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Thu Dec 4 2008 23:04:52

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

By: Ina Steiner

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Rachel Makool, Senior Director of Community Development, is said to be leaving eBay at the end of the year. This would follow eBay's October layoffs of the "Pinks," the customer-facing employees who spent their time moderating the discussion boards. eBay is centralizing its global operations, virtually shutting down many country offices. eBay has been making a series of changes that, when put together, looks like a very different company from even 1 year ago.

Changes made to community go beyond staffing. eBay cancelled its annual eBay Live conference and no longer holds monthly "Town Hall" meetings with members. One source tells us eBay is revamping its long-running Voices program, bringing it under the domain of Seller Development and eliminating input on policy issues. Users are speculating that eBay will close at least some of the discussion boards.

Community was the cornerstone of eBay's success. Former President of eBay North America Bill Cobb recognized the importance of communicating with users - they often didn't like what he had to say, but he believed in letting members ask questions and voice their opinions. He attended user conferences and the monthly webcast Town Hall meetings.

But changes at eBay this year go well beyond management style and personalities. The closure of eBay Live Auctions, the limits on what designer items smaller sellers are allowed to list, changes to feedback, the launch of "Large Merchant Services" API technology - they all point to an eBay much more about commodity, and much less about community.

Since John Donahoe took the reigns from Meg Whitman, it's been clear change is in the air (he calls it Disruptive Innovation). It may be in this former management consultant's DNA to cut programs and staffing (Donahoe is sometimes referred to as one of the "Bobs," a reference to the movie Office Space). But what remains somewhat of a mystery is what his vision is for what is left of eBay. An Amazon clone? An ad platform?

In April, top eBay executives speaking at conferences said eBay was moving towards a more retail-like experience, and that "you will not recognize eBay this time next year." Truer words could not have been spoken, and once the holiday shopping season is over, we're likely to see more change.

Comments (92) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: RT

Thu Dec 4 23:30:42 2008

good bye were once good but now your just not worth it. Community and the feelings someone cared are long gone.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: mindelec

Thu Dec 4 23:39:47 2008

"community" is the heart of ebay, what made it special, take that away and there is nothing to make it different from anyplace else.  what is so difficult to understand about that?  i spent many years selling on ebay, but not participating in the boards and I understand it.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: Gaz

Thu Dec 4 23:49:20 2008

eBay management's disdain for "community" began to show itself 2 years ago with the non-appealable forum posting bans issued left right and centre to dissenters and critics.

The rate of banning has accelerated this year - I'm now of the opinion it's to whittle down forum activity to give a justification for closing them entirely ... in much the same way that all the promotions to encourage false "free" shipping will be used next year to remove the non-commissioned seperate shipping charges, so that all items will have to have a combined price with shipping embedded, and eBay thus gaining a double dip of fees (PayPal gets a chunk as well).

O/T - btw - Ed at BuildaSkill posted up a new Payments Processors directory last night - I notice that Xcoin only charges a flat 3.5% commission on payments (no fixed fee per transaction) which makes it far better value than PayPal for micro-payments.  Imagine - selling 99-cent digital products and only having to pay 3.5 cents to your payment processor - a lot cheaper than even the PayPal micropayments account.


eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: carol

Fri Dec 5 00:32:40 2008

Like many ebayers, I am a buyer and  small seller; Inspite of my 100% Feedback rating, ebay no longer allows me to list certain designer items freely. I can't imagine why the management would like to offend the little guy. I thought the individual was at the heart of the success of ebay;  Mr. Donahoe will destroy ebay
by alienating the user. Given this economy, it seems like the
management hasn't Got a CLUE!!! Will Ebay go the way of the investment Banks and the Big Three??

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: nancybusinraleigh

Fri Dec 5 00:39:12 2008

Lorrie Norrington is very much a part of the hidden vision too, she stated in several public speaking events that no one ''will recognize ebay in a year from now''.  There is a plan, they're just not willing to communicate with the sellers who brought them the success they're killing change by change.

And while I just closed my ID on ebay, stopped by the boards this evening to do a little reading.  Lo and behold, threads are disappearing and being moved here there and everywhere but the choice of threads being moved tells the tale.  

Not only is communication lacking from ebay toward it's customers, they're trying to stifle any posts calling out the problems sellers are facing.

Oh yes, ebay is changing from community to commodity in many ways in rapid fire succession I might add.

For those wishing to close your ID's, let me suggest you get on live help and tell them you wish to close it ASAP, keep pushing it - third time was a charm for me, finally got someone who knew what they were doing and within an hour my account finally went NARU after three days of bugging them.  

I had no desire to have to keep an eye on an ID on a site I wouldn't be spending time on to make sure somebody didn't hack it and list a bunch of high end electronics.  Such is the lack of trust in ebay's platform concerning security.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: RicRoe

Fri Dec 5 00:55:21 2008

Community is the final brick being removed from the eBay foundation.

How long after it is removed before the entire building collapses in on itself?

The one thing that helped build eBay into a worldwide marketplace was a sense of community, once that is gone, Mr Donahoe's Amazonification plan will be complete, and eBay will become an empty marketplace.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: Patricia

Fri Dec 5 01:05:29 2008

It won't be long before Ebay closes the discussion boards and possibly the groups.  Many of us have already opened outside chats so we don't lose each other.  There is no need for community in ebay's new world.  Understand...there will not be any small sellers soon and even most of the powersellers will be gone.  Only the largest sellers and the big box diamond sellers will comprise Ebay shortly.  No need for Ebay to spend on customer service, no need to hear complaints or enforce policy, etc.  That's why all the lay offs - these employees will soon be unnecessary.  When small sellers and smaller powersellers are gone there will be no need for the rating system or the silly star system (that was meant to slowely dispense with us while they get their diamond sellers up and running)  If you can't see all that and you're still sitting and waiting for the ship to turn around then you're bound to sink with it!

Get listing on other venues or start your own website.  Compose a list of ALL your past customers and write and urge them to follow you.  That's about all you can do now if you still want to sell online.  Market yourself...and forget about Ebay.  Its dying and doesn't even know it!

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

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

Fri Dec 5 01:13:11 2008

The assertion that ebay was ever really a "community" is a fiction invented by Meg Whitman to keep sellers stupid within a cocoon of warm and fuzzy while she she screwed, blued, and tatooed them six ways to Sunday. The Ho is simply continuing in that tradition stripping away all the frills.

Ebay has NEVER cared what their customers, sellers, thought or wanted. It's ALWAYS been about ebay's needs and ALWAYS as the expense of the seller.

There's NO need for forums anymore because Diamond powersellers don't need or want them, and ebay doesn't care what any of their other customers need or opine anyway. After all, no one both Diamonds will be left on ebay by mid 2009 anyway.

Yessirree, step right up the New Ebay, the Sanford & Son of online commerce where $10 rolls of paper towels will innovatively disrupt your kitchen and where cheap Chinese cr*p is the cheapest anywhere on the planet. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and bend over -- the New Ebay is here!
Like any other corporation run on the Republican greed business model, they also afraid of truth and, more specifically, the dissemination of truth to the masses.

Ebay's basic modus operandi hasn't changed much since the arrival of The Ho -- it's just so much evident now than it used to be because The Ho has opened the warm and fuzzy curtain that prevented so many sellers from seeing what ebay's been doing to them for the last four years.

And frankly, I hope ebay comes down with an incurable and eventually fatal of an exotic STD.

Ebay ruin your business? Spend a few minutes everyday reciprocating the favor.

We could all start by finding out which Big Boxes are trying to stop ebay and HELP them do it!

Death to ebay corp.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

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

Fri Dec 5 01:14:12 2008


Ebay now moves any and all challenging or dissenting seller posts from the Seller Central Discussion Forum to what they call ''The Soap Box''.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: Dan Ketcham

Fri Dec 5 01:17:24 2008

GoodBye eBay!   I was suspended several years ago by an eBay seller for not wanting to pay 74.00 shipping for a winning bid for 48 pairs of earrings. I knew than they were DOOMED!

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: Usher Out Usher

Fri Dec 5 01:29:32 2008

So that's the black hole where thousands of disappeared discussion fora threads were conveniently sucked into this year?

I think not, fascists.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

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

Fri Dec 5 01:46:21 2008

From ebay's pitiful bailout request in Washington as quoted by Ina:

"Small Retailers who were pushed off Main St. by the big box stores can survive by selling on eBay to consumers around the world. The big guys don't like small retailers and they are
working hard and talking big to shut down the world's greatest online marketplace."

ROTFLMAO x 1000! You guys have about as much credibility as Bear Stearns, AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, et. al put together.

This is the FUNNIEST thing I've read in months.

Ebay sellers past and present:

Send snail mails to your congressperson and both Senators today and tell them why ebay is BAD for business, why they shouldn't taken seriously, and why their pitful presentation should be ignored.

What these noisy, crybaby, whining executives are asking for is nothing than less than a government bailout because they lack the expertise to compete effectively against some Big Boxes without a regulatory bailout that effectively tells manufacturers they have no right to establish and maintain the value of their product.

Earth to Ebay: the current economic collapse is courtesy of the Bush "free market forces" policies. Did you whiz kids miss this somewhere along the line?

Your slick PR machine apparently snowed the indolent vanity business press this week, but the party's about over. The Fat Lady's warming up.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: tjjjj

Fri Dec 5 02:02:36 2008

All this talk about not recognizing eBay 1 year from now LOL...does ANYONE recognize eBay today ???

Thousands of sellers have gone & a massive trail of buyers is following…so Who does actually recognize eBay ??

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: Comic Book Guy

Fri Dec 5 02:11:11 2008

True, we all hate ebay. But sellers will keep right on selling there as long as there is ANY buck to be made at all. That is the reality.

Lots of people would rather make $4.00 per hour at home selling on ebay, than make $7.50 an hour at corporate retail. That is the reality.

Sell books or widgets at home for nothing or go work for Barnes and Noble or Verizon for nothing....for alot of ebay bloggers, that's the choice they face. Meself includo!

Now is the time to look at grad school or some other vocation, as the world is changing FAST...whatever your personal expectations for selling on ebay once were, well, they are over. Time to make new ones or just quit and do something else...

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: On Lies And Secrets

Fri Dec 5 02:44:17 2008

The environment on the Seller Central discussion forum is deteriorating rapidly. Threads are disappearing completely or being sent to other boards alarmingly fast.  

Information about the ebay corporation that appears in trade and industry press as well as some of the business press is vanishing from Seller Central. Information that appears here on auctionbytes appears to be unwelcome on the Seller Central forum.  From my perspective, the press has been more than fair in its reporting on the ebay corporation. What does this company have to fear from the press that its information is removed or discredited by being put on a ''soapbox'' forum?

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: MisterTim

Fri Dec 5 02:51:38 2008

I still haven't figured out Donahoe's "brainstorm" regarding eBay. He is encouraging vendors who already have their own websites to list millions of items on eBay. Why on earth would that work? If I want to buy some junk on Buy, guess what? I'll go to their website and buy it there! DUH! Why would I deal with eBay and their unethical payment service, Paypal, to buy something that is readily available elsewhere? I only went to eBay to look for collectibles and for items that are hard to find locally. I can buy counterfeit CD's, DVD's and Coach bags at my local flea market. Who needs eBay for that? Would someone please explain Donahoe's twisted logic to me, like I'm a six year old?

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: vzaar Jamie

Fri Dec 5 06:06:46 2008

A real pity to hear this but to be fair a not unexpected move.

Whilst community was a core focus in eBay's early years as it sought to gain a foot in the market space and to bring collectible buyers and sellers together, of late the move to Fixed Price, stack em high selling has meant that the strength of the community is no longer the glue that unites eBayers.

Look at the community tools! They are embarrassing and woefully behind the times. Not the sign of a company that puts community engagement towards the top of the priority list.

Sadly community, as a concept, has always struggled because it is hard to quantify and measure. We tried it time and time again when I was at eBay and there are just too many variables in the way.

I think Rachel has probably seen the future of community engagement and cooperation and decided "not any more thanks."

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: BeBopDeluxe

Fri Dec 5 06:17:32 2008

Donahoe won't be able to get a job anywhere in corporate America after Ebay is gone, as under his guidance it has gone down the tubes.  Bye-bye Ebay and FU Donahoe.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Fri Dec 5 06:20:26 2008

You people are an absolute hoot!

John Donahoe did not start this, Whitman did.  He's just continuing down the track he was placed on.  You were warned about pretty much everything that is happening for years from a number of anti-eBay and anti-eBay management websites and blogs.  Most successful sellers were intelligent enough to leave or at least begin selling via other channels as well.  So now all eBay has left are diamond-type powersellers and low-medium level sellers who are too stupid or too lazy to go elsewhere.

It's absurd that many of you believe eBay's current course is a new thing.  It's absurd that many of you think that community censorship is a new thing.  eBay has been excommunicating members who speak the truth for years, if that truth paints eBay Inc. in any light other than a glowing angelic corporation.

The current "problems" at eBay as YOU see them are mere re-manifestations of ongoing changes that have been happening for years.  Where were your complaints during the past half-dozen fee increases?  Where were your complaints when eBay made major changes during the holidays for the past half-decade?  Where were your complaints when eBay was quashing facts about Vladuz and other hackings?  Where were your complaints when tens of millions of new fraudulent listings were appearing on the site every day with redirects to phishing and pharming sites?  Where were your complaints when millions of eBay users' personal info and financial info was available for purchase on Russian websites?  Where were you when Meg Whitman planned the "charitable" Auction for America so that eBay Inc. would not suffer economically in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks?  Where were your complaints during the scores of small incremental changes made in policy over the past ten years that gradually brought eBay to the point it is now?  

The answer? guess is that much of it did not affect you directly, or your sales or revenue.  Now that it is affecting you, you want to whine and cry about it.  Boo hoo.  Don't bitch about eBay, smack yourselves in the head for being too dumb to have any foresight.  There was a small community of eBay users that predicted nearly everything that is happening, yet none of you listened, and now you are acting like this is some sort of surprise!

They came for more fees, but I was selling enough, so I said nothing.  Then they came for the right to accept cash as payment, but I accept Paypal, so I said nothing.  Then they came and took the ability to use a ".com" user ID, but mine was "happymommy1965" - so I did nothing.  They came again for higher fees, but I was still making money, so I said nothing.  They came and censored posts and deleted blogs and community forum posts, but I said nothing that was not kosher - so I said nothing.  They pretended fraud did not exist and that Vladuz was a fabricated illusion, but I couldn't see how it was affecting me, so I did nothing.  The radically changed the search and feedback system repeatedly, but people were bidding on my items and I was getting good feedback - so I said nothing.  They came and NARU'd my neighbors for speaking out, so I didn't dare say anything.  Traffic and sales have been "decreasing" for years, but my sales were "fine" - so I said nothing.  And now that I am finally feeling the pinch and now that eBay's policies are affecting me, there is no one left to speak up but me.

Of course "I" and "me" and "my" pronouns in that last paragraph refer to YOU!

It's time that many of you discover a new hobby.  Perhaps www.Things-I-Can-Do-Online-So-My-Spouse-Thinks-I'
might have some useful tips for you.

eBay Replaces Community with Commodity   eBay Replaces Community with Commodity

by: paul

Fri Dec 5 06:42:26 2008

Great piece of work Bob........the everyday cry babies will still cry but continue to list their wares on ebay as you speak.

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