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Tue May 15 2012 14:11:23

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Did you know as an eBay seller you can require a buyer to give their phone number at checkout? EcommerceBytes first wrote about this feature last August.

A buyer recently wrote EcommerceBytes about encountering this: "I finally won an auction on eBay today. When paying thru eBay 'pay now button,' I couldn't complete payment without a telephone number in 'My eBay' 'ship to' personal information. EBay will accept all zero's, then complete payment.

"I couldn't find the settings to have this apply to purchases either thru eBay or PayPal... It's a good idea, have you seen this before?"

eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff had said the new feature allowing sellers to require a phone number came about because of the transition from third-party checkout to eBay checkout. "Most certified providers offered the phone number feature, so we built it and included it on eBay," she told EcommerceBytes in Aug. 2011.

The feature is available to Sellers in the Selling Preferences settings, under Site Preferences in their accounts. (My eBay > Account tab > Site Preferences link > Shipping preferences > Require phone number for shipping).

As a seller (or buyer) on eBay, did you know this option existed? And what do you think of it from the perspective of either, or both? Might it turn some buyers off? Or just be a useful extra bit of information? Are you using it now, or do you plan to use it?




Comments (18) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

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

Tue May 15 15:37:08 2012

It's been there for a while. I now require a phone number to circumvent ebay's new post sale communication policy.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: TeddyElectron This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 15 15:41:49 2012

I am not particularly concerned about this since sellers already have enough information to gather addtional information from me anyway. UPS asks for a telephone number of the recipient and it is the only time it was ever needed. Since the ebay requirement can be cicumvented by entering all 0's, it doesn't seem to be performing its intended purpose.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: memker This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 15 17:56:51 2012

I don't require it as it might be a negative effect on buyers but eBay shouldn't leave it to the sellers and  make it mandatory for all buyers/orders. most of the shipping problems can be solved easily by the shipping carrier if the phone number is provided by the buyer.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: Valencia57 This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 15 23:53:10 2012

I've required this for a several months now. Just the other day though, I had a buyer email me and demand that I cancel her purchase because she wasn't about to give her phone number. She was VERY unhappy! I explained via email why I ask for it, that I normally wouldn't need it and that she actually could have fudged on the number.   She still wanted the sale voided.  I use the number if I need to confirm an address (particularly now with the 1 day shipping - can't afford to wait for an email response if UPS is showing that the address is invalid), to call if there's a problem (think the personal/verbal approach is best if there's a problem) and I'll also call prior to filing a non paying bidder. Over the years, there was only one person who I called that seemed miffed that I had the phone number.  However the number is normally accessible either from MSN white pages or through the advanced search option. With ebay limiting our communication & pushing 1 day shipping, we do need a good contact number.  On the other side of the coin though, if we contact the buyer via phone, there's no paper trail of he said/she said.  

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: justpassinthru This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 00:03:05 2012

I tried requiring a phone number for less than 24 hours.  Received a snotty email from a buyer, informing me that I did not need the info.  Decided it was not a good omen and turned it off.  That's the exact type of froth-mouthed buyer sellers most need to be able to communicate with, before they shoot from the hip and put out somebody's eye :)

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: MADandCracked This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 00:16:04 2012

I don't want anyone calling me about anything! If someone needs to contact me, I want it in writing. I would hang up on anyone that calls.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: teddychan This user has validated their user name.
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Wed May 16 01:57:00 2012

eBay gave me no choice. I ship a small but significant percentage of my eBay items via FedEx, which requires the recipient's phone number. eBay's new rule regarding automatic 5 communication DSR for no communication means I can't request the customer phone number through eBay without risking the 5 DSR.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
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Wed May 16 05:30:54 2012

@ teddychan

I think that's why eBay provided this mechanism in the first place.  At one time FedEx was forbidden from the site and developer's were forbidden from displaying any information regarding them in a listing among other things.  Then one day FedEx became a shipping option and sellers were allowed to require a phone number.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: AAAgifts This user has validated their user name.
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Wed May 16 05:32:57 2012

We require it because we ship most items by UPS or FedEx.  It has cut down on returns because they were undeliverable over the last year.

If we get a package back because of an undeliverable address, refund the sale minus the return shipping the price of the original shipping and a 15% restocking fee.

In 2010 we had 22 returns because of this.  In 2011 we had 3 since we collected telephone numbers.

As far as customer complaining we had about 5 or 6 so far but once we tell them its for delivery purposes only they have no problem with it.

What buyer and sellers might not realize if they don't want to give up a phone number. Once they commit to the sale weather they pay for it or not on eBay. The seller only has to email eBay and they will send them the address, email address and phone number they have on file.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: exdwh This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 10:16:14 2012

We've had (domestic) buyers complain, but I still require the phone.

I wish we had the option of excluding domestic USPS services or maybe a checkbox when we send a manual invoice.

As it stands, I've had buyers hold me hostage until I temporarily disable the requirement.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: Sunflower This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 10:39:40 2012

I also was using this feature. I really only wanted to use if for international shipments, as sometimes customs contacts the buyers via phone. However, I received so many snotty complaints from US buyers, I have since stopped using it. I had even told them they could enter my  phone number, which I gave them and they still complained. I wish this was available to edit for international shipping as I would use it on these sales. It saves time and money on having packages returned because a buyer did not pick up their item at the post office in their country.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Wed May 16 12:14:15 2012

I don't require it because it seems redundant - sellers already have the ability to get buyer contact information once a transaction has occurred, phone number has always been included in that info as far as I know.

Otherwise, if I have to contact a buyer (or seller) due to an issue, I prefer email so that there is an electronic paper trail.  

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: unknown This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 13:15:06 2012

Unless your carrier requires it (which mine does not) it's silly to require a phone number for an electronic transaction - as silly as ebay requiring we call them when we have an issue with their online system.

And I don't even have a phone.  

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: exdwh This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 15:02:39 2012

basset,

Yes, we can request contact info via eBay, but the buyer will be alerted via e-mail. That feature is typically a last resort in a dispute.

I was told by eBay rep that this is really only an issue for older buyer accounts. I believe you're now forced to include a phone number when you add/edit an eBay shipping address. This is regardless of the seller's settings. If the phone has been entered, the seller will get it during checkout.

The seller option basically forces the buyer to enter a phone-- which can never be removed. I think this is why there's so much resistance from the old-timers.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: timeaftertime This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 16 20:33:18 2012

I dislike the 3rd party companies that some sellers use to take my shipping information, they demand phone numbers and there is no way to police how they use them after they process the sale.

If there is a problem, any eBay seller or buyer can get the other party's phone number easily by simply asking for their userid information through eBay.

My phone number is private and I do not want the world to have it.

I see no reason for a phone number on a shipping label when there usually is a place to include the recipient's email address.  

Overseas shipments are different and often require a buyer's phone which is seller protection. If I don't have a buyer's phone number I may put in my own instead, but it is always the buyer's email address on the label.

I don't have any problem with eBay policy as long as it will accept dummy numbers.  Thank you for the information about where to find it in seller preferences.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 19 08:24:35 2012

Thanks for showing the preference page. Often, in my experience, when eBay sneaks in a check box, it on by default. Once, suddenly no one could buy 2 or more items from me in the same day! I'll go have a look. That would offend my long time customers.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: GetOverIt This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 22 12:40:04 2012

We use it b/c we ship large items that are delivered by LTL carrier. The only way to schedule delivery is by the carrier calling once the product is at the local depot. A big miss on the eBay side is not making this setting available at the listing level -- then we could require for LTL items but not require for small parcel items.

Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?       Should eBay Sellers Require a Phone Number at Checkout?

by: kellyb This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 14:20:58 2013

This is a horrible policy by ebay, apparently started to assist their extensive efforts in data mining. In this day, when people sign up readily for the donotcallregistry, and actually have to pay their phone company to keep their phone number unlisted, for an online vendor to essentially DEMAND their phone number be disclosed in order to complete a simple online transaction via credit card or other means is absolutely outrageous, offensive, and should be actionable legally. All of this is just a cover for their data mining efforts. They want to be able to contact you a million different ways--in this instance via text messaging (once they have your phone number), to constantly harass you with "buy this", "buy that", "look at our website", "look at this offer", over and over again.  Once an ebay user discloses his or her phone number to a third party seller (up front, prior to completing the transaction no less), and despite there most likely being no dispute regarding the transaction itself as the vast majority of transaction complete without incident, that seller know has your personal telephone number stored on THEIR system (not ebay's SECURE servers) and that user is now at the mercy of the seller's (most often grossly inadequate) security measures.  In other words, a user can simply throw out all their usual safeguards they take (donotcallregistry, account protection, etc.), because it only takes one single seller's inadequate security features (or their nosy high school son) to get all your information.

Worse yet, it ebay itself uses this phone number to verify it is your account in their own system internally, which means if a third party seller now has your phone number, you are at the mercy of that third party seller (or one who hacks that seller's data) from having your ebay account hacked.  Put another way, if ebay uses your phone number as the means to verify it is you, then how do they reconcile having your DISCLOSE your phone number to third party sellers you may have no other contact with (for years), over and over disclosing and disclosing that phone number, then claim that same phone number is some security feature on your ebay account?

It is pure data mining and is illegal.  It is leveraging your use of an auction site as a consumer and for a single transaction into an entirely different market--that of data mining and data sales.  That is a clear antitrust violation the feds should pursue.

Look it up.  Acxiom (acxiom.com) alone did over a BILLION in sales last year on nearly 150 million individual households, and they are just one of the data-brokering firms in what is a $300 billion a year industry employing over 3 million people in the U.S. alone.

Still think they want your phone number for "security" purposes?  You don't think they sell it?

Enjoy your harassing phone calls.

Is it any wonder ebay has lost so much of its market share.

Ebay sellers: shame on you, and shame on you for whatever justification you (sadly) invoke to make yourself feel comfortable as though someone else is responsible.  You have the option to take a stand.  Would you want YOUR personal information disclosed to all your buyers and be at the mercy of their security measures, fully trusting them?

This isn't merely a privacy "risk", but rather a guaranty that your personal information will be sold.  As Scott Howe, CEO of Acxiom said, "I don't think there is a person in the world who wouldn't agree that data generates tremendous value . . . we collect things like contact information, demographics and your preferences (purchases) on things."

There's even a counter-industry that has arose to go against this data brokering.  See abine.com (which sadly is a pay service at $99/year).  The problem is, that these companies require that you submit even more personal information just to opt out of all these hundreds of data-brokerage services, who all sell their data to each other such that your personal information is now located literally in thousands of different companies and many more hands.

"Don Jackson, a security researcher for Dell SecureWorks, warns that data mining could open the door to hacking, identity theft and stalking.

"I don't think anybody is being intentionally malicious, but from a security standpoint you want to know how the data is being used, Jackson said. "That information becomes powerful at that point, and it can be misused. We have seen cases where just basic information, just very few pieces from social networks, can lead predators to potential victims, for example. That's a common scenario, actually."

Currently, there is no comprehensive federal regulation for data brokers. Last March, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report on protecting consumer privacy in which they recommended that Congress consider legislation overseeing online privacy, data security and breach notification, and data brokers.

President Barack Obama has said updates to U.S. laws are urgently needed to keep pace with the many threats that Americans face in cyberspace. But the Senate's most recent cybersecurity legislation stalled this summer on a procedural vote.

Clearly, the collection of big data is raising big questions. And even though Acxiom knows a lot about you, Howe isn't convinced you need to know a lot about them.

Again, ebay and any and all ebay sellers that require a phone number (and explain it away for whatever reason): shame on you! You are part of the problem with the U.S.!

Here’s a link to any of the quotes above, in case you want to think (investigate) for yourself why they want your phone number (yet never required it before), and then worse yet, insultingly tell you that they need it for “security” when the exact opposite is true—it undermines your security and is a cash business for them in selling your phone number:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/23/tech/web/big-data-acxiom/
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