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Toolhaus Suspends eBay Feedback Tools

eBay users were disappointed when they visited the Toolhaus.org website on Monday and saw a message saying the site was experiencing extreme difficulties.

“How extreme? Extreme enough that we may not be back. We’re no happier about this than you are.”

The message prompted much speculation about the cause of the problems, and some users wondered if eBay might have forced the site to stop providing its services. Toolhaus founder Win Bent put that rumor to rest, telling EcommerceBytes, “The troubles on Toolhaus were not caused by eBay changing their requirements or setup, or eBay blocking Toolhaus or anything from eBay at all – they had nothing to do with it, contrary to the perpetual worries that “eBay’s going to shut you down!””

Toolhaus is a popular website among eBay users thanks to the tools it provides that help them vet their potential trading partners by looking up negative and neutral feedback. Bent said the Negs tool was by far the most popular of his feedback-analysis tools. In an interview in 2008, he said the Negs tool was useful for checking feedback, “in particular, sellers can look at the negative, neutral, and withdrawn feedback left by their bidders, and identify possibly “troublemakers.” I know of many sellers who have used it to identify (potential) bidders to put on their Blocked Bidder List.”

Another tool called “30-day Negs” shows a seller’s recent feedback, and the percentage of “bad” feedback they’ve received – it’s designed to show sellers if they are at risk of an account restriction.

Other tools for eBay sellers offered by Toolhaus included the following:

Item-FB: shows a user’s recent feedback with the item’s title, and groups feedback from Dutch Auctions into a single entry. You can even search the item titles for specific terms!

The mutual tool: lets you see the feedback which two eBay users have left for each other – enter two User IDs. Or, search by item number to check the buyer and seller IDs.

Blocked-Bidder Check: New in 2008! bcheck lets you make a quick check of your Blocked Bidder list for invalid (NARU, etc) users!

Some sellers wondered if the suspension of services was related to eBay’s recent security breach. A seller name Jan wrote in an email to EcommerceBytes, “Many of us surmise it is connected somehow to the eBay security hack, as the timing is so close.”

Another reader named Julie said eBay’s actions this week led sellers to believe it was behind the suspension. “A few of us are thinking that eBay may have finally put another nail in all sellers coffins. A thread about Toolhaus on the eBay discussion boards has been locked also. If eBay didn’t have a hand on this, then why lock a thread?”

Bent said the difficulties were not due to eBay or the eBay hack, but rather, the cost of running the site which offers the services for free and offered a way for users to donate money through PayPal if they were so inclined.

“The root of the problem in running Toolhaus is money – contributions have been down for over a year, and I’ve had to move to (ahem) cheaper and cheaper hosting,” he said. “I’ve never been in this for the income, but I do need to cover the basic costs. There are technical requirements for running Toolhaus, and I’m learning that those are hard to find when you’re on a shoestring budget.”

Bent explained that his current plan is to stop publishing Toolhaus. “Believe you me, this is not an easy or a happy decision,” he said.

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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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.