As eBay continues to reduce transparency on its marketplace, buyers and sellers are losing a popular tool. Win Bent, founder of Toolhaus.org
, sent EcommerceBytes his response to a donor and gave us permission to publish it.
Toolhaus helps evaluate both buyers and sellers by analyzing eBay feedback. In the past, it has had difficulty maintaining the site because of financial considerations (users came to its aid with donations), but Win said the current issue is not about money, but rather, about eBay practices.
"The problem is that eBay doesn't want us (and by that I mean you and me and everyone) to take too close a look at feedback," he wrote.
Please take a moment to read Win's letter, and then tell us what you think about eBay's approach to hiding information buyers and sellers had used to make decisions about transactions with each other.
Question from a Toolhaus donor (kept anonymous):
"Its been a long time since this website was an active, useful, tool. The site is down more than it is available. We really miss it. Will it ever be back again?"
Response from Toolhaus founder Win Bent:
You've distilled a few years of problems to a single, insightful question. The sad answer is, I have absolutely no idea if Toolhaus will ever be useful again.
There's the big issue of feedback changes - hiding user IDs, hiding dates of FB, hiding item numbers. These are all things which made eBay's FB system great, the transparency was good for all, good for the buyer and seller, and good for the observers. That's all gone now, and there's no reason to expect eBay to bring it back.
Then there's the "small" issue of eBay blocking Toolhaus. We're an independent site, long ago we turned down the chance to be an Authorized eBay Developer and work within their system. We'd rather do our analysis based on what anyone can see, not just people with access to inside information. But the result was that they could shut us down for any reason, and over the years they've done exactly that in big and small ways.
A few years back, they started blocking us, but we figured out a good way to avoid the blocks, to keep eBay happy. Currently, their blocks have gotten quite big - big enough to make Toolhaus nearly useless.
It's actually interesting that they did not shut down Toolhaus by other means. I've been told by multiple Power Sellers that eBay Support Staff told them to use our 30-Day Neg Tool to check their status, because Toolhaus was a reliable source of information which eBay themselves would not provide. Even with that, we've been waiting for over ten years for eBay to send us a letter from The Lawyers, a "cease and desist" order with the threat of a lawsuit. We never received such a letter, which tells me that either they had no case, or that they actually approved of the services we provide. But then, they used technology to block us, and that's been as damaging as any lawyer's letter.
I want to be 100% clear about this - the problem is not money, it's not that Toolhaus needs a bigger, better machine. The problem is that eBay doesn't want us (and by that I mean you and me and everyone) to take too close a look at feedback. A bigger machine might get around their blocks, but it would not restore FB's hidden user IDs.
You've been a big supporter of Toolhaus - many dollars over many years. I can't begin to tell you how much that has meant to us. Small donors are helpful, repeat donors are a lifeline, but the sustaining supporters are the ones who send a strong, clear message: Keep Doing What You're Doing. Sadly, I'm not sure we can live up to that message.
-Win Bent, founder of Toolhaus.org
If you use Toolhaus, tell us how it helps you (as a buyer and/or seller) and what you will do with out it, and what you think eBay needs to do and why.