|Thu Mar 18 2010 11:50:12|
Do eBay's 'Glitches' Benefit Its Bottom Line?
By: Ina Steiner
Talk to an eBay seller, and they would be hard-pressed to give you an example of when an eBay glitch actually put money in the merchant's pocket. Invariably, eBay's screw-ups cost sellers money and time. AuctionBytes is increasingly receiving feedback from readers who question the timing of many of the problems and eBay's inadequacy in communicating these issues to its community.
Many of the complaints received contend that eBay's glitches are not mistakes - and point to end-of-quarter mistakes as shenanigans to beef up the company's quarterly financial reports. A recent example, which I wrote about on Tuesday, involving refunds through PayPal, prompted this email from a reader:
Why does Auctionbytes persist in calling an ongoing pattern and practice of stealing money from sellers "glitches?"
These are NOT glitches just like double listings, phantom relistings, and billing "errors" are NOT glitches. They are part of an ongoing theft and fraud strategy ebay uses, and I think it's about time auctionbytes called it out for what it is.
In the case of the PayPal refund problem, eBay actually inserted instructions onto a page so that sellers who needed to issue refunds to their buyers failed to receive credit for fees on the refunded amount. Another reader wrote to me in an email:
As the owner of a web site, like yourself, we certainly do understand that glitches happen. But if I ever have a Glitch that seems to rewrite an entire paragraph into legible instructions - TOTALLY out of the blue - I will be convinced of "ghosts in the machine.
What makes such problems worse is that eBay does not automatically credit sellers for its mistakes. Usually it's up to sellers to a) notice the mistake, and b) go out of their way to request a credit (the company does not make that easy).
Neither eBay nor PayPal notified sellers of the PayPal refund problem, despite having announcement boards that exist to notify users of technical issues (here for eBay and here for PayPal). eBay's failure to communicate glitches is typical.
PayPal spokesperson Sara Gorman wrote in an email to AuctionBytes on Tuesday about the refund issue:
This is a glitch and should be fixed sometime next week. This happens when customers search by invoice on their PayPal history pages. There are two refund sections: One that has the refund link and tells customers that they can refund up to to 60 days; and one toward the footer that states that they have to use the Send Money tab to initiate the refund. We know that this is confusing and are working to fix it as quickly as possible.
In a follow-up email, she said that "merchants should call PayPal if they used Send Money to refund their customers, and we will issue a credit."
One seller told me he spent 25 minutes with PayPal on the phone about the PayPal refund issue and said they failed to mention that there was a link on the page that he could use that worked properly and would have given him immediate credit for the fees.
eBay is a mature company, and it has billions of dollars at its disposal to fix mistakes and ensure sellers are credited for overcharges. At a minimum, it needs to do the following:
- Communicate such problems by posting them on Announcement Boards and in sellers' My eBay accounts;
- Make sure customer service representatives are aware of such problems and make it easy for sellers to get quick and accurate answers;
A seller wrote on a comment in the AuctionBytes "Letters to the Editor" blog about another problem - this one involving credits for Store fees, "The convenient manipulation and management of ''glitches'' by eBay to falsely enhance their bottom line should be investigated."
- Automatically refund sellers for glitches that occur rather than waiting for sellers to request the money owed them.
It certainly seems fair to ask what happens to money that eBay collects from sellers that is not owed to the company and is not returned to sellers.