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Sun Apr 11 2010 23:05:51

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

By: Ina Steiner

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It doesn't take a PhD to identify an iPhone, but you have to have some expertise to know that McCoy never made a Red Riding Hood cookie jar, despite the fact that some sellers identify the cookie jars they're selling as such. The area of antiques and collectibles has always presented a unique challenge for eBay, even back in the day when they had category managers. Reproductions remain a serious problem for honest antiques and collectibles dealers…so what's a marketplace to do?

Information the company shared with its Voices community members last Fall, as well as a new survey eBay is conducting, may give an indication as eBay's plans to counter the fact they do not have paid antiques and collectibles experts on staff.

Hearing Voices
eBay told members of its "Voices of the Community" program last October it was considering more community interaction and feedback in the collectibles category. Some of the actions it outlined included:
  • Regular call with Collectibles Voices members
  • Forum of 500 -closed discussion board for providing feedback and monthly surveys
  • "Letters to Collectibles" - like "letters to the editor" where everyone can email their input for the category
  • Loosen rules and restrictions of the eBay Boards.
  • Categorize original vs. reproduction and antique/vintage vs. new items, possibly with Item Specifics & Demarcation of 20 yrs old or older as antique/vintage
  • Combat fraud onsite leveraging the expertise of the community
  • Further Refine Best Match
  • Implement Catalogs, such as Krause's and Beckett's
Allowing community members to provide information to eBay (for free) is a double-edge sword. The sharing of information - known as crowd-sourcing - can provide a goldmine of information (see "eBay Restricts Shoppers' Ability to Solicit Advice on Fakes" - Link). But could also open eBay up to liability issues if they don't act on such information (see "eBay Found Negligent after Failing to Heed User Warnings" - Link). Perhaps eBay believes that by bringing it behind closed doors by using a closed discussion board, it could better manage the process.

Survey says,...
Questions from a recent survey echo the Voices "Brainstorming Session" that eBay is considering adding a field for sellers to fill in where they would designate collectible items as "original" or "reproduction," and reveals it may allow sellers to classify their items as reprints and modern reproductions.

eBay is also considering adding a field for sellers to designate the date or time period of collectibles. Anyone selling collectibles is likely familiar with the question of what can be classified as vintage, and what can be classified as antique, for example.

It's not clear whether eBay would make those fields optional or not.

Another question in the survey indicates eBay is also considering updating the current category structure, including reducing - or increasing - the variety of subcategories.

Too Late for Community Approach?
eBay has tried hard in the past several years to change their image - some have called it eBay's Amazonification strategy - and many sellers feel those changes have hurt the collectibles category.

It may be a big assumption to think "the community" is still willing to share their expertise with eBay for free.




Comments (42) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 00:08:07 2010

"It may be a big assumption to think "the community" is still willing to share their expertise with eBay for free."

a very big assumption. most of the real collectibles sellers are probably trying to run their own businesses and continually adjust to ebays latest changes.  i know that i would not be willing to give my book expertise away on ebay so someone else could sell a book.  which it actually surprises me to say that since i'm really free with info to anyone that asks me.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Fruity This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 00:11:37 2010

If they do, then sue em like AOL. AOL used us games players as their labor force. We should all get stock options, 401. Paid sick time, etc. Ebays already profiting from all our photography, research etc and we dont get a dime. Police and provide services for them? Yeah right. I'd rather work for the government and snitch ebay out for not practically abetting the counterfeiters and the degree they shrug off accountability. Its not just "collectibles", it's ART and ARTIFACTS. All the art that's ripped off being sold from hong kong is ridiculous and the grave robbers. But I guess they were made for each other

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Fruity This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 00:12:32 2010

and I don't subscribe to Collectibles being the problem child. The problem is ebay's management. They are without question inept

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Angela

Mon Apr 12 00:24:59 2010

It's just really dumb for eBay to try to micromanage every item listed on the site.  Every step they've taken to make eBay safer for the lowest common denominator has resulted in a decrease in both the number of buyers and the amount of quality items on the site. I'm sorry to hear they're going to start meddling even more.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: kw

Mon Apr 12 00:46:06 2010

Doesn't ebay know that most serious collectible sellers that have expertise in their fields have already moved on?  They're busy selling elsewhere and I can't imagine they want to give up their time and knowledge for free to the one site that ripped them off for years.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Leesantiques

Mon Apr 12 01:22:11 2010

Years ago, Ebay started a group who's purpose was to fight fraud in the antiques and collectibles field.  It was run by someone at Ebay - who vanished along the way.  The group was orphaned, and ignored.  I was part of that.  

Ebay management has repeatedly shown, as documented both in articles here and on (mostly, sad to say, deleted) the chat boards, that it will do nothing to fight fraud in the antiques and collectibles field.  

I stopped listing on Ebay, after being a Power Seller for years, some 2 1/2 years ago - the changes that Ebay was making are simply too anti-seller, and their refusal to not only fight fraud themselves but to interfere with the efforts of others to fight fraud combined to make a continued presence there undesireable.

Would I go back and help them?  Yes - if there was compensation.  If there were real efforts being shown by management to actually fight fraud.  If communication between sellers was facilitated and not blocked.  If fraudulent and misleading descriptions and listings were promptly taken down.  Etc.  

They need a paid staff of experts to advise them on these things.  

They also really should break off (and I suggested this to their management several years ago) the following catagories:  Art, Antiques, Collectibles, out of print Books, Jewelry that isn't currently being made, etc. and form an entirely different division.  

Get us all out from under the electronics/clothing/other new stuff.  We don't belong there.  Totally different audiences, buyers, sellers, knowledge base.  As AuctionBytes and others have repeatedly pointed out over the years.  

This would allow for different selling and buying policies that would more properly reflect the different types of markets.

Lee

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Terezi

Mon Apr 12 01:23:51 2010

It's sad that Ebay regards collectibles as it's "problem child", since that is how EBay started - as venue for selling collectibles! (although the story that Pierre Omidyar started it to sell his wife's Pez collection is apparently a made-up marketing gimmick).

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: RicRoe This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 01:42:14 2010

Once again the incredibly challenged management at eBay is trying to fix the very things they have broken.

Collectibles sellers were treated like bastard red headed step children since John Donahoe joined eBay.

The special needs of their category were wholly and completely ignored by management which was more concerned with making eBay over to be a horrendous imitation of Amazon.

It is no wonder sales are down across eBay, as many of the best collectible sellers left eBay as soon as it was obvious that eBay's makeover made it impossible for them to continue. Management has had their salaries cut because eBay's volume has declined. Much of the decline can be attributed to the exodus of sellers especially in the collectibles categories. When the best sellers left, so did their buyers.

Many voiced their concerns, but the CEO referred to them as ''noise'' and blatantly ignored their protests.

Entering the third year of John ''Noise'' Donahoe's failed makeover, he now realizes that he needs to listen to the collectibles people in an attempt to rebuild the category. Fat chance.

Why would these sellers consider helping eBay at this stage of the game? Many of the best sellers ''Noise'' already alienated have found new homes, with fees much lower than eBay's ''Lowest Fees Ever''. Their sales are good, they do not need eBay and the micro management of every detail of every transaction.

Management anticipates that collectible sellers suddenly have a reason to trust eBay? eBay's current management is notorious for asking sellers questions and then proceed to ignore the suggestions and go in the opposite direction anyway. Nothing new there.

After decimating the ranks of the most qualified collectibles sellers by their actions, management is now expecting these very same sellers to pitch in and consult with eBay?

This is the perfect example of the management incompetence sellers across eBay have been screaming about for the past 3 years.

Without a complete management house cleaning, collectibles sellers should rightfully have zero confidence that their voices will be heard or that their opinions will make a difference. This management team has proven time and again that their efforts to work with sellers to ''improve'' eBay only results in further damage to a once successful market segment.

This appeal is a pitiful attempt by incompetent management to revive the very category they themselves decimated.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 01:43:55 2010

Good old cheapskate Ebay - still trying to get free help from the very people they've been beating on for the past 2 1/2 years!  This sounds very much like the old community watch teams.  I was on one of those teams in the arts categories and I can tell you from experience - Ebay is presented with fraud over and over again and does nothing more than perhaps a slap on the seller's wrist.  I see this as a joke and anybody who gives Ebay their help for free is an outright fool.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Jane C

Mon Apr 12 01:56:57 2010

"Categorize original vs. reproduction and antique/vintage vs. new items, possibly with Item Specifics & Demarcation of 20 yrs old or older as antique/vintage" - now lets get this clear
1980s to present - "used"
1960s to 1980s - "vintage/retro)
1910 to 1960s - "vintage"
year dot to 1910 (ie 100years and over) - "antique"

It really gets my goat to see an item obviously produced only, say in the WW2 era, described as an antique -it's not.

This is why a lot of buyers are confused and distrustful of descriptions for collectables.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Mon Apr 12 02:28:51 2010

eBay worried about any type of fraud? Not likely.

“Tiffany & Co and eBay Continue to Battle Over Infringement”
http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries
/media/tiffany--ebay-continue-battle-infringement/

“EBay
argued to the court that it has spent as much as $20 million annually to rid the site of fraud, including buyer protection programs and employees whose sole job is to monitor infringement issues.”

And is not that the nub of the problem? eBay is spending (only) $20 million annually to rid the site of “fraud, including buyer protection programs and employees whose sole job is to monitor infringement issues”.

On his way to virtually bringing the eBay marketplace to its knees, one person—the eBafia Don himself—was effectively taking home $20 million annually—and still we can’t get rid of him either …

Let’s face it, anything to do with the proactive protection of its consumers from fraud is an expense that the bean-counting toads at eBay have little intention of incurring. Indeed, just the opposite, eBay has chosen to deliberately, and criminally, facilitate the defrauding of its buyers by unscrupulous sellers, by their masking of bidding aliases, from which they profit from a higher FVF.

And, I keep wondering when they are going to pay stockholders a dividend out of all that cash they supposedly have stashed away overseas. Or is this whole business simply a short-term “pump and dump” exercise for the benefit of the options-holding executives?

For those with a longer attention span, an evening’s entertainment of details and facts on eBay’s deliberate facilitating of wire fraud on its consumers world wide and a list of links to a number of PayPal horror stories is contained in my post at:
http://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=6502877


eBay/PayPal:
Dead Men Walking

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Mister Tubbles

Mon Apr 12 02:42:29 2010

"Anyone selling collectibles is likely familiar with the question of what can be classified as vintage, and what can be classified as antique, for example."

Everything is vintage. The question is, what vintage is it? Can this country get any dumber? Don't answer that.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Rich

Mon Apr 12 02:55:55 2010

Gee.  Ebay management has a good idea? Have collectible sellers say whether an item is an original or a reproduction?  And to give an idea of date?  High school drop outs would have thought of this from day 1; so why did it take Ebay's upper management "team" from Harvard, Yale and Princeton; 15 years to think of this?  Instead of fee hikes and driving sellers and listings away; others here might not agree with me but I think this is a good idea.  At least it's not a greedy financial instrument

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Listen People

Mon Apr 12 06:17:19 2010

PLEASE sellers and buyers : Albany NY newspaper wants your horror stories about Ebay. Times-Union at
http://blog.timesunion.com/parenting/7438/a-chance-to-study-under-
the-ebay-master/



Ina,
they want to know what really goes on at corrupt eBay!

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Felix The Cat

Mon Apr 12 06:20:34 2010

eBay is as corrupt as they come. And it's getting worse. You mightb want to invsetigate before you waste your time & money there. The site has been losing buyers and sellers in the thousands daily. In fact, recently eBay and Paypal it's ugly sister was sued and LOST yet again another lawsuit worth millions to a Euroepean court that claims and proved eBay helped and promoted shaddy and fraud on it's site.
As a seller/buyer/ or just browsing you be better off and SAFER to visit Bonanzle.com, iOffer.com, Alibris.com, Biblio.com or the many other sites that are better, safer, and growing. eBay is NOT where you want to lose your money and wares.
Don't believe me? Check out the REAL truth on daily slezey eBay rules and regulations that change to attack sellers at AuctionBytes.com. The horror stories are real and there is real lose at eBay. All the while it's ex-con woman is running for the next Governor in calif!




That's a good example what the Albany NY Times-Union newspaper is looking for. The TRUTH!

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Mon Apr 12 08:17:32 2010

In my area of collectible selling, a repro vs original designation and possibly a subcategory for same would cut out much of the items which could be considered "decorations" and not worthy of a serious collector.

The question I have is in the area of photographs. With the advent of digital printing, there SHOULD be a designation for chemically developed vs printed. In the not so near future, without good a good loupe or magnifier, it will be impossible to tell from an image at 72dpi [your screen's resolution] whether it is "real or HP laserjet". The best tip off is the feel of the paper.

So eBay has its work cut out for it, should it decide to pursue collectibles in a meaningful manner.

The question is can they do it right the 1st or 2nd time. Their track record, to be generous, is poor to failing.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: old timer

Mon Apr 12 08:37:37 2010

Why would anyone consider sharing their expert knowledge with eBay?  All this is eBay's way of getting its users (or more accurately, "usees" since most of us are being pretty well "used" by eBay) to provide more free value to eBay.

There is a value to any expert's knowledge, knowledge that is accumulated by the expert's time, effort and expense.  In recent years, I think eBay management has been very clear at how little they value our time and efforts.

eBay has done so much to destroy the collectible markets.  And now they expect us to jump at the chance to transfer more of our knowledge to them.  And for what in return?  A thriving collectibles site?  Not likely on eBay!

How stupid can WE be if we swallow this pitch?  We are far better off spending the effort on our own businesses.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Larry Vorpagel

Mon Apr 12 08:53:49 2010

This is stupid!!!  If I make a mistake in listing a collectible I always get either a very nice person or sometimes a JERK that explains the mistake I have made.  Usually the JERKS are wrong!

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Jim Kamnikar

Mon Apr 12 09:57:41 2010

Hilarious. Having run an antiques and collectibles marketplace for 15 years, I can tell you with certainty this plan will not work. I've been at antique shows where one expert dealer says, ''yes, it's Galle'', the next expert says ''no'' and the third can't tell.

A wise man (Rinker) once told me what CAVEAT EMPTOR means. The trade knows that you can use your resources to make an assumption, but inevitably everyone makes mistakes. eBay didn't get this right when they had category managers; no way it can ever work even if they get the community behind it.

Such is the world of collectibles.

eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles   eBay's Problem Child: Collectibles

by: Ron

Mon Apr 12 10:12:00 2010

It's obvious that eBay's present management never understood the collectibles/antiques segment of the site, which is rather ironic since those categories were the main engines of growth for eBay at its genesis.  The auction process is best suited to those categories as pricing is best left to the market to ascertain.  There's a difference between establishing a price point for a newly manufactured product versus deciding how desirable or rare an old, no longer made object is and how much that it might be worth.

Furthermore, there was never a major problem in those categories with fraud.  The community self-policed and collectible buyers are very knowledgeable - as Larry so aptly put it, if a mistake was ever made, the community let the seller know it.

Rather, the problem is and still continues to be with branded items, especially luxury goods, especially "designer" items and electronics.

Amongst the many mistakes that this management team has made, is subjecting the collectibles and antiques categories to the same search functions and regulations as newly manufactured goods.  It really takes a clueless person to not understand the difference between the two market segments and the need to treat them in a totally different way. Instead, they have "buried" collectible postings under a ton of fixed price new offerings in the searches and have chased the collectibles dealers and buyers away with repressive policies and unneeded intervention in the relationship between buyer and seller in those categories.

That's why eBay, while once a perfectly efficient and effective marketplace, is now losing ground and becoming a very confused place to do business.  It's simply a miscomprehension on the part of the present management of the original value proposition.

eBay needs to stop injecting themselves and acting as "control freaks" in those categories.  Go back to how eBay functioned originally.  Admit your mistakes, make a management change, apologize to small sellers, and make an earnest attempt to return to a sane trading environment.

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