Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Oct 10 2017 23:50:41

Is eBay Trying to Kill Auctions with Make Offer?

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay has perplexed users by adding a Make an Offer haggling feature to auctions. The unannounced change is so disconcerting that some people who have noticed the feature are sure it is a glitch. But the feature appears to be eBay's way of signaling when it has determined that a starting bid on an auction is set too high.

Until this week, Best Offer was only available for fixed price listings and Classified Ad formats. A reader tipped us off to the change, and we found users buzzing about it on the eBay forums. 

The reader said he and another seller tested the feature. One of them made an offer for less than opening bid, then the other placed a bid for the auction starting price. "His offer was automatically declined once I bid. After my bid was canceled the offer button was there again."

The appearance of the Make an Offer button to sellers' listings came as a surprise - eBay did not inform sellers. At least three different sellers we observed discussing the feature on the eBay boards said the feature appeared in their listings with no warning. Nor did eBay customer service reps or moderators monitoring the boards appear to know anything about the feature being available in auction listings.

However, one eBay user was told by a customer service rep:

"eBay applies Best Offer to over-priced listings to help increase their chances of selling. Best Offer is applied to auctions when the start price exceeds the recommended Buy it Now price. This only applies to Auctions, it does not apply to Auctions with a Buy it Now price. 

"The trending price and recommended Buy it Now price is based on prices of similar listings sold on eBay over the past 90 days. Listings where the seller-selected auction start price is greater than the trending price are considered overpriced and will have Best Offer applied. 

"Moving on, we currently do not have a way for sellers to remove Best Offer from auction listings. However, based on the Best Offer logic, if you reduce your auction start price to the recommended Buy it Now price or below, Best Offer will no longer appear on your listing. 

"On the other hand, if you receive an offer that you don't want to accept there are a few options. You may reject the offer outright, counter the offer with a price that you would accept, or ignore the offer. If ignored, the offer will expire after 48 hours. I trust the information I have provided is helpful on your concern."

One seller reading the response from eBay was flabbergasted. "That's absolutely bleeped. I would expect offers to be ABOVE the starting price, kind of a formal "request a BIN price". They're really going to tell buyers that an auction is "overpriced"??? That's insane."

Another seller wrote, "I thought the purpose would be for the impatient buyer, who just wants to buy it now, to offer a HIGHER price than the opening bid. This would tie in with the current campaign to block off site transactions, as that could happen in that instance, and this would make it easier to keep it on site and for eBay to get its fees from a new revenue stream."

Interestingly we saw one auction with a starting bid of under $2.00 sporting a Make an Offer option. (We tested the feature and were unable to make an offer of less than 99 cents.)

Not only are sellers unable to remove the feature from their listings if eBay places it there, sellers say they can't find a way to add it to listings when it doesn't display.

In addition to the frustration of having the haggling feature foisted on their auction listings, sellers are upset at eBay's lack of communication. And one seller said they were disturbed about the fact that when they preview their listings, it doesn't show the Make an Offer feature, but it appears once they post the listing.

The EcommerceBytes reader pointed out that the feature could prove annoying to buyers and could hurt auctions. "The real bids don't come in until an auction is closer to ending. If I come to bid an hour before I know an item was scheduled to end, only to find the seller accepted an offer a day or two earlier, I'm going to be upset. The more that happens, the more people will avoid auctions. There is still a place for auctions."




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Readers Comments

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 01:54:50 2017

Just ignore it and the offer will disappear in 48 hours. Now thats funny..... Maybe if we just ignore Ebay they will finally sink in 48 hours.

In the real world. Who uses auctions anyways. Kind of useless as most don't ever get a bid and those that do are mostly the chinese type junk that starts at 10 cents.

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This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Wed Oct 11 02:29:28 2017

This is price manipulation (or at least an attempt at it). It is my merchandise, and I place a competitive price on all my items. Do not need to be told how much to sell something for, I will make that decision.

Now, along with copying most everything Amazon does, eBay is attempting to steal a page out of Wal-Mart's playbook.

When I list an item at auction, it is explicitly noted in the description that I do not accept Buy It Now offers, and the auction will run until the end. Have not had an immediate purchase request in quite a while now (on auction items).

On my Store items, this is a different story. Even though I specifically state that I do not accept offers, I get a request to do so at least once daily. If eBay just ''threw'' a Best Offer button on anything (they deem) to be overpriced, I would spend all day answering lowball e-mail offers. Don't have time for this nonsense, and certainly hope they do not do this.

And the days of listing an item with an opening bid of $0.01 or 99 cents are long over. BIN and eBay Stores have slowly killed auctions. Wonder if they really do plan to abandon the format- it would not be a good idea for rare items!!  

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 04:15:42 2017

That very LAST paragraph about how FAR FEWER will even bother to watch or ATTEMPT to BID on any given auction after just a FEW experiences of finding the auction ENDED EARLY before the would-be bidder could even TRY to snipe at the last second.      

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by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 05:34:30 2017

Placing a "Best Offer" on an AUCTION only makes sense in the Bizzaro World of eBay (non)management.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Oct 11 06:25:20 2017

I don't participation in auctions (I feel eBay killed those off after Donahoe came on board), and I don't have "best offers" on my fixed price listings. Yet, some buyers still attempt try to entice me with a lowball offer as if they are doing me a favor.   I thank them for their offer and send them on their way.

Sellers are losing more and more control of their businesses on eBay which is why they are flocking elsewhere.

eBay's biggest problem is that they only look out for eBay, not realizing that if their sellers are successful the revenue will come in without eBay having to implement all of the questionable schemes and gimmicks that they do. Moreover, they would not continually drive a wedge between themselves and their customers (the sellers).

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 08:01:32 2017

Lord oh lord the numbers for Q3 and the estimates on Q4 must be SO BAD for eBay to come up with this nonesence!

I admit I don’t do auctions but I can easily understand what this would do to those that do.

Like everyone else said - just ignore it all you know eBay’s data is wrong, and that they have no clue how to grow the site- so just ignore it.

Internet Retailer Magazine (this weeks issue) said that %72 of all internet shopping starts on Amazon - guess eBay read that too!

“Siri, please teach eBay about ecommerce “

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by: dans parts This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 09:44:17 2017

@Froggy

Auctions are still very important in the OOAK (or at least very, VERY limited quantity) and collectibles markets.

I had an item that I had a quantity of 8.  The chance that in my lifetime I would be able to find any more of these was less than 1/2 of 1/2 of 1/2%.  While not so excruciatingly rare they were made of unobtainium, there was a market value I hadn't realized, because there was no history of sales available anywhere - not eBay nor anywhere on the internet.

Put one on auction - start price for $9.99.  Sold for slightly over $200.00.  All 8 of them eventually sold, one by one, for around the $200.00 mark.  That's $1600.00 in my pocket, instead of $80.00 I would have gotten for a FP of $9.99.

Yes, you are correct that there are a lot of auctions that are indeed worthless Chinese crap for $.99.  But you can't make a blanket statement that says all auctions are worthless.

Most of my "offers" are for those doing just what has been said - an attempt at a higher offer to get me to end the auction early (i.e. a BIN).  I always tell them I don't end auctions early, and don't do BIN, since they don't see that option in the auction.

I do get offers AFTER the auction is over for a lower price, which I mostly ignore, and don't even bother to respond at all.

Now, they're going to start sending me low-ball offers while the auction is running?

Boy, do I wish there was another site that catered to my type of merchandise, but there simply isn't - none of them do, I've seen them all.  My own website?  Well, that's just like putting things on eBay at FP.  See how that's working for me?

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by: dans parts This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 09:53:33 2017

@ angryllama

I've been in that scenario from a buying standpoint so many times I can't stand it.

Maybe their theory is that if Buyers see that Make Offer, they'll bid early (instead of waiting to snipe), in hopes that the Make Offer will disappear, just like the BIN does sometimes.  Maybe they're trying to encourage early bidding, to generate more bids, since we all know they know that people snipe at the last second because it is the only intelligent way to bid on an auction with an ending time.

I always snipe in the last 7-10 seconds of an auction, but I have put in a bid early (at the opening bid price) on a BIN occasionally to get that option to disappear, to have a chance to snipe it for what I actually want to pay.

Of course, my modus operandi only works if I am willing/intending to pay higher than the opening price.

It's all about gaming the system, which eBay continually makes a moving target.  Nothing new.

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This user has validated their user name. by: WOODJUNGLE! ON EBAY
Web Site

Wed Oct 11 10:19:32 2017

This actually makes sense for me.   I like it.

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by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 10:41:29 2017

To second what was mentioned above...looks like a desperate attempt to jack up 4th Qtr revenue...apparently somebody has taken note of the moaning on the boards about low sales, confirming what they already know. Now they know that we know.
Meanwhile, the genii execs again bypass the chance to reduce that insane 30% threshold for BIN on auctions.
A lot of us know +30% is outside the market price for our stuff...go back to 10%...that made sense...AND encouraged sales.
Fat chance...it's the "new" ebay...NOTHING makes sense.
Now for some light reading:
https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/08/29/2-reasons-ebay-i
nc-stock-could-fall.aspx

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by: leathermermaid8 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 11:19:56 2017

Rexford nailed it.

Maybe because I'm not a seller  dont understand this: how does eBay make more money if your item sells for a smaller BIN than a (possibly) higher auction end price?  

They should throw their attention to improving the way the site functions, since they're now a 'tech" company.  Make it easier to list items for sale, make it harder for sport scammers to remain on the site and figure out how to compete with other companies without actually using the competitors playbook word for word.

And as someone pointed out, they make money on listings and FVF, how much easier could it be to let things alone unless something needs help?? The business of sending me emails after an item arrives is something that, ahem, Amazon does.  How is that valuable to me?

By the time the email arrives, I've already opened and widget and put it to use.

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by: Decomidmodern This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 11:24:55 2017

Because alot of auctions simply don't sell.  I have been using auctions to get an automatic refresh once a week. I've been starting them with a high start price.  Sort of like a quasi-BIN listing.  I've gotten alot of offers that way.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Oct 11 11:35:12 2017

@leathermermaid8

"Maybe because I'm not a seller dont understand this"

"They should throw their attention to improving the way the site functions, since they're now a 'tech" company. Make it easier to list items for sale"

How would you know how easy or hard it is to place a listing if you're NOT a seller?

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by: steveylang This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 13:55:46 2017

Everything EBay does now is based on bean counter logic, and not thinking through what is best or smoothest for the actual listings/auctions themselves which in turn would actually result in best long-term results for all of EBay (the company, the sellers, and the buyers.)

But hey, if we auto-add these 'make offer' buttons right now, we can probably get a bump in the next quarterly EPS.

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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 14:03:32 2017

No Ina, eBay is trying to kill off eBay, the 'Double D's' of Donahoe and Devin has the corporation gasping for air, the Titanic is sinking and the Board of Directors is going to have to clean house at the top of managment.

Kooky ideas and gimmicks are not going to turn around this company, eBay like Microsoft did must find a capable CEO, even Bill Gates had to boot his best friend out of the company to turn things around, Devin is not the man to lead eBay, he has created a larger mess when he was supposed to be the man to clean up after the Donahoe abomination.

Devin claimed he was going to connect with small sellers, but all he has done is ruin the relationship with them.  

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 14:04:08 2017

Leather :)

"a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush" - thats why they did it.

there are too many auctions that end with no sale/bids (I see it in the area of collectibles that I buy from time to time. Those items are %85 always relisted - indicating NO SALE).

eBays #s (despite what some here crow about) stink - and thats putting it mildly. %3 growth is shameful (as compared to other sites) and eBay knows they MUST show better numbers.

eBay cant  totally rid itself of auctions - though they wish they could ... so this is how to control them and "force sales" without stopping them.

They have already raised prices, raises fvfs, eliminated discounts, manipulated search ... those are their standard plays - same playbook every quarter .... this one is a NEW PLAY.

More completed sales is something eBay can crow about, it will lead (in their minds) to higher revenue and it buys them time to pump up Q4 and not have to deal with it all "till next year".

Problem is that you DONT think like a crooked eBay CEO :) so you cant understand it all !

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Wed Oct 11 14:12:06 2017

@steveylang

"Everything EBay does now is based on bean counter logic, and not thinking through what is best or smoothest for the actual listings/auctions themselves which in turn would actually result in best long-term results for all of EBay..."

Your above statement is, to me, way off target.  What you state is the exact opposite of what actual Accountants does.  I should know, I'm one of them.  Accountants/Bean Counters are responsible for collecting data and presenting that data to management in a way that is complete and all inclusive as they can make it with applicable info.

In my experience the Bean Counters will often times try to advise management due to the numbers they [bean counter] see and management often will disregard the advice from their Accountants.

I find it doubtful that any accountant was involved in the making of this ridiculous change.  From my point of view as an accountant, this is a terrible turn of events.  I would have advised for the short run Ebay may see an increase in FVFs, but in the long run, the continued assault on how a seller conducts their business will backfire.

What IMHO we need to hope for now is that this is a test that will go away in short order.  There are so many things wrong with this action by Ebay I don't know where to begin.  This is something that SELLER's should have control over, NOT Ebay.

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This user has validated their user name. by: BuildingMyOwnSite

Wed Oct 11 14:50:16 2017

Almost EVERY comment above points out something WRONG with this IDIOTIC idea.  And I haven't even had a chance yet.  There are DOZENS of things WRONG,  UNETHICAL, and maybe even ILLEGAL, concerning just the “Auction” aspect of this.   There is SOOOOO much wrong here, I just don't know where to BEGIN..... SO I WON'T.

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This user has validated their user name. by: BuildingMyOwnSite

Wed Oct 11 14:50:41 2017

Just Kidding...............  I want to expound a bit, on ignatz's comment......  one of the few intelligent comments above, that really does deserve further explanation.
@ignatz said:  “only makes sense in the Bizzaro World of eBay (non)management“

For those who may think ignatz was just making an offhand comment...... no, it was probably inspired by the television show mentioned below.  Everything in it describes how Ebay is SO @#@#@#@ STUPID, that they have accidentally applied Bizarro, to their own corporate management structure.

The concept of a Bizarro universe is directly taken from the Superman universe.  “The Bizarro Jerry”  is the 137th episode of the television sitcom “Seinfeld”, broadcast on 10/3/1996.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcjSDZNbOs0

Dialog form Wikipedia entry of  : (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bizarro_Jerry)
   Jerry: Yeah, like Bizarro Superman—Superman's exact opposite, who lives in the backwards Bizarro world. Up is down; down is up. He says ''Hello'' when he leaves, ''Goodbye'' when he arrives.
   Elaine: Shouldn't he say ''bad bye''? Isn't that the opposite of goodbye?
   Jerry: No, it's still goodbye.
   Elaine: Does he live underwater?
   Jerry: No.
   Elaine: Is he black?
   Jerry: Look, just forget the whole thing. Alright?

At first I thought this was probably about Wenig & someone else discussing this as Jerry and Elaine are doing.  But then I realized that the Wening role in Seinfeld is more properly reserved for the stumbling, bumbling George Costanza in   “Vandelay Latex Salesman”   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqnTcQJn-is).

SHEESH, YOU REALLY CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP !!!

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by: Cargo11 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 11 16:00:30 2017

Obviously - Now they are trying to be like our Congress - Make Rules and Then Never follow them.

http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/best-offer.html?rmvSB=tru
e
Availability
Best
Offer is available for listings using the fixed price and Classified Ad formats, and in eBay Motors. Best Offer isn't available for auction-style listings.

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