I've been following your blog for a short time about how eBay is losing sellers and felt it's time for me to chime in. I am/was a seller on eBay for 13+ years but as of yesterday I was suspended for non-payment with my store that was built with my blood, sweat and tears to be closed by eBay any day now. (User ID Style-Wizard).
My story might differ from others for the fact I wasn't only a "Top seller" before the "Top Seller" designation was even released to the public, I was one of eBay's elite "Top-100 Sellers Worldwide".
Most might agree my story is an interesting one, previously I've refused to tell my story but now since the nightmare is over I'm happy to share with hope to warn help others. I am now 50 years old, I've been married for 24 wonderful years and have 3 children and my eBay story begins around 1999.
Before my eBay days I had a very successful real estate development business, then with a few bad decisions I went from extreme wealth to extreme poverty in a short few months. I lost my company with over 110 employees, and my 10,000 sqft beachfront home, to eventually become homeless.
I was lucky to land a job as a driver, delivering hazardous chemicals, delivering on average 10-20 thousand pounds of chemicals by hand along a 200 mile a day delivery route. Times were rough going from a boardroom to a beat up delivery truck, trying to feed a family of 5 on a meager driver's salary, even with my wife working 70 hours a week as a waitress.
Times became so rough, one day while visiting my parents 60 miles away, my children were hungry while driving on the way home, begging for a Bob's Big Boy. I entered the drive-through only to find to my horror I only had $3 to my name. Unfortunately the $3 was needed for gas to get us home so I had to back out the wrong way, through the drive through.
After that my wife demanded I sell my old business suits that I used to wear when I was a CEO. We didn't own a camera so my wife scraped together money we didn't have and purchased one. She handed me the camera and said, "The kids need to eat so sell your suits on eBay! You no longer wear them as now your business attire consists of a blue jumpsuit with a name tag so they better be gone in 2 weeks!"
We were broke so I couldn't argue and reluctantly listed 5 suits. To my delight they all sold making more money than I made killing myself delivering hazardous materials in a week! This gave me an idea. If my old clothes would sell, then other people's old clothes would sell!
Since I was once wealthy, I knew quality and fashion, so I whipped out a Thomas Guide and mapped every single thrift store along my delivery route so every time I made a stop, I would rush into a thrift store, rummage through all their clothing looking for gems to sell. It wasn't long before I was making 3 times what I was making being a delivery boy so when I lost my job, it was scary but I had eBay to fall back on and took eBay full time.
Please keep in mind this was around 2001-2002. There were very few if any professional sellers on eBay. eBay was kind of new, most sellers were selling used, flea market/garage sale stuff, but I had another idea. I wanted a store. I wanted a store that sold new clothing, and I wanted departments to where one could buy suits, shirts, ties and accessories.
I went to the Los Angeles Fashion district & walked every block, checking out every vendor looking for unknown designers to sell. I wanted designers no one had heard of yet, but were of impressive quality. I found three designers and my business took off!
It was just my wife and I working out of our home, but our first year we grossed $1.2 million! That was unheard of on eBay or anywhere else for two people to turn those numbers without any money, funding, backing or help working out of their living room! I achieved the American dream on Ebay by making a million dollars with nothing out of pocket.
These numbers caught a lot of eyes. eBay called and assigned a Senior Account VIP Manager to help me along. PayPal followed suit as well as vendors like UPS etc. By 2003-2004 I was on fire so eBay calls asking if I would agree to be their poster boy for "eBay's success story". I was flattered. I was working so hard I didn't have the time to realize I was a success!
I tentatively agreed so Bay hired the Kaplow Advertising Agency out of NY to write my story; they faxed it over for my authorization but after reading it, and thinking about it, I realized I would rather have fortune than fame so I stalled and then I filed it.
Back then no one knew the profit potential of eBay, so by authorizing that story I felt I would be painting a Bulls Eye on my back. The story was scheduled to run on major publications nationwide which I felt would alert major manufacturers, my suppliers and just about everyone else, which in essence would let my secret cat out of the bag. eBay continued to pester me for a few years but I never conceded.
A few years later eBay invited me to their headquarters on their dime. They paid for my flight, they paid for my hotel, they paid for everything including food for three days, but there was a hitch. Whenever I was eating there were two eBay employees & two PayPal employees picking my brain! Ya got to love Meg Whitman! What a brilliant idea to fly the top 100 sellers to eBay to pick their minds to make EBay a better place!
Let's fast forward to when John Donahoe took over in 2008, because everything was beautiful until then. I have an inside track on eBay & PayPal so hopefully my story can fill in some missing blanks for others.
The first thing Donahoe did when he took over was moronic in my opinion. Back then eBay was filled with scammers so it took a full time account manager at eBay and one at PayPal to handle my daily problems, so what does John do? He decides it would be cost effective to combine them! He took my eBay account manager and made her my PayPal account manager too!
Well,... That didn't last long. LOL! Strike one for Donahoe. Next Mr. Donahoe decides to fix what's not broken. He decides to start tweaking the search algorithm to make things better and the result was my business volume gets cut in half, then cut in half again. My account manager and I worked very closely to duck and roll with each of Donahoe's changes so I was able to stay afloat but barely from 2008 on.
Enter around May-June 2011. I have approx. 4000 auctions going on every week and all of a sudden my sales drop dramatically like someone threw an off switch. I instantly check search results and I'm nowhere to be found. One might think with 4000 auctions one might find at least one, but no. So I called eBay, and my account manager, who was the BEST at eBay, figured it out. Donahoe decided to change the search algorithm to show multiple variation auctions first, and the more sales an auction got, the better placement it would receive.
There were other variables, eBay added things like free shipping, return policies, item specifics and keywords later. The problem I was facing I had no multi variation auctions so it took me 3 months of working day and night to change everything over, taking the store from 4000-5000 to about 400-600 auctions.
This seemed to patch the hole ever so slightly but business was still horrible and became worse with every passing great idea of Donahoe's to make what was once working beautifully, ugly.
Moving on to 2012, I had a stellar 2011 December because my account manager made me run four "Daily Deals" back to back. This is something I would never do again as almost killed me.
Shipping out 300-800 items within 2 days is almost impossible for two people, but then add in eBay glitches and a PayPal glitch that printed multiple shipping labels for hundreds of clients, some as many as four and some they would automatically cancel.
It was a nightmare, house of horrors trying to figure out who got shipped, who got canceled and who got 2-4 of the same item. The week before Christmas I worked five 20 hour days in a row.
January's sales were surprisingly just as stellar, so when February came around, I was ready for a break. Business slowed down and I was a little thankful for a breath of air, but little did I know business didn't slow down because of a slow month, it slowed down because of Donahoe messing with the search algorithm again.
My eBay account manager that has worked side by side with me in the trenches received a promotion so now I have a new kid that knows little, but is filled with ambition as an account manager.
It's now March 2012 and March is the start of my busy season but it's absolutely dead. March through July are my best months but this year they go down as my worst months in my history!
In 2002-2008, I would gross as much as 80k-$150k a month, and in December 2011 (December is a half month for online sales) and January 2012 turned out to be decent $60k months but March - June 2012 sales drop to $15K-$18K!. I used to do $15K some days, so it was like I didn't even exist on eBay!
My new account manager did his best "Sherlock Holmes" to figure out what was going on, because not even he could find my auctions by searching. We tried everything. I know every trick in the book for search placement, and after changing over thousands of auctions, it was decided multi variation auctions no longer get any search engine placement whatsoever.
Now I've got to go from 500 to make 5000 auctions again, but now I'm drained and desperate. I get all the auctions changed over, but there was no change in volume. My business was dead. I used to wake very morning to 20-80 emails and dozens of sales, but now I wake to no sales and no emails.
On top of that eBay offered a gallery picture framing service that I signed up for. It was easy to frame my gallery pictures in bulk using this service but then eBay changed their minds after every auction was framed. eBay indicated they did not have a tool for removal, the frames must be removed manually, auction by auction, and the auctions that have the frame will not show in search results
In a last-ditch effort, my account manager corners one of the IT guys to get some answers as to what's actually going on. Apparently Donahoe's vision is to align eBay with Google search to bring more buyers on to eBay from Google, and sellers that are not selling "Name brands" are not in his vision and are eliminated from search results.
"Unless a seller is selling a name-brand item on eBay they will not show in search results. The only way a no-name product will show in search results is if the buyer is specifically searching for an unknown, no-name brand by name!"
My account manager indicated there were really no ways around this and asked if I could change my store format to sell name-brands because that was the only fix. I just shook my head and laughed because that was impossible, then he tried a few other things like getting some of my brands listed in the item specifics, but nothing helped.
So here I am today. Neither my current account manager, nor my account manager that was with me for 8+ years, that I thought was a friend, will return my phone calls to assist me in reaching an agreement with eBay with regards to my fees. I do not feel it's fair for eBay to demand listing fees for listing auctions that were not really listed or visible.
Some might play Devil's advocate and say I lost the store because I'm a bad merchant, or sales went down because of my actions and I'm not taking responsibility. My response to that is; Google "Style-Wizard", or "Jeffrey Thomas-The Wizard of Aahs".
My reputation is a decade long without a single blemish. For 13 years I've made 100% of my clients happy 100% of the time and I have a huge following with over 100,000 sales under my belt. I feel it's safe to say I know how to run this business and I know how to work eBay. I was once the best in the business.
Additionally I have my traffic reports which clearly indicate eBay was referring on average 60k-80k clients to my store per month, and the same reports this year indicates eBay's search engine sent between 15k-18k clients to my store per month from February - July 2012
In retrospect I can say with complete confidence, eBay is a complete nightmare to work with. They are unorganized, unprofessional, they act like spoiled children with the worst case of entitlement, they change their minds and policies on whim that often create months of work and lost sales only to change their minds back again a few months later.
eBay has the philosophy of "One size fits all", all sellers are all the same regardless of their contribution to eBay and "Protect the buyer" sellers have no protection or rights even if they are being abused by the buyer.
Even though I was considered eBay's "Golden boy", they would do odd things like send someone to bring me breakfast as a surprise from a city that was 3 hours away, each way. eBay has given me free concerts, free dinners, free Las Vegas shows, but when it came to business, eBay treated me like dirt in most cases with my account manager apologizing profusely for eBay being totally unfair and abusive.
For example; last year I received two unjust negatives, eBay calls at Christmas indicating since they were undeserved and since I went so far out of my way to make things right, without a response from the buyers they were removing them as a gift. It never happened, my account manager got promoted, I reminded my new temporary account manager a few times about eBay's promise, and then eBay indicated they changed their policy and now feedback removal was not possible.
In conclusion, I feel eBay screwed me. eBay took one of their best sellers that was once paying them over $250,000+ a year in fees and ran me into the ground to be broke once again. Now the only contact I have with eBay is computer generated, threatening emails indicating they are going to take me to court and ruin my credit if I don't pay their ridiculous fees.
The only beauty to this was on my way out, seeing Google Shopping launch, welcoming eBay sellers with open arms to switch over to Google Shopping and Google Wallet. I have to comment "Great job John Donahoe! You did a great job of handing eBay over to your enemy." The enemy that eBay did everything in their power to keep from using Google checkout in eBay!
I'm confident Google execs are having the laugh of their lifetime right about now as every eBay seller that is fed up with eBay is signing up for Google, so not only is John taking down eBay, but PayPal as well! I have four PayPal accounts which I will soon close to run everything through Google Wallet.
I predict the final blows will come to eBay at their next Q3 earnings. I personally know of eBay higher-ups that are getting ready to jump ship and then taking into consideration eBay's stellar earning this quarter are a FAKE house of cards that will be exposed at the Q3 earnings
The only reason eBay shows a profit this quarter is because Donahoe FORCED every seller to add shipping into the sales price. This padded eBay's bottom line over previous earnings, but the next earnings will reflect the thousands of small and mid-level sellers that have either jumped ship or have been thrown off like me. If one trades stocks, shorting eBay right before 3rd quarter earnings would be a wise move. Take it from someone that has ears on the inside. eBay is doomed under Donahoe.