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Tue Feb 21 2012 13:45:53

Where Have All the eBay Buyers Gone?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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On a few different online groups where I hang out, there has been waxing nostalgic for the "good old days" of eBay, and a general wondering, "Where have all the buyers gone"? ("Long time passing..." - with apologies to Pete Seeger).

One eBayer, who'd just reached her ten-year selling anniversary, mused about her first sale: Winnie the Pooh bedding, curtains and a rug. "So fun watching those bids go up, up, up. A lot sure has changed. The bidding wars just don't happen like that as often anymore."

Another mourned, "I used to wake up every morning and check the 'overnights,' which is what we called them. Always bids the next day. None of this waiting 'til the last 3 seconds to get a bid. Most of what I listed sold at a good price. Sigh***. I miss the olden days!"

So where have they gone? There are various theories kicking around. eBay's tougher restrictions have just plain made it tougher to sell, weeding out the faint of heart. (Though some sellers, such as Jim Cockrum, who EcommerceBytes recently profiled, say the upside is it creates less competition). Others point to the lingering recession, recent economic numbers notwithstanding; and some say it's that many sellers have moved on to "greener pastures."

I also theorize that sellers who used to offer very low-priced bargain items, spurring those bidding wars, simply can't afford to do that anymore, with the chance of the listing ending at 99 cents, the listing fees, or even all the FVF and shipping fees if the item does sell. You need a certain guaranteed profit margin to stay in the game.

I got some anecdotal evidence of sellers going bye-bye just yesterday. Just out of curiosity, I checked the listings of my "saved sellers" on eBay. Out of 24 sellers I had saved as favorites sometime between 1999 and today, only 14 still had active listings.

What are sellers doing to cope? One seller says to hedge your bets with your own web site, and to get traffic flowing, he buys Google ads, and has good content and metatags. Another seller, who hadn't sent out a newsletter for a long time, said he had several sales after sending one out a few days ago.

All this brought to my mind, perhaps ridiculously, the little "warm fuzzy" creatures that eBay employees handed out at one eBay Live convention. Somehow that little ball of fluff encapsulates it: the warm fuzzies are just gone. How can we get them back?

What do you think about the differences between eBay years ago and eBay today? Where do you think all the sellers have gone -- or are they there, and just not buying as much? Post a comment here!

Comments (61) | Permalink

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This user has validated their user name. by: silent anarchy

Tue Feb 21 14:37:12 2012

I left ebay when paypal was made the only payment option, try listing and you cant proceed without a paypal account. Anyway, i returned to flea markets ,antique shows , militaria shows and other venues but they are not profitable anymore. Too many people keep comparing prices to ebay, so i have little or no sales. Just recently i was at a show and a customer was bringing up select items of mine to me and saying ''you have this priced at $30, it gets $10 on ebay in better condition. Well after the 3rd item i gave that murder look for harrising me, he took notice and left. Ebay has spoiled alot of people with its free shipping and penny auctions but sellers cannot keep that up forever and this bad economy is geting worse.  

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by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Feb 21 14:49:49 2012

I think the ''buzz'' of ebay as a new concept has gone.
People are bored.
They spend more time on Facebook now.
They don't have so much spare cash (GFC paying off debt etc)
There are far more online stores now. (competition)
There are other big collectible auction sites as ebay's competition.
People are going back to garage sales, flea markets, etc.
Everything is so cheap these days and with the rising cost of ebay fees, Paypal and postage it is just not worth selling some stuff.
People can't keep buying stuff ! where do they put it ?

All of these.

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

Tue Feb 21 16:37:20 2012

A lot of buyers used to be sellers.

We were taken advantage of.

eBay has left a very foul taste in the mouths of many people.

We are just waiting for the arrests.

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

Tue Feb 21 17:06:08 2012

Ah, go on, the 99centers can still bid up their own stuff; eBay really does not mind as long as they don’t make to too obvious.

The fact is the eBay marketplace is now no bigger that it was five years ago and the eBafia Don in the same time has brought on board many new big “brand” merchants; so, how much of the marketplace do these new big brands now occupy? Just for fun, say 30%. That means that 30% of the sellers/buyers who used to sell on eBay have moved on; so too have many of the buyers.

The eBay shareholders certainly are no better off, and many of those who still try to sell on eBay appear to be not happy. The only ones taking a dividend out of eBay are the headless turkeys running around the eBay executive suite.

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Feb 21 17:23:40 2012

That's an interesting barometer, Julia.

I just checked my saved sellers list... there are 22 entries total... but only 13 have active listings.

That's a loss of about 40%.

It's worth noting that I haven't added anyone to my saved-sellers list in years. --- Why? Because I don't buy at eBay anymore. There's no reason for me to support a venue that doesn't support me.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way either.

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by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 21 17:55:33 2012

A TON of the small sellers eBay so unceremoniously shoved off the site (in favor of the Asian clan of junkeroo big time sellers), were also big time buyers of unique and collectible items.

In addition to that, these small sellers sold very interesting and fun things. So when they left, a lot of the fun left. It is about as dry as the desert now, and I can go around the corner and buy the same things at Walmart, Target, etc.

These small sellers didn't just dry up and blow away, they found homes on other sites and started selling their fun items there and brought along their buyers.

So, basically, JD did what he said he was going to do with his snobby ideas of what people want to buy. Unfortunately, he failed to understand that folks love to snoop around in flea markets, yard sales and estate sales. Are they looking for Walmart junk? No, they are looking for fun and unusual things for their collections.

So JD got what he wanted. BTW, Walmart is having some problems and may be in real trouble soon. We don't know about eBay, the Walmart clone, and how this will all end up.

eBay is no longer the only place to go for the unusual. There are many others now.  

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

Tue Feb 21 19:08:19 2012

In short, the myopic policies of a clinically sociopathic former Bain vulture capitalist drove buyers away.

Then, of course, The Ho had to LIE about it by blaming sellers. He claimed buyers left because of too many dishonest sellers and sellers who left too much "retaliatory" negative feedback for "ebay's buyers."

The fact of the matter is that as has already been pointed out that many former ebay sellers were also heavy buyers who left circa 2008.

Requiring buyers to use PayPal drove many buyers away because they quite justifiably didn't trust PayPal's flimsy security and preferred to pay with money orders and/or checks. Can't wait to see what happens on 3-31. Drain your PreyPal accounts before then!

Even The Ho's new business plan to recruit petty thieves from county jails for new buyers hasn't been the smashing success he'd hoped for.

The inane playground concept didn't work.

Once understood by buyers, many are offended by its onesidedness.

With most Americans trying to figure out a plan to avoid buying Chinese, The Ho gave most favored nation status to Chinese sellers AT THE EXPENSE OF AMERICAN SELLERS.

Once many buyers understood what Best Match was really about -- the artificial manipulation of what was viewable to buyers and which favored large corporations and the Chinese over the American sellers who built ebay -- they voted with their feet and left to buy ABE. (Anywhere But Ebay)

The adoption of a business model whose goal wasn't necessarily univeral shareholder profitability but rather targeted shareholder profitability for those in upper management who receive stock options. The end result drove up seller fees and therefore prices eliminating still more buyers and sellers.

Many ebayers used to own ebay stock until it became clear that that The Ho's strategy was to stash cash away in foreign offshore accounts to avoid paying US taxes and a Pac Man like strategy of gobbling up small companies instead of paying stock dividends.


Buying up small companies either wholly or partially ate up a lot of cash as did Meg's poor management so between her and The Ho, the cash had to be made up for by giving sellers "the lowest fees ever" causing still more price increases and buyer defections.

Ebay can't even buy much love with its ebay bucks programs.

Its ad campaigns are either non existent or insulting. How mamy buyers did ebay run off with its ageist, sexist jeans commercial Red Ink Diary discussed a few weeks ago?

Another one of Ming's Laws is that ebay removes or gets removed most anti ebay speech on its own websites and some third party websites.

They use paid henchmen and women who use a variety of nasty tactics to make dissenters look like nut cases or fools or both. Their heavyhandedness in ebay's own fora should be a warning to all that ebay really cares little about buyers and nothing about sellers except for making sure they get their fees once a month.

Many buyers have left because of the despicable ways ebay has treated sellers, and sellers have been very vocal about it.

Most Americans have a sense of fair play, and ebay abandoned that concept even before The Ho's coronation.

Drip, drip, drip. Ebay lost its buyers AND sellers incrementally and will continue to do so.

It's become too much of a lethal mine field.

In summary, The Ho's unrelenting seller extermination program also exterminated a lot of buyers.

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by: jpv1234me This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 21 19:23:52 2012

Great phrase Annie "There's no reason for me to support a venue that doesn't support me."

It is truth…but many good sellers also were unreasonable waived off permanently from FleaBay thanks to suspension policy used arbitrarily. I know that the majority of suspended accounts are for illegal actions or other infringements…but I was suspended and they never told me the exact reasons for that. They sent me an email that I would like to share with all of you:


Hello userid (,

Your account has been suspended because recent account activity has raised serious security concerns. We've taken this precaution to protect our members and the eBay community.

Due to the suspension, you won't be able to use your eBay account in any way. This includes using another existing account or registering a new account.

Any outstanding selling fees are due immediately, and any amounts that you haven't previously disputed will be charged to the billing method currently on file.

We appreciate your understanding.



Please don't reply to this message. It was sent from an address that doesn't accept incoming email."


The best part of this is the "We appreciate your understanding" phrase….it hit me so hard. I was selling at this moment a huge quantity of items. Some items were VeRO items (but really originals) and non VeRo items (security alarms)...

So, I continue to selling online but the gross part of my profits are results from person to person sales…just like pre internet era. (Amazon and eCrater are now the major internet selling channels that give me considerable profits).

I was in shock at the time of my suspension…it coincided with my father's dead…and eBay was erased immediately from my priorities as my father passed away. So, I told myself that life continues and with more passion than after. I continue to paying my bills and personal loans without any problem…so it is really…there is life after Fleabay!!!!

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 21 21:15:27 2012

Where have they gone? ABE (as said quite well above). Everyone ''knows'' at this point that eBay just sucks.

Selling on eBay has become a scary venture. Every time you look at your listings you get that sick stomache turning feeling of ''what bad thing has eBay done to me NOW''.

I havent met ONE seller (and I know almost every one of them in the electronics category (I know most all of the big players in the North East US as I've worked for them at one time or another) and they all feel the same way ...

1) eBay actively works against you 2) eBay cant be trusted to ''have your back'' when theres a problem 3) eBay always seems to be in a rush to find some reason to screw you (they seem to love finding that one last magic invisible DSR to kick you off TRS! 4) Theres ''no one to talk to'' when things go wrong.

Who can you ''work with'' when you get an undeserved VERO, or get stuck with an expensive FREEbay, or have your funds held for no reason? No one. Ebay sellers feel that sence of abandonment - and it directly translates into a lack of buyers.

Sellers ''talk up'' sites they like. They tell everyone how great that specific place is, except on eBay. ''Even my wife who's never on eBay, never bought anything off eBay, saw all thier stupid commercials knows eBay sucks - stay away''. She tells her friends, they tell theirs and it spreads like wildfire ... ''yeh I heard eBay screws everyone'' ....

THAT is eBays legacy at this point.

Yes, eBay is exploring ''Fullfilment by eBay'', yes eBay will continue to use VERO illegally as a weapon against sellers, yes eBay will continue to court large retailers and manufactorers at the expense of small and mid sized sellers (JD's CES speech), and eBay will consoldate money holds - ie not pay you until 30days after the customer gets the goods, and more. They have to. They have no choice as the ship is listing to port ... HEAVILY.

I and everyone else here wants eBay to succeed, but eBay is simply determined to continue down this path - until it just becomes a large electronic shopping mall.

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by: jpv1234me This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 21 21:33:02 2012


eBay still maintains sending me promotional emails, sellers promotions and so on…obviously they do not know what really is occurring (at least, baseline personnel) but it is kind freaky and "risible" tactics that go directly to my SPAM JUNK folder. I have to give thanks to gmail because its email filter really works very well.

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by: SparklingWaters This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 00:35:00 2012

I do not think there is one answer for this but rather a mix...smarter shoppers being more wise with their money which is a result of the stressed economy, Ebay's unfair treatment of sellers resulting in fun auction products to no longer be available which as a result has created less buyers, buyers that may have had bad experiences (let's face it, one bad buyer experience can rub off on future purchases whether we like it to or not). Ebay has received bad comments much of the time. It is very possible that buyers have read these, too.

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by: mendopower This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 00:49:39 2012

Ebay is perhaps the worst managed company , with one of the best ideas in history.  The idea carried for a while, but the bad management finally ran the train off the tracks.
Giving Chinese mega sellers a HUGE advantage to sell new trash that would be rejected by the dollar store was a BIGGIE.
Ebay management seemed to have the gun aimed at the small seller.  If you listened to the highly paid IDIOTS in charge like Meg Whitman, you would see they never got what made Ebay work.  I was always a buyer and a seller, but selling is just ridiculous.  And I dont buy on Ebay either.  I used to get very cool overstock size 15 shoes, no more, now repetitive new junk that falls apart in the yard on the second day.
Ebay has succeeded in its goal to turn the worlds largest garage sale into the world trashiest, junkiest store full of overpriced and cheap imports, HUNDREDS OF US COULD SEE IT COMING AND TOLD THEM ABOUT IT BUT THEY DONT LISTEN!  

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Feb 22 00:55:37 2012

When I started selling on eBay in 2001, about 98% of what I listed sold. That went on for several years. Beginning in 2007, it was almost impossible to sell anything. I quit eBay at the end of January 2008, and then the beginning of the major changes started in February 2008.

When I was selling, most of the money I made was spent on items from other sellers on eBay. Now, I rarely buy anything there unless it's an item I cannot find on any other site, or the price of an item is so much lower than anywhere else on the internet that I can't pass up the bargain.

May hope is that people will stop automatically looking on eBay for an item they want, and instead use Google or some other search mechanism to find items they are looking for. Once the majority of online buyers realize that there are other sites "out there" with items equal to or better than can be found on eBay, that's when eBay is really going to be in trouble.

As long as eBay continues to implement policies to restrict how a seller can conduct his or her business, I believe there will be a continued exodus of sellers to other venues and their own web sites.  

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by: lonestar This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 01:05:13 2012

After nearly a decade I quit selling on ebay in the Spring of 2008.  The first few years were both fun and profitable, but as soon as JD started monkeying with the site my sell-thru rate dropped from an average of 95% to 10%.  Now I sell on other online venues as well as locally.

I will not shop on a site that treats sellers as badly as ebay does. If they rolled back the policies, fees, and rules to where they were around 2000 or 2001 a whole lot of us would be much happier.

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by: blaumann This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 01:26:44 2012

When there is enough urine in the pool, NO ONE WANTS TO SWIM. The atmosphere on ebay is so horrible buyers are no longer comfortable. Once the ebay concept was that people were good, now ebay treats its sellers like we are all felons, mad dogs and scum. Who wants to buy i that deal?
ebay's driving off of small sellers has made for less reasonably priced unique
collectible items for sale.Those items drew buyers to the site. The double fee on shipping, stars abomination and general harassment has driven off many of the sellers of exactly the type of items the average collector wants. Any market place to be successful needs to treat its sellers well. Meg and Doho are investment bank robots, they don't get that principle. ebay will slowly die. Something else will rise.

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by: Biloxims This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 03:14:30 2012

I used to be an AVID Ebay buyer. I am also an 11 year seller. I am so tired, stressed, and frustrated with all the sneaky policies that have been implemented that I am just selling what little I have left just to try to get SOME of my investment back (not aquiring any new inventory)and I don't even care anymore about getting rated and no longer fear bad feedback...I just don't care anymore! If they kick me be it! I ''cringe'' everytime I see that I have a message in my message box. I have worked so hard for years selling with ethics and great customer service only to be ''graded'' by people who don't understand the system. I will not buy on Ebay anymore because like stated above, I will not support this venue as it does not support the people that brought them to this point.I don't spend my money in any other business that treats their employees badly either, it's the principle. Not only do they not support us, they use tricky means to humiliate and demean us (the customer service reps that ALL claim they have business degrees and tell me how they believe I should run my business after 11 years as if ethics. good products and great service just wasn't good enough) and use the buyers to do it! If this was their plan to rid the site of bothersome small sellers..they should have just said so. But then again they have to wring every last penny that they can from us until we learn! And I agree that Ebay will fade away but it will be very slow. It is becoming just another everyday online catalog.

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by: used2luv2sell This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 03:24:39 2012

Ebay -don't listen to the voice of reason - just keep treating the sellers badly.  Forget that they are also buyers and wonder where so many of your buyers went?  They are the people whose funds you are holding in Paypal.  And you still expect people to BUY from you?  Can we get layaway until our funds are released? Treat me like a criminal and I'm get warm fuzzies and keep buying from you.
Bad mouthing Ebay to anyone and everyone who will listen is now a favorite pastime.  I just HEAR the word EBAY and it brings a bad taste to my mouth, which then prompts me to spurt out words like ''I HATE EBAY - THEY TREAT SELLERS SO BADLY!''  Then others want to hear my story, which I just LOVE TO TELL!  It gives me the chance to warn them NOT TO BUY ON EBAY.  When these people know that you've been on many years and feel this way, those who still never took the plunge are NOT going to test the waters.  We can scare away as many customers as you want.  
Go ahead and let China take over Ebay.  The only way I will buy direct from a China seller is if it's dirt cheap and I can get 100 friends to all buy and leave them 1's in DSR's.  Ah heck, who am I kidding, they are immune from 1's.  That's for American lowlife sellers.  Sorry, I forgot - I'll get back in my place now & won't do anything wrong and will obey all the rules set forth in the Ebay bible.  
The fact that Chinese junk is taking over the good ol Ebay just yanks my chain.

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by: pfft!! This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 05:43:26 2012

It's a SHAME JD never did his homework prior to taking over ebay.  Had he done so, he may have easily figured out a way to KEEP the current buyers and sellers AND bring in the mega sellers he wanted.

Unfortunately, he came in GUNS BLAZING and seemed to be on a CRUSADE to run off everyone.  He seemed CONVINCED that sellers were the ENEMY.
Sheesh...I can remember my ebay fees ran me anywhere from 1,400-1,800 a month when he took over.  
I NOW pay about 400.00 a month.  Big WHOOP...I'd GLADLY pay higher fees TO GET the sales (i.e. VISIBILITY....I.E. TRAFFIC) that the site USED to get before he ran all the buyers and sellers off.
He'll go down in the history of online sales as the biggest BUFFOON (sp?) in a LONG time. many LONG time
Sellers jumped ship that year? (AND THE YEARS SINCE) There were threads after THREADS about it on the boards.  aND the boards are now like a freaking GHOST TOWN.
And the thing that's been mentioned OVER and OVER again that NOBODY at ebay seems to recognize is that the SELLERS were also BUYERS!!!  
bRING on all the MEGA SELLERS you want JD!  But THOSE MEGA sellers are NOT buyers!
He NEVER realized OR recognized THAT fact.  
Again...the man has NEVER bought OR sold on ebay.  He doesn't have a CLUE what made the site truly special.
If he HAD....he could have brought in the big boys like he wanted WITHOUT disrupting the site like he did.
aND FOR THAT he gets the biggest idiot of the DECADE award.  
I swear the way he rode in he all but DARED the successful sellers to jump ship.  And they DID.

Disruptive Innovation at its FINEST.  

Like others have said...I just CRINGE everytime I check my feedback or ebay messages.  The site reputation is in the TOILET.  You live in FEAR as a seller

I miss my old ebay partner and friends.

I honestly think there are so many people who would LOVE to come back.........but I fear the damage has been too great now.

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by: scview This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Feb 22 07:53:39 2012

Many of the old ebay buyers (In my case over 100,000 unique emails) are being contacted by their former favorite sellers and are being directed away from ebay weekly by them. In my case I went from being the #1 seller of my type product on Ebay and one of their poster boys for success pre-Donahue to being completely off of their site for 4+ years now.

The net result....more sales...more profits...less stress.

I think that the dealers that left Ebay and did not have a customer list have suffered the worse from an Ebay to non Ebay selling plan online.

If Ebay is really so bad for you...then plan and make your get-a-way ... gather together your customer list, use a service like Constantcontact to re-introduce yourself to your former buyers.

Find a site that it is easy to list on: Delcampe , Bidstart, Webstore, Ecrater, Boocoo or the like...and set up shop (All of the above allow ebay file transfers via .csv files....and then tell your old customers where you are now.

Donahue is at Ebay to stay. Bitching about it here won't change that. The Cash cow that is Paypal will keep the overall corporation that is Ebay solvent for now.

You need to change short you need to Make yourself solvent without Ebay.

No customer list yet? Download all your old paypal files. Check your old Emails in the trash bins of your online Email server. Look at your transaction history (I have a paper record from my glory Ebay days)...and start marketing matter where you finally put your stuff.

The products you sell will keep your customers coming back to you. Customers follow the Ebay's quality should see an increase in your own online sales.

The old sales mantra for a brick & Mortar store was ''Location ... location... location'' , for an online store it is ''''.


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by: Thought I Was Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 22 08:19:26 2012

I'm so glad I took the time to read this thread. I thought I was crazy, trying to contantly dodge the ''ebay bullet'' shipping immediately, sending countless emails to buyers so I was over communicating, uploading tracking even emailing when the item arrived reminding the buyer it arrived within the guidelines ebay set.  The 1s and 2s for shipping time (within 24 hours) and communication (proof of 3 or more emails sent) continued no matter what I did. Then I purchased something only to get an email from ebay telling me the item I purchased on Friday night was going to arrive on Sunday. I'm in the western part of the country, there is no mail delivery here on Sunday and I have never been aware of Fed Ex or UPS delivering on Sunday either. So when the item was not shipped until Monday which was probably the sellers 1st business day after the sale and did not arrive until Friday ebay is telling me the item is LATE? And suggesting it did not arrive within the window they suggested? How is this even possible? I then realized this has nothing to do with me or my supposed bad business practices it has to do with a system that is very broken. It is sad to see what ebay has become. I have not sold here for quite a while and I no longer buy here either. When you kick the dog, the owner gets insulted. I guess ebay hasn't figured that out yet, probably something they don't teach you in MBA school. Thank you for confirming what I already surmised. Yes ebay is dying a slow death.  Very sad indeed.  

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