EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1046 - June 24, 2005     1 of 8

eBay CEO's Keynote: eBay Broadening Scope, but Still Listening to Users

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Attendees at eBay Live were invited to the San Jose HP Pavilion, home of the San Jose Sharks hockey team, to listen to eBay CEO Meg Whitman give her keynote address Thursday evening.

Free food flowed from the concession stands, and a band comprised of eBay and PayPal employees kept the audience entertained while waiting for the event to begin. Griff did "man on the street" interviews and wowed the audience with his antics.

In a slide presentation of unusual auctions, Griff showed one eBay listing for a mind-reading machine with a photo of a man wearing a strange gadget on his head that sold for $710. The next slide showed the listing with a cartoon bubble coming out of the man's mouth saying, "Read my mind, Mr. more fee hikes." The slide was referring to eBay's fee increase in February that caused an uproar among the seller community. Humor was the theme of the night.

Whitman introduced John Donahoe, eBay's new President, but did not bring him up on stage. Bill Cobb took the stage, made a few remarks, and then Meg and Bill introduced Postmaster General Jack Potter. Potter got the biggest applause of the evening when he announced that in November, eBay sellers would be able to print international labels and pay postage and complete customs forms from their eBay account in a bid to make global trading easier.

Whitman said several times during the night the words "off eBay." This seemed a strange admission from the company to acknowledge ecommerce outside of the eBay platform. Earlier in the day, the launch of ProStores, eBay-hosted ecommerce web sites, was announced. Whitman said, "You are looking to expand your sales. Our fundamental mission is to help you become more successful." She said eBay could help sellers through its technology and its expertise in Trust & Safety. Bill Cobb said in talking about Pro Stores, eBay wants to be the best solution provider for all your online selling needs.

Bill Cobb said eBay members asked for three things from the auction site and outlined how he would accomplish them.

Increase the value our members receive for the fees the pay; Make customer support the best anywhere; And continually improve Trust and Safety.

Cobb asked all eBay members to create About Me pages, telling them it's a great way to add content to eBay to get picked up on search engines.

He said eBay now has a dedicated billing team, and he said eBay is doubling rep training in the second half of 2005 to improve customer service. In discussing the problem of sellers who charge excessive shipping & handling fees, Cobb said eBay will add a shipping column to every search results page.

Perhaps the biggest news of the night was Cobb's announcement of changes to eBay's feedback policy, "a topic," he said, "that inspires passion in our community."

"We thoroughly reviewed the feedback system; for the most part, it works as intended," Cobb said. The changes are:

  • Beginning in September, buyers who don't pay or respond to a UPI report will no longer be able to impact a seller's reputation. The comment will remain, but the negative is removed from the seller's feedback rating.
  • Sellers who do not respond to complaints will not be able to impact a buyer's feedback either.
  • eBay will erase feedback permanently for new users who are permanently suspended in the first 90 days on eBay.
  • eBay will not add a sort by negative feedback. Users who want to find negatives "will need to go find negatives among all those green positives," Cobb said.
  • And, Cobb said, it's time for new users to go to school. Those users with less than 10 feedback must take an online tutorial before leaving a negative or neutral feedback. eBay needs to teach new users the purpose of feedback, and only leave negative feedback as a last resort.

"There is a lot we need to do, but I feel we are making progress," Cobb said. He wants to keep the lines of communication open.

There are two more days of the eBay Live conference, including a Fireside chat with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and a gala reception Saturday night with a performance by the B-52s.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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