Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The latest on eBay

So the latest fee structures and feedback adjustments on eBay have been causing an uproar. I figured I would also contrubute my two cents on the situation....This is just random, disjointed thoughts that came to me in the shower, so bear with me....

Some changes, I havea problem with, others, not so much. I do know that eBay has upset a number of it's sellers and regulars, which can never be good. I don't really know what their goal is with the latest changes. Are they really trying to turn into an "online marketplace", or are they trying to be an "online mall"? They seem to be driving away the casual sellers, the people clearing out their attics and basements, and the people who say "hey, I'll try selling this collectible on eBay before I take it to an antique/consignment store".

They seem to be courting big businesses. Large companies with off-shoots on the internet. Or at least small companies with warehouses and large inventories who use eBay instead of an independent website....probably for the traffic. Is this the goal? Maybe? But, I'll tell you, I shop eBay for the people selling stuff out of their basements and attics and closets for "bargain basement" prices, because they need the space, and would like a little bit of compensation for that 3-year-old Prada bag or designer dress they never quite lost enough weight to wear. The corporations don't really seem to be giving such a deal. Give me Jane Doe and her overstuffed closets any day of the week over "buy our Bag" corporation and their need to make a profit. I don't think I am alone in this, but I think these are the people eBay may be driving away.

Ok, On to my specific thoughts. These are not all-inclusive of the changes on eBay, and may also address things that haven't changed, but I see people complaining about.

The first, the thing I have the biggest problem with: buyers can't get negative feeedback. EBay says that the big reason for this is that they don't want retaliatory negative feedback when something goes wrong, and as long as the buyer has paid, they should get a positive feedback. Au Contraire. This htinking is like United Airlines thinking that limiting their passengers to only ONE free checked piece of luggage will AVOID overweight bags.....riiiight.

As a seller (and heavy buyer) on ebay, one of the worst things I have ever had to deal with are what are affectionately known as the "buyers from Hell". usually the problem with these buyers is NOT the payment issue. Non-payign bidders are easy to deal with. You report them, get refunded your fees, and relist the item or offer it tot he second highest bidder. The end. The problem occurs when you have a buyer who pays, adn then can NOT be pleased. You shipped the item within your stated time was too slow. They get the item, and it's not actually what they wanted, or they find some imaginary flaw, etc, anf they want their money refunded BEFORE they return the item. They get the item, but claim they didn't. You described the item perfectly, but they report it as misrepresented. Etc Etc Etc.

These are the buyers who sellers talk about on other boards with "don't let So-and-So buy from you!!" warnings. Now, eBay is saying that the sellers have no recourse in these situations? If we don't please these impossible to please customers, they can threaten us with negative feedback, adn we can't even respond?? eBay willl even take their side, and let our feedbacks suffer, then punish us in listings because of their unwillingness to be satisfied without gaining extras? For shame.

The other thing I have a problem with is the new "default listing" policy where eBay will list power sellers and stores with 100% feeedback first as a default. I hate this. I prefer the more random listings where some no-name seller has jsut as much chance of your business as a big name corporation. if I wanted to buy from a "big name" or just anothe business, why would I go to eBay? There are indepedent websites and free-standing stores for that. Why can't I choose my default listing? Maybe I don't want to buy from a power seller or from some nameles company. yeah, maybe my risk is smaller, but so is my upside. I WANT to take a chance on that bag in Joe Normal's Wife's closet. If it's authentic, I've made an awesome deal, and if it's not, the price I paid isn't upsetting to me.

Part of the fun of eBay is the "hunt". Remember the "buy victoriously" campaign?? What's so victorious for a buyer buying something from a company for basically regualr price? Where's the hunt? Where's the unique items you only ever see once or twice, no matter how hard you look? Gone if it's just the power sellers and businesses left on eBay.

Now, for the big thing that differentiates me from so many of the people boycotting eBay right now:

I don't have a big problem with the new fee structure.

Yes, you read that right.

To me, the fees on eBay are a price of doing business. You pay a fee to have a consignment store sell your things...sometimes as much as 50% or more of the final value fee. When you sell your items wholesale, stores will markt hem up a percentage. Many large art and craft shows charge a percentage of your gross sales at the end of the show. EBay needs to make money. I understand that. They list the fees UP FRONT. I calculate them, and see what kind of money I need to sell my items fr to at least break even, or to make a profit, depending on what I am selling. That's usually my starting bid point. Yes, they raised the fees. They need to pay the programmers, and moderators, and facilitators. eBay is a business. An online business. They have overhead, just like every other business. I respect that.

I don't even have a problem with them taking a portion of the shipping costs. I think this is to avoid the seller who lists an item at a LOW price, but then absolutely GOUGES you on the shipping. Like a watch for $1.00 with a shipping fee of $60. WTF? Hopefully, along with cracking down on people who overly pad their shipping, this will help avoid a lot of that. All I do, when I sell, is calculate how much my shipping actually is, add on the fee amount (usually enough to make shipping a whole dollar amount), and charge that. It's called "handling".

Now, the biggest groups I have heard complaining are the artisans and craft people, and many of them have a right to their complaints...again in my opinion, mostly about the protection (or lack there of) of sellers. Custom clothing is always a slippery slide, and if you can't support a seller, then the seller will no longer be there. BUT, eBay has really helped another sale/auction site that I am only slightly familiar with: Etsy.

Etsy is sitting there waiting patiently to pick up the slack and welcome the artisans and crafts people that eBay lets slip away. Maybe eBay doesn't want to dealw it this group. I'm sure the ratio of incidences with this kind of seller is higher. I know there are complaints from corporations and license holders about "sketchy" designs where an item could possibly be considered in violation of a copyright. I KNOW there are frequently complaints int eh process from both buyers wanting their items delivered in a timely manner or unhappy with the quality of work, to sellers who are unhappy with the buyers wanting major costly changes to their orders for no extra cost, or who are never satisfied. Maybe eBay is worried about people selling their items for a profit without having a usiness license, or the proper paperwork for legality (which is still required, BTW). Maybe eBay jsut doesn't want to deal with it anymore, and is willing to lose that niche business to etsy and those sellers who will just make themselves a commercuial website? I don't really know.

All I do know, is that it's going to take me a little longer to find the things I am looking for, if the casual sellers stay away from eBay. Another online auction site will probably pop up again, similar to the ones that used to compete with eBay 10 years ago. I'll start looking for hand-made dresses for my daughter on etsy more and eBay less, and hopefully etsy will make their site a little more user-friendly. Who knows what the future brings. In some ways, I hate the change from my comfort others I'm excited to see what's on the next horizon.....

No comments: