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Sat Sept 16 2006 22:25:38

AuctionBytes Survey: eBay Sellers in Transition

By: Ina Steiner

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The results of AuctionBytes reader survey are in and reveal some fascinating information about online auction sellers. We asked readers where they are selling, and where they plan to sell in 6 months. (link)

I wasn't surprised to see that sellers say would move away from eBay Stores in 6 months, given the higher fees, but I was surprised to see sellers say they were leaving eBay auctions, too.

There's a lot of data here, and I suspect readers will have some interesting opinions - I'd love to hear them, and maybe we can make sense of what's going on.

We also asked some questions about fraud, and those results will be published in AuctionBytes Newsflash this week.

Comments (13) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: Gloria McClain

Sun Sep 17 09:37:09 2006

My Sunday mornings are spent reading AuctionBytes with cup of coffee in hand. The results were not surprising, given the August 22nd price increases for eBay stores and the way that eBay has been treating its sellers. After my initial anger, I've come to look at the increase as a much-needed kick in the pants. As usual, AuctionBytes has its finger on the pulse of a discontented group of eBay sellers, and offers practical suggestions and possible remedies, not just to sellers, but to web hosting sites and service providers as well.

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by: Lee Bracy

Sun Sep 17 09:45:10 2006

Given the unsettled attitude of the entire online auction field I would like to suggest another survey in 6  months not a year - a lot can change over the winter, hopefully, for the better.

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by: Beth Muffley

Sun Sep 17 11:46:57 2006

The results of the survey should be a wakeup call for eBay, but they will most likely continue to ignore it. After all, what can the users know about business, vs. the Big Guys? That has been the eBay Attitude this year - the sellers know nothing about business and do not understand e-commerce requirements and costs.  

I think that the 6-month overview is probably pretty darned accurate. I predict that eBay will lose a LOT of sellers' business.

What I do not see addressed often, or perhaps just expanded on often, is the REASON the sellers are upset with the recent fee hikes. It is not the dollar amount alone, despite the fact it was a large increase (not the 6% stated in the announcement letter). The timing was horrible, since most sellers already had their 4QTR inventory and plans in place, and had not expected such a large increase. The real problem is that eBay is DECREASING services and exposure to the store listings, all the while charging more for the listings.  

While on one hand, they stated that stores were costing them too much in terms of bandwidth, the other hand stated that there was not a good enough sell-through rate. Anyone who has used a computer for very long understands that bandwidth is only used when someone VIEWS the item, or is accessing your pages. If the store listings are not moving and are not even being viewed, as eBay states, then we are not using bandwidth. Storage space? Yes, stores do use server storage space, but it is not free rent - we pay for it via a monthly fee. eBay's reasoning just does not wash for anyone with any common sense at all.  

They know their real bandwidth AND revenue drains are the fee avoiders, yet they are continuing to allow them to fill the site with their penny listings.  They also continue to allow drop shippers to fill the site with entire catalog inventories, which further gluts the site.  A focus on cleaning up the real bandwidth drains would have been much more effective. In addition, if eBay had made a concerted effort towards that clean up PRIOR to hitting the stores with the fees, it probably would not have met such resistance.  

Now, in exchange for those very large fee increases (averaging between 250%-500% for most store owners), we are being told that we will no longer be included in the search engine results as a whole. What will? "Core" listings, or those in auction format. That has always been the case, so that was not even the shocker - it was the announcement that in addition to the normal poor placement, we would also now be competing with's listings and other imports. Stores continue to get the short end of the service stick, all the while paying the highest prices of all of the eBay empire.

Ask any of the store owners who regularly sell items priced at $10 and under – we are almost invisible now. Buyers cannot find us – our listings come back buried under the massive search results of imported goods, drop ship items and those penny core listings. They tire of looking before they ever get to the store items!  

eBay’s doubly-poor choice of the timing of this increase, as well as the decrease in visibility right before the holidays was more than most store owners are willing to tolerate. Many have already left, and we will probably see the most exoduses after this holiday selling season. It is very difficult to change an entire business plan at the drop of a hat, and especially right before the last quarter of the calendar year. Many will stick this one out, only to leave as soon as it is over.  The ones who remain have cut way back on the number of their store listings, many times now only housing a tenth of what they used to list. The serious business owners see the problem behind all of this, but some simply refuse to see, and hope that the more who leave, the better they will appear. They need to realize that their stores will not appear “better,” because eBay is pigeon-holing the store visibility. People cannot buy what they cannot see!  They will eventually wake up to it.  

eBay continues to not only put store listings at the bottom of the priority list, the stores are noticing problems of rolling “blackout” periods – total invisibility from time to time, seemingly based on location. We have not gathered enough data to have an absolute pattern yet, but there appears to be issues of active server locations also complicating the selling ability on eBay.  

The store listings that do remain are being shuffled off to the new eBay Express as much as possible. However, that is not the answer either. Express is fraught with search engine problems, with key words pulling up strange and unrelated items, or no results at all. Sellers who have purposely looked for things they sell with certain key words are getting “no results,” when they know well and well they have the item for sale in their store. The checkout process is an additional hindrance, with combined shipping costs not properly calculating, and buyers unable to adjust the final shipping costs (as they can in eBay).  

While the ones who were selling a few things as a hobby will not be as adversely affected, the small business owners for whom eBay was their main income have basically been given a pink slip – our services are no longer desired.  We have noticed, and are busy looking for another “venue” who will not be as hostile a landlord for our stores.  

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by: Bob B

Sun Sep 17 15:42:19 2006

Ebay has been out of touch since before going public. The Results are not surprising to me. I use to be a powerseller but it became more and more obvious that Meg and the crew didn't care about us. Fee Increases and general attitude about our concerns have been an issue for a long while. Stockholders rule in this country. Consumers do not. Consumers are just required to pay more or the small business guy is expected to eat the expenses. I have certainly had my fill of Ebay. I am currently monitoring several alternative auction sites. Someone will surly rise to the occasion.

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by: Brian

Mon Sep 18 10:11:02 2006

This survey, which I have just read on my return from holiday makes interesting, but not suprising reading. Ebays recent behaviour towards its customers is absolutely beyond belief, whilst it thinks buyers may be the king pins, it is the sellers who provide the products, and they know where they are not wanted and are voting with their feet so to speak. Ebid must think all their Christmases have come at once, with a massive influx of new sellers.

It will only be a matter of time before buyers realise they can get better deals away from eBay, which is now the domain for ripoffs, fraud, scammers, and interminable Chineses listings with exorbitant postage costs.

The new kid on the Block in the UK is and I suspect this will also be one to watch.

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by: Alix

Mon Sep 18 14:10:14 2006

I agree with Ina in that there are many new opportunities and challenges awaiting those of us in the e-commerce world.  It has come to me that the internet is something like the Old West.  It was completely wild and unexplored but is slowly getting more civilized.  But in "E-Commerce Town" it seems there is one sherriff who happens to also own the Bank and the General Store.  That gives him mighty powerful control over the townsfolk.  Now, the townsfolk are not too happy about this and have begun branching out, looking to establish new towns where this sherriff doesn't have so much control.  See, this sherriff isn't so good to the townsfolk but he's mighty partial to visitors.  So changes are afoot!  Now, these visitors . . . well, they keep coming back to the same E-Commerce Town because that's what they know.  But once they begin to see that there are other towns to see, well, they will probably mosey on down the road and visit the new towns.  And if they like what the find . . . they'll be back!  And you never know - E-Commerce town might just find themselves a ghost town one of these days.

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by: Blue Hound Auctions

Mon Sep 18 22:12:04 2006

The problem that I have with eBay raising fees is that most if not all of their services, hardware, etc is paid.  So their excuses for raising fees outside of needing to pay additional golden parachutes to overpaid executives and directors are the primary reasons behind it.

However, if anyone get's Lynn Drayles eZines, they know that there are ways to recover those fees.

I guess what I am saying is that no-one should make eBay their only place to drop their listings.  There is a plan our company has online that while we use eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, etc, we also have a website and have an online store and auctions there for our clients.  

Do I care if eBay kicks me of for listing in two venues?  Unfortunately No, since it is the same as a non-compete agreement and in my state, if the duty is already being performed, they have no say in how I should do it.  Anyone want to test that through litigation remember these words from a lawyer:  "Bring it on.... and Pack a lunch..."

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by: Christopher Matthew Spencer

Tue Sep 19 20:09:35 2006

First of all, I want to make a PUBLIC apology for a misspelling of Ina's name in my book ''The eBay Entrepreneur''. Ina--you gave such glowing praise and this was truly depressing to see when I received the final product. I had author review of everything but the marketing copy for the book and this was not something I had seen before it went to press. I apologize to you and with great respect hope you will forgive it.

I found the survey to be extremely valuable information. I am also quite amazed to hear how many sellers sell for others, this is great data. I think the lower-risk model of assisted-selling is a good area for sellers to explore.

As to the concerns over fraud, I have not been experiencing it at all this year but we also do not accept unconfirmed PayPal addresses and when we made that decision, it cut down on the fraud tremendously. We are pretty diligent about checking feedback on the higher-ticket orders.

I really appreciate this survey, it is an amazing resource and thank you for taking it!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Tue Sep 19 21:00:33 2006

Hi Christopher,
Lots of people call me Ira (that's one of the nicer things they call me). :)

As I told a reader, I think many sellers sell on consignment for friends and family, it may not be the focus of their business. Further investigation is warranted.

Kudos on your new book,

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by: Trevor Ginn

Sat Sep 23 10:53:30 2006

I think that the most stiking part of the survey is that despite the general malase, there, sellers did not seem to have a clear picture as to the alternative channels available to them.  33% of high seller thought that they would be selling on eBay in 6 months but there was no change in the amount percentage who said that they would be selling on their own ecommerce website.  I think that there is a lot of complaining but very little action going on and I predict that very few of these sellers will leave eBay completely.

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by: ebay forum Girl

Wed Oct 4 00:51:35 2006

THeir fees are killing sellers. They need to make ways to not make their users bad anymore, I;ve been using ebay since the 90s but now I can barely sell on their.

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by: olongapo

Thu Oct 5 16:45:10 2006

I use to be a powerseller on ebay too, and when the prices just kept going up, my partner and I decided to use alternate avenues. We just started on a couple of up and coming sites and at 1st sales were down but now the sites are doing more to get their names out there and sales are at the same as when we left ebay. So now we sell the same and pay less in fees. When we would have problems with ebay we would contact their live support and surprise, surprise no help came from them. It didn't matter that I was a power seller and had 100% positive feedback. It boggles my mind how a company can just disregard the people that helped build it up. Not a surprise to see their stocks falling either.

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Tue Mar 20 21:23:07 2007

I have found a great alternative to Ebay. I used to have an Ebay Store but I could not justify the the cost of keeping it open. I was paying too much in monthly fees and final value fees. I am now selling my fixed price item on This site is 100% free to list and sell on. You can also process your transactions for free if you use Google Checkout. I am saving thousands of dollars in fees by having a store here. You must promote your store as you would your own website but it is very easy to set up and you get your own website. I still have auctions on Ebay but I send all of my buyers promotional flyers to my Ecrater store.

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