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eBay Tackles the Problem of Deadbeats

Last year, eBay introduced a new policy in which certain fixed-price listings and auctions purchased with Buy It Now remain for sale until the buyer pays for the items. At the time, eBay said it was designed to eliminate a significant number of unpaid items on eBay. (Unpaid items is a nice way of saying the buyer stiffed the seller.)

This week, eBay Senior Manager of Seller Protection Jonathan Haney provided sellers with an update about what eBay has been doing about the problem of deadbeats. “We’ve been pretty quiet on the subject since (last March), so I’m excited to report on the progress we’ve made on reducing the number of unpaid items, and improving the eBay marketplace for you, our sellers. To date, the updates below have reduced the number of unpaid items seen across eBay by 26%.”

Haney said eBay also improved its unpaid items detection systems, “allowing us to do an even better job of flagging and stopping buyers who are not likely to pay.” However, eBay still lets these buyers with a propensity not pay purchase items that can be paid for immediately – “so while you won’t necessarily see them suspended from the site, you should know that we have greatly reduced the overall nonpayment rate.”

Another change mentioned by Haney was the reduction in the minimum number of days that a seller must wait before opening an unpaid item case – from 4 down to 2 days after the auction closes, he said.

Haney also offered sellers advice to reduce the possibility of unpaid items. “Depending on how you list, try these top tips,” he said:

When selling in fixed price:

  • Ensure that your listings are compliant with our immediate payment requirements
  • Make sure that the listing is marked with “Requires Immediate Payment”

When selling auction-style:


  • If your buyer has not paid within 48 hours of the listing being closed, reach out to them via My Messages and ask them – in a friendly, encouraging manner – to pay for the item they won. Buyers are people, and life happens, so give them the benefit of the doubt. The buyer could have had an emergency or other issue that distracted them from the matter at hand. A little customer service can go a long way in these situations, and we’ve found it’s best to work to find a mutually agreeable solution before opening an Unpaid Item Case.


  • Set up Unpaid Item Assistant to file unpaid items automatically. Let the eBay system do the work on your behalf.

“We hope you are personally feeling a positive impact to your business on eBay due to these changes. Know that we are continually working on new ways to reduce unpaid items and help sellers get the best purchase price possible with minimal risk, minimal hassle.”

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
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.