On Tuesday we reported that eBay was adding Make an Offer "haggling" to sellers' auction listings with no warning or explanation of why dynamic auctions would need such a feature. Two days later it apologized to sellers in an email it sent to those who were impacted:
"You may have noticed that a Best Offer option was recently added to some of your auction listings created between October 8 and 10. This feature was added to your listings in error. We apologize for the error. We are working to remove the Best Offer feature from your active listings and plan to do so by end of day, Friday, October 13.
"In the meantime, if you wish to avoid receiving offers on affected listings, you can revise your active listings to auto-decline all best offers below your starting price. This will ensure that you will not receive any Best Offer requests for this listing period. However, if your item automatically relists, the Best Offer option will appear on the relisted item. You can revise a listing's auto-decline amount by going to Manage Offer settings on the listing's item page.
"We apologize for any confusion this issue may have caused, and we thank you for selling on eBay."
As we had written, a major concern was that the feature signaled that the starting price of auctions sporting the Make an Offer feature was too high in eBay's determination, which could be devastating to sellers hoping for higher bids, not lowball offers. See the details here
eBay didn't respond to or acknowledge our request for clarification, sending a further signal about the level of importance it places on providing clear information to sellers.
eBay moderators did go into several discussion boards where sellers were discussing the issue. On Thursday morning, moderator trinton@ebay wrote:
"I wanted to step in and provide an update on this topic. We have identified an issue where the Best Offer option was incorrectly added to some auction listings that were created between October 8th and 10th. We are actively working on a fix for the impacted listings. We have identified affected sellers and will email them with further instructions. We will be testing this feature with a small number of lower-volume consumer sellers in the coming weeks."
Questions continued, and on Friday, trinton@eBay posted, "Hi, happy to clear up our intentions for this feature. While testing will be performed to gauge the overall impact and changes may occur, the current setup is that if a bid is received on an Auction, the Best Offer option would no longer be available. If there is a Best Offer pending and a bid is received, the Best Offer would automatically be declined. The Best Offer is only intended to be an additional option and would not interfere with the bidding process."
A seller wrote, "So I'm confused as usual. Is this an error that was made on some listings. or is this something that eBay is testing. or both an error and something eBay is testing for future implementation."
Trinton@ebay replied, "Sorry for the confusion! The error was that this feature was applied to a larger audience than intended and earlier than was planned. This will be a feature that we test in the near future, but with a smaller group of sellers to start."
The whole kerfuffle led to passionate discussions about auction selling strategies and whether adding "Best Offer" to auction format listings any made sense. "I've been so outraged about how this happened......it's driven any idea of whether or not I like the idea/think it could work," noted one seller.
Another pointed out, "The purpose of an auction is for the price to go up. The purpose of best offer is for the price to go down."
It's one thing to gripe about a lack of communication or to disagree about a feature. But when eBay disrupts listings, it can cost sellers money and the goodwill of their customers.
The fact that eBay didn't automatically credit sellers fees for the listings that were impacted by its error speaks volumes about the current state of its leadership and their attitude towards customers.