Monday, August 04, 2008

Guest Blogger Steve Lindhorst - eBay’s Business Prevention Dept. Strikes Again!

Guest Blogger Steve Lindhorst is the author of “Selling on 'the River' - The eBay Seller's Guide to Selling on" and he blogs over at

eBay’s Business Prevention Dept. Strikes Again

With unbridled enthusiasm, the business world has begun adopting eBay's new strategy to provide a better shopping experience.

...okay, well not really. In fact eBay sellers are outraged yet again. eBay's newest policy comes in two parts:

  1. If a seller has multiple identical items, eBay will only display one on the search results page. Once the displayed item has a bid, the items are no longer identical, and eBay will show another.
  2. eBay search results pages will display a maximum of 10 items for any given seller. If seller #1 has more than ten items listed, and a buyer performs a search, they will only see 10 items from seller #1 on the first page of search results. Seller #1's next ten items will appear on page two of the search results and so on.


If this were a sound business decision, brick and mortar stores would be likely to follow eBay's far-sighted policies.

Imagine the scene...

(wiggly picture wiggly picture wiggly picture)

Donut shopkeeper: "Morning Mr. Donahoe!"

John Donahoe: "Morning! How's my favorite donut seller?"

Donut shopkeeper: "Doin' great Mr. Donahoe! What can I get you?"

John Donahoe: "Big meeting today. (whispering) We think we've figured out the problem over at eBay."

Donut shopkeeper: "NO WAY! That's great. (whispers) What are you thinking it is?"

John: "Customers! This would be a great business if it weren't for customers. Get rid of the customers - no more problems!"

Donut shopkeeper: "So how are ya gonna do it?"

John: "We've come up with a plan. If we can hide their listings, no transactions will take place. No transactions, no customers, no problems!"

Donut shopkeeper: "How do you come up with that stuff?"

John: (kicking at the ground with an "awe shucks" grin) "I know, I know. - Hey, I'll take a dozen donuts. I want the white ones with colored sprinkles."

Donut shopkeeper: "Sorry Mr. Donahoe, I can only sell you ten. We keep the rest at the store on the next block. You can go down there for the other two. (Pauses) HEY! That's kinda like your plan huh?"

John: (bottom lip quivering) "Yeah, but by the time I get over there, they might be gone!"
Donut shopkeeper: "I'm sorry Mr. Donahoe, that's policy now. The boss decided ten was all we could have out at a time. Kinda makes the old 'dozen donuts' a thing of the past though. He said it makes a better 'experience' or something like that? Oh and besides, you can hop over to the next store an grab those other two, if you have time."

John: "Nahhh, I won't make it. I still have to stop by the flower shop. It's Lorrie's birthday."

John drives to the flower shop to get his colleague some flowers for her birthday. Little does he know the flower shop has also adopted eBay's ground-breaking strategy.

John: "Good morning! I'm kind of in a hurry - I need to get twelve yellow roses!"

Florist: "Ooooo that sounds nice! Who are they for?"

John: "One of my workmates is having a birthday. I know she'll like these - hey where'd you get those donuts?"

Florist: "Next door - last two they had! ...I'm afraid I have some bad news..."
John: "What's that?"

Florist: "Well, we have this new policy, we can only sell you ten identical roses - would you like two red to go with the ten yellow?"

John: (frustrated) "No! - you don't have twelve yellow?"

Florist: "Well, no we wanted to offer a better selection to the customers, so we put a limit of ten on any one type. You can go to our other store and get more though."

John: "I don't have time for that. - Okay, give me the ten yellow and just give me the best match for the other two. I still need to get some gas on the way to the office."

Florist: "There you are. I hope she likes them!"

John drives to the gas station across the street from eBay. He runs his credit card and starts pumping the gas. It stops at ten gallons.

(Click click click) - "Hey! - What's wrong with this thing?"

Attendant: "We only are selling ten gallons of the gas."

John: "But I need more than that."

Attendant: "You can buy more. Just pull ahead to the next pump."

John: "That's ridiculous! It's inconvenient."

Attendant: "You actually could also just choose a different grade, which is a different price. And you'll have to run your card again. Sorry, it's policy."

John: "Forget it. (then muttering to himself) This is a PAIN!! Who comes up with this stuff? I still have to get more donuts...I'm going to be late for my meeting now...why is everything always so complicated?"

What's wrong with this policy?

eBay is moving ever closer to the social engineering we have seen in government programs. They feel buyers are too stupid to find what they want on their own. eBay knows best.

The fact is, buyers are finding what they want. But it's not on eBay anymore. (Click click click) - "Hey! - What's wrong with this thing?"

Steve's 12%


Cliff said...

#1 doesn't have anything to do with me, but I do admit, this one would bother me if it did.

#2 will touch a lot more sellers I think, and I like it, both as a buyer and seller. Probably the main reason I like it as a seller is why I like it as a buyer--I shop certain categories and searches regularly and I'm pretty familiar with spotting similar listings and know right away whether I want to shop with that seller or not. If I'm not interested I'll just scroll to the bottom of the page without looking, move on to the next page and continue doing so until I'm clear of that seller's listings. I'm sure that my alter-selling ego has potential customers doing the same thing. Now if I hit the relist button on 100 items I'll have them spread out over 10 pages, instead of just appearing on a couple of pages that are potentially skipped over.

As a seller I prefer the possibility of having my items spread over 10 pages rather than 2.

Anonymous said...


The new rule doesn't affect me but I hate those links. Sometimes when I'm researching, I find myself clicking on them because I'm interested in something I see. I wonder how much these ads are driving customers off?

ms.pat said...

The new rule doesn't affect me either but Ebay has to do something serious about taking money from sellers and NOT showing their listings for whatever "good" reason they think they have. Taking money and not providing service is considered internet fraud in plain english.

Henrietta said...

I would respectfully disagree with you Cliff, as a buyer if I am making a search I want to see it ALL.

I want to see it the way I decide, whether that is price high to low or ending soonest, it is my money I am planning to spend and my choice what I look at. I can scroll just as well as the next person.

What I want to see is the search function fixed so if I am searching quilt I GET quilts, not candles or vintage Fender guitars for heavens sake.

Great blog post Mr L! Y'all come back again.

Cliff said...

Hi Henrietta,

Sounds more like my problems w/Amazon's search, which I abhor.

For your search on eBay I just type:

(quilt,quilts) -guitar -candle

Save it and adjust as necessary.

At the same time I hate "Best Match" and am very glad they've kept the "Ending Soonest" and "Newly Listed" options available. I know what I want and I know how to find it, but this change (Part 2 at least, as I also have objections to Part 1) addresses my only complaint with eBay search as I currently conduct when shopping.


Any idea how point #1 impacts the listings, if at all?


Randy Smythe said...


Buy shouldn't be affected because they do Fixed Price listings with multiple inventory.

So one of their listings could have a quantity of 30, they don't need multiple listings.

Tony P. said...

First, everyone should realize that these two functions may affect you, even if neither one of them "affects my business model". Why is that? I can only answer, with a question of my own.

Can you name even a single enhancement created by the ebay programmers that functions correctly, the majority of the time? If you can, you evidently don't visit the discussion forums.

I know that neither change will impact my listing strategy, if they operate as stated. I know that, for a fact, but they still scare the hell out of me.

When I list 6 separate auctions of Limoges hand-painted plates, all done by the same artist, all with entirely different scenes, all from the same factory, all with Titles that vary by only a word or two or three...

Go ahead. Ask me what I think the chances are that the BM machine will think them IDENTICAL and hide 5 of them. And I don't want to hear how it may ONLY screw up here & there - these aren't fricking iPods skins that I can just crapout another bunch whenever I want.

Sorry, got a little heated there. Guess you don't need to 'ask me' now - guess you have my answer.

Tony P. said...

This could produce the Perfect Storm. I've been waiting for ebay to do such a thing. Not wishing for it, mind you, just waiting. They've been dunderheads before and haven't really changed.

Let's do a brief review of times past. 2004- ebay rolled up the P&G category and stuck everything into the Other category. They insisted that everyone learn and adopt Item Specifics. Brilliant! Except for the part, "who's gonna tell and instruct the buyers how to search?".

Faced with that hopeless situation, the P&G sellers ended their listings (to prevent opening-bid-only losers). No one listed. Nada. Zip. Category went from 330K, to 75K within 3 weeks. The Pinks explained that everything would work out. We explained that it wouldn't. We won out. They reversed their decision.

Ebay had created their own boycott. They had not thought the situation through, even to a simple point that just about any P&G seller could have told them. We were not about to dump our goodies into one, single big-ass pile that no buyer would know how to search.

This time, ebay has issued a decree that sellers shouldn't list more than 1of anything that might be construed as identical, AND, not more than 10 of anything that might come up together in a search. They may not see it like that, but that's what any thinking seller will understand.

The mega-sellers don't pay as much attention to their items as the P&G sellers did/do to their single-item-goodies. The megas don't have that much time for 'babysitting' their items. etc etc etc

BUT, if they curtail their listing by even a small percentage and the majority of them do that, it will make an impact. And you can bet that the collectibles sellers will be watching what they list, if for no other reason than the one I stated above (BM screwup).

I give it 3-4 weeks to make the rounds, so that a majority of sellers are aware of it. It may be sooner. Dark clouds gather. No sunshine at all. A perfect storm to produce an F-5.

Anonymous said...

I actually think this helps auctions out and will give them a new breath.

Alot of sellers in many categories flooded the search with multiple fixed price listings. That helped their sales, but killed auctions.

Now FP listings are limited to 1 so your result set gets alot smaller. More auctions bubble to the top, more bidders, higher ASP.

How does this affect the aggregate? Don't know really. Probably time to split fixed price and auctions and have them on separate tabs or something.

Anonymous said...

Two buttons: New. Used.

Get caught messing with 'em, and get tossed off ebay.

That would fix a LOT of these "too much stuff" search problems.

Oh, excuse me- CLAIMS.

Tony P. said...

This change has provided me with a vision of something that I have never seen in the 8 years that I've been on ebay.

A pissed-off seller left his thoughts on this policy change, in the search board thread that announced it.

Not just a shooting star seller, but one that has over 200-Thousand Feedbacks!

I'd never seen a 6-digit feedback seller risk that sort of notoriety, ever. Back in 2004, when the shooting stars started coming to the boards, that was a signal to anyone not living with their head up their arse.

I believe I have just seen another signal.

Randy Smythe said...

Tony, can you email me the link?


my blog said...

I'd be interested in hearing from people who want to 'guest blog' on my blog at The subject matter needs to be related to tips and techniques of doing business online and is to be aimed at business owners. For example "how to promote a business blog". Posts should be original. I will provide a credit to the contributor in the post and a link back to their site.

Contact me through My site


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