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Wed Dec 3 2008 09:24:22

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

By: Ina Steiner

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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.




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Readers Comments

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Pat

Wed Dec 3 09:34:08 2008

The obvious one would be Pierre, but I don't think he has the cajones to give his impressions of this industry without a prepared script by eBay PR

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Geoffrey Biondi

Wed Dec 3 09:36:39 2008

Does anyone know the name of the guy in the teapot that kicked off the Reflecto-Porn era? That would be a good interview LOL!

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Henry Neff

Wed Dec 3 09:55:35 2008

Since much of this interview centered around eBay changes and with a slight comparison to Amazon, that is where I want to direct my comments.  First, I commend eBay for trying to improve the buyer experience.  Having said that, it should not be at the expense of the seller.  The thing eBay forgets or ignores, is their customers are the Sellers not the buyers.  Unlike Amazon, eBay has nothing to sell without the Sellers.  Run off the sellers, give favorable treatment to large sellers, like Buy.com, including protecting their feedback, giving them lower fee structures, waiving listing fees, etc. will crush the small sellers in the long term.  That will not make eBay a better place and I believe in the long run it will not make them a larger marketplace.  It is time for eBay to embrace their roots, get back to a community of buyers and sellers, treat everyone the same.  I am certain this could be a book but I think I have made my point.  If not, here it is - eBay you customers are the Sellers not the buyers.  

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Ken

Wed Dec 3 10:01:16 2008

Great idea Ina. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

As for other possible interviewees, how about Meg Whitman on life at eBay and life after eBay.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Joe

Wed Dec 3 10:20:57 2008

The Interview just shows how out of touch good old ''PayPal Damon'' has become. The issue is not the policy changes to make eBay more like Amazon or more reputable. The issues are DSR's are unfair in both calculation and implementation , least we say EARNED Honest DSR's fairly displayed to all buyers also. The real issue is that Best Match is not working. Not to mention the coming free shipping being shoved down everyone's throats.I see that good old PayPal Damon failed to comment on Best Match which is just plain ''eBay Search Trash'', try to sell a fixed priced item without recent sales history and you end up buried in ''eBay Search Trash''. It's nice to see that he's still a good old company man...maybe he should sell on Ebay and really get to understand current ISSUES facing SELLER'S.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: DRD

Wed Dec 3 10:35:21 2008

Ina, I'd like for you to locate and interview 3-4 former Ebay employees who are not afraid to speak out about internal problems at Ebay.

Either keep them anonymous or scrutinize their answers to protect AuctionBytes and the interviewee.

But I would love to hear how and why decisions were made to change Ebay's business model that led to driving off small sellers.

Some say it was "logical move' or that it was simple "greed" or that Donahoe didn't like "flea market sellers"

But I would really like to know what went on that led to decisions that leaves Ebay in the declining mess they are in.

Was there any debate or disagreement?  Did Whitman autocratically decide? Did anyone anticipate or warn about the disdain and ill-will that the sea-change would create?

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Wed Dec 3 10:38:02 2008

Hi Joe,

Actually, I do sell on eBay.  I mentioned the issues that are most important from what I can see on a broad scale.

The concept behind DSRs, like I said, isn't fundamentally bad. But I think a different approach could have been taken with implementation and/or the categories chosen.

I don't have enough experience with Best Match to fully comment with intelligence on it. I am aware that some sellers have reported issues, that's it.

I don't work for eBay or own stock in the company these days, so I can assure you I am not a company man. I do have a lot of good friends there & I would mention the same issues I mentioned directly to them as well.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Patricia

Wed Dec 3 12:01:03 2008

"Smaller sellers (casual ones) represent the long tail of activity on eBay... Don't forget about the little guys (many of them were probably the best ambassadors for eBay)."

Well said.  Everyone gets this fact...except EBAY!  For some reason we've become lower than dirt to these people which is why most of us left!  As to being ambassadors - now we're spreading the news as to just what Ebay has done to us!

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: christmas spirit

Wed Dec 3 12:24:03 2008

Off topic but did anyone see this MSNBC article
EBAY USERS: HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY HACKED

http://redtape.msnbc.com/2008/12/ebay-users-say.html

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: noneya

Wed Dec 3 12:43:16 2008

Damon:
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.
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?

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: otis43s

Wed Dec 3 12:52:42 2008

Which is the most effective sniping program and how doew it compare to the one Ebay offers us? Thanks.  Otis

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Consignment Pal Resale Directory

Wed Dec 3 12:54:20 2008

Ina,

You're off to a great start with this series. Looking forward to the rest.

Regarding post 3 from Henry: Actually I think that eBay and PayPal can and should cater to BOTH sellers and buyers.  Both are legitimate customers.

As far as ''eBay embracing their roots'', it appears that eBay doesn't know that social media marketing is KING.

Grassroots support is vital for growth and eBay and PayPal need a liberal dose of fertilizer.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Mercy the Mingless

Wed Dec 3 12:57:59 2008

Damon:

Good to hear from you again.

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?

With reference to Best Match, its creator, Ragav Gupta, recently wrote of Best Match and eBay's implemention of it as a default search:

''Its no secret within eBay that I spent quite a bit of the last year trying to stop the monstrosity that became best match, but it wasn’t enough.

It saddens me to see the amount of brain-cycles (and heart-ache) so many users on the ebay discussion boards have to expend trying to figure out what’s going on, or whats going to happen next. I fail to understand why the interests of ebay users, ebay employees and ebay shareholders cannot be aligned towards the same goals.''

I hope that helps clarify things.

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 13:21:58 2008

Damon seems like a really good guy, but I don't think he's fully in touch with the Ugly Face of the New Ebay.

1. He worked for a different ebay/PayPal than exists today.

2. While this is obviously a subjective interpretation of mine, Damon's answers are far too cautious and make him sound too much like an industry cheerleader who doesn't want to burn any career bridges by being completely candid.

3. Damon probably isn't aware that many, many 'good' buyers have left ebay leaving a more concentrated pool of those who are mentally ill, have substance abuse problems, deadbeats, criminals, and generally abusive personalities who are now completely free to run rampant over sellers with ebay's enabling of their unacceptable behavior.

4. Ebay is may be easy to use for those who use it daily, but it definitely has become far too complicated and SLOW for anyone who doesn't use the site everyday.

5. He trivializes disputes between buyers and sellers by calling them "interpersonal" when, in fact, an increasing number of them are situations on which buyers are using the buyer oriented PayPal dispute process to defraud sellers.

6. If paper payments offer buyers no protection, then PayPal offers virtually none to sellers. Ebay's bizarre ask and tell policy on paper payments kills sales, and it's odd that he can't see this.

7. No one thinks ebay should keep "bad" sellers. The issue here is that ebay has gone about getting rid of "bad" sellers by getting rid of large numbers of sellers both "good" and "bad." Ebay is now inherently incapable or lacks the will to conduct individualized, critical analyses of each seller's record.

When a seller is suspended, there is NO due process, often NO reasonable explanation, NO appeal, and NO recourse.

I would agree that ALL fees are far too high and have been for some time especially now when those not selling in the toys and electronics are hurting.

I would agree that ebay's fee system is convoluted, but then that's intentional on ebay's part to make it as difficult as possible for a seller to figure out the fee or determine ebay biloing "errors" -- you know, much like the 100 yard long fee statements large sellers receive.

What ebay really wants in the long term to put all sales revenues into the seller's non interest earning PayPal account and then "pay" the seller at once a month.

Damon doesn't see yet or doesn't want to say is that ebay is eating its own "long tail."


AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: where's the beef

Wed Dec 3 14:08:12 2008

Who cares what he thinks, he is old news. Hell he hasn't even worked there in years.

It is interesting to hear what he is up to kinda like those 1 hit rock band wonders, but do we really care what they have to say about the current music industry?

I think Ina, other blogs even Ming and readers here have much better insight and aren't afraid to speak their minds. this ...was just annoying.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Damon Billian

Wed Dec 3 14:37:23 2008

Two things to keep in mind:

1. I don't know enough about the internal operations of either company to say what is right or wrong (or what should be done with specific cases/examples). I haven't worked there in years.


2. Ina asked me what I thought was wrong, going well, or could be better. The issues I mentioned are high-level issues I see across a variety of mediums (blogs, twitter, etc.) & are generally what generate the most "passion". If I express my opinion...it is simply that. I don't expect people to agree with them.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Kit

Wed Dec 3 14:47:34 2008

Well - it's nice to go down memory lane with Damon [we long time sellers did like him]
However, there's nothing productive here by reading his politically correct comments [that comes from ebay forum boards training I guess]
What counts is NOW

Ebay is a mess - PP is a mess - the boards are at best abusive TO the posters [not the other way around]
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that Liveworld runs the boards.
Who knows, maybe that's why Damon left? [he doesn't say why]

What I would like to emphasize is that in the world of commerce, the goal has always been customer satisfaction. Sellers are ebay's and PP's customers- Buyers are indirect customers of both, after the sale.

When your customer base is hanging on the fringe of a revolutionary exodus - the CEO does have responsibility to the company to FIX what the customers say is so wrong and unfair [and some say illegal.]
With such customer outrage about PP being voiced on ebay boards - who in their right mind would buy ebay stock?
Not me...

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Empires

Wed Dec 3 15:03:40 2008

I remember PPD from the old days on OTWA and Pay Pal. A true pioneer and good guy who cleared the way for many of us, with a decade or so behind us on the ebay and Pay Pal frontlines... Good guy.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: UKSELLER

Wed Dec 3 15:05:09 2008

Hi Ina,

Maybe you could interview the three Personal Account Managers we have had in the last three months and ask them all why they left ebay. Hey, maybe you could interview the current one too - it would be cool to find out something about him/her before the inevitable happens.

AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce   AuctionBytes Retrospective Series on P2P Ecommerce

by: Martin

Wed Dec 3 16:43:50 2008

1.  Ebay has definitely come to the end of the line of tolerable increases with its current fvf structure, especially for fixed price.  A $50 collectible has a $6 fvf.  The high dsr discounts do help, especially this holiday period, but the max 20% doesn't help that much.  Many items I sell are lucky to have a 20% markup so these mainly benefit ebay.  The holidays are no time to make major changes, but I'm forced to do a dedicated website (probably volusion) next year for many items.  Paypal is a necessary cost, and so is shipping now, so ebay created its own monster.  When shipping could be put on the buyer prices were the same and margins weren't so tight.

2.  DSR's - I'm lucky enough to have a 4.9 during the holiday period, but it can be by the skin of ones teeth.  My experience is that my selling policies are consistent so there shouldn't be much variance in dsr's one buyer to another.  But some buyers don't give high dsr's.  So really, at this time, the main reason my dsr's vary is the personality of the buyer.  Then every now and then someone really dings me across the board even though they may have just one item of complaint.  Free shipping has helped that difficult dsr but not altogether.  Some buyers will not give a 5 for that even if it is an auction starting at .99.  For collectibles ''accurate'' description is not useful.  If I sell a problem item and tell all its problems and even sell at an absurdly low price I will often get dinged on that because the buyer's reaction is not ''wow''.  This one is not so much was there accuracy but how much does the buyer like it.  That's not within a seller's control.  And again, some buyers wont 5 an item even it it is definitely accurate (such as a new shrink wrapped dvd with no problems).  So for me, this has added a lot of anxiety to the ebay experience and I can say now that ebay is no longer enjoyable the way it once was.  It's just work.  And in my area, the bad guys are still there selling bad goods to the unsuspecting.

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