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eBay Trades Army of TAs for Two Logistics Valets

eBay has traded an army of Trading Assistants for two logistics firms to power consignment selling on its Marketplace. ModusLink and Ingram Micro Logistics are currently the only participants in the eBay Valet consignment program, which eBay promotes on its website and through email promotions.

Selling on eBay can be hard work, requiring savvy that is built up over time. Those who don’t want the hassle of doing it themselves can use consignment services that specialize in online selling. eBay used to provide a program for “Trading Assistants” (individuals) and “Trading Posts” (eBay drop-off stores), and it published a directory to help people find members of the program by zip code or specialty. eBay closed the programs in 2013, leaving consignment sellers to find customers on their own.

eBay replaced the programs with a very different model, called eBay Valet, which we last wrote about a year ago.

The program is not open to the typical eBay consignment seller. Instead, eBay requires members of its Valet program to be able to list 100,000 listings each month, across all eBay categories, with a physical presence in all major metropolitan hubs in the U.S.

History of eBay Consignment Programs
2002: eBay launches formal Trading Assistant program
2004: eBay launches Trading Post program for drop-off stores
2008: eBay revamps programs, imposing strict new requirements
2012: eBay launches alternative pilot called eBay Selling Assistant
2013: eBay officially closes Trading Assistant program
2013: eBay launches eBay Valet
2014: eBay launches Consignment Center

eBay Still Testing the Waters 
eBay spokesperson Karen Crocker Snell told EcommerceBytes the company continues to test and pilot new programs to help simplify and streamline the selling process on eBay. She said eBay Valet was a pilot program with a national mail-in component and a drop-off component in select locations – Los Angeles and Atlanta.

“eBay will continue to evaluate different programs and scale the programs that increase engagement amongst eBay customers,” she said. “The pilot gives potential sellers a simple and convenient way to sell items on one of the world’s largest marketplaces where Valets manage the photography, listing, shipping and buyer returns of all your items.”

A Closer Look at eBay Valet
Freelance journalist Elizabeth Woyke wrote about eBay Valet last year on Medium.com and discovered a lot of complaints about the service on the eBay discussion boards – lost packages, error-filled item descriptions, bizarre pricing strategies and weeks-long payment delays. She also tried it and said she experienced all of those problems except for one: her package was not lost.

Woyke said many consignors believed eBay was handling their item listings and sales, not realizing eBay outsourced the actual consignment selling process to third-parties. “This misconception led to inflated expectations since these consignors assumed eBay would wield its expertise and/or inside knowledge to masterfully market their products.”

One person even believed the program was similar to Amazon FBA, she said, which handles the storing, fulfillment, payments, and customer service aspects of the sales on the Amazon platform.

A source told EcommerceBytes that the eBay Valet program partnered with a dozen FedEx stores in the LA area – customers bring items to the store, which then sends the items to a warehouse in Ontario, Calif. It’s not clear if it’s a partnership between eBay and FedEx or between Ingram Micro Logistics and FedEx.

In all other locations except Atlanta, consumers must mail their item to the eBay Valet.

We caught up with Woyke to see what else she had to say about the program. She used it twice to sell her items on eBay, in July and in November of 2014. Sometime between July and November 2014, eBay began returning consigned items to consignors for free instead of charging $10 for returns, she told EcommerceBytes. Also, “the quality of the eBay Valet auction photos also improved during that time. And the program got a bit stricter. Last summer, Valet was encouraging people to send in clothing, but by November, the program wasn’t accepting clothing anymore (just shoes and handbags).”

In looking at the program now, Woyke said the main thing that has changed since December is that Valets now charge different commissions based on the selling price of the consigned item. “Valets used to make a flat 30%, but now they make 20-40%,” she said.

She also said she saw negative reaction from many Trading Assistance who were sidelined by the introduction of eBay Valet. However, she said, “There are also a few TA’s who have said online that they watch eBay Valet auctions and scoop up items that they then resell on eBay. Basically, eBay Valets sell items at prices so low that savvy sellers can profit by buying and flipping the items.”

ModusLink operates its Valet consignment service through the LibertyStore store on eBay, and Ingram Micro Logistics operates its Valet service through the EastvaleStorestore on eBay.

A reader forwarded a promotion eBay is running to attract new inventory through the program, see related story.

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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/.