unsold items today will be shown this screen which asks the seller to search the eBay catalog to use prefilled information for their item.  In the bottom left corner in very small writing is a link titled “Skip This Step” for sellers who do not want to use the eBay product pages.

    If a product page is available, a seller can choose to use it or not.  An item can be listed or relisted using the seller’s own picture and description rather than the picture and description from the eBay catalog.

    I asked eBay today who is creating their catalog and was told that eBay is contracting with third party services.  Specifically, a company called Muse is creating some product pages in the media category.  And eBay has plans to use other third party people and companies for future product pages that are created, from what I was told today.

    I have many questions and concerns about the eBay plan to create product pages similiar to the Amazon catalog approach.  First, just how accurate are the third party product pages and who do sellers report errors to if they notice that the description or picture is incorrect?  In the eBay Help pages, a process is described to address this issue but given eBay’s history of not taking action against policy violators, it is doubtful that sellers can expect many errors to be corrected.  Especially given that eBay states the following on their Help Pages:

    “Product details and stock pictures may be changed or removed from time to time. When significant changes occur, we’ll let you know. However, eBay isn’t responsible for this content because it’s provided by other companies. Always confirm the accuracy of the information before you list your item.”

    On the few product pages for the toy category that I visited, I noticed that the picture did not match the description.  For example, the picture would show a silver color item but the text would state the color description as red.  Some pictures were clearly not even close to what the description stated and some titles were nonsensical.  I have sold some of these items before and the every one of the product pages I looked at ranged from having minor errors to being completely and outrageously wrong. 

    And really the big question is how eBay sellers are going to react to the new product pages since the sellers are the ones who will have to all adopt these new product pages in order for them to be successful.  The eBay representative I spoke with today tells me that he doesn’t like buying from a seller who uses stock photos and descriptions and that he recommends sellers not use the eBay product pages. 

    In the past, eBay was the place to find unique items but with the new product pages rolling out to all categories the uniqueness of eBay is disappearing even faster.  For example, there are a great many “Toy” items for which there are variations the manufacturer creates (for example, 1 in 100 of a certain item will have a different attribute, usually very minor, to make it more collectible) and creating product pages will definitely have an effect on buyer and seller behavior for these items and I doubt the result will be a positive one for buyer, seller, or eBay.

    For some categories such as Music and Books or Electronics, eBay has really big Diamond-Size sellers who will support the eBay product pages and catalog and thus smaller sellers are almost forced to use the product pages or not be found.  However, for other categories and subcategories where Diamond Sellers do not exist I believe eBay will be fighting an uphill battle to get most sellers (small, medium, or even large sellers) to be early adopters of their product pages.  Most non-Diamond and non-Platinum sellers do not have a favorable impression of the eBay catalog and are actually quite fearful of how it will impact their business.  Once again, eBay and sellers find themselves on opposite sides rather than on the same team.

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    Can eBay Entice Online Shoppers with Bucks News & Bonus Offers?

    Posted on June 1, 2010. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , , , |

    The eBay Bucks Beta program has expanded recently with the addition of “Bucks News” and “Bucks Bonus Offers”.  Along with earning Bucks from all eBay purchases, participants in the eBay Bucks Beta program can now earn extra bucks by taking advantage of offers from non-eBay merchants. 

    Currently, eBay Bucks participants earn 2% in Bucks Rewards for qualifying eBay purchases and this was how the eBay Bucks program was first introduced to participants.  Note that most items qualify but there are few exceptions such as no Bucks awarded for eBay Motors or things like Tractors, Heavy Equipment, Hospital Imaging Equipment, and similiar type items. 

    Also, until June 29th eBay Bucks participants are offered discounts of 6-10% off purchases.  These discounts are separate savings from the earning of eBay Bucks.

    Bucks News

    When eBay Bucks participants purchase items from certain off-eBay merchants, they are rewarded with extra bucks.  For example, a one-year subscription to People Magazine earns a participant $30 in extra eBay Bucks.

    The eBay Extra Bucks program works in association with TrialPay (click HERE for more information about Trial Pay).

    Bucks Bonus Offers

    The eBay Bucks Bonus Offers are a much more controversial part of the eBay Bucks Beta program.  In the eBay Bucks dashboard, the bonus offers are presented as follows:

    Notice that the Bonus Offers give buyers discounts to buyers who purchase from selected eBay sellers.

    The eBay selling fee structure already provides fee discounts to larger eBay merchants so that smaller sellers bear a higher direct cost to sell on the eBay platform.  And now the eBay Bucks Bonus Offers highlight certain eBay sellers and provide an incentive for eBay buyers to purchase from these selected eBay sellers.  Smaller sellers on eBay are continually required to pay higher selling fees for less exposure from the ever dwindling traffic on eBay.  The financial squeeze to small sellers’ bottom lines is cutting out many small eBay seller’s abilities to survive on the platform but what really makes the eBay marketplace even more unsuitable for small sellers is that they also bear a disproportionate cost of compliance.

    The cost of compliance on eBay is very  high as sellers are required to spend many hours just keeping up with all the changes and then revising listings multiple times in a year to make sure they are not violating the rules.  Ebay changes policies and rules so frequently that even eBay’s customer service departments are not informed and knowledgeable of the policies.  And the self-reporting eBay system that Trust and Safety employs is useless.  Large sellers are allowed to violate the rules; my blog as well as other news sources have many examples of large sellers’ blatant disregard for the eBay rules that all small sellers are required to follow.

    Even the “selected sellers” that eBay is highlighting in their Bucks Bonus Offers are allowed to violate many eBay policies.

    One selected seller not only states that he is a Top Rated Seller, which is against the rules, but he also makes sure to mention his off-site URL address which is a violation that would get any small seller suspended from eBay immediately:

    Another selected eBay Bucks seller makes sure to include in his listing that he is an eBay Powerseller which is against the rules to do:

    and makes sure to include URLs in his listing that point potential customers to a website where it is possible to make off-eBay purchases:

    And yet a third seller includes a “Terms of Use” page in their eBay store which includes their direct URL:

    as well as a statement claiming that they are not responsible for the delivery of the item (note that this is a violation of eBay policy as sellers are not allowed to say that they are not responsible for the package once it is turned over to the carrier):

    A fourth example of a “sellected seller” is a seller who also proudly, and against the rules, displays a Powerseller Logo in their auctions:

    and specifically mentions that they do not accept personal or cashiers checks which is against the rules to state and is one of the violations that got many small sellers temporarily suspended:

    Out of the 22 selected sellers that eBay is highlighting for the Bucks Bonus Offers, I have mentionned only 4 and only one or two violations of each but I could have included many more examples.  However, this is sufficient to prove my point and that is that large sellers are not required to bear the cost of compliance on eBay in the way that small sellers are required to do so.  This further provides an advantage to large sellers on eBay and a disadvantage to small sellers on eBay.

    eBay may be able to present a reasonable justification for their charging small sellers higher selling fees but I can’t imagine any logical argument that eBay has for allowing large sellers to blatantly disregard eBay rules while holding small sellers accountable for compliance.  With all of eBay’s recent rhetoric about wanting to create a “safer” marketplace where there is more “trust”, it is ironic that eBay is pushing buyers toward large sellers who are clearly allowed to violate the rules.

    And if eBay’s argument is that all sellers, including large sellers, are required to follow the rules equally then how can eBay explain why so many of the selected sellers are violating rules?  One would think that these selected sellers would be vetted a little more carefully unless there was a rush to try something new without a good implementation plan which seems to be the most reasonable explanation.

    Final Comments

    As an entrepreneur who sells on eBay as part of my overall business strategy, I want eBay to be successful.   I want to have access to a selling platform that will enable me to grow my business.  But as an eBay seller who is charged ever-increasing selling fees for less exposure on a site with dwindling traffic and where I am also required to bear a high cost of site compliance to follow the ever-changing rules, I am not pleased with the direction that the eBay Bucks Beta program is taking.

    I do quite a bit of shopping online but I don’t buy on eBay so it is difficult for me to evaluate the Bucks Beta Program from a buyer’s perspective.  Sure, I love saving money like everyone else but I would be suspicious that the 6-10% discount from selected sellers would result in me getting the best deal on eBay.  If I perceived that a seller had prices 15-20% above their competitors and eBay was offering me a 6% discount if I bought from the higher-priced seller then I would not be enticed to purchase.  I did a quick search of a few items that a couple of the selected sellers were offering and I was able to find competitors who offered the same item at a much lower price and many of the non-selected sellers actually had a better eBay reputation.

    eBay’s rival, Amazon, is often able to offer lower prices to buyers than sellers on eBay for two main reasons.  One is that eBay’s selling fees have made it impossible for most eBay sellers to offer a low price while providing decent customer service.  The second reason is that Amazon takes the risk of carrying inventory.  With Amazon’s buying power, they are often able to negotiate significant price reductions which then allow them to pass along those savings to the consumer.  I have first-hand knowledge of this being the case in one particular area on Amazon. 

    For value-conscious online shoppers, I simply don’t see how the eBay Bucks Beta program can compete effectively in the long run against Amazon’s strategy of directly and instantly offering the lowest price and free shipping.

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