Monday, August 04, 2008

eBay Abandons MORE Changes!

A strange phenomenon has occurred over the last couple of months; eBay has rolled back several changes that were made earlier in the year. Historically, eBay has not rolled back changes unless it benefitted them (SIS, Stores in Search).

Many of the reversals have been accompanied by the phrase: "We heard you" in reference to user complaints regarding the changes and I would like to believe it is that simple, but honestly there is such a lack of trust in eBay management these days, that most sellers doubt the motivation for these changes.

Some of these changes certainly needed to be rolled back and for that many sellers are grateful, but I can't help but think much of this could have been avoided, had they just "heard" sellers before the changes were made.

Here is a list of some of the recent reversals:

  • View Item Page - The most recent reversal was a note to developers and sellers regarding the "View Item" page. "Good news! As a result of your feedback, we have decided to stay with the existing "flex" design and not constrain the description area to 710 pixels. You can continue to make your template as wide as you want, and the page will resize to fit it." This reversal had more to do with developers I beleive than it did sellers.
  • eBay Links Policy - Back in April , eBay announced a new links policy that would basically restrict the use of outside links from About Me pages and listings. Many sellers spent numerous hours revising their listings in order to comply. Just recently eBay announced that the new Links Policy was being rolled back to the previous version.

    "Hello everyone…Back in May, I announced a number of important policy changes for sellers. One of the policies I mentioned was an update to our Links Policy which governs the types of links that can be included in a listing. Our Links Policy is intended to increase safety and preserve the buying experience.

    After my announcement, we received questions and concerns from sellers about this change. At eBay Live!, our staff made it clear we would be going back to reconsider some aspects of the policy around how third-party links would be treated.

    As promised, we’ve been reviewing all the different types of situations that our sellers have brought to our attention, and we’ve been meeting with additional stakeholders to understand how our policy update would impact them. After this additional research and discussion, we’ve decided to leave our Links Policy as is. There will be no Links Policy updates at this time."
    This is a huge win for sellers and either signals that eBay is listening, or there were bigger issues than thought regrading the policy.
  • Feedback Policy - When eBay launched the new Feedback policy earlier this year, they recalculated feedback to include neutrals as "examples of a negative buying experience", which basically made neutral feedback the same as negative feedback. Many sellers that qualified for "Power Seller" status, prior to the change, were suddenly no longer qualified.

    Well, you can imagine the uproar that caused and following eBay Live in June eBay announced that they would be revising the feedback policy. eBay Marketplaces President Lorrie Norrington said "Recalculating Feedback percentages without neutrals: Effective in late August, neutrals will no longer be counted as part of the Feedback percentage. This means we will be recalculating Feedback percentages retroactively for users worldwide. In the interim, no one will lose their PowerSeller status as a result of neutrals being included in their Feedback percentage." in addition she announced that a new revised Feedback Withdrawal system would be launched in Oct. in direct response to complaints from sellers.

    She went on to explain the motivation for these reversals; "Finally, we're working to resolve other important issues that eBay sellers have raised over the past several months. I hope what I've shared with you today demonstrates our commitment to listening and responding quickly with solutions. We want to make eBay a great place for you to do business, but it's going to take all of us -- together -- to get it right for the collective good. I want to thank you for your patience, your business and your continued commitment to eBay."
I really would like to give eBay management the benefit of the doubt regarding these roll backs. I would like to believe that they are actually in response to "listening to sellers" but managements track record ain't so good.

Many of these changes should never have seen the light of day in the first place, so if eBay is truly listening, I would suggest a change in the way they communicate with sellers.

Perhaps the "Voices" program has run it course and a new program needs to takes its place. A program with some teeth to it, where Sellers not only voice their opinions but they actually negotiate changes.

I know this is a radical idea and there isn't a simple solution but if eBay wants to turn this ship around they need to partner with sellers, give them some "skin in the game" and really work together.

Perhaps a Seller Policy Board that includes representatives from each of eBay's different constituencies (Vendors, Auction Sellers, Small Sellers, Store Sellers, Seller Organizations, Large Sellers, etc.) and actually has some ability to negotiate with eBay regarding changes. I know this idea is difficult to implement and has many positives and negatives, but something needs to be done to bridge the huge gap between sellers and management. I'm just throwing this idea out there to see if there are any viable options.

Special thanks to John at 3rd Power Outlet for the title for this post.

Just my 12%


ms.pat said...

LOL Way back when I said "if sales start to go down then all these fancy policies will be thrown out the window". Well, that's exactly what's happening. I think Donahoe may have a different opinion of sellers right now. We're not a herd to be milked for cash, pushed around and then discarded at will. We push back and we've given Ebay a nice big well deserved black eye by going around to blogs like these and financial articles that accept comments and spreading the reality of the new Ebay! I'm patiently waiting for the big sellers back the power to give a buyer a negative. This should never have been taken from them in the first place - because it wasn't replaced by any solid action on Ebay's part to mediate and to protect a seller's reputation from scamming buyers. Countless sellers left for that reason alone...hoping that one day it would change and they could come back again with their hard earned reputations in tact. The rest of the sellers feel they are playing Russian Roulette. The biggest thing Ebay lost and maybe...just maybe they are beginning to realise was important - is the trust of their sellers. Sellers not only do not trust Ebay, but many openly hate them! I, myself, would probably laugh to see the whole place fold see their business drop away just like mine did. Its only fair.... ;-) Sorry for the rant - this is exactly how much vitriole sellers hold for ebay and its not getting better - the "noise" continues!

Anonymous said...


If you think about it, I bet the new changes coming forward on the site will in essence roll back the SIS change.

I guess it took them 2 years to figure out that more sales = more money, no matter the format.

David said...

About the feedback changes, they aren't bringing Mutual Feedback Withdraw back.

This is an "updated" version feedback withdraw and they are going to limit the amount of comments you can withdraw.

Now I'm not sure what the limit is going to be but if they say "1 Feedback Withdraw a year" Then the feature is useless

Randy Smythe said...

Pat, I think it is obvious you are not pleased with eBay :)


Anonymous, I hope SIS comes back in some form. The supply is there in stores, get that product in CORE and you will start to see lower prices from sellers.



I stand corrected regarding the use of Mutual. I will remove that from the post, thanks. Unfortunately we won't find out until Oct. what the new system will be like.

Tony P. said...

Randy, does my dislike for ebay's decisions come across? Not sure if'n it is apparent, or what? LOL

LISTENING... what it means to me:

Both parties are aware of the other party's involvement and dependency upon any given decision that may affect their mutual situation. They both communicate, with each other. FIRST. FIRST. Before any final decision is made; before ANYTHING is implimented.

After a unilateral decision is made, there is no truth to any announcement of "We're Listening Now". The speaker may believe that they are now listening, but they actually have no concept of true communication.

Some folks would argue that when it comes to "ebay listening", even a baby step is a big improvement. That would be true if ebay realized their lack of communication, made a corrective action in that regard AND set about to change all future decision-making procedures.

With them only saying they are now listening and not setting up some sort of dialogue exchange procedure with sellers (as Randy suggests), they will simple plod ahead and (sometimes) make reactive gestures, instead of taking proactive measures.

They may have Listened, but they have not Heard us.

ms.pat said...

Randy - I love Ebay - which is why I fight so hard to educate people about it. Its managment I'm not pleased with. I would love to see Donahoe and his team on an unemployment line applying for benefits.

I know all this may have started during Whitman's time but I cannot believe she condoned it. Seems to me she picked up her marbles and left while the leaving was good.

nadine said...

Tony P., I think the word you are looking for is not "listening" but "humoring."

As in: the sellers must sometimes be humored by reversing a bad decision that eBay management doesn't care about too much, or that eBay IT has warned management may break the site if management insists on rushing it through regardless of consequences.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading an ebay article in which ebay management said something about ebay being the only business model where a seller can openly verbally abuse and publicly critize a customer (or something of that nature). It shows you the lack of any real intelligence in the ebay administration. First off, an online auction is not a retail store, never will be. The model is different. We can shout back at the ebay idiot that made that statement, it is the only place where the buyer can place a huge lit up rotating sign at the front door of our business establishment saying this business sucks. Wake up, ebay, your model is not a department store. In the real world, a store does not publicly critize a customer, BUT the customer also does NOT have the ability to simply click a button and destroy the credability of the business so that every person who wants to shop will be told what a crappy, unreliable store it is. I, myself, have closed my ebay store and moved all my auctions to and