Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ebay: Auctioning Off Its Soul

Dahlings –

Before I was able to write more about Project Runway, I felt the need to address the massive changes announced by (ugh) Ebay last week. It is not just that I am outraged. Every August, like clockwork, Ebay comes up with new outrages and higher fees, but these truly take the creme brulee.

Instead of ranting, after careful consideration I decided to take a quieter approach. Comments are welcomed.

Many of these changes have been reported by the national news media, but with quite a few pertinent matters left out or soft-pedaled. Numerous articles focus on Ebay’s de-emphasizing of auctions in the coming months. Part of the problem is that none of these writers have sold on Ebay (something they have in common with Ebay’s staff). But here are a few tid-bits you might like to know.

All sellers pay to sell on Ebay. It is shocking how much of the general public does not know that. From the seller with two key chains to the seller with a store stocked with 300 pieces of baby clothing, they all pay to sell. A seller’s monthly fees can range between $46 to $5K.

Unless you are Buy.com, in which case, you do not have to pay anything. Not a sou. But, Buy.com’s listings appear on every page, right under the highly manipulated Search Results.

If you have a store, there is a monthly fee. Even though your store items will not come up in Search Results. They discontinued that practice some time ago. When you list an item for sale, there is a fee (or fees, depending on if you use any of the features that Ebay offers, such as scheduling when your listing begins, or putting a Buy It Now price or Reserve on your auction. You will not get those latter two fees back if you cancel them, by the way).

If you sell your item, you first pay Ebay a Final Value Fee, and if the buyer pays by Paypal, you pay Paypal not only the Final Value Fee on the cost of the item itself, but also on the total, including shipping. (Note that I am not including supplies, staff, or anything that is not germane to this discussion.) So Paypal, which is a subsidiary of Ebay, takes its nibble from your shipping cost as well.

With a disingenuousness that not even a serial killer talking his way into your house could match, Lorrie Norrington made a happy announcement of all the wonderful changes that would make our lives so much easier and their profits so much higher:

Lower Fixed Item listing fees…however, they neglected to mention until much later in the announcement that there would be up a 300% increase in Ebay Final Value Fees, thereby wiping out any possible profit.

Electronic Checkout Only…by who else, our old friend Paypal. Oh, and a company with a very close relationship with Paypal via West Fargo, Propay. American currencies such as checks or money orders are no longer considered “safe.” For the sellers who have not accepted Paypal until now, or the hundreds of sellers who get a considerable portion of their income from paper currency, this is more than a substantial blow. Not to mention a blow to those buyers who, for whatever reasons, do not have credit cards. One imagines Debtors Anonymous will be encouraging its members to leave Ebay en masse. Antitrust complaints to state and local Attorney General’s offices are apparently pouring in.

Fixed Shipping Costs. Sellers can now be penalized (even lose their stores) if buyers feel their shipping costs are too high. This, even if the seller is only charging the ACTUAL cost of shipping. From the Ebay new Shipping Limits FAQ:

Q: Why are you setting limits on shipping charges lower than my actual costs to ship?
A: We based our maximum shipping & handling charges on recent transaction data of what sellers are charging and what buyers have told us is reasonable. We know that what buyers consider to be reasonable will be less than sellers' actual costs in some cases. We believe that by offering buyers at least one shipping option that they deem reasonable, sellers will increase their overall sales and conversion.

Pardonnez moi. I had to leave the room and shriek a few times.

Buyers are told that leaving four star ratings are “good,” but sellers are told that anything under four and a half stars could risk the seller losing everything; their store, their account, everything. Your faithful correspondent cannot even begin to quote the answers that "Griff," the avuncular lapdog for Ebay, gives to the question: "how can four stars be both good and bad at the same time?" Suffice to say I needed a stiff drink after reading it, and it still didn't make any sense.
By "lapdog," of course, I mean no disrespect to my beloved miniature pinscher, Bucky. That little darling would make short work of Ebay CEO John Donahoe's ankles. In my own listings I do my best to explain this little bit of corporate doublespeak to my potential buyers.

Ebay operates as a great sucking void into which sellers throw their money. Somehow, the fact that Ebay sellers are actually CUSTOMERS of Ebay got lost somewhere around 2005. Ebay loves to talk about “improving the buyer experience.” But when they try to say anything about “improving the seller experience,” the sheer magnitude of their lies renders them incapable of making anything other than gurgling noises.

Discontented sellers are told to move elsewhere, and many are. Some moan and complain that those other sites don't have the Web presence of the Evil Empire. However, one must remember that it took Ebay fourteen years to become Ebay.

But at this rate, it will take less than a year for Ebay to become Edsel.


Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog


Marge, Born Too Late Vintage said...

I do believe this would make a wonderful plot for a horror movie.

Bravo for calling a spade a spade. Don't forget to check out Specialist Auctions. Where you can run your business and take payment the way you want to.

Sgean said...

Well put. here's hoping to some stiff competition for ebay.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...competitive postage, eh? I loved selling vintage fashion and needlework mags on ebay, which is a niche where sellers routinely charge cheap media mail postage. Problem is, magazines don't qualify for media mail! I can't lie to my postal clerks (I blush) so I always shipped priority or first class. Now, though, seems like ebay might force me to do something illegal - or eat the difference! Thanks for letting me share my pet peeve, pet!

Dexter James said...

Hi! You are too right and daring. What you had said had been in my mind too for a along time.

Thanks you dared to speak up!


Henrietta said...


Just too too horrid for words, and getting sleazier by the day, ITs like getting mugged! I just don't go there anymore.

Moved to Bonanzle.com so much more civilized, and they have real American people to help, can you believe?