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Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Mar 21 2012 22:54:09

eBay's Push for More Generous Terms May Backfire

By: Ina Steiner
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eBay has been cranking up the pressure on sellers to offer free, fast shipping and more generous return policies. But thanks to changes eBay will roll out on June 1, 2012, some Top Rated Sellers say they are no longer inclined to offer free shipping on their listings - in the opposite direction eBay hoped sellers would move.

Starting June 1, only listings from Top Rated Sellers (TRS) that include 1-day handling and a minimum 14-day return policy with a money-back option will qualify for the 20% TRS Final Value Fee discounts. (If a Top Rated Seller chooses not offer 1-day handling or a 14-day return policy, that seller's listings will continue to receive some additional search exposure and a TRS badge.)

Some TRS sellers say they are unable to offer one or both of these new requirements, so they will lose the  TRS discount.

While they don't have to offer free shipping to qualify for TRS, many do in order to keep their DSRs (Detailed Seller Ratings) at TRS levels. Some of them who expect to lose the TRS discount in June say they are considering an end to offering free shipping on their listings. One seller said, for example, that he may move to a flat shipping fee, which would help make up for the loss of the 20% discount.

In an interview with EcommerceBytes, eBay President of Global Marketplaces Devin Wenig said his approach was to continue to advance the marketplace, and said buyers expect free shipping and generous returns:

"If people believe that eBay is as good as the standard on ecommerce exceptions, and you know things like free shipping are absolutely a buyer standard - they believe that is their right and entitlement - whoever created that standard, I won't comment on it, but we know that's the case. And it's the same with returns. This is just part of buyer expectations now, which have been rising really quickly over the last few years. We need to continue to move our marketplace to that standard. That keeps buyers. It brings new buyers. Ultimately it's good for sellers."

It seems with every biannual change that eBay rolls out, there is at least one policy that breaks the camel's back for a segment of sellers. By requiring Top Rated Sellers to advertise a 1-day turnaround and 14-day return policy in their listings to keep the FVF discount, eBay is forcing some of them to rethink their listing strategy and actually move away from what eBay is advocating.

Do these changes impact you, and if so, will you continue to offer free shipping even if you lose the 20% TRS discount?




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by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 00:35:12 2012
Currently I am doing my own testing. All my listings have been changed to 14 day returns and 1 day handling. The results so far? Low to zero views and only one bid. Obviously this is not for auctions and geared to fixed price items. However, eBay is making this 20% TRS discount a one size fits all.

If I lose (yes lose, NOT loose!) my 20%, I will do what I damm well please and offer the great customer service I have always offered. I will also get rid of my Store subscription. And will NEVER offer FREE shipping. What would be the point?
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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
       Web Site
Thu Mar 22 02:08:03 2012
Well, Devin, I suggest that you take a look at this graph if you think that the eBay marketplace is on the right track; I suspect that eBay’s stagnant GMV has got more to do with the imbecilic policies of John Donahoe than anything else ...

[img]http://static5.businessinsider.com/image/4f16e08aecad04891400
001b-614-350/ebay-revenues-by-segment.jpg[/img]

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking
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by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 05:54:29 2012
Knowing that the knuckle head in charge of fleecebay thinks he is god and will do what he wants we have run a test.

We have two store, two ID's. Both stores carry basically the same items as the second store was set up for just the test. 500 plus items in each store. Store 1 is set up just like the knucklehead wants. l day shipping, free shipping, 14 day returns. The second store is set up as 3 day shipping, flat rate shipping charge and NO RETURNS.

These two stores have been running exactly three weeks. Our results are just about the same for both stores. It is surprising how many times the second store items are ahead of the first store in best match.

Our conclusion although not scientific leads us to believe that the knuckle head talks a walk he isn't walking.

We will cancel the second store this week. We are in the process of raising all items in the first store by 5% to cover the lost 20%. We will offer 3 day shipping and flat rate shipping with no returns. If people don't want to buy from our store they are free to buy elsewhere as we no longer need them to survive.

Sorry Donut but you lose on this one.
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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Thu Mar 22 09:36:58 2012
The operative phrase there is "buyers expect".

What buyers expect these days is totally unrealistic and eBay have created this environment of "spoiled, demanding and childish" buyers.   Examples: 1) We have three day shipping in our listings and we get countless emails from buyers saying "ship today"; 2) Please list more photos (we get several of these per day and those requesting the extra photos NEVER order; 3) buyers making offers on items that DON'T have a best offer icon on them---annoying 4) Buyers wanting you to ship to a different address than what is listed on their account  5) Please write "leave on the porch" on the package

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  The demands from buyers never cease to amaze me.  eBay created this environment.  They never think anything through, and they have totally forgotten who their customer is (yes, that would be the sellers)   Oh, yes, eBay is just a venue.  Only when they are in court with a luxury retailer.
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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Thu Mar 22 10:48:53 2012
One more thing...eBay are big on surveys.  If you send a survey out with a question that reads ''Would you like free shipping?'' of course you will get a yes from buyers.  Ebay now look at this as ''this is what our buyers want''.   If they had phrased it as ''would you like free shipping at the cost of the item that you are buying being more expensive'' they would have gotten a completely different answer.  The same goes for tracking.  ''Would you like tracking for all your packages'' would elicit a yes from buyers versus ''would you like tracking for your packages if it means that the item that you are buying will build that cost in'', which would have gotten a no.  It is very much like a lawyer leading the witness.
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by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 12:01:12 2012
I'm not a TRS because I don't sell much on eBay at all.  But the few things I do sell I've changed from a 7 day return to No Return.  Who cares what eBay wants?  I sure don't.  I've played around with offering free shipping, and quite frankly my sales are better with a lower price and calculated shipping.

And this is kind of off topic but I'm wondering if this is true.  Someone I know sells on eBay a lot.  It's their primary revenue source and they have done well there for several years.  This holiday season the USPS was slow and delivered a couple of their items rather late. The seller got dinged on their DSR rating and even though they sent the item out within their specified time frame eBay put them in a box and won't let them list more than 40 items a month.  eBay also told them on the phone that they wouldn't do anything about it even though it's not the seller's fault and that if they got another one they would be kicked off eBay.

Anyway, this person is quite reliable so I have no reason to believe it's not true.  But, really, can this happen?  How on Earth can anyone build a business model around a venue that is so unreliable?  The risk seems outrageous to me.  
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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric
       
Thu Mar 22 12:14:38 2012
eBay's management shops in Tiffany's, they do not shop on eBay. As such their policies are based on a utopia only found in the likes of the exclusive stores which they typically shop in.

eBay management does not sell on eBay, and as such have no idea what it is like to sell day in and day out on their platform or what it is like to have to jump through hoops which are raised higher and higher with each Seller Release.

Let's see all the members of  John Donahoe's new management team open eBay seller accounts, sell on a daily basis, jump through all the hoops and qualify for both TRS and the 20% FVF discount for a full 6 months without falling out of the either program.

I bet after that experience, systems, policies and fee structures would suddenly become much more seller friendly instead of being seller antagonistic.



We have been listing with one day handling since day one because we can meet that standard. We converted to free shipping after the announcement of the penalty fee we would be hit with if we didn't.

We were fortunate to to qualify for TRS 3 months after the program began. We also consider ourselves fortunate that we have been able to maintain TRS uninterrupted since qualifying. We have maintained 100% positive feedback, and we do not have a DSR lower than 4.96. After our latest evaluation, we are still on track to maintain our 20% FVF discount when the new Seller Release policies go into effect.



As to our future as an eBay seller ... Every seller has a different breaking point.

With the latest Seller Release, we see the handwriting on the wall and have changed out attitude as far as eBay goes. This is not our primary source of income so we have adopted the attitude that eBay needs us and the revenue we generate for them more than we need them.

If the hoop raising we need to jump through to qualify for the 20% FVF discounts makes it impossible to achieve, we will attempt to survive by abandoning free shipping. Our listings will display calculated shipping with weights boosted so that shipping costs include the penalty fee eBay imposes.

If the system buries our listings in search and our sales decline, we will close our eBay store. We will never pay eBay another listing fee and list only with our 50 free items a month or with free listing promotions. Pricing will start at our fixed price levels and shipping will be added - not included as eBay prefers. Those 50 free listings will be inventory remainders, one of a kinds, clearance and close out goods, our regular items will only be available on venues other then eBay.

If sales plummet to the point where even free listings do not sell, then we will do what business people do... we will exit eBay and concentrate on other venues where systems work as they should, policies for sellers are fair, goals are realistic, and fee structures are seller friendly.




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by: VJ This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 12:42:03 2012
The thing that should be pointed out is that ebays continuing policy changes are resulting in a cheapening of the site for sellers. For sellers who sell on both Amazon and Ebay, ebay has  become a problem site to sell on because it attracts poorer shoppers who are encouraged to complain at the slightest issue. The site even encourages lower prices by offerring ''Best Offer'' option which has ghettoized the site. Rules like extended return policies, free shipping and 1 day shipping are just encouraging this problem.

On Amazon the prices we get are on average 50%-300% more than we get on ebay for the same item! Best of all Amazon, does not have punitive rules that encourage needless customer complaints. If they can do this why can't ebay?

Ask any seller who sells on both sites and without exception they will agree that ebay attracts a lot of cheap problem customers who are not inclined to pay the prices that more affluent Amazon customers do. The funny thing is that many times the both customers are actually the same person. They simply behave better and spend more on Amazon compared compared to ebay.  

I believe the reason for this is that Amazon takes the approach of a high end shopping mall. It attracts a better more established seller base. Ebay on the other hand is more like a flea market. It's rules encourage people act differently when shopping on there site compared to AMazon. Things like price haggling, extended returns and  complaint process that severly penalizes sellers results in a poor experience for both the seller and the buyer.  

What's odd is that that for all of the ebay executives statements about an improved markletplace, they never seem to address the issue of Amazon attracting a more affluent customer base and higher prices. As Amazon expands into ever more categories this difference is going to allow them to get a greater market share of ebays sellers business. As for ebay the only way that I can see them increasing there online business will be to take a greater share of there sellers profits. Eventually this model will not work and they will be forced to adopt the Amazon way. It's just a matter of time.  
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by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 12:54:06 2012
I love selling on Amazon.
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by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 15:20:04 2012
I also sell on Amazon. I like it BUT I have met as many slimy buyers and dead beats on Amazon as I have on Ebay. Sorry to break the bubble but Amazon isn't near what some people crack it up to be either.
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by: 16mmfilmseller This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 15:57:35 2012
I've been seriously considering sending ebay a letter about this. Of course it's going to backfire.
I currently offer 5-day shipping (but try to get stuff out asap). I also offer the discounted UPS rates (rather than the retail rates) for buyers even though I lose money on insurance and packaging materials.

The idea of being required to ship stuff within a day is crazy - I'm just one person and sometimes it just can't be done. Not to mention the fact that because my items are heavy, often buyers ask me to hold an item while they bid on another. This would violate ebay's new requirement.

My plan -- I'm going to give up on the TRS discount and continue to offer 5-day turnaround. Apparently I've got no choice with returns - although if I find that too many people start taking advantage of it to "rent" the item, I will have to do away with returns entirely.

I will then stop offering the discounted shipping rates, and add a handling charge to try to make up for the lost discount.

I'm also going to start moving more of my sales to other venues -- right now, ebay accounts for about 70% of my sales. I'm going to try to reduce that to 50% or less by sending out lists to past customers, posting on forums etc. F

Ebay has basically taken a one-size-fits-all approach to sellers. But sellers who deal in collectibles (often one of a kind items) are very different from sellers who sell new merchandise. We don't care about best match placement because our competitors are not selling the exact same items.

Seems like with their new rules - nobody wins.
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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 16:27:11 2012
Ive been an ebay seller since 1998, am a TRS and a Gold Power seller.

With this SR1, I am on track to lose my %20 discount and who knows what else.

I differenciate myself by having great pics - boarders and text that clearly identify the item, the model and its maker - but those listings will now be rejected by eBay in favor of some also ran stock box picture.

As for the %20 - its not the free shipping - its the mandated returns. I WILL NOT do money back PERIOD. I do not run a try before you buy outlet. Plus, I sell headphones, what can I do with a returned unit thats been used on some trip that has someone elses DNA on it? The manufactorers wont take them back - so what should I do with them?

I hear the geniuses say ''charge a restocking fee'' - nice except the customer will pay the restocking fee - then give me low DSRs and possibly a negative.

That leaves me no where!

eBay creates the Frankensten monsters they claim they want to rid/change.

eBay apes Amazon (poorly) yet wont even fess up that Amazon does NOT provide free shipping. Free shipping is either at the discression of the seller or when you pay $79.99 for Prime.

On eBay I have 99.3% positive - USPS issues, customers who think Im Macys (buyer remorse - aka I used it and now ''dont like it''), and brain dead customers in far away lands who think that eBay return policys arent meant for THEM (I should pay priority mail costs both ways on a 2 pound item 1/2 way across the world).

Thats what eBay creates. eBay estimated shipping for overseas buyers ... must have been made by someone ... whos heavy drug use is apparent ... whom ever it was has OBVIOUSLY never dealt with USPS and US Customs.

Ive said it in 10,000 posts and Ill say it again (esp for those who think Im just an eBay hater) ... I want eBay to succeed, they just dont want ME. Ive heard JD's CES speech, Ive seen Noah Hershmans interviews with TWICE magazine, and heard it from the visiting reps .... people like me arent wanted on eBay. We have a peaceful coexistance - but theres no want -not by them.

The more eBay pushes us, the less they end up getting.

My responce to bad overseas customers is to block those countries. That new guy from eBay international commerce be damned - Im not going to let those people put me out of business.

I dont have these issues on Amazon .. Im at %100 + 5.0 service and they BEG me to join categories and try out new programs....

If I lose it, then I lose it.
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by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 17:14:45 2012
You can get bad buyers anywhere.  What I like about Amazon is the time I don't have to spend babysitting the listings, the buyers, etc.  Plus the margins are much better, for me at least.
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by: RapidlyDescendingUp This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 17:40:57 2012
I officially concede my top-rated seller status and my 20% discount today. I sell personalized items that require back and forth communication and than are queued for production. On a good day, I am able to move items out in 2-3 days. Since my costs will go up with the 20% discount forfeited, and sales down with lower search exposure, this will be the start of a negative cycle, resulting in fewer sales, and more expense.  

The diversity of products on Ebay will definitely be affected by this move. They are courting the Big dogs in commerce and are always seem to have Amazon envy. A SPRING update, means the tightening of the screws where a little more small sellers are forced off the site. This is clearly Ebays intention even though they claim otherwise. They needed the small sellers at first to pad the numbers, but that is changing as the volume sellers have filled the voids.  

Fast and free is Ebays focus. They pull levers to make you do this or else you can't succeed on Ebay. As a consumer myself, I don't expect everything I order on Ebay to ship free or in one day. Matter of fact, the only part I am concerned about is that the listing is factual and my items are sent out correctly.

I can see where some sellers will game the system by fraudulently uploading tracking numbers immediately and sitting on packages until they can ship.

This is a horrible policy and one where we create an environment of pettiness.

What's next?
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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie
       
Thu Mar 22 19:57:25 2012
eBay is pushing it really hard. Last night I received a telephone call from eBay with a ''happy-happy-perky-perky'' message letting me know how much I'll SAVE. (But wait! There's more!)

Apparently during the month of May, I'll save an EXTRA 5% on FVF's if I'm in 100% compliance with their new directives.

Actually, it was my voicemail that took the call. The whole announcement sounded like it was pre-recorded.

You know, I'm not sure if a REAL person was on the other end of the line, ready to talk to me if I had answered. (Perhaps they have the option of manually playing a pre-recorded messages when a human doesn't answer?)

Or, perhaps it was just an ordinary robocall that would have been simply a pre-recorded message EVEN if I had picked up the phone personally.

In any case, it was just ''over-sold'' and ''over-hyped'' for my tastes. It was like listening to a used-car salesman on the other end of the line.
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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
       Web Site
Thu Mar 22 20:39:31 2012
Annie, the fact that they are making these calls at all is a clear indication that this entity is dog paddling desperately to keep it's head above water.

RIP eBay

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking
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by: Sunflower This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 22:38:13 2012
I for one have changed all of my listings back to no refunds.  I email my customers and thank them with every sale and many email back how much they appreciate being treated like a valued customer and appreciate knowing when their item will ship. I will continue to offer my customers the kind of service I am used to offering them even though eBay does not want buyer/seller contact. I refuse to play this game with eBay any longer and although I am in their playground and play by most of their rules, I refuse to let them tell me how to run my business. I will forfeit the FVF's in order to continue to offer great service and to continue to sell on eBay. If I must raise my prices to make up for the difference of losing the discount, it will be minimal.
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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie
       
Thu Mar 22 22:49:24 2012
Don't confuse what Ebay says a buyer expects and what buyers really expect.  Ebay in my opinion says stuff like this to justify what they are doing.  It does not necessarily have any basis in reality.

If you look around at other websites most offer free shipping when a buyer purchases X number of dollars worth of merchandise.  That is a completely different concept that Ebay is promoting.  

If Ebay would allow a way to offer this, it would increase sales for both the sellers and Ebay in my opinion.  Trying to force sellers into offering free shipping on everything no matter the price of the product is ridiculous and is just not possible.

I personally have some things I will offer free shipping on because it works OK for them, but other things I sell I will not as I've tested it and it just doesn't work well.  

These new TRS standards are seriously flawed and will hurt many very good sellers.
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by: scissors This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 23:00:38 2012
I have had a horrible month with ebay and while I have had good business they lied about the screen shot and the DSR and protecting my status..after a long convo today with customer service concerning this and some awful customers they keep caving into and telling me I should refund I am asking myself ''why should I keep doing this''...I can and have met these standards but why?
 So as of today I concede as well and I am done. I will start to make my moves as well away away and that will be that. What business I keep doing will be on my terms. No more money back, no fast shipping, I am done. It took my two days to conclude this but its time. I bust my butt for this? Why? The customers are terrible and file cases and ebay refunds them even when they know they are in the wrong? What message is this sending? Month and a half after the customer received the item?
 Nope its time to move on. Obviously those of us paying in a couple of thousand a month are nothing to ebay. So why fight it anymore. I worked so hard to get there. I just cannot do this anymore and be badgered like this.
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by: lonestar This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Mar 22 23:15:28 2012
I live in a rural area and do the bulk of my shopping online for convenience.  There are easily a dozen sites I use regularly and none offer free shipping as a rule.  Some will ship for free with a high minimum order or as a holiday special offer.

I think ebay is being completely unreasonable and anyone with a brain knows that sellers have to include shipping cost as part of their pricing.  I've not purchased on ebay for a long time but it isn't because of bad sellers.  It is because it is no longer of interest to me.  I wish they would ease up on their policies so the sellers with unusual and hard to find items would come back.  Shipping is the least of ebay's problems in my opinion, but I do understand it being an issue for sellers.
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