Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of
Wed Feb 29 2012 18:44:44

Live Blogging eBay Town Hall Meeting on SR1 2012

By: Greg Holden

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EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor Greg Holden is live-blogging eBay's Town Hall meeting on the topic of Tuesday's Seller Release announcement. As in past events, sellers call in to ask questions.

Note: This is not a transcript, please note that many questions and answers are  summarized/paraphrased. Apologies in advance for misspellings of people's names - we're happy to correct if notified.

Griff: This discussion will be limited to changes to top-rated seller program; added seller protections; global returns; business policies features; updates to shipping, free pictures, and new picture requirements; changes to category listings. Doesn't sound terribly "limited" because so many changes are happening, does it?

Panelists: Michael Jones; Adam Carson, Guru; Kristina Klausen of seller standards team; Gary Vollmer; Louis Olsen and others around open mike.

Michael Jones: as we all know, consumer expectations are on the rise. These changes will help our top rated sellers compete and win. Our goals are to help them increase sales and improve overall selling efficiency.

[Rhetorical question: will changing all your photos improve your efficiency? Just askin'! - G.H.]

Laura in Ky: The 90% tracking requirement in order to retain my GRS status. People like me who sell vintage cards and reproduction items...there are 1.9 million postcards for sale on eBay, all shipped typically first-class mail without delivery confirmation of any type.

If I am forced to switch to delivery con with tracking, will increase my shipping costs 200%. I truly don't understand why categories like this that have been historically first-class mail--i have never had a single first-class item go missing--i don't understand why there cant be a weight cap, say under 3 oz. we can put in an envelope and put a stamp on it. Our customers aren't willing to pay for delivery confirmation.

Response: we're making these changes to help sellers compete and attract buyers and convert sales. We've heard from our buyers; they want to know their item is shipped. It's really become the e-commerce standard to have tracking. This is why we have included this in the top-rated seller experience.

Laura: It doesn't take into account low cost items like stamps. A majority of the items I sell are $3 greeting cards. I'm going to reach a point where, if you enforce this, I will no longer be able to sell on eBay and I will close my store.

Response: It sounds like you are delivering a great experience for your buyers. We recognize this policy is not going to be possible for all sellers. Hopefully the discount you get against the increased cost of tracking, you can weigh the difference and see if it's worth it for you.

Laura: there is no way I can make it work with my current business model. I'm going to lose sales as a result of it. If I roll it into my price I won't have a margin. You're forcing people like me into a corner.

Griff: I don't want to invalidate your point. What I would say though. From past changes I would say you're making assumptions about buyers and see how it works.

Laura: I'll give it until May 1 and see how it works. I've been an eBay seller since're going to push a lot of us over the cliff with this.

eBay: We're sympathetic to Laura's concerns. There are some categories where it is going to be more difficult to implement this than others.

We're moving ahead with the program because we heard from sellers that this was the way they thought we should go.

Jones: We planned ahead for this. If it doesn't work, we'll revisit it. But we are convinced that for the majority of sellers, we can make it work.

Next seller (Clark): I sell stamps; I have a perfect record now. I pack everything in a #6 envelope, I use postage. I have had no losses in past years. If I raise prices to cover tracking I'll no longer be competitive. A lot of sellers will exit stage left and move to a place like Bidstart.

Looks to me like anything under $100 I'll move off the site. My insurance does not require tracking until the item reaches $200. I cannot continue to be competitive because it's not equal to the rest of the stamp market. Read Frank Norrris's book The Octopus about the Southern Pacific Railroad.

eBay: Oy vey! ...You're not alone. You made the right statement when you said this levels the playing field. We know this will cause some sellers to have to raise their prices to compete. We know this levels it in a way that causes sellers to adapt but to make it work.

Guru: We are leveling the playing field. What we are also doing on the back end, this is not an isolated policy we are enforcing, we will use this in multiple ways (tracking data). We will see how much time it takes a seller from Washington send it to say Washington D.C. and will give specific delivery estimates and that includes conversion for the seller in Washington. If you adopt practices like this you are helping us and helping you get more sales.

[comment: isn't that great: you're helping eBay! - G.H.]

Next seller (Camille): My question is about the 14-day return time. I sell live mealworms--feeder insects. I can't really offer a 14-day return policy on a live product. I can't see me benefiting from this policy. I don't have a problem shipping within a day, but the problem is the weather.

If the temperatures are above 90 degrees or below 20, I sometimes have to wait to ship. I usually put up to a five-day handling time on my listings. That's my situation. I am top rated in both of my stores, never got a negative feedback. I don't see how this will work for me.

eBay: What is a mealworm?

Camille: It is a feeder insect for reptiles and bluebirds and protein-eating animals.

eBay: first of all congratulations on your high ratings. We recognize that some of the changes will not work for all sellers and all inventory. I see you have some special situations that can affect live worms. If there are situations where some sellers are unable to meet the requirements of the new program, you will ...

Sellers can choose not to offer the returns and without affecting their top rated seller status.

Camille: I am talking about the 20 percent discount, which helps me stay afloat. I don't see why I should be punished for something I am trying to get out there alive.

eBay: even if you offer a return policy, the vast majority of buyers do not return items. As long as you offer a money back guarantee with a reasonable restocking fee you will meet those standards. I encourage you to try this out. You might find the rate of returns is small enough to offset...

eBay: One thing you could consider is to use the USPS labeling system we have provided. you can schedule a pickup by the postman. If there is a weather problem you can avoid the trip and have the mailman do the hard work for you.

Camille: I do that for my customers, I require that they pick it up at their post office when it's hot out.

eBay: We'd like to follow this; please keep in touch with you so we can see how this works out for you. We're not trying to wiggle out of this.

Next seller (Catherine): I have another question about uploading tracking. I'm pretty obsessive about shipping and taking care of my customers. I have a problem with transparency on uploading tracking. I have shipped every day within one single business day. yet, my preview is showing that some got missed. I'm not going to say eBay is wrong, but two a day runs to the post office means I can get out on time. What's up with that? When you say I have 94% upload, will I be able to see [the ones that didn't ship in one day]?

eBay (Kristina): We'll take this on and take a look with it and make sure the product is working as intended.

eBay: although the preview you see in the dashboard, you will be able to see on an item by item basis what you are shipping so you can be more effective.

Next seller (Karen): I'm wondering if the information about the buyers printing and clicking their own return shipping label, is that the final version of the policy?

eBay: I suspect you would like to see another option?

Karen: Here is my concern: buyer prints own return label, no communication with seller; seller sees the item, and you refund the final value fee. What you have is an unhappy buyer, and no communication with the seller. The seller has no idea that this happened. Since when did communication become unimportant on eBay.

Guru: hose are valid concerns. Think about where the retail standard of returns is going. If you buy something on

Karen: is eBay trying to become like Wal-mart?

eBay: The customer expectation...what do you sell

Karen: I sell luxury items.

eBay: If the customers buys luxury items from you instead of a brick and mortar store their expectations are common.

Karen: They would like to get a confirmation from the store before the return.

eBay: We do provide for you to get an RMA. The buyers goes in, files for a return, sees the sellers is supposed to be offering an RMA number.

Karen: The policy I'm seeing on eBay right now does not say anything about an RMA number.

eBay: If this system doesn't work for you, when the tool becomes available in June you will be able to opt out of it.

Karen: It sounds like eBay is taking away communication [between buyer and seller] If something is wrong, I want to know it. I want to make it right.

Email question #1 from Duncan: Some related questions about the one day handling and how it could affect seller ratings. Does the one day handling requirement begin when the payment clears?

eBay: The clock begins ticking when the payment clears.

Griff: You want to check the payment status to see when the payment clears so you can get in within the

Email question #2 from Duncan:When the store is on vacation does the one day handling begin when you get back from vacation?

eBay: We encourage sellers to use vacation mode. The vacation does not affect the handling mode. It prevents a buyer from making a purchase during that time. If you are away

Email question #3 from Duncan: What is the one day time day or time--one day from the purchase date?

eBay: Saturday is not a business day.

eBay: A business day does not include weekends or U.S. holidays. Based on the business day after the payment clears, the seller has through midnight the next business day, if they are committed to one day handling time. Say the payment comes in on Tuesday; they have through midnight on Wed to send it out. If payment comes in on Saturday they have until Monday midnight to upload the tracking information.

eBay: If an item is purchase on Friday, and paid for, you have until midnight Monday to upload the tracking.

eBay: In all cases we encourage sellers to upload as quickly as possible and to ship as quickly as possible.

Adam: I want to use the opportunity to mention that we are introducing a same-day handling option.

Griff: And this is not tied to any requirements.

Next seller (Leah): The majority of my items are under two dollars. I put them in a #10 envelope and send them on their way. It does not make sense to raise shipping beyond what the item actually costs. A buyer isn't going to pay $5,$6 for party favors when now they are only paying $2.70. They only have to scan the item when it is delivered (not when you drop it off).

eBay: I want to make sure you and all of our listeners know that in all cases tracking and delivery confirmation will meet the new standard. You will not be penalized for that. While we want to have as many scans as possible on record, you will still meet the new standard.

Leah: if a buyer wants to return an item, I don't ask questions. I will exchange or give a refund. We're top rated sellers for a reason. Why are we being penalized for this? You're going to force poor sellers like us off of eBay.

eBay: Sounds like you have a great return policy. We recognize these changes are going to be hard in some categories to meet. We know it's going to be tough in some places. Figure out if there are some changes you can make in your business--multi item purchase--or frankly maybe not.

Leah: It's not that they're not going to be easy, they're not going to be possible.

eBay: What is an average shipping price you pay?

Leah: right now I can put a stamp on it which is 25 cents. Right now I can buy a box of envelope for less than $1.50. If I go to package rate, I have to buy mailers. Package rate starts at one oz. for $1.64. If I have to use shipping labels, that is another cost.

Griff: We fully understand, we can't make exceptions, we know we are moving the bar up. If some sellers can't make it work, we know it is a potential risk and a challenge. We are here to help. We know every seller who sells the same items will be faced with the same decision.

Guru: As Griff pointed out before this is a policy which is for everyone. We are not handpicking a few sellers. Looks like you already do a couple of the three things we want you to do. You have a great return process. Think about sellers who don't have tracking or returns. It's a higher bar for them. You are probably at a much better position compared to the others. if you use tracking, we will give you more incentives.

Next seller (Beverly): I am also calling about the seller's dashboard n the preview. it is not working. I have five accounts that I manage. One account is perfect,but that is the smallest volume account I have. I neve get payments on a Saturday or Sunday. The other four accounts are all off, and not by one or two percent. one is at 87 percent. I ship five to six days a week. I use tracking numbers. I challenge any of you, if you have an account, look a your preview.

Griff: I have done this, and my shipping should be 100 percent, and it's not. So we'll look into it.

Beverly: I think the little person who did the programming on the preview needs a calendar. The other thing, I noticed just today what I shipped late at night or the following morning, I make sure they are marked paid, shipped, and the tracking number is there. I archive them. Today I had one that shipped out yesterday and said, "Add tracking number.' I went to Stamps and got the tracking number, I went to eBay, I opened the item up, and the tracking number was there.

eBay: Preview launched yesterday, we will stress test it, and make sure it works as it should.

Next seller (Robert): My wife lists on eBay. What I sell (stamps) goes through American Phil Assoc. or others. We do have a higher rating now. With the changes you are making it won't work now. You are forcing us off eBay.

Kristina on eBay: this is great feedback and we will look at it. We have been hearing a lot from our friends on the stamps boards. thank you for that and noted.

Charlene: Automatic five stars if there is no communication between buyer and seller. i do a lot of best offers and multiple sales. I have buyers placing a best offer and I respond. Because so many of these are international buyers I don't always get to them quickly. What actually constitutes a communication between buyer and seller that will nullify the five stars.

We do have auto 5 stars in place for people who use free shipping or fast shipping. this was a chance to continue our progression to put in DSR scores where merited. We had heard from sellers in the past when there was no communication the seller was confused and left a 1 instead of a 5, and seller thought that was unfair. So you now you get a 5 star.

Charlene: so if a buyer has to invoice that will not count as a communication?

eBay: That will not count.

Charlene: what if the buyers says thank you for your great service?

Griff: They're more likely to leave a 5 if you say, thank you, and are friendly. this was necessary for buyers who left no communication.

Charlene: there needs to be a lot more emphasis on educating buyers.

Griff: We heard from buyers and they don't want to be educated. They want to buy it, get it, and move on. Buyers don't go to a marketplace to be educated.

Charlene: my thing about educating is maybe revisit the wording on the choices for the 5 stars. A lot of buyers think 3 is just fine, there's no problem.

Griff: that's a good point.

Note from Ina: Greg Holden is signing off, you can find listen to the rest of the Town Hall Meeting on eBay. I'll make a few more notes, the meeting ends at in less than 10 minutes.

An eBay buyer Cathy called to say Buyers shouldn't be forced to buy items with tracking, which increases the price of the item.

Kristina Klausen noted that they had considered requiring sellers offer an expedited shipping offer, but decided not to.

Seller named Scott called to ask why eBay didn't offer First Class envelope with DC option, which would alleviate the anguish from callers this evening.

A retired post office manager called in and said the post office does not allow first class envelopes to have delivery confirmation (DC) unless it's in a rigid envelope or one-quarter inch thick.

Michael (MJ) Jones wraps up, end of Town Hall Meeting.

Comments (34) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
Web Site

Thu Mar 1 10:08:44 2012

This is what I took away from the interview:

Seller:  I have to re-do all my images, restructure my customer service model, re-train staff, and completely change my work flow.  I can't work efficiently under these circumstances.

eBay:  If it doesn't work for you any more - go somewhere else.

Seller:  I have a unique product that takes special handling.  They are difficult to buy in certain parts of the country, so I have many dedicated customers that depend on my to supply this product.  Your new standards may cause my product to be destroyed before it reaches the customer.  

eBay: What is a mealworm?

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 11:16:20 2012

The mealworm question has gotten a lot of play on other discussions!  I mean--if this guy didn't know WHAT a mealworm was--or thought it was some new video game--OK.  But to THEN disrespect the sellers IQ like he did---StepFord Robo ebay "employees".

I think tho something some one said on a different discussion might clarify the "No Communication" DSR boondoggle.

It seems like for once ebay made a change---in the completely NOT needed direction of course--slightly in FAVOR of the seller.

Now don't lynch me hang on---

They are explaining it very badly.  But what it seems to boil down to is:
You sell an item.  
You get paid.  
You put the item in the mail and it arrives and the customer is happy.  
The customer feels there is no need to contact you.


Now the OTHER side of the coin:
You sell item mail item item is received by buyer

Buyer decides that he LOVES his widget SO MUCH he just has to thank you for all of your hard work

When the buyer goes to leave glowing FB for you the DSR for Comm is OPEN to be RATED by the buyer if they so CHOOSE.  

I can kinda see the point on this one because ebay has left it VERY open for buyers to think that a SMOOTH transaction--ie one with NO DRAMA---has had "no communication" from the seller.  In this case I guess they forgot to mention to the buyer that the seller HAS in fact COMMUNICATED with the buyer loud n clear--they SENT THE ITEM as the transaction required.

The slap in the face moment for ME tho was the "We don't NEED no stinking educated buyers"  Suck it up and go back in the basement.  

Remember when ebay TOLD US that it was OUR job to educate buyers as to what the DSR area was FOR?  And then a few months later told us we WERE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO EDUCATE THE BUYERS AS TO WHAT THE DSR AREA WAS FOR????

How come no one asked WHERE this alleged buyer and seller generated "data" is COMING FROM?   Those stupid twisted "surveys"?

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by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 13:20:07 2012

exdwh  DC is available for a first class envelope if it is the larger size.  I send out my items in a 6 X 9 envelope 3/4" thick and get delivery confirmation even though the envelope weighs only 2 ounces.  Been doing that for years.

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by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 13:23:43 2012

One thing Ebay is oblivious the past if something as controversial as their new policy for sellers happened there would be hundreds of posts here - I count only 23 including mine.  Less and less sellers are on Ebay and more and more of the sellers there are tired of the hosing down they get and just don't bother with the phony town hall meetings anymore!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Mar 1 17:31:32 2012

I completely agree (miracles never cease, LOL!)

It looks like eBay created these policies based on the generic items sold by their big-box diamond sellers and (as usual) failed to realize that the enormous diversity of offerings on eBay -- which has always been their strongest point -- makes it such that those policies simply won't work with every seller's business model.

These updates are mostly positive for my business, because the items I sell already get tracking and are usually in the 2-5 oz range. Most of my larger items go parcel post or international 1st class and are under 4 pounds. But from what this article shows, there are plenty of businesses who are going to lose out on this.

The responses from the eBay crowd to the seller concerns seems somewhat arrogant and condescending, even when it's obvious that these are experienced, long-term sellers who actually know how to run a business. eBay seems not to give a hoot that these policies are going to harm a lot of people with business models that don't fit their narrow Wal-Mart view of the world.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Mar 1 17:39:55 2012

I'm a bit curious about the RMA issue. Was the caller's concern that buyers are going to e allowed to print their own return labels without even initiating a return process with the seller? This would suck. Sellers need to at least be aware that a buyer wants to return something. It sounds like maybe eBay wants to automate the return process (joy - just yank money out of our accounts without even telling us). I don't recall reading anything about this in the update...

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Thu Mar 1 18:29:56 2012

You can be sure of one thing, the big ''brands'' that eBay has been pursuing are not going to suffer any disadvantage from this latest, or previous, nonsense. This is all about the cretins at eBay desperately trying to squeeze a few more pennies out of all the non-diamond sellers; if you fall by the wayside in the process, as every one already knows, eBay could not care less ...

''When Do We Start Calling eBay A Payments Company?''

A tale of two clunky, unprofessional commercial entities: eBay and PayPal

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

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by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 19:54:22 2012

First of all ebay you are taking fees from the sellers that your policy does not fit and you do not care but you take the fees. AGAIN!!!
Reading those comments by Griff, and "this is who ebay has designated their expert and able to answer all questions" it is mind numbing and shows the disrespect ebay has the users of their service.It is absolutely unbelievable that this major online giant is managed this way, underhanded, deceitful and sickening. To those of you who will be unable to sell on ebay because the tracking policy is not cost effective see this as a blessing, go to another site and sell your items there, you are all going to have to go somewhere so do it now, forget about ebay. If ebay wanted you there they would have someone fixing this problem, they do not, instead they have a radio disc jockey ansering policy questions. Where the hell is John Donahoe? How abuout John Donahoe stepping up to the plate and doing what is right, heck no he is cowering behind Griff. There will be another legion of sellers leaving, hello ebay shareholders are you paying attention!! The money being lost in fees is staggering because of sellers leaving because John Donahoe is not qualified to manage a company like ebay that needs a flexible policy because it has a multitude of different types of business selling their products on the ebay site. At this point I would venture to say 100's of millions of dollars a year are being lost in fees that could have been, but Mr. Donahoe chose the route "that he has to be right" and the sellers complaining about him are just noise, typical bully. This man is clearly not qualified to do this job. We need a manger not a insider trading expert who is rigging the stock price, it is all he cares about. He came from Bain and Company, wake up board members oh I forgot you must be dishonest just like him!!!!

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by: exdwh This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 20:01:24 2012


I said First Class Letter. You and Griff keep saying First Class 'something else'. The difference is that you pay $1.19 more in postage + some change for supplies. That makes no sense for a $1 item.

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by: Ebay's Slow Death This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 21:02:13 2012

I just listened to the Griff & Lee radio show for two hours. (What a cute couple!)

There were several callers (especially one great guy who really was articulate and angry) who were concerned about selling items which can be sent inexpensively in a regular envelope with a stamp. Pretty much Griff would say the new policies won't work for everyone, and if you lose your TSR, then so what. He wanted people to up their shipping cost to include tracking, and maybe it would still be cost effective for the 20% discount of being a TSR. Simply put, they didn't really care if you lose your TSR discount. (That guy was also offering free shipping on $2.50 items. So upping his postage to print a label with DC was going to hurt.)

Several other callers were saying they couldn't do the one day shipping. Again, Griff just said they will probably lose their TSR.

After the show I got to thinking about how Ebay has come to micromanage a Seller's business.

They want us to:

-Offer the lowest competitive price on our item
-Free Shipping
-Print a label with Delivery Confirmation
-Promise Same Day or Next Business Day shipping
-Minimum 14 Day Money Back Returns
-No Communication with our Buyers

Griff kept saying that of course if you can't or won't do any of that, that's fine. You just don't get to keep your TSR and discount.

Griff said several times, ''Just try it!''  Which I am. I'm going to try putting more effort into the other sites I sell on.

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by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 1 22:15:50 2012

Looks like Delcampe and Bidstart will be getting a lot of new sellers of stamps, postcards and coins. Also looks like eBay will be losing millions of dollars. What does eBay care since they have all those "loyal" big box diamond stores.

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This user has validated their user name. by: TrentDep

Fri Mar 2 08:04:05 2012

Wow - I thought the snobbish, arrogant and canned responses were due to CSRs being poorly trained and/or motivated.

To see them unabashedly thrown out by these stooges is just amazing - you would think they would at least pretend to give a sh*t !

As if anyone who took the time to participate hasn't previously heard '' congratulations on your high ratings...''  ''  Sorry to hear that you are having an issue ''... from the minimum wage clowns they employ at their CSR cave...

Continue to sell here if you must - buy the occasional ~ Can't find it anywhere else ~ item, but if you are buying through Ebay just because it's 5% cheaper - Well - as they say '' Vote With Your Dollars''.

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by: Susan T This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Mar 2 18:19:31 2012

I just keep shaking my head at the arrogance that the panelist have on these Town Hall meetings.

It just seems ironic to me that when Griff first started at eBay he was a seller. Ever since he went to the dark side and joined the management team I think he has forgotten his roots.

Also it seems on ever new policy his standard comment is always have you tried it or see how it works. Remember a few years back when management was pushing abut Free Shipping he told callers to try it.  Last year when they changed the store listing price on a basic store to .20 cents and forced everybody to get the $49.95 premium store in order to get the .05 cent per listing price; his comment was try it and then commented that you will sell more by upgrading your store. Which is not true. Now, this year again he has his famous quote of try it and see how it goes.

I tried upgrading my store for a full year; didn't sell more but sold a lot less. Yes I did try the Free Shipping, had fewer bids on an auction than I would have with the actual shipping amount.

Yes, I now do sell on an alternative site, was a very difficult choice, I had been selling on eBay for 13 years. The key on these alternatives is to use twitter, facebook or whatever works. No, I don't do all the silly selling games, but items still sell. Sales are slow, on Bonanza I have been able to reduce the amount I spend on final value fess by collecting daily tokens. But even in the very beginning (back around 1995) even eBay sales were slow.  

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by: used2luv2sell This user has validated their user name.

Sun Mar 4 13:10:52 2012

Ebay is making changes based on what BUYERS want.  The same buyers who don't want to be educated.  Suddenly the reasons that Ebay is what it is becomes clear.  (Amazing they keep wanting to educate me as a seller as to how to better please my buyers)

My proposal to Ebayers:  
DO NOT BUY ANYTHING ON EBAY THAT IS SHIPPED FROM CHINA!  (or just don't buy on Ebay period) Most things we buy are made in China, but we don't have to buy directly.  Items bought within the US are taxed and shipping is paid.  While it may cost a little more, it's keeping more funds in country - and lessening the strength of the market in China.  If they've got it at Target, Walmart, etc, I refuse to buy it on Ebay.

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