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Thu Jan 7 2010 23:43:53

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay CEO John Donahoe spoke at several conferences in the fall during which he talked about the importance of small sellers and eBay's role in small-business job creation. Mr. Donahoe spoke on a panel, "Leading in Crisis: Personal Stories," at the University of Minnesota on September 17, 2009. In his talk, he revealed that in September 2008, eBay cancelled its television advertising campaign because it chose to give discounts to buyers, since big retailers were heavily discounting products due to the economic crisis.

Mr. Donahoe explained that while Macy's could afford to have a poor quarter, eBay sellers could not. "We were going to spend $120 million in TV advertising last fourth quarter and we stopped it a year ago right after Labor Day and said, we're going to give that as discounts to people buying on eBay. So that, in essence, forms as discounts to those small business people - sellers. Because they couldn't afford to provide the discounts."



Mr. Donahoe also spoke at a recent conference in Washington, DC entitled, "Empowering E-consumers: Strengthening Consumer Protection in the Internet Economy," where he again talked about the importance of small sellers and the concept of the "level playing field" eBay founder Pierre Omidyar had promulgated.

There seems to be a disconnect between Mr. Donahoe's words and actions, perhaps due to ambivalence about eBay's reliance on small independent sellers. Under Mr. Donahoe's leadership, eBay has courted large retailers and national chains offering them special deals. The company created a special onramp for large retailers' volume of inventory that directly competes with the small sellers. However, you wouldn't know that from watching these videos. Evidently, sitting on a panel with other CEOs and chatting about giving special pricing deals to Buy.com or TigerDirect does not have the same appeal as lending a helping hand to small "mom & pop" merchants.

It's increasingly apparent that eBay trots out small sellers the same way politicians wheeled out "Joe the Plumber" during the last presidential campaign. People can relate to small, struggling businesses much better than large mega-sellers.

In 2008, when eBay pulled back their TV advertising to give cash back and coupon promotions to buyers, why didn't eBay also take some of the pressure off of sellers by offering the simplest, most effective way for eBay to encourage sellers to discount their inventory - lowering fees.

Imagine the good public relations that would have come from eBay announcing it was lowering seller fees to help small businesses in an economic crisis. It would also have gotten a lot of attention in the press, driving traffic to the site, and perhaps would have kept buyers coming back for more. Best of all, it would have fit in with the values that Mr. Donahoe espouses in his speeches - valuing and empowering the small seller and small businesses.




Comments (68) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: enough already

Fri Jan 8 00:20:51 2010

After reading this blog, Ina, I'm almost at a  loss for words. The level of hypocrisy is simply stunning. There is a total disconnect between reality and what JD is trying to portray as his sincerity and goodness and concern for the 'little people.'  Take a walk.  Enough already.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: mindelec

Fri Jan 8 00:29:30 2010

there is a HUGE disconnect.  the small seller is the abused child.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: kw

Fri Jan 8 00:59:55 2010

The disconnect is so huge I no longer believe JD is an earthling.  What creature in the universe stole this poor man's body?

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: indyattic

Fri Jan 8 01:00:09 2010

"It's increasingly apparent that eBay trots out small sellers the same way politicians wheeled out "Joe the Plumber" during the last presidential campaign. People can relate to small, struggling businesses much better than large mega-sellers."

That right there is brilliant, Ina.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: RicRoe

Fri Jan 8 01:10:36 2010

This article illustrates why so many people believe there is something wrong with John Donahoe.

From day one after assuming the role of CEO it is obvious to everyone that the only service John ''Noise'' Donahoe believes small sellers are entitled to is lip service.

Virtually without exception, every system change, every policy change, every search revision has been designed to advantage the Diamond Sellers at the expense of small sellers.

Fees are no exception.

Diamond sellers drag tens of thousands of listings to eBay and Mr Donahoe charges them nothing to list those items. Diamond sellers flood search at the expense of smaller sellers. Diamond sellers have been allowed to continue to have no skin in the game, while small sellers struggle to achieve visibility for their listings.

Meanwhile, fees for all but Diamond Sellers continue to increase in order to subsidize the Diamond Sellers flood of slow moving items.

It would surprise no one to find out that Noise Donahoe also discounts Final Value Fees as well as PayPal fees for his favorite class of sellers, while small sellers continue to pay full fare across the board.

From day one it has been obvious that Noise Donahoe talks a good game but is short on delivering on his promises.

Noise Donahoe promised Best Match would bring buyers back to eBay, yet sales are in decline.

Noise Donahoe promised Diamond Sellers would bring buyers back to eBay, yet sales are in decline.

Noise Donahoe promised that new feedback and DSR system which favors volume sellers not small sellers, would give buyers more confidence in eBay sellers and help drive sales, yet sales are in decline.

Noise Donahoe promised discounts to buyers last year would bring buyers back to eBay, yet sales declined.

Noise Donahoe promised a multi million dollar TV ad campaign this holiday season would bring buyers back to eBay, and the results have not been released. I am betting eBay once again will report a decline in sales this holiday season.

What we have is a neophyte CEO that from day one has dismissed the community value of eBay. He has  heavily censored discussion boards, suspended posters for offenses (real or imagined), and pitted buyers and sellers against each other to destroy that sense of community. As the community of eBay eroded, so went eBay's sales volume.

The responsibility for the steady decline at eBay rests squarely on Noise Donahoe's shoulders.

Some say that no matter what, Donahoe's job is safe until after Meg Whitman succeeds or fails in her run for Governor.

eBay's long term survival may not be able to suffer through 10 more months of Donahoe's incompetence.

If eBay waits until after elections in November to make a complete management change, then eBay will likely be damaged beyond repair.



Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: Paul

Fri Jan 8 01:16:35 2010

The fact that all but the most casual sellers have started online stores and listings outside of eBay shows how much sellers are frustrated by eBay.  Most, I expect, would abandon eBay altogether if they could generate enough sales elsewhere.

I used to be proud to be an eBay seller.  Now my business cards promote only my eCrater store, which has been getting better sales, but far below what I need to quit eBay.  Hopefully the break is not too far off.  And it's not only that eBay/PayPal fees are too high, I just feel dissed by eBay.  That said, I hope eBay can hold onto our buyers for now--eBay still provides a significant part of my income.  

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: enough already

Fri Jan 8 01:17:22 2010

Okay, more words are coming:  Paying lip service, for example.  And only John Donahoe could interpret his cancellation of advertising as a charitable gift to the Moms and Pops because instead of advertising eBay discounted prices to buyers.  Huh? How noble of him. How about doing away with listing fees for sellers? How about deep sixing your rotten best search so that buyers could see our listings alongside the favored ones.

That was just a setup last year to set the stage for the bad 4th quarter financial marketplace news -- the economy, blah blah blah.

I just don't understand this CEO or this company.  Just let it be over sooner rather than later.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: just me

Fri Jan 8 02:28:20 2010

This is reminiscent of that laughable "Thinking Outside the Big Box"
video v=4go7g-vrzRg they put on youtube last year.

Complete lies and spin. Enough to make me hurl.
Who out there will compile some facts and figures to post a rebuttal video this that tripe?

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: Scott

Fri Jan 8 02:33:19 2010

HAH!! As if I didn't hate that smug MF'er enough already.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: Ebay's Slow Death

Fri Jan 8 03:38:34 2010

Watched the video, and WOW! Indeed, what planet does JD live on?  

When he talks, he doesn't say anything, just vague, grandiose generalizations.  He tries to make it seem like he, Ebay and Sellers are victims of a bad economy.  The only victims are the Sellers, and he has no regard for us. We all know that.  Damn, if he doesn't act all warm and fuzzy, like he is our fearless leader, and is going to make everything just fine.

Sadly, people who don't know the internal workings of Ebay believe him. They think he has such a tough job trying to make Small Sellers do things his way, so that we can finally be successful.

The man is a sociopath, and has no regard for other people.  He doesn't care who he hurts, as long as it makes him look superior and heroic. Meg was the same, and she continues trying to climb up that ladder, lying her way all the way up.

When he mentioned giving Buyers coupon discounts last year instead of advertising, it really steamed me. From what I heard, the only Buyers they were giving coupons to, were those who were leaving negative feedback and filing SNADs for refunds.  They were encouraging fraud. File a SNAD, get your money back, keep the item, and get a nifty coupon.

Great article Ina!  Thanks for posting the video. That man is pathetic!

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: Marvin

Fri Jan 8 05:45:23 2010

It’s called propaganda. John donahoe is the “Minister of Propaganda”  for ebay spreading misleading information for a cause, ebays image. It’s criminal. Statements, charts, maps, figures all designed to make ebay appear to be something it’s not.

The problem is someone needing to support their family and pay bills is sitting back listening to this crap seeing ebay as the answer to all their problems. They will go into debt spending  money on ebay listings with an unrealistic hope and no comprehension of the abuse they will be open to at the hands of ebay.

If any money starts coming in, paypal to protect us all  will seize the money coming into their paypal account because they are new and untrustworthy.

In the meantime in a well thought out orchestrated plan ebay is using and mopping the floor with every one they come in contact with. The media that let them come on their shows promoting the propaganda has to shut up or backtrack and explain why they let ebay use them in the first place and why the accuracy of the information they reported on ebay wasn’t checked before being put out there.

Politicians won’t speak out because every one of them they took campaign money from ebay and would have to explain why. Some don’t want to lose the ebay money in the next election so don’t alienate ebay.

The only change will be the change we make. One person at a time. As a whole we have massive power, as individuals we have little. Spend 5 minutes and become part of the whole.

Contact CNN in Atalanta. ebays upcoming meeting is not being held in Atlanta for nothing, ebay expects a free worldwide platform to present their message. Ask CNN not to let ebay use them to spread lies and misinformation and to dig deep and check their facts on ebay before reporting them.
http://www.cnn.com/feedback/

Contact your senator, in writing, by phone and by email with your ebay/paypal concerns. Your senators are there to represent your state and no one else. You might consider starting out with.
“Dear Senator,
while yourself and every other senator took money from ebay in the 2008 elections the Constitution of the Unites States of America created your office to ensure citizens of all states received equal representation in the government. You were not elected to represent or protect ebay and paypal.”

Look up your senator on the governments website:
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: ENOUGH ALREADY

Fri Jan 8 06:07:22 2010

This guy makes me want to throw up. What a pathological liar. Level playing field, yea right.

eBay sucks.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: ENOUGH ALREADY

Fri Jan 8 06:11:13 2010

@RicRoe
''If eBay waits until after elections in November to make a complete management change, then eBay will likely be damaged beyond repair.''

eBay already is destroyed beyond repair.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Fri Jan 8 07:31:38 2010

That video is the E commerce Syrup of Ipecac.

What's a small seller - the little guy WHO NEVER GETS any of the discounts on the listing days?

Small seller - the untrustworthy little wretches having their money held by PayPal?

I heard rumors that the location of one of the Little eBay Dinner Party was ordered to remove all garlic from the premises and cover the mirrors with drape, lest people discover that JD and Uncle Grief reveal no reflection.

''Fair and level playing field'' Pierre

''Something about the way this tastes,
makes me want to clear my throat.'' Gut Feeling, DEVO

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: jewelrygirl

Fri Jan 8 08:05:34 2010

eBay has done it's best to ruin small ''Mom & Pop'' Sellers under the management of Mr Donahoe.  

The words ''small sellers'' should never even come out of Mr Donahoe's mouth because he has absolutely no idea who or what he's talking about.  And, saying that he is doing something FOR small sellers is, sadly, only laughable.
But, it makes for really good press.

Mr Donahoe can be proud of the fact that he has ruined a business model that should have been thriving in bad economic times.

I sincerely hope that we-the small sellers-don't allow his rhetoric to continue unchallenged.

Thank you, Ina, for telling the truth.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: g

Fri Jan 8 08:34:45 2010

I left the comment below regarding the Letter to the Editor  on the recent fiasco on TRS emails.  I believe it is also relevant to this discussion.  I truly worry about JD's mental stability.  The only other explanation for being so very out of touch with small seller reality would be that he is one of the greatest evil corporate CEO's in recent history along with the eBay board.  Your choice.

In the meantime, I'm going back to working on my non-eBay venues.  Diversify or die with eBay.

"This stupidity really annoys me even more in light of J Donahoe's comments on USA Today a few days ago that buyers should only deal with Top Rated Sellers if they want to avoid counterfeits and scams on eBay!

How many successful corporate CEO's do you know that would make these types of PUBLIC statements that buyers should avoid doing business with the great majority of the company's sellers?  It just boggles my mind.  This isn't just disruptive, it boarders on the edge of mild insanity.  Why the board at eBay hasn't quietly sent JD to a psychologist for a mental checkup, I do not know.

What a case study eBay will make for future business classes!"

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: anon1

Fri Jan 8 09:02:58 2010

If anyone wants to see a prime example of how eBay lies through their teeth - do a search in titles only with the quotes intact for "Bakelite Style".  

Remember, boys and girls, that the use of a "qualifier" such as the word style in the TITLE of a listing is a violation of the key word spamming policy.  You can contact eBay Live Non-Help and they will verify that it is absolutely, positively a violation to use the term "Bakelite Style" in a title.  They will tell you that if you report the violation they will absolutely, positively remove those listings but that, too, is a lie.

There is one seller in particular who uses that term in their listings every single day for that awful ugly fakelite junk that is being manufactured in India.

The prices that are being charged for this newly created junk are higher than what people pay on specialty vintage AUTHENTIC Bakelite websites for the items from which the India junk is copied.

Report every listing you see like that.  None of them will ever be altered or removed.

They only punish the small sellers for doing things like that.

The seller who is the biggest violator of that particular rule violation in this particular case is a "top rated Seller".  eBay has been facilitating that same seller's fraud for years.  When the Fakelite first started showing up on eBay it was being touted by this same seller as vintage Bakelite and listed in the vintage categories, using private listings so the bidders could not be warned by their friends that they were being ripped off.  eBay never removed any of that seller's listings to the best of my knowledge.  Repeatedly reported, never removed.

I have zero doubt that if you have an interest in another vintage collecting category that is being faked in India or China or wherever, you will find the same violation by one or more of eBay's so called TRS's.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: anon1

Fri Jan 8 09:13:53 2010

BTW - include store inventory in your search.  You should find - in the jewelry category alone - over 100 listings in violation of that rule today.

Less than 10 of them are from TRS's.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: My Own Website Not Quite Paying My Bills Yet

Fri Jan 8 09:31:35 2010

"We were going to spend $120 million in TV advertising last fourth quarter and we stopped it a year ago right after Labor Day"

I'm not sure how many active Ebay accounts there are, but it's almost like giving every Ebay account a buck or two each.

Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?   Is the Small Seller the Poster Child for eBay?

by: o.c.d.collectibles

Fri Jan 8 09:52:52 2010

that's ok! I just re-tweeted this particular blog post on twitter to my 900+ followers,TWICE,(via share-alholic,twit-this) many who are politicals, and financial followers, many who sell "elsewhere" and will be "re-tweeting" the same story several times again today.

This one won't go un-noticed folks! If you tweet on twitter, follow me as @ocdgirl2000 snarky stuff about ebay, you can always say, no one there can moderate your comments!LOL! open forum, no ebay gestapos there!!

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