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The Problem With eBay’s Required Item Specifics

The Problem With eBay's Required Item Specifics

eBay seller Don Heiden, aka the Auction Professor, discusses his experiences with eBay’s recent changes to Categories and Item Specifics.

After 20 plus years of reselling on eBay I have seen many changes to the platform, a few of which have been well received. A large amount of these changes have not been very popular with many users on the platform. Over the years, I have just looked ahead and took those changes as a challenge, attacking them head on. Even with eBay’s Managed Payments I still was fully willing to give it a chance, though it is a mandatory program anyone wanting to use the platform must sign up for, anyway.

Managed Payments has its issues, of course, as I am sure most resellers have found out. But it has not been much of a major hurdle for my business. It was one of the very few changes eBay has ever done that actually saved me a considerable amount of money. Most all of eBay’s changes have been neutral to my business. They neither cost me money nor made me money, other than the usually and expected yearly fee increases they seem to always do.

That was until eBay started forcing required Item Specifics onto sellers. This has forced sellers (both small and large) to spend hours of their time, and hard earned money trying to fill them in.

I have even struggled with some Item Specifics in categories I have sold in for two decades, or more. Many make no sense, whatsoever, and are using terms that not even a lifelong buyer/collector would use, or even understand. Terms such as case type, inlay and PVC will be very confusing to even some long time record sellers. I have been selling records for over 20 years and I have never heard or seen PVC used instead of Styrene on a record, so I can clearly see the drastic confusion many resellers are experiencing in trying to satisfy eBay’s requirements.

Some Item Specifics cannot be filled in at all. In the record category, eBay is requiring sellers to state the album name, which, depending on the type of record you are listing, may not be possible. Many 45 and 78 RPM records were stand alone discs that were never part of any album, but yet eBay is requiring that box to be filled in.

Still other required Item Specifics will only have one single option, which is the case in the record category, also. Even though I am listing a record in the record category, I am still required to (once again) select “record” in the “format” Item Specific box. It is the only option available, which makes no sense. It seems to me eBay could have saved everyone the trouble and just added that automatically to the listing. It is, after all, already listed in the records section, so one would assume it is a record.

With most media across the platform (records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc.) eBay is requiring sellers to not only add key information into the title, but to also enter it into several other places a second time. Adding the artists’ name, such as The Beatles, to the title will not be enough, going forward. A seller would also have to add an Item Specific for The Beatles. This may sound easy for most well known groups or artists, but a vast amount of records listed on the platform will need to have the artist added in manually, which will take two extra steps, further lengthening the listing process for all resellers.

Changes in this one category alone seem to include the need for me to add in the “type” of record (single, EP, album, etc.) also, since they apparently have removed the old way that was done via the “Duration” Item Specific.

The record “duration” had been used to distinguish the length of the disc such as singles (45 or 78 RPMs), EPs (45 RPM w/ double the content. EP means Extended Play), Albums (LPs which are 33 RPMs, LP means Long Play), Boxed sets, and etc.

Duration in the case of record is the length of the record itself, and has been used that way since eBay started.

This change (from “duration” to “type”) would force every single seller who is selling records to go through each and every listing, one by one, to fill in the “Type” Item Specific, to meet eBay’s new changes.

Items in nearly every category I sell in have changes and requirements. I have been told by several resellers that, in some cases, eBay had moved items from one category to another, without informing the seller. In other cases, eBay had changed settings and moved condition boxes, forcing un-needed changes that are costing sellers yet more time and money.

At the beginning of eBay requiring Item Specifics, I was willing to give them a chance. They kept telling sellers it would help their buyer to better find their items, which will help your sales. So, I figured I would give it a try, and had one of my employees spend most of a week adding in all of eBay’s recommend Item Specifics to half of the more than 8,400 items eBay was recommending I add them to. In the end, 4,200 listings had all of eBay’s recommend item specifics filled in.

The half that we left alone, and did not add, would serve as my baseline. I split them up equally, in each category, so I could compare the results on a spreadsheet. I wanted to see if I did get any form of sales increase from the change. After almost two month of tracking them, I saw no increase in sales for the ones that had been added, versus the ones that did not. I did see that the items we added had dipped in sales, compared to the 4,200 we did not fill in.

As a business, I have to use my time and money wisely. If I am investing $300 of my hard earned money into having Item Specifics filled in, I would expect to get something back out of my investment. Imagine a one-person reselling business with 100,000 listings all needing to be changed. Time is money, and that would take a lot of time for anyone.

It could also double or triple the amount of time it takes to list many new items. This could mean that it may not be economically viable for me to list lower value records, and other items, on eBay any more. A large number of resellers are telling me the very same thing. Why spend so much time listing them on eBay when you can just quickly pop them up somewhere else.

While most sites are trying to make it easier and much quicker to list your items, eBay seems to be moving in the opposite direction. I can easily and quickly list the very same records on Amazon and Discogs, right now, much quicker than on eBay, without any hassle. This just seems to be another bad decision by eBay that will further alienate even more sellers on the platform.

Don Heiden on InstagramDon Heiden on Youtube
Don Heiden
Don Heiden
Don Heiden is a 30-year veteran of online reselling going back to the days of Yahoo Auctions. He runs The Auction Professor YouTube channel posting videos and content about various reselling platforms and topics, and he is a member of the eBay, Amazon, Hip, and other affiliate programs where he may earn a commission when linking to products on those sites. He can also be found on most social networks under the same name, including Instagram. He is also a published professional artist which includes works produced for The Walt Disney Company. He holds an Associate Degree in Database Design, Construction, and Network Administration. He also holds a Bachelor Degree and Master Degree of Research & Communications from The University of Toledo.

12 thoughts on “The Problem With eBay’s Required Item Specifics”

  1. I totally agree with this. Time is money. For me, filling in some “stupid” item specifics has become longer times and makes no sense in some categories. AMZ is doing the same with its item specifics. I don’t think the average customers checkoffs 6, 7, 10 “specifics” to find an item that they want. Buyers are time conscious too and if it takes them toooo long to find what they want they won’t stay on that web site.

  2. …could it be that those who made up this list have English as a second language? One where nouns are gender-specific? Has no one thought about that possibility?

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. You’re at 100%.

    Thanks for mentioning the very same things I sent them in an email a few days ago. It’s such a waste of our precious time. I will waste at least a week trying to do mine.

    This is the 1st time in my 21 years of selling on the site that I have considered to quit.

  4. I sell a bit of everything but mostly clothing and footwear. This latest update has added a few new fields but most frustrating for me has been changing a field name (possibly) that is already in the item specifics and now I have to go back and add all of the sizes back to my footwear listings. It seems that they are missing a step when realigning data to the new field when there are changes without a backup plan. Of course maybe the backup plan is to have the sellers update again. Which is a bunch of BS. I’m just a part-time seller and can roll with this a bit better that a seller with thousands of listings but it’s still frustrating.

  5. I have also tried to take all the eBay changes in stride. Just adjust and keep your head down. However, this Items Specifics is a completely different level. The new Item Specifics for Sports Cards is beyond the pale. I do not need to have to scroll through all 5000 North American professional sports teams to be able to click on the proper one. I definitely do not need to scroll through all 40,000 or so professional athletes to find the proper one.

    Just give me a dang Drop Down Menu, where I start typing “New” and all the New York teams, etc., magically appear for me to choose from. Same with the athletes, what could have possibly been the rationale for listing EVERY athlete of note, instead of doing the very simple “drop down” box that shows all the Mickeys, once you’ve typed “Mic” into the box. It is ridiculous! Also shows a lack of oversite, if the people who finally said “yeah, that looks good”, did not realize what a mess they were creating.

    Tine IS money. Don’t waste mine.

  6. The thing is they do NOT understand SEO and someone convinced them that keyword spamming is the way to rank in Google(it deranks) when the bottom line is they must stop gouging us to “promote” on their OWN WEBSITE and spend that money to BUY ADS on Google to rank.


    To top it off, the categories they require and recommend are just asinine. Like “Energy Star Savings” on a candle? How many times can I say coffee mug for a simple mug?

  7. Through out the years where Ebay has been making constant changes to their listing requirements, each and every one of them seems to have been directed at forcing Sellers to spend more and more time logged into Ebay and working on their listings. Ebay seems to have this delusion that all Sellers have a huge staff just sitting around doing nothing. Unlike Ebay, most online sellers do most of the work themselves or have a limited staff that is devoted to this stuff, mainly because Ebay wants to once again play God in an area that they have already shown on numerous occasions to have no knowledge of. But Ebay has always felt that Sellers should not make more money than they do on any and every sale because they seem to think that without them all of us would be out of business.

    Although Donohoe was responsible for many of the problems for Sellers on Ebay, Wenig is the one who actually made it clear that his goal was to take more and more money on every sale from their current Sellers, because once again he felt that Ebay should make as much as each and every seller on their site, despite the fact that Ebay does nothing now other than continue to find more and more ways to steal from its clients.

  8. Thank you for bringing these issues to the forefront for the rest of us. I’m so fed up with these issues that I ended all of my listings as it had been giving me unreasonable anxiety and wasted time. I am exploring other avenues and will consider going back if eBay makes things fair for sellers. We are paying them let’s not forget.

  9. Well I have had enough and will not put up with the crap that eBay keeps on doing.
    I make more sales on my other site with a LOT less cost and no frustrations.
    There are many other sites out there where a person can sell with out the Gestapo telling you what you can or can not do, how you get paid and how you have to list what you sell with out having to change a thousand or so listings because some idiot decides that this is the way we are going to do it now.

    Anyone who stays with eBay either likes to loose money or is a masochist which is probably one and the same.

    As I have been saying for years Time is Money.

  10. As a dealer from across the pond, I echo the concerns over items specifics and see much more time taken in creating listings. However, I have tested my own listings and seen items jump from #300 in best match to the top five by adding the right number of specifics. There seems to be a tipping point and it’s that final one that seems to give the boost. It doesn’t even seem to matter what you enter. One item had unknown entered for every value and went to #1 in best match. For my items it seems to need to go down to the sixth level to get the boost. Ebay has recommended specifics on many of my listings. Having taken hundreds of hours adding these recommended ones, I know see that they do not boost visibility at all. You need to add the extra one or two that the algorithm has decided you need. It’s completely random and even Ebay does not seem to know which ones you need !!!

  11. My issue is that they created a “new” required item specific that is exactly the same as a former item specific. The information was not transferred to the “new required” item specific, but must be typed in the “new” field. Very Frustrating.

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