Why do I bring up divorce in an ecommerce blog? Because, marital problems are exactly like what is happening between eBay management and eBay's sellers. They are in the middle of a bad marriage and looking at their options.
I'll try not to take the analogy too far, but somebody in the field of Psychology should do an in-depth research piece on this situation; the relationship between eBay and its seller community. The parallels to a bad marriage are as clear as a bell.
For many sellers, eBay was their first love, but they have taken so much crap, for so long they've lost any hope that the relationship can be saved.
- eBay brings in a counselor (Corporate Blogger) to improve communication and sellers just scoff at the idea.
- A great many eBay sellers stay on eBay because they have no other option, much like staying in a bad marriage because the fear of the unknown is greater than the pain of the marriage.
- A great number of sellers have families that depend on their eBay income, so they can't just walk away.
- Many eBay sellers have had affairs with other marketplaces (sorry I couldn't resist)
- The communication between sellers in non-existent and eBay management is oblivious to the pain sellers are feeling.
So what is the result? Sellers basically have heard "eBay Speak" for so long that they no longer believe anything that eBay says and are not likely to ever again.
In my marriage, when the problems started to become evident, my wife and I would have these deep discussions about every 3 months. I would say, "I'll change" (because of course it was all my fault :)) we would get through the pain of the moment and then three months later it would happen again. Soon I was calling these little get togethers "The Quarterlies". BTW, not a very good idea if you want to have peace in the household. I got tired of the complaints; she got tired of the lack of progress. We separated, got back together and then decided this wasn't going to work.
The relationship between eBay sellers and eBay management is very similar. When things were going great back in "the day", everyone was happy, but soon sellers began feeling neglected or talked down to. eBay management publicly state that sellers are important and they care about their businesses, yet their actions say something completely different and behind the scenes (around the water cooler) they say "all they ever do is complain, nothing I/we do is ever good enough for them."
Sellers on the other hand, look for fulfillment elsewhere, trying different marketplaces in the hopes that they can make one work, so they can leave eBay all together. They go on the discussion boards and bitch with their friends. They get advice from friends, who say, "why don't you just leave". They hold out hope that they can still save the relationship, yet they won't believe anything that eBay says.
So, eBay hires a "Corporate Blogger" (No, Dr. Phil) who says all the right things:
"RBH: My words go straight up onto the blog, unedited. It's got to be transparent.
There's got to be an authenticity to it, an honesty to it, otherwise there's no point in doing it in the first place. I'm going to open up my e-mail to questions from folks. People can comment, too, and comments are going to be open. You're going to get the good, the bad, and the ugly."
Yet he has no experience selling on eBay, so immediately his views mean nothing. eBay needs a marriage counselor that both sides can agree on. Someone who can tell sellers when they are out of line and someone who can hold management accountable, but you know that will never happen because this is business not a marriage.
eBay management would do themselves a big favor, if they looked in the mirror and said "this is much more than a business". They have to understand that eBay is everything to many of its sellers. Unfortunately, I fear that the damage has been done and nothing that eBay management can say will improve the situation.
You may think this analogy is a stretch, but if you look at the situation honestly you can see there is a lot of truth to what I'm saying.
eBay is much more than a business!
Just my 12%