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Hidden Limits Hinder This eBay Seller’s Growth

A Platinum PowerSeller who has been listing on eBay since the late 1990’s recently stumbled upon the fact that eBay had placed limits on his account without his knowing. While many sellers are aware of eBay seller limits, it seems eBay only displays such limits on some, not all sellers’ dashboards, leaving a gaping hole in some sellers’ knowledge base.

I spoke to the seller in question (I’ll refer to him as John Doe since he wishes to remain anonymous) and learned that eBay’s lack of transparency can have a direct negative impact on small businesses as they plan for growth – growth that they don’t realize may be unattainable thanks to those limits.

John Doe had set out at the beginning of 2013 with the goal of moving from Platinum PowerSeller to Titanium status, and hired more employees to help with that effort. However, even though he increased his inventory and listings, he wasn’t able to get above the numbers he had last year, even though it “wasn’t a bad box to be in” as he was doing tens of thousands of dollars in sales on eBay each month.

A few months ago, he worried he would have to let some of his employees go, so he began listing on Amazon utilizing FBA. He sold nearly $5,000 worth of products on Amazon in October, and sold three times that amount in November. The business was scaling on Amazon, he said.

Then John spoke to another seller who reported having received a letter from eBay saying he was “selling too much” and need to pare down. Concerned (and incredulous), and wondering if the seller could be overstating his feedback, John reached out to his own eBay rep to see if he too had had limits. His rep replied in the affirmative, much to his surprise, and put him in touch with a “selling limits” rep.

While John could not see any selling limits on his dashboard, the selling limits rep told him eBay had indeed previously placed limits on his account, and while communicating with him, she made the limits visible to him in his dashboard. “She said everyone has selling limits, but most people can’t see them,” he said.

John said he understands that eBay doesn’t want sellers to scale too fast, since it assumes the risk of transactions through its buyer protection programs. But what concerns him is the lack of transparency about the limits, which is crucial to business planning.

“I was going to hire more people to increase my listings on eBay, but I really can’t do that now.” He was also going to branch out and had been in negotiations with a drop shipper to list even more items on eBay – investments that would not have paid off thanks to eBay’s seller limits on his accounts.

He was also “taken aback by the matter of factness” in which the selling limits rep communicated with him, with statements such as, “this is what’s good for you,” and “this is what I feel comfortable letting you do.” She told him that if he need to increase his limits, “we can have this conversation again next month.”

Now, he says, “I have to be judicious about how much I sell.” In other words, he needs to consider profit margins very carefully, weighing listing a high-value item on consignment versus a lower value item in which he gets 100 percent of the sale.

When asked about the seller limits, eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore said, “If a seller has a limit, he/she will find it in My eBay.” He said some of the criteria that goes into how a limit is set include the following:

  • Selling performance of sellers;
  • Tenure/ length of selling history;
  • Desired listing volume.

“A seller can request higher limits by 1) Navigating to the Increase Selling Limits option in My eBay and/or contacting Customer Service directly,” Moore said.

EcommerceBytes has covered selling limits before – in fact, in this April blog postabout eBay Seller Limits and mandatory Buyer Protection Funding, I said those were two areas eBay doesn’t talk much about and wrote, “If you haven’t heard of them yet, you may soon find yourself encountering them on eBay.”

John Doe said he had heard of seller limits but had “skimmed over that term” because he had never heard of anyone getting them. While not exactly happy about them, at least now that he can see the limits displayed in his dashboard he can make better decisions as he tries to grow his business going forward, he said.

Let us know what you think of eBay selling limits, and if you’ve encountered them on other marketplaces as well.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.