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Wed Nov 8 2017 14:29:50

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

By: Ina Steiner

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Another day, another letter from a seller who reports a problem trying to answer questions from buyers. Sellers aren't complaining about the policy itself - they already know they aren't supposed to take transactions off eBay. The problem is how eBay is enforcing the policy as it sics its bots on users in a frenzy of paranoia.

We have been writing about the problem since the spring (including this post) after eBay announced new policies designed to crackdown on off-eBay sales in what it described as "Updates to communications, allowable links, image catalog, and listing best practices to improve site performance for a stronger eBay marketplace."

eBay's system is incorrectly flagging innocent communications sent between buyers and sellers. It calls to mind the old adage: "garbage in, garbage out." No matter how sophisticated your Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology, humans have to define how they operate. In the case of the bots that monitor user communications, something has gone terribly wrong.

The latest case brought to our attention occurred when a shopper asked a reader about his shipping costs. The seller responded, "all shipping prices are listed calculated by eBay, make sure you are signed in."

That does not violate eBay policy, and the response is helpful to the buyer and professional. But the bots flagged it, causing eBay to threaten "account suspension or other penalties" and telling the seller he might have to pay a final value fee. (That part of the policy regarding fees *is* controversial, since eBay proposes to charge commission fees when there's no evidence a transaction was consummated.)

Here's the message the seller received when he tried to answer the buyer's question about shipping costs:

"If you're a seller do not include contact info to buy or sell outside eBay. Messages are reviewed and you may be charged a final value fee. To keep everyone safe on eBay, please don't send messages that include contact info. Repeated attempts could lead to an account suspension or other penalties. Learn more about our member-to-member contact policy."

We couldn't even make it through writing this post before receiving another letter about the policy enforcement: "We recently had a warning letter for giving our contact details to a guy who had bought a pick-up-only item from us. Seen a lot of complaints about this," a reader told us. He was forwarding an email eBay UK sent about a new three-part video series it produced on the topic. 

And yet another letter has come in from a reader who sells sports cards who made an interesting observation: "It turns out that the bots cannot tell the difference between the card numbers or serial numbers of the cards from personal contact information." He said many sellers of sports cards have seen a dramatic decrease in sales as a result - especially those using Seller Hub. 

We've had time to watch Part 1 of eBay UK's videos - it's heavy on how unfair it is to *sellers* when a transaction takes place off of eBay. The video didn't mention that eBay loses fees from off-site transactions, but it's long been a reality for the company. What has eBay so convinced now that it needs to crackdown on the practice? 

eBay is also threatening shoppers - not a great buyer experience. We came across this tweet from a buyer who *did* provide his email address to a seller, though presumably with no malicious intent. 

With ecommerce blossoming on Facebook, eBay's anti-social paranoia seems particularly ill-timed.

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Readers Comments

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 8 15:50:15 2017

Sellers on Ebay paranoid. Tell me it isn't so.

We know the buyers are but the sellers. NOT

We maybe

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Wed Nov 8 16:34:37 2017

FYI, this is referring to eBay's behavior, not sellers.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 8 18:01:31 2017

ebay stock took a 1% hit today...and ANOTHER 1% hit in after hours trading...officially down $2 for the past month.
You could almost make a case that stockbrokers have discovered the ebay selling board.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: Silver Ice King This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 8 20:12:46 2017

Ebay needs to stop making all these constant changes to their program and hire some competent programmers who can fix all the glitches that they have created during this frenzy of change.  The only reason they could possibly have for not putting any effort into fixing these errors is that they never were really glitches or errors but intentional ways to increase revenues so they can continue to to at least show some growth.  Even if they do refund the overcharges they seem to always be in the next quarter and based on what I have garnered from reading articles and what little financial information that Ebay actually breaks out those "refunds" go below the line so that they do not effect the growth numbers  which have basically already been overstated.  

Ebay needs their stock price to stay afloat or upper management knows they will be out the door and with Wenigs track record he may have problems finding any type of upper management job anytime soon.  Ebay put all their eggs in two baskets and both seem to be full of holes big enough to keep dropping the eggs, China and Sellers Hub, and both were Wenigs brain children.  Hal Lawton saw the writing on the wall and what a fiasco Sellers Hub has become with all of the low budget programming that Ebay has working on it.  You would think that with this being the core of their marketplace business that they would have hired the best programmers they could to work on it, but obviously that has not and is not the case as that would cut into the quarterly results and draw attention to the fact that Ebay is failing both their buyers and sellers, and truthfully their shareholders as well.

All of this paranoia about sellers taking their business off of Ebay is just a distraction to try and take all the Wall Street eyes off of the fact that Ebay has a major software fiasco on their hands and no idea how nor the personnel with the ability to fix it.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 8 22:21:08 2017

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you!

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 8 22:42:01 2017

I received one of those letters the other day. I had a rear window hinge listed for the left side. A buyer asked if I had the right side. I did not and responded as such. However in his message to me was his phone number. Now I didn't ask for it nor did I intend to call him. A few days later, the GTC listing was on the 30th day. As I do with all listings, I cancelled it and relisted. Just one of the games I play to get things noticed on Ebay.

Well it seems the bots assume that a note with contact info, followed by an ended listing without a sale MUST mean the transaction was completed outside of Ebay.

Someone needs to remind ebay that when you assume, you make an A$$ out of U and ME. This is a problem Ebay. You're upsetting your sellers, which YOU NEED; and you are interfering with buyers who are not privy to paranoia of losing your FVF. The bottom line is this, if your service is worthwhile, sellers are happy to pay your fees. Sellers have a hard time seeing value in what you charge. Declining sales, declining traffic, and an unstable platform do not scream value to the people paying the bills.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Thu Nov 9 00:26:27 2017

Maybe it's the bots way of telling sellers to get out now while the gettin's good before it gets much, much worse. Maybe the bots doing sellers a favor indirectly...Flee..Flee..Flee!!

Okay, okay... it's not E.T. or R2D2 or a departing Twitter employee

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: portagelakes This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 02:36:22 2017

Sellers use to be able to see the buyers email address but that is gone I guess for fear of off eBay sales.  But I find that kind of ridiculous on eBay's part because if you go into your PayPal account & click on the classic view of a sale it has the buyer's email.  So what's the big deal about not giving us the buyer's email, eBay must think we have no brains.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 06:51:45 2017

Today companies , and even individuals sell  their products and items all over the internet. their own sites, distributor sites, everywhere, and in most cases, lower prices and better selection, ebay seriously needs a reality check,,, they are not the only site on the internet, those days are long gone, and they will never ever return.

They continue to have this mental delusional dream that they are the only one, and continue spending truckloads of  money and time trying to protect something that is absolutely unattainable , at the same time upsetting their customers, (the sellers)  

The more ebay continues down this path, the more ebay will loose, it's simply not reasonable thinking,

We make more '' off ebay sales '' then ever before, we continue to grow year after year, and there is absolutely nothing ebay can do about it, it's just the way people shop and buy online now, ebay has become  only one of millions of other places to buy.

Just like the Henry Ford Motor Company, in the beginning they were the only car maker, now there's many more companies, Ford didn't spend it's time trying to upset their customers, they used their resources to improve their company and car to get sales. and compete, with other companies.

Ebay needs to stop this nonsense, and wake up to reality asap, it's so wasteful and destructive to their company on so many levels ,  an impossible dream, that will never come true,  

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: Truk This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 08:20:33 2017

I'm serving my second 7 day suspension for mentioning our company name in a answer to a buyer question  and was immediately suspended.
Thing is our business name is in our listing the CS agent says messages are different
I have lost what little respect I had for this company and will continue to develop other channels to be gone from eBay their may be business here but I won't be treated in this way long

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Thu Nov 9 08:21:58 2017

You know, stupid buyers don't help either.  It never occurs to them to put your user name into a search engine and see if adding ".com" to the end might lead somewhere.  Nope, just cry for cheaper prices, completely oblivious to the 15%-20% premium of forcing the transaction to occur on eBay.  And then, for that one in a million smart enough to figure a way out of that box, you send them a Square invoice and they act like it's in hieroglyphics.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: Hickory This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 10:14:14 2017

eBay is driving me crazy with these warnings.  I make handmade items and every time a buyer requests a change I cringe because I know I'm going to get a nasty email from eBay stating that I better not be taking the sale off of eBay.  I'm not for goodness sake.  I had a buyer ask for a reduction in price if she bought more than one item and that evening I get a nasty gram from eBay warning my shop getting shut down if I take a sale off eBay.  It's getting a little tiresome... stop it already eBay.  You are offending the sellers that provide your revenue.  

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 11:23:15 2017

One more thing, Ebay. What do you think those sellers you suspend for 7 days are doing with their time? That's right, developing other sources of revenue for their products. And since they aren't selling during their 7 day stay in Ebay purgatory, who is losing out on a week's worth of fees? DUH....

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: aim04744 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 12:18:48 2017

Here you go Ebay. A word of advice.

Dont mistreat your good sellers so they flee for several years.
Dont replace those sellers with Chinese sellers who now play games like send something else to trick the tracking process.
Dont start attacking your buyers.

Ooh, wait. nevermind. You already did.

Now you are so desperate to have SOME kind of users on the site you are resorting to mafia like techniques to keep them there .

Are you going to start sending bots out to break the knees of users who may be thinking of doing something you dont like?

I have never seen a more incompetent company.  

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 12:35:50 2017

Related paranoia...somebody on the selling board was whining that they couldn't get a CSR whose 1st language was English. I posted the Utah call center number...and some jerkwater moderator whited it out.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: donald This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 13:23:53 2017





I too was suspended yesterday for using the word ''invoice'' on my messages. Their smart bot at their worse.

I called SS and after an hour got my account back online.

I guess if you have the time you can straighten out with those Filipinas.



eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 13:26:34 2017

It's official...ebay is now "ebot"

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Nov 9 15:22:30 2017

eBay have hit rock BOT-tom.

eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: donald This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 9 23:53:46 2017




That's a good one Rex & ebayout.


eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers   eBay Paranoia Sets Off Threats against Sellers and Buyers

by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Fri Nov 10 02:35:45 2017

We make more '' off ebay sales '' then ever before, we continue to grow year after year

mad - I often see here post that say the same thing but no one ever discloses where exactly they are making those sales.  We know it's not etsy anymore and bonanza well hell would freeze over before I actually sell anything there. Ecrater? I've sold perhaps 5 items there in 6 years.  So if I can sell hundreds of dollars a month on ebay and the exact same item is cheaper elsewhere - well there is a disconnect here with the buyers. So where exactly is it to go? Is it a big secret only I am uninformed of? perhaps - if there is a successful web hosting platform that is better than another somebody clue me in - I'm really ready to dump my 3 ebay stores and invest that money elsewhere - I just don't know where to go.

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