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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1049 - June 26, 2005 - ISSN 1539-5065    3 of 1

Fees, Safety, and Support Key Issues at Saturday eBay Town Hall Meeting

By Lissa McGrath
June 26, 2005

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Approximately 1000 eBay community members attended Saturday’s town hall meeting with Bill Cobb (eBay North America president) and members of his team. Other eBay panel members joining Cobb were: Lynn Reedy (Products), Michael Dearing (Merchandising), Wendy Jones (Customer Service), Rob Chesnut (Trust and Safety), and Dana Stalder (PayPal). In addition, the front row of the auditorium was reserved for eBay staff with expertise in certain areas to help answer questions.

The meeting started right on time at 1 p.m. I had expected more attendees since there were no conflicting events, but since there was a live weblink over the internet, there were likely more attendees than those present in the hall.

Talking with various eBay members before the meeting I found out the main issues were fees (obviously), trust and safety, customer service and international seller protection. All of these were addressed throughout the meeting.

Jim "Griff" Griffith, eBay's official dean of education, stated the purpose of the meeting was “To hear what’s on your mind and to answer your questions.”

Many questions were met with “Yes we agree--we’re working on it.” This seemed to be across the spectrum of questions asked, which suggests eBay really is listening. We’ll “stay tuned” as instructed and see what will actually happen.

Unscripted banter between Griff and Cobb punctuated the meeting giving lighthearted relief amongst the serious questions.

The five members admitted to the 2005 Community Hall of Fame awards were announced at the beginning of the meeting and will be available on the new Hall of Famers board. An eBay community charity donation of $2500 was awarded to the charity of each member’s choice.

Before questions began, Cobb announced a change to the homepage featured policy. eBay now reserves the right to refuse to use the homepage feature option for any auctions that will “hurt the credibility of the eBay marketplace.” They will specifically deny this feature to unproven health and weight management products. In Bill Cobb’s words “Yep –the diet pills are gone.” This induced cheers and applause from the audience.

The first question posed by Griff to Cobb was “Why does eBay keep raising fees?” The answer was nothing we haven’t heard before, mentioning the “entire seller package” and evolution of eBay market to include large business sellers. Cobb did admit they “did a poor job of communicating the changes in January.”

The meeting wasn’t just about fees though. There were many questions about safety, international bidding to unconfirmed addresses, the problems of buyer and seller communication when selling to a non-English speaking country, feedback, power seller level criteria, and many more.

Many questions were for scenarios specific to the seller asking it, and while the feedback was positive, Cobb said he would not make changes that would have cascade effects. He would “stay true to the principle of a level playing field.”

There was a little disagreement on the panel about the issue of feedback sorting. Cobb has always held the position that users should see the feedback in context. He gave the example of the seller with 60,000 positive feedback transactions and 27 negatives, saying it was unfair in that case to draw focus to the negatives. Dearing holds the opposite position. When the buyer who raised the issue offered her business card and the opportunity to discuss it with her later, Dearing took the card and hand-delivered it to Cobb, to much amusement from the audience.

Another interesting issue was counterfeit merchandise from China. Rob Chesnut said this is a “priority of Trust and Safety to address this problem.” A team has been created to monitor listings of brand name merchandise from China and contact the sellers if there is any question of authenticity.

Although Cobb was asked about eBay 2006 (and one seller suggested eBay Live 2007 being held in Hawaii which had a lot of support from the crowd and eBay staff) he would not divulge any more information other than the announcement of the location would be at the Gala this evening. Rumors on the conference floor are for Las Vegas, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

At the close of the meeting at 3:15 p.m., Bill said they (eBay) have their “head up listening to the community” and they are “trying to get better, listen and respond.”

The next town hall meeting is scheduled for July 28th and the topic is Product Features.

About the author:

Lissa McGrath is the author of three eBay books, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to eBay" 2nd Edition (Alpha, 2010); "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to eBay Motors" (Alpha, 2008); and "20 Questions To Ask Before Selling On eBay" (Career Press, 2006). She is also the editor of eight other eBay books. You can reach Lissa directly at lissa (at) lissamcgrath (dot) com or through her website http://www.lissamcgrath.com.

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