|Wed Dec 9 2009 23:48:32|
eBay Sales Suspended over Half.com Anomalies
By: Ina Steiner
To the Editor:
I'm a bookseller and have run into a problem. A fellow bookseller suggested that I write to you.
My eBay powerseller account is showing my account status as follows:
performance: above standard
policy compliance: high
But my account was suspended tonight for an odd issue at half.com.
Apparently, half.com is now using robot discovery to find "listing violations" and based on these "listing violations," eBay just indefinitely suspended our twelve-year-old eBay account. All of our eBay listings have been removed. Our half.com sales are very few, but eBay is 20-30% of our total income. This really hurts in the middle of holiday shopping.
Since my eBay record is really outstanding and since these half.com issues are based on some very odd readings, I would like to offer eBay a compromise. Please restore my eBay account, and I will promise not to list on half.com from now on.
Out of 3200 books, the half.com robot has had complaints about just a handful of listings. A couple of these are honest errors, but most are just very odd, like nothing I've ever seen in 15 years selling books online. I've been a bookseller since 1995, and am an "old school" bookseller who carefully describes the condition of every book. It appears to me that my extra care has gotten me into trouble with the half.com robot, and I just hate to think that customers who were contacting us with questions yesterday and today are now seeing that our account is suspended.
In one case, my husband used a phrase like "advanced reading level" to describe the difficulty level of a child's reader - and the half.com robot flagged the listing as an "advance reading copy," which is a promotional copy sent to reviewers prior to publication!
In another case a new book, never read, had a very faint, very small stain at the fore edge, so we graded it as Very Good. This is 100% within professional grading standards, but half.com has recently added to their requirements that "stained" books are unacceptable and can't ever be sold there. (I'm not sure that the human author imagined this.)
I just learned that half.com has changed their condition requirements for ex-library books. If an ex-library book lacks a dust jacket and has stamps, stickers and a card pocket, it can be graded as high as Very Good, but if the dust jacket is present and protected in Mylar, the book cannot be graded better than Acceptable. This is honestly just bizarre.
Mylar is generally a plus in an ex-library book (some of which really are collectible), because it protects the valuable dust jacket, but every bookseller understands that every stamp, sticker and cardpocket is a defect!
Most books published since 1970 have been identified with an ISBN. In some cases half.com has an ISBN assigned as "paperback" when the book with that ISBN is really a hardcover, so they reject our listing if the inventory database that we submit is accurate where the half.com has errors. (We submit corrections to the Amazon.com catalog whenever we find a binding error, but half.com does not offer professional booksellers the option of submitting corrections.
Recently, we've been getting more e-mails stating that an occasional item has been removed from their catalog for something like this, but for us these have been no more than a source of amusement. We received a notice flagging something that a human would understand, we accepted that one of our items had been deleted, and we moved on.
We have never heard of any other account being suspended for this issue.
What frustrates me is that if we had decided not to describe our books at all, half.com would still love us! If we were like many sellers, we'd just say "excellent customer service" and leave every used book's appearance a complete mystery until delivery! Sellers who practice this way generally have below average feedback. The half.com robot would love them, but the customers wouldn't, and customers, not robots, are the ones that we most need to please.
Other friends tell me that they are also getting more and more of
"policy violation" letters and one friend just advised me that one of
her listings was flagged and she was warned for describing a CD as Used: Like New/ Her comment was, "This CD is really new; I just opened the shrinkwrap to replace a cracked case." All I can imagine is that the robot thinks she's selling a cracked CD.
I would like to see my eBay account restored as soon as possible, but today I'd like other booksellers to be aware of this risk. Honestly, if anyone else has been getting occasional notices from the robot, I would urge people to put half.com on vacation until the robot is better educated. For now, the small number of sales that half.com produces for most of us just isn't worth the risk of losing a far more valuable eBay account.
To be honest, I'm also very disappointed that as a long-term eBay seller and Powerseller, I did not receive a courtesy call from eBay before my account was suspended. I would have been happy to permanently delete all of my half.com listings in order to preserve my good name at eBay and my ability to serve customers there.
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