Friday, February 01, 2008

Wow, eBay Users Sure Do Like to Vent!

eBay built a community that it's users took ownership of and over the past 3 years they've really let the place go. Now, new management comes in, makes some big changes and bang - Ina Steiner gets over 700 comments on a blog post and CNN - Money gets close to that many on their blog and this isn't even the Community Message boards where threads have thousands of posts.

I'm not sure this is the Social Networking that has a positive outcome. Click on the links and just scroll down the list to get a feel for the volume. If you are brave, read the comments or listen to Ina Steiners Podcast.

Have Fun!


Sue Bailey said...

I started reading Ina's comments but I fell asleep by about #100. I really wish that eBay and eBayers could stop seeing buyers and sellers as enemies. Sometimes it feels like we're at war rather than trying to buy from/sell to each other :-(

Randy Smythe said...

Sue, that's why I appreciate the Amazon model so much more. The old eBay was best suited to do business on a small scale. Sellers like Glacier Bay, Jay and Marie and other pioneers turned it into a business and eBay wasn't able to adapt. Now you have a contentious relationship between buyer and seller that can't be repaired easily.

Buyers complain of seller fraud and sellers complain of buyer fraud. The problems are small as a % of all transactions in the aggregate but when it happens to you/me just once you get very angry.

All sellers want to do is sell their product and make some money for the effort. All buyers want is to get a deal and get their item.

Why is this so difficult?

cliff said...

You know I feel like they're going to have to reverse themselves on this abolition of buyer feedback -- this is what really seems to be ticking people off, and it's a move that honestly doesn't make much sense.

We have fee hikes just about every year, and I still say that for me this one will show a decrease -- gallery is something I'd have utilized more if it wasn't so costly in the past, and I will likely see Powerseller fee rebates as well (which no one is really talking up).

I was much more ready to start my revolt back when they raised store listing fees from a penny to a nickel...and that's coming back to earth a little too.

I still think they could have gone a little lower on listing fees, but in the end, lower listing fees, higher final value fees was exactly what I had expected and what makes sense for their venue.

But I think messing around with feedback is where they really get into trouble -- feedback is usually one of the first couple of things associated with eBay: 1: Auction venue; 2: That place you leave feedback.

In 8 years as a seller I've received 3 negative feedback -- I leave buyers positive feedback after I ship an item, so before they receive it. This is the way it works best for my record-keeping. I know everyone has different feedback philosophies on this and I pretty much respect them all, but this is just an example of mine. I've left probably 15-20 negatives in this time--not one of those 15-20 has retaliated with one their own, of the 3 I received my first was admitted to be a mistake intended for another seller and the other 2 negged me without contacting me first for a refund.

So, I guess what I'm wondering, even as a seller for 8 years on eBay, is does this threat of feedback retaliation really exist, or is it just a perceived threat? If it does exist, is it actually common enough to cause a meaningful dent on anyone's feedback? And if it does cause a meaningful dent then isn't there a chance that the person being retaliated against may actually be at fault? Excuse me here, but if you piss off enough people where this is going to hurt your percentages isn't it possible that it's time to change some of your practices?

I think in the end buyer feedback probably really is meaningless--as a seller I really only care about whether the buyer pays me and is satisfied with the item. If he doesn't pay me I do leave the negative as a warning to other sellers, and if he isn't satisfied I intercede and do my best to try and make him happy. Will my not leaving that negative feedback influence other sellers--well, I'll still sell to someone with negative feedback, as long as they're eligible to buy on eBay their money is green to me -- Again, bottom line, if they pay me I'll take the sale.

Still that said, I see no reason for eBay to tinker with this, because I don't think it's really hurting anyone either way (I do assume the policy 3 Unpaid Item Strikes still gets the buyer tossed off of eBay, if that was changed I missed it so please tell me).

Have that many prospective buyers really abandoned eBay because they received a negative early in their bidding careers? Isn't it possible they deserved that negative? Isn't it highly unlikely that the seller, who is likely to be much more experienced on eBay than this newbie buyer, gave them their negative with just cause, and that if it was a case of retaliation it may have more of a case of perceived retaliation?

I don't know, I could go on and on here, but this is already a pretty long post. Thanks for keeping me thinking, Randy!

Sue Bailey said...

I actually wonder if the difference isn't feedback, Randy.

Amazon: business-like, feedback doesn't matter so much, transaction is about the money/item.


So hopefully stopping buyer negs/neuts would stop that... except that what I'm reading on too many eBay boards is childish eBay sellers who want the facility to neg buyers. For goodness' sake, WHAT IS THE POINT *EVER* OF NEGGING A BUYER? Grow up, people, and think about the money rather than scoring pathetic little points.

Plus when I've had issues with Amazon Marketplace sellers, Amazon have refunded me. eBay/PayPal have told me to go to the police and make a crime report for my $20 and then they'll refund me.

As I say, Amazon seem so much more business-like, right across the board.

Randy Smythe said...

Cliff, thanks for the comment. I don't think eBay ever does anything without calculating all of the numbers. They new the FB changes were going to be a problem.

From what I understand, their buyer surveys conncluded they needed to change FB.

Sellers will react in all kinds of ways:

Leave the site all-together
Stop leaving FB at all for buyers
Game the system somehow with "negative comments" in positive FB.
Or just adjust to the change.

I have to admit that I come from the position of a large seller with 260,000 Positive FB and a neg didn't hurt my FB ranking. Small sellers have a lot less room to compensate for a neg.

The emotional aspect of FB is the problem. Sellers take pride in their 100% FB rating and now their reputations may take a hit. Good sellers will take much less of a hit then bad sellers and their will finally be separation on the site. A 90 to 95% rating looks much better than a 75 - 85 rating.

Good sellers will be fine and bad sellers will have to look for another way to make money.

cliff said...

Hi Randy,

Re: Good sellers will be fine and bad sellers will have to look for another way to make money.

I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and am hoping it was the attitude of eBay when concocting these apparently very unpopular changes.

Hi Sue,

I don't disagree. I will neg the buyer, but only for non-payment. If they're a pain but pay me, I don't care. If they're a real pain I could always block them.

Again, as a seller, the only point I see for negative feedback to the buyer is when I'm waiting a little longer than usual for payment or have made an unusually large sale that's not paid for immediately. If I'm anxious that will be the only time I check the buyer's feedback and I can usually get a pretty good idea of whether they're going to come through with payment or not from there.

Really I have much more trouble with 0 feedback buyers than I do from experienced buyers having low percentages.

Randy Smythe said...

Sue, you are absolutely correct. Amazon protects their relationship with the customer. eBay leaves it up to the seller and over the last few years their relationship with the buyer has suffered.

The only way to change this is take more control over the marketplace. That's like "making a silk purse out of sow's ear"

eBay is making one huge mistake by trying to merge BIN and Auctions. They are fundamentally at odds.

I've said it 100 times before they need eBay classic and the New eBay. eBay classic can be auctions and the old community feel. New eBay can be the BIN marketplace with a ton more control.

They tried to have their cake and eat it to with Express and that failed because they they didn't invest in it. They manged their risk and look what happened.

The problem with eBay management is they aren't entrepeneurs. They are book smart MBA's and tech smart geeks.

Amazon has entrepeneurs as well as their MBA's and Geeks; they get it.

Sellers should concentrate on making money or they shouldn't be selling.

Cliff Aliperti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cliff Aliperti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony P. said...


I don't discount the emotional aspect, at all. That is very valid - heck, I'd like to keep my 99.9% (250 more pluses and it will average-out to 100%). But...

One reason to neg a buyer is to alert your fellow sellers. True, it can't prevent that buyer from buying; nor stop the sniper from bidding at the last minute. But it might let you know to expect a PITA.

My last "how about a partial refund" bidder had 2 Negs and a Neut that showed a history of attempted extortion. That let me know exactly how to deal with the situation.

Some sellers would say that THAT makes no difference, just do whatever you would do without that info. Yep, that is valid, to a point. That example I gave above concerned a $150 auction and the person had a $20 figure in mind - that makes her 'extortion history info' very mportant.

I find that the sellers that don't understand the various reasons for Negging a buyer tend to sell in the lower-dollar, lower volume area. There's nothing inherently wrong with having that viewpoint, it's just that it is somewhat narrow and based upon a mindset that is part emotion, part limited knowledge.

Alex said...


What's up buddy, I'm a long time reader, first time commenter, titanium eBay powerseller, and a screaming liberal.

To all the people complaining about eBay's new feedback policy and saying "I'm bringing all my business to Amazon yada yada..." Hello? Amazon doesn't allow the seller to leave feedback for the buyer either, and it works just fine!

Don't get me wrong, any multi-channel seller knows that the average Amazon buyer is a, (ahem, how to put this) "higher class individual," so to speak. But are there really that many unfair negs on Amazon?

Also regarding all of these disgruntled eBayers who are "swearing off of eBay for good," what do you think is going to happen to Amazon? The jungle is going to get SWAMPED (pun not intended, I swear) with newbie sellers in 2008. How is this going to affect the Amazon landscape in a recession year? Only time will tell...

Your thoughts?

Randy Smythe said...

Alex, as my friends in the UK would say "you are spot on!" I agree completely except I think Amazon will become more restrictive as to who they let in. Just like they shutdown the Toys category for Christmas they will look at the numbers (supply and demand) and determine how open they will be.

The difference is that Amazon has exerted control from the beginning whil eBay is now trying to exert control on the "Wild West" They may eventually be able to do it but now with out a lot of pain.

Glad to hear your comments.

Patrice said...

Just a quick comment - the thing that really struck me about the CNN comments is that people are well and truly fed-up with eBay. Most of the posters were long-time PSers who are making plans to get away from eBay, either to a website, another site, Amazon, etc.

They are beyond "blustering" and wild posturing and are getting down to the business of taking care of their businesses. Sure eBay may reverse or revise the Positive Feedback Only policy, but eventually the fiasco is going to drive more good sellers away, IMHO. It may well be the final nail in the coffin.

Randy Smythe said...

Patrice, If I had the attention span and the background in behvioral studies, I would conduct a study on the dysfunctional eBay community.

Everyone keeps saying this is "the straw that broke the camels back" but I don't see any action.

It will be interesting to see if many of those that are protesting are auction sellers who stayed quiet during the Store Fee increase of 2006.

We will have to wait and see what happens.

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