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Thu Nov 5 2009 21:28:38

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

By: Ina Steiner

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When a shopper walks into a store at the mall and buys an item, the storeowner frequently asks the buyer to sign up for their mailing list. The landlord has no restrictions on how the storeowner markets to their customers. But do marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.com allow their merchants to do the same?

We asked Amazon.com, eBay, Bonanzle and Etsy about the restrictions they place on sellers when it comes to marketing to buyers. Amazon.com processes transactions on behalf of their merchants, while eBay is "only a venue" - does that make a difference in how they approach the issue?

We now ask you, the sellers, what you think. If you sell an item on eBay, can you then market to that buyer? What about on Amazon.com, Etsy or Bonanzle?

Please visit the AuctionBytes survey on the SurveyMonkey website and answer four simple questions to give us a snapshot of what you think. We'll then compare the answers from sellers and from marketplaces and publish the results in the next issue of AuctionBytes-Update, and see if there's a general agreement about, whose customer is it, anyway?




Comments (49) | Permalink

Readers Comments

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Buck Efay

Thu Nov 5 22:00:51 2009

Who are they buying the goods from? Me. Whose customer are they? Mine. My return address is my website address & I often include coupons for a website discount with order, I can afford to if I'm not paying huge fees to Ebay. I'm not like Ebay's diamonds however, and send unsolicited spam junk email, even though I have stacks of emails I could harvest. I used to never include these kind of things, but what's good for the Diamonds....

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: RicRoe

Thu Nov 5 22:31:26 2009

IMO...

The buyer is purchasing goods from the owner of the inventory.

When I pay to list on eBay, I am renting the space from eBay to promote and sell my inventory as if I were renting physical space from a landlord.

eBay has no right to claim a buyer as 'theirs' unless and until they are the one offering the goods for sale.

When a buyer completes a purchase, they are buying merchandise I own, thus the buyer is MY customer.

As such, I should be free to market to my customers in any way I feel will encourage that customer to return and make future purchases.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: kw

Thu Nov 5 22:32:29 2009

Over the years ebay made it quite clear through policy changes that the buyer of my items belonged to ebay.  Ebay is quite good at sending unsolicited email to all members.

I now sell on Bonanzle where buyers have the option of checking a box if they want email from me.  There is also open communication between buyers and sellers ... no hiding addresses or IDs or monitoring messages between parties.  The difference between the two sites is like night and day.

I'm not familiar with Etsy and haven't sold on Amazon but both have far better reputations than ebay.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

This user has validated their user name. by: Pete

Thu Nov 5 22:38:32 2009

eBay is a web space/server provider...NOTHING else

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: fruity

Thu Nov 5 22:51:56 2009

They're ebays customers until theres a question on liability, taxes or federal inquiry. Then they become the sellers customers. haha

Ebay in general can't admit that they are treating sellers here like vendors. If they did, then sellers would actually see how their business fits in, similar to how Amazon is. But ebay can't. Because 1) that means they're accepting the liability, the affiliate tax and other taxation.

Plus its important for ebay to make sure all us Mom & Pop shops, the Veterans, the disabled and the otherwise smaller small businesses still believe we're in charge of this ship, because ebay needs to continue to use us as shields to all your congressmen to stop legislature that actually would protect you from ebay. lol

Oh and then also, they would spook out the retailers because then they would start looking at ebay as data mining them and potentially competiting (similar to Amaz)

Plus, you would probably also figure out how their paypal system is really working,and then you would go rat them out to the IRS and the Department of Justice for the bounty.

Ebay will do whatever they can to make sure you think what they want you to think, as long as they can reap the bounties and make you liable, even when you actually are not. Sellers want these buyers to be our buyers, and there's nothing wrong with it. But when you pair the liability and the degree of control and bullying by ebay to do something, then they become head master over your business and that goes beyond the defense shield they've been running with

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: fruity

Thu Nov 5 22:55:04 2009

Oops but in general, they are my buyers. Ebay sends them MY ADDRESS on the newsletter emails. And I keep all those addresses and I market to them all I want. In fact, ever change I get I tell them what EBAY BROKE THIS WEEK

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Loops

Thu Nov 5 23:02:19 2009

They are my customers. I include well designed business cards promoting my website with every order. The customer gets more choices, more payment options, and a site tailored for my type of product. I get high margins and less customer emails. It's a win-win!

Ebay is the ultimate customer finder site for your ecommerce website. Ebay gets the first customer and from that point on they are your customers.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Loops

Thu Nov 5 23:03:22 2009

Ebay is the ultimate customer finder site for your ecommerce website. Ebay gets the first sale and from that point on they are your customers and you get the rest.  

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Adam Bertram

Thu Nov 5 23:34:06 2009

Amazon will lay the smack down upon you if you followup with your customers after the sale. Ive learned that the hard way when I sent out an email to my previous customers and was reported to Amazon.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Buck Efay

Fri Nov 6 00:00:20 2009

Thanks for the tip! But you can include a packing slip;)And a return address is a must, LOL!

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Joyful

Fri Nov 6 00:13:18 2009

Amazon makes it very clear to us sellers that the customers are theirs. I suppose the others claim the same.
Buying on eBay is a pita, and if I find a seller I want to continue buying from, I try to persuade them to sell elsewhere or directly to me.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: sonia

Fri Nov 6 01:49:10 2009

As far as I'm concerned, when a website takes away ALL the hassle for me as a seller and markets well etc., then I'm happy to consider any buyers THEIR customers.  Case in point, Alibris.  Every order generated prints a packing slip which I enclose with my sales. The packing slip has a discount coupon for future purchases on Alibris.  I'm happy to enclose it with my items because all I do is check for orders, pack and ship.  End of the year I print out my sales records for tax purposes.  Twice a month I get a bank deposit. Couldn't be easier.

Ebay, on the other hand --- well, it's why I'm not selling there any more.   When a site takes as much effort as eBay does, darn tootin' they're MY customers and I happily took them with me.
Cheers.  Sonia

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Marvin

Fri Nov 6 04:57:41 2009

Because of the control ebay exercises over your listing it is ebay not you doing the selling, you are providing a product for ebay to market, at least until there is no more money to be made for ebay then it's your baby.

In a rational sane system you as a business person and product owner should be the seller. ebay is providing a service to you in exchange for money so you would be ebays customer not the buyer. The buyer would be your customer not ebays.

Unfortunately you are not free to market or promote your product in a way that works best or is most beneficial for you. Your communication with a prospective buyer is heavily controlled by ebay. ebay not you decides whether or not a buyer gets a full refund including shipping cost. ebay policies and promotions are not neutral they are heavily buyer oriented so ebay clearly sees the buyer as their customer.

When the money runs out or there is responsibility to be taken then it is you not ebay that must deal with it.

The law of supply and demand the most basic economic fundamental does not exist on ebay. Consumer choices are severely limited. You can have the hottest product on the market, brand new at the cheapest price around yet get little or no exposure in search results. As a result the consumer buys the same product, refurbished at three times your price from a diamond seller.

Only congress can make laws but you wouldn't know that based on ebay policies and user agreement. You are the business owner, it's your product. You know your business, you know your product and you know your customers. If you cannot run your business, promote your product and deal with your customers on your terms then you are not the one running the business.

Get a website, open a brick and mortor store, sell on ecrater, other websites, flea markets or whatever and you run your business, you decide how to sell and promote your product, you make all the decisions, you decide how to deal with your customers. You are the seller.

Put it on ebay and that's not the case anymore. Not since donahoe took over with his "Disruptive" marketing and calling any user concerns over the negative impact his policies were having on thier business as "Noise".

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Luke

Fri Nov 6 05:08:47 2009

You have to think about this from the customer's perspective.  Particularly on Amazon, customers like the idea that the transaction, their customer details, their privacy policy etc. are handled by Amazon and not the merchant directly.  If I buy something from a Merchant on Amazon, that merchant has no idea what emails I have opted into or out of.  It's not good to assume it's okay to spam that customer.

On eBay I'm less clear on this.  I'd say it's fair game to use it for acquisition of customers.  However I still wouldn't assume that just because a customer orders from you that they want to receive follow-up marketing.  You should ask for their active consent on that.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Calvin

Fri Nov 6 06:16:20 2009

The customer purchasing on ebay is ebay's product which they market to their customers, the sellers. Unfortunately they seem to spend most of their time focused on improving the product rather than getting customers to purchase said product which would in turn improve the product.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Ebay Pays My Minimum Monthly Payment

Fri Nov 6 09:00:38 2009


It depends. According to EBay if the transaction goes smooth then they're Ebay's customers. If there's a problem with the transaction then they're your customers.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: Patrick

Fri Nov 6 09:27:36 2009

It's my customer which drives me to provide customer service and ensure a smooth transaction.
The key is trying to get the customers to follow to Bonanzle. Have to be patient!

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: John

Fri Nov 6 11:15:20 2009

This isn't a cut and dry issue. Yes, I provide the customer service and product. However, ebay did the advertising to get the customer in front of me. The landlord of a brick-&-mortar isn't doing advertising for the renter of the space.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: eBay has a bridge to sell you...

Fri Nov 6 12:22:29 2009

One point which hasn't seem to be addressed is that whoever is buying from you is buying on eBay, even though it is your product.  The key here is that you are a 3rd party seller when you sell on an online venue.

eBay doesn't look out for you, that is a fact and only someone new or ignorant would promote their own website through eBay.  When you get a sale, you have their e-mail address and that is yours to do whatever you wish, whether eBay or any other vernue for that matter likes it or not.

If you do a generic e-mail advertisement that is not linked in any way, shape, or form to any transaction on eBay, you are in the right.  My advise for anyone doing this is to send it from a different e-mail address than what is associated to eBay or PayPal.

On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?   On Marketplaces, Whose Customer Is It, Anyway?

by: eBay has a bridge to sell you...

Fri Nov 6 12:27:41 2009

One other thing, the buyer doesn't care what you go through as a seller.  They want their product and want it fast and hassle free.

Marketing you own product after a sale can generate positive results but can also generate negative as well given how the person buying from you feels about eBay.  We as sellers hate the company for it's deceiptfull practices but most buyers don't feel that way.  If they did they wouldn't be on it to begin with.  That's why it's best to keep the two entities seperate (you as a seller on eBay and you as a seller on your own site) as much as possible and let the product your advertising speak for itself.

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