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Wed Sept 10 2008 11:17:17

eBay's Non-Denial Denial

By: David Steiner

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By chance, I happened to catch one of my favorite movies of all time on television the other day. "All the President's Men" relates the story of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they attempt to piece together the puzzle that was the Watergate conspiracy, which ultimately brought down the Nixon administration.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie centers around testimony Hugh Sloan gives to a Grand Jury, which Woodward and Bernstein cite in an article, that implicates Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman. There was one problem, however. Sloan never mentions Haldeman to the Grand Jury. As it turns out - nobody asked him about Haldeman, even though - as history shows - Haldeman was the leading conspirator in the cover up of the Watergate break-in.

The Nixon administration used that one overstep in the Woodward and Bernstein story to paint the Washington Post as a rag on a smear campaign. It was a classic case of denying minutiae while attempting to subvert focus from the overall issue - which was that high-ranking members of the President's cabinet had broken the law.

So how does this relate to eBay? Certainly, the Constitution of the United States is not in jeopardy. Neither are your First Amendment rights. But in reading eBay's response to AuctionBytes' article on Operation Catalog, I immediately flashed back to a phrase from the movie that has become part of the American lexicon: "A classic non-denial denial."

If you read Ina's editorial on Sunday, you probably became more than a little concerned about the upcoming influx of companies that will be dumping their entire catalog of merchandise on the eBay marketplace starting next month. eBay was quick to respond in the eBay Ink blog pointing to what they referred to as inaccuracies in the editorial.

eBay focused on one statement to issue a denial, while essentially pleading the Fifth on the rest of the article: Commission (FVF) fees will be negotiated individually, and it's my understanding that participants in this pilot will not be charged listing fees, nor will they have to meet eBay's seller standards during the 90-day pilot program.

Yes, eBay has standards in place for Diamond level PowerSellers. I expect that those sellers will eventually be held to the standards that eBay has put in place for them. However, during the ramp-up, these sellers will not be subjected to DSR standards.

You often have to look past what eBay says, and look at what they don't say to get a clearer picture of what's in store for your future. eBay did not deny the existence of the pilot program, or that these catalogs are coming. eBay did not deny free listing fees for these top-level sellers (in fact, it confirmed that fees for Diamond level PowerSellers are negotiable). eBay did not adequately address the fact that while these Diamond Sellers will fill out the breadth eBay's product offerings, many Powersellers who sell the same inventory will likely suffer.

In defense of larger sellers coming aboard next month, eBay stated, "In fact, big sellers have been a part of eBay since nearly the beginning; Sears, Disney, IBM, Dell, HP, etc to name a few. Some remain. But some found they couldn't compete with existing sellers on eBay who by dint of their smaller size of operations, tend to operate much more efficiently than a bigger business."

What eBay doesn't mention is that many of these large corporations were not able to compete on the eBay platform because they were paying listing fees just like smaller merchants - which is why eBay has changed the fee structure for these Diamond-Level sellers.

Sellers who receive free listings can put their entire inventory on eBay, as opposed to sellers who pay 35 cents per listing per month. In addition, eBay rewards high-volume commodity sellers under its new Recent Sales policy. Indeed, sellers told the New York Times in July they found it difficult to compete with

AuctionBytes' purpose is to help merchants navigate the constantly-changing waters of ecommerce. We felt that it was important that sellers who have invested in inventory for the upcoming shopping season be made aware that the landscape was about to change yet again. The point is that the upcoming program on eBay will likely be in flux for a while, and different vendors will negotiate different deals - but the overall effect on the marketplace will be the same.

I was a little hesitant to use the analogy of "All the President's Men" in this post, because Operation: Catalog is no federal crime, and we're certainly no Woodward and Bernstein. But as long as I've come this far I'll borrow one more line from the movie:

We stand by our story.

Comments (70) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: blueline

Wed Sep 10 11:41:40 2008

Right on!  Excellent words Ina!

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: John

Wed Sep 10 12:09:33 2008

EXCELLENT commentary by David, and completely appropriate regardless of the movie title....Keep up the GREAT work guys

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Steve

Wed Sep 10 12:15:18 2008

I am quoting someone from Scot Wingo's blog:

"Its taken one man 6 months to destroy a company with a 50% online marketshare, and if Donahoe was secretly hired by amazon to do this to ebay, their money was well spent. Ebay is now watered down rubbish, and getting worse every day. Time for the bears to bail out and bury this miserable company."

This company never tires of throwing their customers (the sellers) under the bus.  They are fools for doing this.  The sellers were the biggest buyers on eBay.   Many now hate this company and they will never buy from there again.  It is downright humiliating to continue to pay listing fees and be held to DSR standards while newcomers get a free ride.

For now, we are still Power Sellers on eBay, and we wouldn't buy anything from their if our lives depended on it.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Franklin

Wed Sep 10 12:17:20 2008

keep up the good work someday soon you will be one of the exprts on cnn, fox,msnbc, etc, talking about the collapse of ebay. its like watching enron all over again.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Hector

Wed Sep 10 12:26:07 2008

This is the response that we were waiting from you Ina, Thank You.

The post on the eBay blog is obviously hiding information. The fact that a company hides information to the paying customers (sellers) is to my judge absolutely unethical.

eBay must understand that buyers are where products are offered, this Cheap “Amazonification” is opening the opportunity for a new free trade auction site.

In the past Yahoo, Overstock and even Amazon unsuccessfully tried to compete on the auction market. Now there is 180 degree turn.

Apparently the eBay Express failure was not enough to the Donahue administration

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: whodo

Wed Sep 10 12:31:02 2008

WAKE up sellers. Donna A Hole and buddies would disown their own family if they thought they could make money from it.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: gg

Wed Sep 10 12:36:46 2008

Let's use some logic:


-ebay will not miss earnings (and others) would lose $ if they were paying listing/final value fees


ebay is getting paid a huge up front fee from each vendor to list for a specified period of time (quarter?).The vendor will not pay further fees no matter what volume sales.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: To Richard-Brewer Hay & Griff & Usher

Wed Sep 10 12:45:14 2008

To RB-H at ebay ink & Griff,

Tell us how much is paying ebay in insertion fees and/or final value fees.

Don't you think the thousands of longtime ebay sellers in all of those catagories deserve to at least know what they are competing against?

You've basically given the core tranche away to My sales are down because of this.

Griff's statement about how the Diamond Power Sellers will bring in new business that we will all share from is absurd!! You don't think all those SKUs weren't already available on ebay FOR YEARS NOW!!

How stupid do you think we are?

Your parents must be very proud of you.

Until you give us a believable figure, about what you are charging, we won't believe a word you PR guys say.

I would never leave a comment such as this at the ebay ink blog or anywhere on the ebay boards for fear of losing my seller account. They can datamine where your posts are coming from you know....

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Linda Bolf

Wed Sep 10 12:47:09 2008

I am afraid. Where do I, a small seller, continue to sell?  What do I do with the inventory I have? I sell one of a kind items (pottery & glass) I obtain from estate sales, etc.  I have been doing this for over 7 years and I love it. I am one of the little sellers that will be hit the hardest.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: dimes

Wed Sep 10 12:51:43 2008

Poor Griff.  He's now been relegated to the Island of Misfit Spokesmen, doomed forever to spin aloud, alone.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Cash Back Gal

Wed Sep 10 12:57:41 2008

Did any one catch the eBay-Ink line: "A seller with a large inventory is not necessarily going to get better exposure than a seller with less inventory." ?????? This is a NON-DENIAL DENIAL -- a matter of semantics. The statement is correct that a bronze dealer who dumps a large inventory onto eBay will not get exposure. BUT the truth is that the algorithms definitely support Diamond Level powersellers and to become a seller at this level you must have the resources to dump a large inventory on eBay.

I got a chuckle from the reader above, Steve, who enjoys speculating that "Donahoe was secretly hired by Amazon" [to destroy eBay]. I'd call that a HOSTILE MAKEOVER.  >

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Gail

Wed Sep 10 13:24:02 2008

Ina and David, I applaud you. Griff's post was eBay's attempt at damage-control. You've stirred up the natives over there as we've been unable to do.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: JJH

Wed Sep 10 13:31:34 2008

One things for sure, you touched a real sensitive nerve with the original editorial. For the 'ol Uncle Griff to out and attempt refute it so quickly not only shows they have something to hide, but further proves what liars they are at eBay.

Liar Liar pants on fire!

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Patricia

Wed Sep 10 13:42:12 2008

@ Linda Bolf - I'm a small seller too but I'm determined not to give Ebay more of my fee money.  The change was easy for me because my sales dropped to almost nothing with their manipulated search.  If I were you I would start listing on other sites,  Bonanzle, Blujay, iOffer, eCrater, Etsy - the only one out of those that charges a listing fee is Etsy and that's only 20 cents for 4 months!  THEN - the important part is to go over your list of buyers - especially the repeat buyers and invite them to your new digs.  Give them some incentive like free shipping or a free small gift.  Get them to YOU!  Its work and its slow but you will get sales from those you can coax over and some will stay ;-)  Good luck to you.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Shelly

Wed Sep 10 13:43:21 2008

I'm doing some research on the changes on eBay this year here is a questionnaire if you would like to participate you can find it here

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Shelly

Wed Sep 10 13:44:12 2008

no I don't work for eBay

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Ginny

Wed Sep 10 13:45:51 2008

Thank you, David and Ina. Your editorial and journalistic work is appreciated! I just wanted you to know that.


eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Patricia

Wed Sep 10 13:46:08 2008

Ina - Ebay doesn't stand a chance against folks like you.  They've been top dog for so long that even now while lying thru their teeth they expect us to believe them.  They have lost so much trust - all of which will come back shortly to bite them in the boxer shorts!  Nobody believed Griff's statement in the inkblog.  Not one of those posters agreed with him in any way and all saw right thru what he said.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: Steve

Wed Sep 10 14:27:14 2008

To Cashback Gal from Steve

Those were not my words.  Did you not note that I stated that it was a quote from Wingo's blog?  The writer himself did not believe that, he was only making a point. Quotes around a sentence or sentences mean that you are quoting someone.

No body believes that Donahoe was hired by Amazon for God's sake.

eBay's Non-Denial Denial   eBay's Non-Denial Denial

by: IE_7

Wed Sep 10 15:00:33 2008


When and where will we see the results?

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