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Wed Aug 13 2008 16:51:28

Are Sellers Leaving eBay?

By: Ina Steiner

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Mylene Mangalindan's article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday began, "Some online retailers are moving away from eBay." (You must have a paid subscription to the Journal to access the article.) She goes on to cite Wigix, Silkfair, Etsy and Oodle as alternatives that "aim to offer more hand-holding for sellers - and charge lower fees - than the behemoth eBay."

I read the article just after getting a letter from a couple who told me they are leaving eBay, the type of email not uncommon these days:

We, as well as many others, have decided that our eBay days are pretty much over. We are closing our eBay store this next Sunday. We will offer a few things online closer to the holidays when maybe we can make some money. We have been PowerSellers for several years now. We actually sat down the other night, in the few spare minutes we get a day, and figured out our net profits. We weren't really surprised that after paying for everything we weren't making any money.

Small sellers feel large sellers have an unfair advantage in terms of fees and placement in search. Large sellers are coping with the Best Match algorithm in their placement in search, and they fear the new Diamond level sellers like whose listing fees are waived (and more Diamonds are coming).

Sellers have demonstrated for years that they will put up with a lot from eBay, but they have always voted with their pocketbooks. This year, they have had to put up lots of change - much of it unwelcome - and plenty are doing what the above-mentioned couple is doing - looking at the bottom line to see if it makes economic sense to stay on the platform.

What's markedly different this year is the demoralization that eBay partners are feeling. It's not just sellers who are disgruntled - it's also the people who help eBay sellers: vendors, education specialists, authors, template-makers and others. Who knows what the morale is inside the company?

And more changes are on the way. eBay announced at eBay Live they would be coming out with price changes (these are assumed to be category-based fee changes) and a limited feedback-withdrawal process yet to be determined. It's impossible to foresee how these changes will be received until eBay reveals more information.

I'm also certain eBay will announce changes to its Accepted Payments policy to further limit which methods of payment sellers may accept. One likely theory is that eBay will require sellers to accept only electronic payments and will ban checks, money orders and postal orders and would likely roll out the policy change in time for the holiday shopping season. This change would be extremely unwelcome by small sellers.

And of course, eBay is changing the "finding" (search) experience on the site.

The law of inertia sets in with sellers - it's easier to keep doing things the same way on the same platform. But eBay has set sellers in motion with all of the changes they are making, and it cannot guarantee the direction in which sellers will move, as I think the Journal article makes clear.

This quote from a seller in the article may reflect how many small sellers are feeling: "I don't need a million people to see my things, just the right people,..."


Comments (98) | Permalink

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by: ???????????????

Wed Aug 13 17:58:48 2008

Ebay is a thing of the PAST!

I almost totally forgot about them, until I got the email about this blog!

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by: Patricia

Wed Aug 13 17:58:57 2008

The day is coming when Ebay rolls out yet another wacky overbearing policy....and there won't be anybody left to hear it or complain about it.  Do they know that or are they just so full of themselves they can't see past their bloated exteriors!  I will be very interested in seeing how they fare with the Diamond Sellers with their no fee listings and their dismal sell thru rate.  I'm thinking they deserve each other.

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by: ss

Wed Aug 13 18:11:36 2008

Checked yesterday and had over 800,000 free auction listings. Ebays total was just a tad over 14,500,000. Any sane person answer me this "What would you do"

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by: Sauce

Wed Aug 13 18:16:22 2008

Ebay said you won't recognize it at the end of this year. I agree, I don't recognize Ebay now. Ebay had a secret receipe and they changed the ingredients. Ebay was always a venue where the small seller could compete with the big dogs. Not no more! Ebay picked the Big Dogs and now there niche is gone!

Listen Ebay, your niche is gone! There is a huge void and that is why you are seeing alot of movement now with other startups and alternative sites. You do not have a loyal base anymore. Nobody trusts you!

Ebay has drove down the price of items with their policies. When you crunch the numbers, Ebay is a energy zapping, time wasting, profit drain and is only good for acquiring new customers for my ecommerce site, which makes great money.

Attention sellers. If you haven't noticed, Ebay is keeping you around long enough to pad their numbers as they make their transition to their new non-niche, boring marketplace with High Roller sellers.

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by: Sauce

Wed Aug 13 18:18:23 2008

Does anybody know how much pays to list on Ebay?

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by: ss

Wed Aug 13 18:22:54 2008

Power Sellers board is saying nothing. They have figured out the cost of the auctions verses the sell through rate and I guess would be losing tens of thousands of dollars a day. Ebay is using them to keep the auction numbers up but at the end of the third quarter there numbers won't be there unless they raise costs for everyone else. Looking for a fee increase about September.

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by: Harriet

Wed Aug 13 18:36:08 2008

Yes, many sellers are leaving, probably not totally, but at least going to additional sites and testing the waters to see which ones are a good fit for what they sell. I read many of the eBay boards daily and there is a feeling of mass depression about what has happened.

I don't think for one minute that all sellers are bad or were ever bad. But that is what they have been characterized as. It isn't right, and it seems to have come from left field and very few people understand what direction eBay is going in.

The sellers are eBays buyers, They purchase a service from eBay and they just are not treating their buyers to an excellent buying experience.

They have made so many egregious changes that it makes your head spin. And they are all directed at the sellers. For what reason, no one really knows. We know what eBay has said, but I don't think many are buying that tired old company line.

The hand writing is on the wall. The stock is not doing well. People are disgusted, even some buyers who cannot find the products they want due to the crazy search changes.

I am a small seller, and have an excellent rating. I was having a very happy time listing upwards of 100 items at a time, then all this hit. I am discouraged, my listings have dwindled down to about 10 and I am no longer motivated to do much more than that. Sales are terrible, and to just keep giving eBay fee after fee for nothing is not the right thing to do.

So, I am listing on eCrater (a LOT), etsy and BluJay. I've had several sales on these sites, and it was a great relief to not have to pay such high fees and to be able to go to these sites with confidence that they really want sellers there and that they are not going to do enormous and crazy changes that throw all their sellers for a loop.

I really loved eBay, it was loads of fun. One can only hope that it will once again be a good place to sell and buy. Right now it is not.

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by: Don

Wed Aug 13 19:09:37 2008

I love the movie Forrest Gump. But Dang you can only watch it so many times. Before it gets real old.
    Ebay has over the last few years turned into the movie. My only question. Does EBAY Top Brass think Sellers are Forrest Gump or are they Forrest Gump ? Cause 1 of us must be. For the life of me, I can not figure that part out.

      Of all the crazy stupid thing they have done in the past.  The last few are really over the top. Follow me here. You can list as many items as you want. Pay for all. We will show 1...And on it (with new search view) We show other sellers items that are similar to yours. Most likely Buy.Coms ??? OMG LOL

      Charge me for 10 or whatever I list, show 1 and then when my auction opens up. Promote another sells item...(Read the new announcements on NEW VIEW) Sadly I am a power seller who stuck it out for 5 years. And will have to make it through the Holiday's..

        But every spare second is spent working on my own web page, other sites....I just want some on e to tell me.


It is like Ground Hog Day until I CAN GET OUT THERE. OR Run Forrest Run...

 Are sellers leaving YOU BET YA. If not now most very very soon.

Heck they got me so screwed up I am not sure if I am Forrest or if they are Forrest. And 75% of  the time I am not sure if I am not in the movie Forrest Gump or Ground Hog Day. Waiting to see what they will pop out with next.

  Again some one please reply are sellers Forrest or is Ebay Forrest. Cause somebody sure is. Are sellers leaving ebay ?

         THIS ONE SURE IS.

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by: User0737

Wed Aug 13 19:33:22 2008

Ebay is courting the very large sellers who will sign on and then promptly SCREW them. These entities will use ebay as their Junk Table of choice. It will be all open box and returns. These items are presently Destroy in the Field--dumpstered-- or Special Handling: tossed into huge cartons and liquidated by the pound. I'm sure these comapnies would LOVE to cut out the various middlemen who already channel this stuff onto ebay now.

The quality will probably better than Buy- but that's not saying much. Buyers will likely end up with merchandise that's been returned 3 or 4 times. The large retailers will EXPLOIT ebay in a surprising turn of events... You can bank on it. And that will pretty much round out the implosion.

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by: Don

Wed Aug 13 19:47:59 2008


Forrest Gump: That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going.


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by: Jeremy

Wed Aug 13 19:51:10 2008

Any rational business will not totally turn it's back on a viable marketplace. I am simply refining my approach to ebay. This ''refinement'' basically means I list less products, and I turn around and put the listing fees I save into new markets. Two years ago ebay was 100% of my business. This year they will be about 40%, next year projected 25%, etc. etc. I'll never completely leave ebay unless I make enough that I can turn my nose up to the extra money. However, I will continue to move away. Ebay has gotten to the point that I would have to base my product line not on what the customer wants, but on what ebay will allow me to show on one screen. Ridiculous.

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by: Don

Wed Aug 13 19:54:09 2008

EBAY BRASS : That day, for no particular reason, I decided to make a little change. So I changed a few little things. And when I got done, I thought maybe I'd change some forms. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just change some fees. And I figured, since I changed this much, maybe I'd just change how to see auctions. And that's what I did. . For no particular reason I just kept on changing things. I changed it all. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well  just keep on going. When I got through all the changes, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just  keep right on changing things.

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by: Steve

Wed Aug 13 19:54:42 2008

I am one of those ''education specialists'' you mention in this article, however my morale is NOT low from eBay's actions.  If it is low, it is from all the doom and gloom I read about in the blogs.  In reality, my students know very little of the controversy and are very enthused about their selling potential.

The opportunity is what you make it and if someone has been a power seller for years and is just now determining that they are not making any money, I have to question a few things.  Were they really working it as a business?  How long would someone have to go without a paycheck from their employer before they realized they were not making any money?

If their profit margin was so tiny that they can not afford the eBay fees, they needed a wake up call a long time ago.  My cost of merchandise is often 20-30% of my selling price.  If eBay expenses and PayPal are both used, my costs might be as much as 30%.  My overhead is in the 10% range and the buyer pays for most everything else, so I clear about 30% minimum.  That is respectable for most businesses.

I don’t try to compete with the sellers.  Neither would I open a bricks and mortar store to compete with Wal-Mart.  Maybe what is missing here is some good sound business decisions.  Maybe the eBay of years ago empowered folks who did not have business plans from the start and are just now realizing it.

I am not trying to be cruel or condescending, just looking at reality.  The business world is tough and companies close everyday.  Maybe the folks we are hearing from about this are learning a lesson many of us in business have learned.  We adjust or perish.

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by: Kal

Wed Aug 13 19:59:50 2008

Don, thanks for the laughs!

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by: Moonshadow

Wed Aug 13 20:02:52 2008

I sold a few things on ebay towards the end of last year and the beginning of this one.  Then the changes came and I stopped.  My husband uses my account to buy things there for a hobby of his, and that is the only reason I still have PayPal, so that he can continue to do that.  He can't find his particular items anywhere else.  

As for me, for the most part I search for my items and then see if the vendor has a personal site and buy them there. I buy very little now if I can help it.  I find it interesting that ebay changed the links policy and then put it back to the way it was.  I think they must have realized that if they didn't let sellers use them to drive business to their own websites, then there wouldn't be any reason for many of the remaining sellers to list there at all.  And given that they are wanting to increase their revenue from advertisements, I have to assume that even folks like me who are just searching for the most part are useful to them.

Every article I've seen on the WSJ or elsewhere online had almost nothing but negative comments about ebay's current policies.  On the boards today, someone was commenting that their small niche magazine for doll crafters had a very negative article about ebay in it, and a list of alternative sites.  Someone else chimed in that their small niche magazine did too.  Ebay seems to be determined to kick the very purveyors of the unique that built them to the curb, to be replaced by an unexciting, common product mix.  And they don't seem to comprehend that most of the small sellers they so disdain are a good portion of their buyers as well.  If they can't make money there, they won't be spending money there either.

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by: Don

Wed Aug 13 20:08:44 2008

No problem just google in Forrest Gump. First one or two will link you to quotes from the movie. Just read the quotes...If you sell on eaby you will relate. Or go to ebay community and check out the threads...I never have blogged or commented before. But this is a train crash.

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by: Daisy

Wed Aug 13 20:20:22 2008

Ebay's devious (greedy) plan backfired on them. Now they're backpedaling, not so confident. I hope JD and his gang (including Griff!) are thrown like old garbage. At this point, can it really get worse if a new team comes in?
These short-sighted, non-visionary MBAs put sellers through the wringer this year. It's mindboggling how stupid this all was. And for what? They've lost money, loyalty and their good name.

Good riddance, JD!

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by: Steve

Wed Aug 13 20:46:03 2008

Has anyone searched these other alternate sites to see how many items are there?  I did a search for a popular electronics item and got 30-40 hits at the most.  For the exact same search words eBay has 3,782.

Which one do you think the buyers will spend their time on?  Where would someone selling want their item listed?

I am all for competition and diversifying, but no one comes close yet.

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by: Gary

Wed Aug 13 21:35:42 2008


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by: pam

Wed Aug 13 22:11:09 2008

eBay's tactic has been to paint all sellers with the same brush.  They will not deal directly with the problem sellers and just treat us all like pond scum.  Most of us resent being treated this way because we are honest hard working people.  Just do a search under the category Home & Garden - Home Decor & Accents and search by price lowest first.  And do another search under Rugs and Carpets category searching price lowest first.  Draw your own conclusions.  Frankly I resent eBay punishing us all for the sins of a few.  It wouldn't take me long to find all of the violators and kick them off the site in a heartbeat.  

The majority of sellers work much harder than they would at any outside job.  I know we sure put in our full 15 hours a day. But we do it because it's our business and we want to make it work and we're proud of our accomplishments.  The maturing of the internet automatically caused a drop in sell through so we all had to work harder and longer hours and smarter to make the same buck.  With a drop in sell through came the increase in fees to further compound the problem.  Then many of us opened a store to list our items for less because we could no longer afford to list everything in core with the higher listing fees and lower sell through.  Then eBay hid stores from plain sight so we had to figure out ways to drive traffic to our store listings so we could continue to sell enough to survive.  It has just been one thing after another for such a long time now and many of us are simply tired of the fight.  

Our company has adapted and we are surviving, but barely.  We currently pay eBay and Paypal about 45% of our profit every month and we have decided that we work much too hard to just give them our hard earned money.  And to top it off with we spend more money to drive traffic to our listings because eBay does a very poor job when it comes to driving traffic to their site.  The only saving grace is that we are certain that by this time next year our website sales should far surpass eBay sales with substantially higher profit margin.  We're not sure yet if we will continue a small presence on eBay or not.  We don't know if all the grief is worth it.  In addition, we are getting to the point where we are almost ashamed to say that we sell there.  We even took the link off our website because we feared that buyers would not buy from us if they knew we sold on eBay.  And to think it wasn't too long ago when we were warm and fuzzy and would never have given a second thought to selling elsewhere or starting our own website.  So thank you for that, eBay.  You were our first love and you consumed us and then broke our hearts.  But we have bounced back and we are stronger and smarter - and there is life after eBay!

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