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Wed July 4 2007 16:02:55

Is eBay Broken? How about a survey...

By: David Steiner

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When I wrote that something appeared to be broken on eBay, I never expected to this type of response on the blog. Thanks to everyone for sharing their opinions and relating how they are faring on eBay.

The article was a good jumping-off point for starting a dialogue. I've read all of your comments, and came up with a list of the challenges you said you were facing as eBay sellers. Please take a moment and look them over to see if I've missed any.

  • eBay Fees
  • Higher Gas Prices
  • Higher Shipping Costs
  • EBay Advertising & Marketing Efforts
  • Reduced Store Visibility In Search
  • Customer Service Issues
  • EBay Express
  • Tinkering with Search /Search problems
  • Listing Clutter / Too many similar listings
  • Technical Glitches / Site Outages
  • Feedback 2.0 (Star rating system)
  • Hidden Bidder IDs (eBay's SMI T&S initiative affecting items $200+)
  • Competitive Yahoo Ads on Listing Pages
  • New Sell You Item form
  • Faulty Auction Counters
  • Restriction on Payment Methods (I.E Googlecheckout, not being able to list cash)
  • Crackdown on lowest 2% (1%?) of sellers
  • EBay's Communication with Sellers
  • New eBay Features (i.e. Blogs, Wikis, MyWorld…)
  • Site maturity ("Novelty of the site gone")
  • Sellers competing with wholesalers & Manufacturers on eBay
  • Implementation of eBay Stores
  • Removing eBay Keyword Ads from site
  • Current eBay Management
  • Cross-border trading issues (international users and listings on core site)
  • Seller Protection policies
  • Junk listings
  • Inexperienced Sellers
  • Fraud
  • Making Checkout Mandatory

Ina and I will be incorporating them into a survey in the next day or two. When the survey is ready to go, we'll post a link here in the blog, as well as making it accessible through the newsletter.  Stay tuned.

PS: A heads-up to those who might be interested: an interview of eBay CEO Meg Whitman conducted by Judy Woodruff during eBay Live last month is scheduled to air tonight (July 4) on Bloomberg TV. It airs at 9PM ET, check your local listings for the times in your area.

Comments (27) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: Nikki

Wed Jul 4 21:25:08 2007

One thing I didn't see anyone mention is a factor affecting all sellers whether they realize it or not:  I (as a buyer) can't afford to shop on eBay anymore because my disposable income is almost nonexistent.  Rent goes up, groceries cost more, cheaply manufactured clothes wear out faster, ... I'm sure I don't have to preach to the choir.  While I don't discount the items on David's list as reasons for eBay's decline, isn't it also possible the over-arching market conditions that originally made eBay a success simply don't exist anymore?  If that's the case, then no amount of fixes are going to bring a large percentage of the buyers back--we just can't afford to play.

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This user has validated their user name. by: David Steiner

Wed Jul 4 21:37:24 2007

Would "Overall Economic Conditions" or "Recession" be your suggestion to add?

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by: Nikki

Wed Jul 4 23:45:11 2007

Tough one.  Maybe

Economic downturn/recession

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by: pete

Thu Jul 5 04:24:08 2007

For those of you hypothesizing economic downturn, this has absolutely nothing to do with my current listing boycott and seller distress on eBay, and that of other sellers. However, the image of a virtual circus run by a bunch of lobotomized monkies engaged in a haphazard trial and error mission of self-destruction does come to mind...eBay is simply becoming an awful seller experience that is NOT fun and not unlike a bad case of poison ivy. Performance simply stinks (and I don't mean sales), fees rise, value returned declines...wait, wait, wait, and wait more. I have a 99.7% positive rating for over 500 items sold in 9 years, 1 negative feedback rating back in 2000, love my buyers, and have met some truly terrific people over the years, buyers and sellers alike. The fun started become drudgery in '05, now it's simply a trip to the dentist chair with each new eBay ''initiative.'' I warned the eBay Morningstar analyst over a year ago trouble was brewing and cannot fathom eBay's haphazard strategy or direction...unless they are shorting their own shares?

Wake up eBay and GET THE MESSAGE. You need a shareholder revolt, fire Cobb and most of the management team, and start treating your long-term and established sellers with some love and respect. We understand the dirt needs some sweeping under the rug, but the Cultural Revolution was a MASSIVE folly, which is precisely where eBay is going at this moment.

The point is, good, clean, established sellers are jumping ship for better oppurtunities elsewhere, or simply jumping. You cannot bleed us endlessly for revenue enhancement with no value return without recourse.

eBay employees and shareholders (I am the latter and do intend to excercise great activism) say stop complaining and enjoy the free ride. I say remember the late, great exUS auto and textile industries?

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by: crystal

Thu Jul 5 09:25:44 2007

Many of the eBay initiatives over the past year have been to promote stickiness. (blogs, community, match, reviews, guides, etc.) Yet, they are less sticky. It is a case of too much focus on everything but sellers and sales and too much focus on keeping people on the site with gimicks and not a sales focus. How to increase sales? Example: Make gallery a part of listing fees (free), so that buyers always see the images, vs. having to click into the offering.

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by: Ray

Thu Jul 5 13:06:06 2007

One thing that really has stopped me from buying on Ebay recently is the high cost of shipping that most sellers have adopted. Making up profit by charging outrages fees is driving away buyers.

I still check Ebay for an item I want, but then go to other sites to check the prices. I am finding that in most cases the price is lower and shipping is either very reasonable or free for a lot of items.

Just a day or two ago I was looking for the canvas fold-up chairs that you can get at any dollar store for about 8.00, I did find many BUT the prices were more than 10.00 + 10.00 or more shipping. Not many buyers for this item I'll bet.

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by: NetSerg

Thu Jul 5 17:40:31 2007

Very nice, thank's. Nowadays, eBay work better than 5 years ago.

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by: RC

Thu Jul 5 18:36:30 2007

eBay's marketing efforts are pitiful for a billion dollar company. Seeing an ad for the williwomps or something like that in Newsweek...makes me wonder..who is running the store?  Surely not Madison Avenue types. Every month its a new contest, or new sticky website- Oh Boy!  Meg and Bill- Get back to the roots and put the community second.

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by: Lee

Fri Jul 6 09:18:16 2007

I'm an eBay buyer and I love the site!  Its intuitive, fast, and incredibly powerful.  I have checked many prices on a few items bought lately and eBay consistently is the best value alternative.  I understand that perhaps sellers are facing tougher times from increased competition, lower margins, and higher fees.  But the buyers don't know that and nor would they really care.  At the end of the day, as long as there are sellers willing to take razor thin margins (and there are plently of those) then buyers will keep coming back again and again.

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by: multi-titanium

Fri Jul 6 13:46:52 2007

A few suggestions.

1) Readers posted several descriptive and informative comments that are left out when you just summarize a bullet point of issues. For example, customer service may be an issue, but what about customer service is wrong? Lack of? Disrespectful? Not knowledgeable? Ineffective?

2) Here's a new item that I did not see mentioned: Paypal/eBay suspensions. I have seen several very good eBay business get suspended from eBay and Paypal for stupid reasons. Several of these businesses cry, some of them get back on eBay through new accounts, some of them fight to build their business again, but off of eBay. As a wholesaler and distributor of eBay viable products, I have had a dozen or more good and legitimate sellers suspended from Paypal for utterly BS reasons such as growing too fast, too many payments, etc. Mostly I tell them that Paypal and eBay don't need your business, and that you don't need them either. Had eBay not banned those legitimate customers of mine, those sellers would be generating at LEAST $2M/month in eBay sales.

3) You may consider how you can group issues in categories or sub categories. IMHO, several issues mentioned provide evidence of eBay's lack of focus. This identity crises causes confusion on the part of both buyers and sellers. Is eBay going back to basics and sticking with the core? Or is eBay going Express? Is eBay going to be a blog and wiki now and make money through Yahoo ads? Or are they trying to draw traffic to our auctions throw affiliate programs? I can't tell anymore, so like most sellers that don't want to waste and more time with eBay's nonsensical busy work, I'll invest more time into my websites.

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by: Fruity

Sat Jul 7 02:07:50 2007

oh yeah how about the lazy coders over at paypal. Dumb dumbs were too busy scheduling their weekender to put a checkbox that says "USPS provided packaging". Now everyone who ships priority using postal boxes has to enter in the friggin' dimensional weight on the box. Not 1 USPS provided box exceeds the weight. Except for flat rate boxes, then ebay makes it easy. That's because they're greedy PIGS. I called that woman who runs the shipping team and asked her why we had to get carpal tunnel. She said yeah we know it but we didn't have time to implemented it. Didn't have time can you believe that? And yeah, you heard me right...I got a hold of one of them on the phone and I didn't let go til I got an answer!

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by: Fruity

Sat Jul 7 02:22:48 2007

and another thing. The single most important issue is their retarded communication process. They tell you 1 change but then you have to lift rocks to find out what else they changed. All these issues, waste peoples time.  How's this, they announced with advance notice that they were making changes and deactivating portions of the cross-promotion feature. Wanna know what they had already taken away? 2 days before they took away our breadcrumb cateogry paths that existed in all our listings if we had them enabled. They took that away and we had to notice it and say something before they said it was removed because it took up too much resource time and that breadcrumbs in listings for sellers categories was not being used. Well then, if you communicated the feature was even there to begin with maybe people would of known to turn it on. I used it, a whole bunch of other sellers said they used it too. Why didn't you communicate that feature removal? Oh I know because of the sheer laughter that would come out with your reasonings that its too costly. Don't use your failures in communication to justify removing a navigational standard in web usability and saying it costs too much to manage. If everything wasn't so poorly rolled out you wouldnt have to assign people to fix everything on a live site. You cheap turkeyheads. I want my store category breadcrumb path back for my listings. Not the site ones. MY STORE ONES. My customers used them

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by: suzy

Sat Jul 7 22:51:04 2007

eBay's marketing is the worst I have ever seen in a large online venue. They should have plenty of money since pulling back the google ads. Maybe they should consider a TV ad or radio spot.

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by: MV

Sun Jul 8 19:21:44 2007

How about FRAUD?
There is a disgustingly high amount of fraud going on, despite what Meg and others say, they all lie, it is abruptly HIGH, way too high and it has scared and keeps scaring customers and sellers away.

We sellers report cases time and time again and even when reported endless times eBay, VERO and the rest don't do anything at all, eBay has the "tendency" to turn their heads somewhere else and pretend nothing is happening. For some bizarre reason eBay claims no responsibility for ANYTHING that happens under their nose, great! we have a venue that cashes billions a year thanks to all of us and is not responsible for anything that's happening under their own noses.

EBay is very much broken and today, whether the “heads” like it or not or even try to hide it, is synonymous of fraud, copies and scams from A to Z. Stop messing around with blogs and everything else, you can not and will not compete with any of those services that are out there, FOCUS on your OWN business, you are an AUCTION SITE, not a blog, not a community oriented website, not a place to talk, film or write, and certainly not a place for contests, you are a venue that connects buyers and sellers, PERIOD, focus for once on that and you might recover as the giant auction site you once were, and one more thing stop it with the improvements, if it works just leave it alone.

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by: Vincent

Sun Jul 8 20:58:30 2007

Fire Bill Cobb, Fire Meg.

Own stock? Sell it.

I am a seller, but as a buyer I would feel safer shopping at a prison website. Run by prisoners.

At least I would know where the con men lived.

The site is in ruins and ebay cares nothing about it's sellers. I quit. 10 years of selling and I quit, I loved it, now I hate it.

I paid many thousands in fees each year, now I will pay them nothing.

10 years and eBay does not even know who I am, nor care.

Thank you, great blog question, thank you for allowing us to post to it.

I really loved it there, and now I really hate it, I do not like to admit that, but I hate ebay now.

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by: ruthless

Sun Jul 8 22:16:42 2007

I hate ebay advertising; cheap, cheap, get it cheap on ebay! Cheap it is!... as ebay promised. Good art does not sell on ebay anymore, just cheap stuff. Copies, chinese knock offs, huge abstracts done in a few hours, prints touted for originals, fakes....all very cheap. There were good artists on ebay, and good art. Now there is cheap art. What ebay wants ebay gets. Most good artists have left ebay, they cannot sell that cheap and produce art that takes days to make and years to master....and they have taken the serious collectors with them, the kind of collector who did not mind spending several hundreds on a piece of art even if did not match the sofa.
The selection has gone from ebay, and the fun...and the money.

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by: Tony P.

Tue Jul 10 12:04:54 2007

A favorite poster to the ebay Store's board, Carl, pretty much summed up what some of us see as ebay's MO:

''The first company that I have ever been associated with that is both CANNIBALISTIC -- and -- PREDITORY toward every mark in sight.''

Ebay seems hell-bent on monetizing every dang avenue possible...and then some.

David, I know this appears to be similar, or identical, to several of your ''Challenge Points'', but this isn't about any ONE particular concern. It is more about ebay's intended strategy, or if they even have one, in regards to what sellers can expect.

It simply appears that ebay is out to make as much money and as fast, as possible. They are a Ho and that's (obviously) no way to operate a reputable business.

As they sell every square inch of their body for money, I list on the site and feel slightly dirty for having done so. I feel like I'm walking that street, right beside of them. I just KNOW that the buyers are aware of that atmosphere - they aren't stupid. They may be confused with all of the mixed-messages that occur from ebay undermining the sellers' Goodwill, but they're certainly not stupid.

I guess if I have to verbalize a single Point, I'd have say that ebay's actions, and not just the monetizing actions, contribute heavily to the buying public's negative impression of ebay. You just can't appear to be a lying, money-grubbing, fraud-commiting Whore without IT being plainly evident.

Forward-looking Vision, or Fast Buck? Pick One.     <<

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by: t_e_v

Sat Jul 14 08:43:18 2007

I believe that too much emphasis by ebay management of looking at the MONETARY bottom line is the basis of ebay's problems.

Let's take a view of the TECHNOLOGY bottom line. Ebay has been in a seemingly endless agreement to use a certain company's technology (sun) exclusively. For instance, -eye- have seen, as others have also, that the search problems started close to the beginning of 2006, could this have been from the purchase of some highly touted servers, purchase in November 2005.
This from one of Suns webpages...
Santa Clara, CA -- November 28, 2005 -- Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: SUNW) today announced that is bolstering its search environment with hundreds of Sun's new AMD Opteron processor-based Sun Fire x64 (x86, 64-bit) servers and Sun StorEdge systems, for better performance and energy-efficiency. The move comes in time for the peak holiday online purchase season on eBay. The core infrastructure provided by Sun connects a community of 168 million registered users worldwide, allowing them to trade more than $1,359 worth of goods every second.
Would the ebay members have seen any real differences during the holiday selling season?  For long time sellers, Check your own data. You might find some interesting results. Were your sales #'s significantly different year to year based on this time period.
-eye- suspect, this purchase, along with the ''uncontrolled test'' runs of new/enhanced search features may have caused ''the broken feeling'' most users are experiencing.
The bait and switch of store listings was another debaucle, that needs to looked into also. Seems like this was done to bolster some total listing #'s for Wall Street, at a time when confidence was lacking in the company by many analysts.
eBay eXpress seems to have been established to move the stores away from the core site. This could have been a more successful move had management came right out and said that is where they see the buyers market moving.
Busy work, i.e. wikki's, blogs and such, have diluted the site to a glorified myspace/craigslist. No ''magic'' here, just an unreliable copycat.

eBay CORE needs to go back to what brought them to the dance...
Strictly AUCTION type listings.


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by: Chairman

Sun Jul 15 15:31:24 2007

eBay certainly is broken , its difficult to list items in bulk or individual. Search is unreliable and various outages and changes in policy have left it a confused and dysfunctional mess.

eBay is broken !

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by: Sandy

Sun Jul 15 16:44:31 2007

I'm amazed that the code breaker might let me send this message. ( I hope I guess the right numbers and letters this time)
I have a question??  Why hasn't anyone ask the people (sellers) what they want?  Why do you make these big changes
and then just expect us to go along?  We are paying you...right???
What about all the fake purses and fake products you let stay on ebay and turn your head and do nothing about it.
These fakes are in competition with the real deal (us) don't you have anyone connected with ebay that can watch out for these con-people???  You are allowing frauds on your site.  Isn't there a law against that???  Do you care???
We need something else from you or we just simply need to go somewhere else.
We made you what you are don't forget that!!!

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