AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Wed Dec 3 2008 09:24:22

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

Prior to 1995, retail was pretty much business-to-consumer, aside from newspaper classifieds and some online bulletin boards. eBay was the beginning of person-to-person ecommerce. Today, AuctionBytes kicks off the first in a series of interviews with people who were involved with the online auction industry in the early years and who may or may not be actively involved today.

In the first of our series, Damon Billian, or "PayPal Damon" as he was known by early eBay and PayPal users, shares his thoughts with us on the early days in the industry and his views on the eBay of 2008. Look for more retrospectives in AuctionBytes in the coming weeks - we have some great ones lined up - and let us know who you'd like to hear from.

Comments (46) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Daisy

Wed Dec 3 16:46:40 2008

If your foundation is built on distrust of the community and your policies are non-transparent, seemingly dark, the business is going to fold.

Back in the early days, the foundation was built on the truism 'People are basically good,' and Ebay thrived.

It's no coincidence we're seeing their downfall. Ebay is being led by not only business challenged people but more importantly spiritually bereft people.

It won't survive unless they put some light into it.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Wed Dec 3 18:10:13 2008

"Sellers are ebay's and PP's customers-"

A point that was never lost on me. Sellers do pay the bills, after all.

I am not sure what kind of comments people are expecting me to post? There was nothing nefarious about the eBay or PayPal operations & my comments simply state where I see the challenges for the company now. I don't know why the message boards always seem to think that people were smoking in a dimly lit room looking for ways to harm sellers...it just doesn't work that way.

I always thought that eBay would be nice as a co-op of sorts (like REI).







Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Monster

Wed Dec 3 18:38:17 2008

Hello Ina,

I have a suggestion for an interesting Q&A. How about Matt Carey? He joined eBay on Feb. 1, 2006 and left sometime around September 2008.

Matt Carey was charged with making the buying experience efficient and fun again. Improving one of the Web's most heavily trafficked sites without disturbing its global--and vocal--sellers' network and its millions of loyal buyers was a challenge that Carey compared to a "four-wall expansion" at Wal-Mart: turning a standard store into a super-center without disrupting day-to-day operations.

I’d like to know how that turned out.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Daisy

Wed Dec 3 18:45:13 2008

Damon-
I don't think anyone feels animosity toward you. I think it's bottled up frustation directed toward Donahoe. As soon as he came into power, he had Lorrie announce things were going to change and change drastically. He then went on to disempower the small sellers.

It was done so callously and abruptly that the sellers reacted with strong hostility.

Donahoe is not a good leader. He'd might make a good dictator though. But no one likes a dictator.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: RichardC

Wed Dec 3 18:57:24 2008

PaypalDamon was a class act when he handled the PP forum. One time I had a problem, and he solved it, quickly and even followed through with a Paypal T-shirt.  Those were the Days....

Ina, his insight being a past employee says volumes....

RC

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Dec 3 19:16:18 2008

@ Damon

I certainly meant nothing personal with the points in my previous post.

I agree there are no metaphorical smoke filled rooms (especially in California) where plots are hatched for the express purpose of damaging sellers.

What does happen, however, is that ebay is constantly devising new strategies to get a higher percentage of the sale than they got last year or the year before and to transfer as much of the selling expense and liability to the seller so that their expenses and liabilities are lower and fewer respectively thereby making them more profitable and sellers less profitable.

Ebay is an organized business whose decisions are made in one place while sellers are spread out all over the world and can't organize even fractionally as effectively as can the evil empire that runs ebay.

As I've said dozens of times on this site ebay DOESN'T care who or how many sellers they put out of business or how they do it, and they will use ANY means at their disposal to achieve their goals.

This includes misleading stockholders, lying to sellers, and stealing from sellers, IMO. They ignore court orders, violate fair trade partices, likely have violated SEC regulations, and ore because they knew the criminal Bush adminostration wouldn't hold them acountable or investigate any complaints.

In other words, your former employer has become an overgrown bully that will get even nastier next unless the government intervenes.

I don't know about you, but I've always found that bullies back down when confronted by a superior force and that superior force is an organized, cohesive seller community.

Ebay has evolved into something I doubt you'd recognize if you went back to work for them though I can't imagine why anyone would.



Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Gary

Wed Dec 3 22:12:02 2008

Kenneth Walton author of FAKE: Forgery, Lies & eBay

Pinkhammer

Shira Levine

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Wed Dec 3 22:30:15 2008

Hi noneya,


"I see you posted so I hope you read this and can offer an opinion..
What is your opinion on the chargeback refund policy currently in place at paypal?
We see a lot of stories where a buyer initiates a chargeback or refund leaving the onus on the seller to prove that the item was shipped/received as described etc. and oftentimes it appears with a SNAD based refund the seller ends up without their item returned and with their payment refunded as well."

Since I don't work there these days...I don't know how the cases are worked. I would also like to point out that there is a difference between a PayPal Buyer Complaint (works via PayPal) & a charge back (comes from the card issuer, so there is a little difference.

What I think would be good, if they aren't doing this already, is to make the buyer provide proof of return electronically before processing the refund for SNAD cases on a Buyer Complaint.

Note: I would also encourage sellers to get some sort of delivery confirmation when the item is shipped.

I also believe that this does apply to charge back cases. I am aware of many cases where action was taken against the buyer until there was proof of return.

"How do you feel about the youtube videos describing the step by step process to engage in fraudulent chargebacks. In essence how to buy items for "free' using paypal loopholes? "

PayPal doesn't have any control over this. YouTube's terms of service probably don't allow for posting items that are engaged in criminal activity...so any videos should be reported to YouTube.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Wed Dec 3 22:36:55 2008

Hi Ming,

"What does happen, however, is that ebay is constantly devising new strategies to get a higher percentage of the sale than they got last year or the year before and to transfer as much of the selling expense and liability to the seller so that their expenses and liabilities are lower and fewer respectively thereby making them more profitable and sellers less profitable."

Like I said in my responses to Ina, I do think that this is an obvious area of concern. Given the current economic climate, not to mention the competition, I would personally like to see fees lowered & to recover it on increased volume. I also think lower fees would motivate more sellers to lower shipping costs and/or encourage sellers to offer free shipping. The smaller guys aren't getting corporate shipping discounts like some of the larger sellers...so it is a factor that actually makes smaller sellers less competitive.

Again, as a former employee only, I can only point to things that I would like to see done differently.

Changes are more likely to occur with increased (real) competition.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Monster

Wed Dec 3 22:46:58 2008

The answer to ALL of eBay’s changes in 2008 lies in a comment that John Donahoe made at the Legg Mason Capital Management Thought Leader Forum in September of 2007…

The implications of what he said there in 2007 will continue to come to pass long after this “2008 Holiday Selling Season” ends… The following quotes are from just one short paragraph of John Donahoe’s speech…

    “Based on our experience, here's how innovation at the core worked. We had to create a mind shift at our company; we had to think bold and not just incremental. We had to create a vision of the future so people could let go of a very successful past. We had to understand that this wasn't going to just happen overnight. While we're doing this, we're running a successful business. We need to drive these principles of disruption at the same time that we're executing a very successful business.”

I believe that the portion of his speech I have posted above has made the rounds recently… Especially the parts about wanting to “let go of a very successful past” and “executing a very successful business”… However, it seems that way too much importance was given to these quotes… The really important part of his speech was this…

    “Finally, even I may have underestimated how important organization and culture are. Antonio [Perez] talked earlier this morning about needing to get rid of 70 percent of the people to change a culture. We don't have that luxury. We're growing at 30 percent a year. We need to build on the team we have and help shape the momentum in the right way. We had a bit of a restart with our vision. We set off on this and the senior team was all aligned. But we hadn't invested enough in the rest of the organization. So last year in the fourth quarter we took our entire organization through the process.”

John Donahoe says that he “underestimated” the importance of culture… He even suggests that they need to rid themselves of 70% percent of people to “change a culture”. He also says they “don’t have that luxury”…

Here is what I believe he was really saying… “We don’t have the luxury of just pulling the plug on 70% of our Sellers… We will have to do it incrementally”… And everyone can see this is exactly what has been happening…

Donahoe & Co. want to destroy the eBay Culture… Have you seen a change in the “eBay Culture”…? Do you think eBay has lost any Sellers…? When will the percentage of Sellers/Buyers who have left pass the 70% mark…? Next year perhaps…?

After the Holidays, many more of the small to mid-sized Sellers, who were still hanging in there, will have thrown in the towel… They will be following the mass exodus that has already taken place this year… Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe that JD & Co. has helped to clear eBay’s Seller/Buyer ranks by 40% to 50% already…

With Seller information from PayPal having to be turned over to the Federal Government right around the corner, eBay wants to rid themselves of as many Sellers as possible… It will cost eBay a lot to keep track of all the sales from each small to mid-sized Seller, and all of the problems that will undoubtedly arise… And there will be many problems… It is eBay we are talking about here…

eBay and the entire eBay management team, are involved in a con-job on a global scale… They are world-class “wool-pullers”…

Donahoe, Norrington, Lieberman, and many more, are highly skilled in the art of business-speak… It would be one thing if they were twisting the truth… But these folks have perfected the art of twisting lies to make them sound like the truth… That’s why they rid themselves of people like Rob Chesnut and Bill Cobb… They weren’t able to spin lies like the others… And in the case of Rob Chesnut, he was most likely incapable of lying altogether…

This is my crazy prediction… John Donahoe is not going anywhere, and things will continue just as planned through 2009… There will be no longer be any Auctions by this time next year, and Sellers will no longer be able to leave Feedback for Buyers by the Summer of 2009… eBay will continue to buy back their own stock until things stabilize…  I would not be surprised if eBay went Private… Then they would have to answer to no one…

It could happen…

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Wed Dec 3 23:13:27 2008

"
With reference to DSR's

-Ebay tells buyers a 4 is good.

-Ebay suspends proven sellers for receiving 4's.

See anything wrong with that?  Anything right?"

Hi Mercy,
I think I would need something concrete to form an opinion. All 4 ratings? 1 or 2, etc.?

As my experience was largely with PayPal issues, I am somewhat ill-informed as to what would cause an account limitation trigger from eBay.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: vendio_crystal

Thu Dec 4 02:29:28 2008

Waving at Damon :)..

Its been a long time..I wondered where you got off too !!

crystal

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Fruity

Thu Dec 4 13:17:05 2008

What does he mean DSRs were not weighted across all categories?

we all know they are Amazon wannabees and they only acquire or partner with people who they perceive are a risk to their dominance on the internet. I sorta view ebay as a knock off rubicks cube. maybe like that rubicks snake that was only good at stabbing someone. Ebay the next generation wants to become the super mall of the internet, herding the big retailers in so they dont take away market from ebay.

ebay is clarke griswolds boss when it comes to small business. ebay wants the little guys who built this company up to go to classifieds, prostore and whatever else place they want to stick us. they dont really want us, or think much about us. they just dont want us going to a competitor.. which is why whenever they kick you down, there is always an ebay product they wave at your chin. My hopes for ebay/paypal this coming year is that you get owned by the DOJ, the House Financial Committee on Banking, IRS, and Homeland & Security. Your days are coming, just like Enron, when the reality of what you've done busts some caps in your tushies. There's too many people keeping date logs, screen shots and summaries. When that day comes, we will rise up and rat out everything you've ever done to these small businesses. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Dec 4 17:28:49 2008

@ Monster

As much as I loathe The Ho to my very core, my interpretation of his remarks you quote is that the "culture" he was referring to was the upper management culture rather than the illusory "community" concept ebay shoves down out throats. Then look at the number of generally well regarded upper management types who indeed did leave when he officially became ebay's CEO.

Their exodus enabled Th Ho to select toady underlings (the non paying bidder who misrepresents her sale items comes to mind) who would enthusiastically rubber stamp his plans for transforming ebay into a $10 per roll paper towel e commerce oblivion.

It's also possible that his use of the word "executing" within the context of his speech meant carrying out or accomplishing an objective or plan rather than killing anything. But it really looks as if both things happened intended or not.

I just don't think that The Ho was pres cient enough or knowledgeable enough about how ebay works to accurate predict just how "disruptive" to ebay profitability his Meg's "innovations" would be.

Regardless of how one interprets his remarks and subsequent behavior, the speech aptly illustrates the institutionalized sociopathy that prevails among American corporate leadership.

Death to ebay corp.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Kitty

Thu Dec 4 18:55:11 2008

While it was nice to take a trip down memory lane, I'd rather hear from Maeve
or any recently removed employees.
Heck, there are thousands to choose from.

It should be easy to find one to interview.

I would also like you to have a candid interview with Scot Wingo and have you pin him down on his double-speak and unanswered questions from the eBay DSR discussion he helped run on eBay.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Kitty

Thu Dec 4 19:02:26 2008

@ Ming
I long ago thought eBay was devaluing its stock on purpose for some reason.

Thanks for giving me the reason.
Buying back its own stock.
I can be so dense, I was figuring on a buy out, planned takeover....

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: mindelec

Thu Dec 4 23:58:48 2008

@damon

if ANY single DSR drops below 4.1 the seller is booted from the site, if ANY single DSR drops below 4.3 the seller is restricted from listing.  in the mean time buyers are told that a 3 is neither good nor bad, a 4 is good, and a 5 is very good.  a buyer can be happy with the transaction and think they are leaving a good rating with a 4, yet they are unknowingly hurting the seller.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Fri Dec 5 11:36:34 2008

"if ANY single DSR drops below 4.1 the seller is booted from the site, if ANY single DSR drops below 4.3 the seller is restricted from listing.  in the mean time buyers are told that a 3 is neither good nor bad, a 4 is good, and a 5 is very good."

I would probably say these need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. After all, someone could be doing things like selling counterfeit goods.

Just my .02.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Dec 5 11:56:19 2008

@ Damon

4 to 4.5" DSRs don't mean someone might be selling counterfeit goods.

According to the way defines each stars for buyers when they're leaving feedback, ebay leads the buyer to believe that a 4 star rating is GOOD rating when, in fact, a 4 rating is a FAILURE.

If ebay ever did review anything on a case by case basis to ensure fairness and a reasonably accurate decision, those days are long over.

When ebay makes a decision, there is NO due process, NO appeal, NO recourse, NO further communication EVEN WHEN IT CAN BE UNEQUIVOCALLY PROVEN THEY MADE A MISTAKE.

Damon, did you know innocent sellers are being suspended from ebay JUST BECAUSE they live in the same apartment complex (and therefore share the same street address) as a previously NARUed member.

Did you know if one family member is NARUed, is is highly probable that ebay will NARU other family members EVEN IF there's no provable connection between the businesses?

Did you know that dozens of sellers have reported here that ebay NARUed them because ebay grossly misunderstood or misjudged something and then refused to back down when faced with facts on those rare occasions when the seller was permitted to talk to a human being?

Damon, I can't imagine that you would find anything defensible on the New Ebay if you knew exactly how they operate today.

Perminate Link for AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: mindelec

Fri Dec 5 16:35:09 2008

@damon

it is highly unlikely that a seller of counterfeit goods would get consistant 4 and 5 stars.  my point is that ebay is telling buyers that a 4 is a good transaction, but punishing sellers for this rating.

to the best of my knowledge there is no case by case review, ebay has always had a shoot first ask questions later philosophy.

Click to view more comments
1 2 3  [Next Page]


Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.