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Sun Nov 14 2010 17:37:41

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

By: Ina Steiner

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With holiday shopping fully underway, here's a few of the issues marketplace sellers are discussing.

Selling Toys & Games on Amazon
Each year since 2006, Amazon.com has restricted third-party sales in the Toys & Games category to pre-approved sellers during the holiday shopping season, except for items Amazon fulfills through its FBA program. Sellers reported on Thursday that official approval letters had been sent out for this season.

Amazon also reminded all sellers on Friday to monitor their Customer Metrics Scorecard frequently. "Excessive order defect rates (negative feedback, A-to-z Guarantee claims and chargebacks) can cause account suspensions and even account closures."

eBay Rolling Blackouts
eBay (and Amazon.com) sellers have talked for years about "Rolling Blackouts," a phenomenon in which they will receive very few sales over a period of time followed by a sudden increase in sales, all from the same geographic region. eBay sellers have reported a similar phenomenon occurring over the past few days in which they will get a sudden increase in orders for a brief period of time, followed by no sales or watchers at all. There's also a thread on eBay's Seller Central discussion board started on Wednesday about this issue.

Some sellers have also reported to AuctionBytes that when they search for items on a computer not their own, their items are not showing up in search results, but if they enter a specific item number of one of their items, it is displayed.

Wrote one seller, "Last week I experimented with finding my listings - when I logged into eBay and typed in one of my item types, there was my item at #3, I went to a neighbors computer and went in as an unregistered visitor and my items were NOWHERE TO BE FOUND."

These are not new issues - see this article from 2007 - but complaints crop up in clusters, as happened this week.

I spoke to a former eBay manager once about the issue of rolling blackouts. He said he hadn't ever encountered the issue, but said it was likely a coincidence or perhaps related to advertising or promotions run by eBay or a third party, such as an affiliate, that led to a spike in sales for a particular seller or type of good.

Users Miss eBay Navigation Feature
eBay apparently removed a feature that helped users navigate search results. "Please put back the "Go to page # _" at the bottom of search results pages," wrote a few posters on the eBay boards (here and here).

International Shipping Delays
Last week, a reader wrote to ask about international shipping. "You should write an article about the added delays with shipping internationally. With the recent airplane bombings in the Middle East it's taking a lot longer for any package to get through."

We checked with the USPS, and a spokesperson responded, "I checked with our international transportation folks. We have no delays currently. Outside of the restrictions imposed on inbound international mail originating from Yemen or Somalia, we're operating normally. We're working with our UPU-member nations, other national posts and our air carriers to support them with meeting the new regulations implemented by the Department of Homeland Security on inbound international mail on Nov. 5."

Let us know if you're experiencing these or any other issues!




Comments (33) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Troglodyte

Sun Nov 14 19:00:18 2010

For most of the summer in the category I sell in, I was "on" most of the time. I had multiple sales nearly day scattered randomll across the country and internationally.

Then suddenrly in mid September, Best Match returned to its previous winter/spring algorithms with some new twists, and my sales decreased 25% and remain there as of now.

Thank you, ebay. Thank you for the continuing assault on my business.

While you spend millions advertising Stub Hub, you do nothing to help your marketplace sellers. In fact, quite the opposite.

IMO, today's Best Match bears little resemblance to the original -- it's even worse.

The algorithms have become so sophisticated that many sellers are "off" altogether for a certain number of days to everyone except those who have a seller marked as a favorite seller, those who search by seller ID, those who have as specific item number, and those buyers with an "off" seller's items on their watch list.

Otherwise, no one else will be shown an "off" seller's items. Free shipping, TRS badges, recent sales, and feedback make no difference. A seller is simply invisible for a fixed number of days monthly EXCEPT FOR THE DIAMONDS.

An additional refinement has been their ability to show a seller's item by the time of day. For example, when I'm "on" my sales strongly clustered in the morning, afternoon, or evening within the superset of approximately four geographic regions.

I've also found sales of items that have been listed longer clustered together. I'll have a string of sales of older items and then it stops.

Compared to pre Best Match, it's perfectly obvious that Best Match is manipulated well beyond what ebay has revealed or is willing to reveal. What ebay is doing is so clearly illegal, I suspect it's a closely guarded corporate secret and on a need to know basis.

If and when a government agency or a civil lawsuit compels the release of this information, the extent of the illegal manipulation of listings and FTC reg violations will he breathtaking.

My belief is that ebay can ill afford to lose sellers of any size at the moment so they're manipulating Best Match so that each seller makes XK in sales every month.

Every day, when my sales reach a certain dollar amount, I'm turned off and only those buyers as described in paragraph 6 above buy anything.

Anyone who really does know just how vile this system has become could be liable for damages to sellers if they admitted it. To protect themselves, they could be lying.

Ebay is a criminal organization that creates and promotes white collar criminals. Lying is the least of their sins.


Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Sun Nov 14 21:46:27 2010

I've always been skeptical of the rolling blackout phenomenon... until recently. I'll go weeks without any international sales, and then suddenly I have a big cluster from Australia or Europe. I've had a grand total of one sale in the past week, despite many sales the week before and twice as many listings. Some inconsistency can be explained away, but the variations are too broad to be mere coincidence. Something is definitely fishy.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: John
Web Site

Sun Nov 14 22:09:22 2010

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/051810-it-should-pay-the-power.h
tml?hpg1=bn

as
quoted

With this metric in place, eBay has applied various techniques to reduce cost on a per-watt basis. It delved into virtualization and ''moved non-mission-critical applications, such as search, off the ''Tier 4'' data centers.'' These centers offer the highest level of availability, but also cost two to four times as much to operate as standard data centers.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Troglodyte

Sun Nov 14 22:34:51 2010

If I'm interpreting what John wrote, then it's probably safe to say that Diamonds always have Tier 4 visibility while he rest of us serfs have Tier 4 visibility only sporadically.

Refusing to guarantee visibility is the UA is grist for a massive class action. If our items aren't visible 100% of the time then we not receiving the service(s) we paid for.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Sun Nov 14 22:52:51 2010

eBay calling search a non-mission-critical application is troublesome!

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Quicksilver Messenger This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 14 23:32:40 2010

I had a period of sales recently where ALL of them came from Massachusetts, makes me wonder about the validity of rolling blackouts for sure. Somethings always up at eBay and none of it benefits the sellers that's for sure!

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: eBuyer Feedback This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Nov 15 05:38:30 2010

@ Quicksilver Messenger

You think that's weird?  I once had three different people with the same first name buy from me in one day.  The weird part was that two of them had the same first and last name.  Then they asked me vague questions about their orders using email addresses not associated with eBay or PayPal so I couldn't tell which buyer I was talking to.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: jsicolts

Mon Nov 15 06:26:58 2010

Just corrupt eBay playing games with sellers - that they hate. They want you gone. Blackouts = torture. If you are not a chinese junk dealer, why are you still taking ebay's abuse?

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: karma

Mon Nov 15 07:37:08 2010

Yup - for about a week now I am part of the "black out" ....

Very low views and even less sales.

Three weeks prior to that I was "on", great views and alot of sales.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Ron

Mon Nov 15 08:29:53 2010

We've been Gold Powersellers on eBay for 12 years, or should I say, were Gold.  

We sell in multiple categories and it's obvious that something's up.  We used to do very good business selling vintage clothing.  It gradually became more competitive and consequently difficult to attain good prices or sell through rates in that category.  But now, it's become impossible to sell anything at all that is clothing related.  To me, that points to an overly crowded playing field and one that's most likely tilted in favor of Diamond Sellers as fashion is a category that eBay has been pushing.

All I know is that business has become almost impossible on eBay due to low STRs and price depression.  There's no doubt that auctions, antiques, collectibles and interesting second hand items have been sublimated by being lumped in with an enormous amount of new, fixed price inventory.

eBay screwed its traditional seller base by combining Chinese Diamond Sellers with its traditional smaller sellers and subjecting everything to the same search function.  All that they had to do was start a separate website for that type of inventory.  Very shortsighted.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

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

Mon Nov 15 11:56:57 2010

If anyone needed more proof to demonstrate ebafia's criminal conduct, then why does ebafia intentionally attempt to deceive sellers into thinking their items are visible when, in fact on a clean computer, they are not.

Entities that aren't committing crimes have no need to make it seem as if they're not.

What this amounts to legally is nothing less than a massive conspiracy to commit fraud and theft that involves millions if not billions of dollars stolen from US.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Toni

Mon Nov 15 15:34:08 2010

This is all VERY troublesome because I have experienced the very same thing. It just didn't make any sense and I couldn't figure it out. I tried different strategies and nothing has worked. There are some items I don't think I could even give away. So what the hell is going on? Sounds corrupt and fishy. I will be moving on from ebay at the start of the New Year because I can't stand having no control over my business. Are the powers that be trying to bring ebay down? Because when you drive away your PAYING customers (sellers), you are going to fail. There is much more I'd like to say but others have said it much better than me! MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!(sarcasm)

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: On Lies and Secrets This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 15 16:40:28 2010

The issues with non-appearing listings due to a variety of conditions has always made me wonder whether their has been a ''meeting of the minds'' between sellers who list on ebay and the ebay corporation over exactly what a seller is supposed to receive in exchange for paying a listing fee on ebay. I personally quit selling on ebay when I could no longer be sure of exactly what I was getting in exchange for paying listing fees there.  I am not an attorney, but my understanding is that there needs to be a ''meeting of the minds'' between two parties in order for an enforceable contract to exist.

The part that alarms me are the allegations that listings show up in searches on some computers when a seller is logged in with their selling ID, but not on other searches when a seller is on a different machine and not logged into the site. I don't think sellers should have to play this many games to figure out if anyone is seeing their listing, particularly when the search is by the specific item number.

As a buyer, I don't have much confidence that the search algorithm finds all of the relevant listings for search terms (I use a whole lot of limits when I search to keep the listings for junk items out of my results).  For me, searching on ebay these days is far more difficult and is not nearly as worthwhile an effort for the time spent doing it as it used to be years ago.  I used to do searches on ebay for items related to my hobbies every single day and I built up my collections from buying (and occasionally selling) on ebay.  I no longer do this anymore.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: nadine

Mon Nov 15 17:02:16 2010

Of course eBay denies they are doing rolling blackouts. They'll always deny it. They would be massively liable if they admitted it.

The only question in my mind is whether the current rolling blackout behavior of the site is deliberate; or whether site complexity has increased to the point that nobody really understands, beyond general parameters, what it is doing or why.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: vonny*miss*piggy

Mon Nov 15 18:35:38 2010

I was part of a group that run search tests back in 2007. The tests were co-ordinated by an ebay seller who along with myself & others sellers noticed a regular Geographic sales pattern to our sales. Sales going to the same areas of the country on the same dates of each month, followed by a period of no sales, as if a switch had been turned off.

The tests revealed that mine & other sellers items could only be found by some of the searchers in various parts of various countries, other times our items could not be found by any of the searchers, not one, hence the periods of no sales.

I sold in various catagories, it did not matter if I sold a set of golf clubs or a pair of vintage shoes on a particular day when my switch was on, the items would go to the same area of the country.

I along with others have posted on numerous threads concerning the problem.

One possible reason I was given for my pattern of sales by a ebay pink,  was maybe only buyers in certain parts of a country liked the items I sold. Yet I had the same pattern of sales selling a well sought after Designer party dresses before the Christmas period.

Another reason given was I was part of some ebay test.

I stopped selling on ebay as I was no longer prepared to pay for a second rate hit & miss service.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Et tu, Brute!

Mon Nov 15 21:02:26 2010

Yes, but the rolling blackouts has been an ongoing argument with 3P sellers at Amazon for several years now.  Nothing new there.

I am really not sure what the purpose could be unless a) spread the sales across the board one way or the other or b) the servers are simply incapable of coping with increased traffic.  

Or both.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

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

Mon Nov 15 21:26:26 2010

Rolling blackouts are and have been for sometime an ebay reality worsened when their new multi million dollar Utah data center went online.

That ebay considers search a "non mission critical function" isn't news, but it is a formal admission of what many sellers have known from anecdotal evidence for several month.

Ebay isn't showing many of our items TO SAVE MONEY ON THEIR FRACKING ELECTRICITY BILL!

More importantly to ebay, however, is that these rolling blackouts tend to clear out our noisy little offerings to create more room for the Chinese garbage and make them more visible.

THIS IS AGAINST THE LAW!!!

Every single ebay employee who participates in any way in perpetrating this fraud is liable both personally and professionally in a court of law.

Ebafia, the next class action is headed your way.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Mon Nov 15 22:09:54 2010

Blackouts wouldn't be so bad if there was more exposure across the board within the 'warm' region, or had a definite purpose- like say, if they helped keep sellers' shipping costs down.

But this thing they got going on, is just plain old busted.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Rick1313

Mon Nov 15 22:33:43 2010

The kicker for me was when eBay,inc. (on their eBay.com site) posted an announcement, in July of 2009, saying that the low traffic report results were a result of a problem with their internal traffic reporting program(s) and that it would be ''fixed'' by mid-September. Rest assured, they said, that traffic volume is as it has always been.

Did not talk to one seller who believed it.

On top of that, it took until September for eBay,inc. to post the ''traffic reporting issue'' on eBay.ca.

The length's that this company will go to, to try and hide/deny their liability is really astounding.

I have an amusing story to tell (a sent email) about how eBay finally came around to state that the ''problem'' has been solved (see if I can post it tomorrow).

I tell you people, I can literally publish a book on the email exchange that I have had with eBay since August of 2009 and I would probably have a best seller.

Maybe I should and sell it on eBay, and donate my earnings to eBay,inc.'s legal defense funds.

I have a feeling they are going to have a shortfall in that department for the next few years.

Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts   Seller Issues: Shipping Delays, Amazon Toys, eBay Blackouts

by: Rich

Mon Nov 15 23:42:59 2010

I've never really seen any conclusive proof by anyone regarding rolling blackouts.  Sales can come in bunches but it might be that sellers make more sales when a lot of their items are ending soon.  I've noticed lately that my fixed price store items are showing up higher in Google searches

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