Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri July 31 2015 00:00:18

eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay's search engine has a serious problem relating to Item Specifics and filters. I worked with a seller today to try to understand what she discovered with her listings, and the results are disturbing.

For some of the examples she supplied me (clothing), if I filtered search results using all the item specifics she had set in a particular listing, eBay search excluded her listing from search results - even though some other sellers' listings appeared.

This is exactly the opposite of how it's supposed to work - the seller is being penalized for using Item Specifics when listing her products. And in these cases, she wasn't alone.


Along the way, I also discovered that despite certain listings containing a particular attribute in their Item Specifics, that attribute didn't always show up as an option in eBay's filter. The example I found was for a brand of cookware called Lagostina - I hadn't heard of it before, but it certainly was well known to Google's search engine and shopping ads and appears to be a somewhat popular brand.

Despite finding four listings where sellers had been able to add the Lagostina name under the Brand attribute, it didn't show up in the search filter - meaning shoppers who searched for skillet and tried to narrow down search results to that brand would be unable to.


That's two problems: one is that your listing may be excluded from search for using an Item Specifics attribute. The other is that a particular attribute you use may be excluded from eBay's filters.

The end result is the same in both instances: shoppers ain't gonna find your listings if they do broad searches and use eBay's filters to narrow down the results.

The second phenomenon you can try yourself. Go to eBay, enter the word "skillet," and try to find the brand "Lagostina" in Item Specifics under Brand. 

Yes, you can find items if you search for "Lagostina skillet" in eBay search, but a shopper who doesn't do that to begin with is going to see the long list of other brands in eBay's filter, and the shopper is most likely going to think there are no Lagostina-brand skillets on eBay.

And remember, this is not about the fact that eBay isn't including Lagostina as an attribute. You can see the Brand=Lagostina inside each of the four sellers' product listings.

Note that the reason I selected that particular term was because I read about a person having a problem finding that brand of skillet on eBay in this discussion board thread from yesterday, so I started testing it for myself.

The first phenomenon is in my opinion much more worrying, and a bit harder for someone to test - I could test it because the seller gave me actual examples of her listings. But based on her description of the problem, it shouldn't be too difficult to discover on your own.

I suggest you try using eBay search - enter a broad term for your item (i.e., "pants" or "sweater"), then try using the filters for all of your Item Specifics and see if your listings show up in search results when you narrow it down all the way (size, color, material, pattern, etc.).

The more I tested the seller's listings and experimented myself with Item Specifics, the more confused I became - I couldn't find a pattern to explain the cause of the malfunction.

What's so insidious about this problem with eBay search is that it isn't readily apparent. You really have to be looking for it to realize it exists. And since eBay is excluding relevant listings in search results, buyers may end up leaving the site unable to find what they were looking for, not realizing there are actually matching products for sale on the site.

Does anyone in eBay's search department know about this problem with Item Specifics? Does anyone in management know about it?

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Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: serioussellers This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 17:56:29 2015

Please see our comment on the previous (New Classifieds App) posting.

CSRs' recent ''new'' (official ??) explanations for the virtual total disappearance of so many sellers' items in search results are laughable.  It is even rather surprising that these new ''revised'' excuses were put in the official scripts over the past few days. It is sad (and pathetic) that the venue thinks it can (after the fact) justify the ''throttling'' (while still also claiming that throttling/invisibility is actually a figment of the sellers' imaginations).

The venue's mouthpieces say that intentional throttling is not happening and that it never happened.  But then in the same breath, they say that if any of us persist in claiming ''invisibility'' or blackouts, they can easily explain it all.  The venue allegedly had to remedy the supposed problem of stale listings and a lack of desirable & fast selling items.  So, they had to (falsely) target alleged old/stale listings (even if the sellers' OOAK BIN listings were just days, weeks or a month or two ''old'') so they could come to the buyers' rescue and ''flag''/void/hide all those listings (that are supposedly over 16 months old) of the undesirable sellers (the pesky ''noise'').

What miraculous eBay logic!  They decided that sellers are selling virtually nothing because of the sellers' own unfortunate deficiencies! Their position is that sadly they have somehow ended up with an army of incompetent sellers who do not know how to run small businesses, write effective listings, take good photos, etc.  Somehow they cannot understand that manipulations and throttling (and enabled fraud) = invisibility = no sales (with the major exception of the purchases made by fraudsters).

We were certainly shocked when a CSR told us that at their end all of our listings (and the listings of many other small sellers) have been flagged as UNSOLD (even though they are all BIN listings that automatically renew every 30 days).  As the CSR said that permanently keeps them from being shown in a single search result. At their end, the items are now allegedly on the UNSOLD list; at our end they are on the ACTIVE list.

The CSRs think they are spouting out very logical and coherent reasons for why many sellers' items will never show up in search results.  They seem to think that this new explanation (of perceived throttling) shields eBay from any accusations that they are collecting listing fees, store rents, etc. without showing the items and stores to shoppers.  If a business is not providing (and is unable to provide) the services for which it is charging its customers, it should suspend operations. In this case, many sellers could logically demand an equitable financial remedy for all of the many types of losses and overpayments they have sustained and made.

The CSRs now (at least in the last few days) are apparently authorized to tell all inquiring/complaining sellers that eBay had to flag (hide) all of their listings because they had all been up for 16 months (their little white lie is certainly burying millions of listings!!) ... or because the items were obviously undesirable if they did not sell almost immediately after being listed.  Of course, sellers/buyers know that items cannot sell when they are not shown/seen -- whether they were listed yesterday, last week or last month!

Apparently if the eBay gremlins find a genuinely older listing or two (among 100s or 1000s of active listings on a seller's store) they now use and alter that ''evidence'' to claim that ALL the listings are over 16 months old ... and that supposedly permits them to flag/suppress those delinquent & undesirable listings -- meaning that they will be officially EXCLUDED from search results.

We are all well aware of throttling/blackouts/invisibility, etc. -- and the resultant decimation of small businesses. Why even bother to create this new ''reason'' for a situation (invisibility/throttling) that eBay mouthpieces (from the CSRs on up) generally say does not exist (& has never existed)?

Since they don't want the unique, vintage, antique, OOAK items that were the hallmarks of eBay, they should just announce new rules that exclude them.  Making up even more Byzantine excuses for the continuing implosion does a huge disservice to the army of sellers who made eBay what it once was.  Those sellers have lost the battle. Some have expired, some are trying to regroup and recover and some are valiantly trying to hold on.

The game is rigged. It obviously will continue to be rigged until the bitter end.  But the many wise contributions to this site and to other forums and blogs often still contain a glimmer of hope for some type of epiphany in the eBay corporate offices.  

Sadly, the venue's puppeteers have made it quite clear that they have no authentic interest in listening to the thousands of useful suggestions posted here on ECB -- or anywhere else!  

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Clothing Seller This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 18:28:24 2015

@Serioussellers  I'm not sure if people are reading all of the comments, but I am the seller who discovered the issue. I understand what you are saying and understand your concerns.  This disappearance of all 100 of my items from item searchability was on items that had only been listed for a very short duration.  The majority of my items were listed less than 2 weeks ago.  Some of the items had been listed 3 months.  I have not had anything listed longer than that.  In essence, the closer a search brought a buyer to locating my items, the further away they were being directed.  What I found at the end point of the search is it often ended in items belonging to multichannel sellers even when the items did not match 100% of the item specifics being searched.  This means, best match, as we all know is defaulting to Chinese manufacturers, but the back end is defaulting to Big Box.  We're being cut out in the middle when buyers search by item specific.  I have not tested a keyword only search but that would bring us to the actual title which will always yield the product regardless of it being unsearchable by specifics.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 18:38:41 2015

I can't tell you how many times I've sold items that have been relisted multiple times. Just because it doesn't sell immediately, doesn't mean it is undesirable. The items I sell are vintage or antique, and most of them require the right person or collector to come along and purchase it.

If relistings do not mean anything to eBay, then why do they even offer them??? That is the question of the day. Is it to rake in money and never provide the service the money is for? Actually that is fraudulent theft. If someone pays you for a service, you provide the service. If a contractor came to your house and you gave him money for a project, and then he never came back to do any work, he could go to jail.

Where does eBay come off thinking this is OK to do? It's not. It is thievery.

There isn't another business in this country that gets away with such nonsense without eventually getting caught.

How in the world does eBay feel they are entitled to commit crimes?

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 18:42:57 2015

And I should have added, now their CSRs are apparently, admitting to the fraud.

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 18:58:38 2015

And they are thinking we will PAY MORE to get MORE exposure-LMAO- What a bunch of IDIOTS!!

I can hear the meeting in San Jose now- "Our strategy WORKED- we hide them and now they are paying for our fake exposure- tee-hee-hee".

We are familiar with your work ebay

MH- Thanks for doing all that work Ina- GOOD WORK.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Eric Saeger This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 21:25:57 2015

Yes, absolutely, good job by Ina.

I think Cassini uses a hash of some sort to identify sell-similar/relisted AND new-from-scratch listings that were already listed by individual sellers. Or maybe it does a search of backup disks and flags the listings accordingly.  Either way, we all know by now that the only thing that gets exposure is brand new stuff we've never listed before.

It's criminal theft for eBay to claim that we're included in all searches at all times, plain and simple.

I bet you anything that all our woes started because some moron (Donahoe) was sitting around thinking about boosting shareholder "engagement," (it's all his job entailed anyway), and he just randomly logged into eBay and did a search for "gold tie clip" or some snooty item.  He couldn't find the exact brand/type he wanted, so he decided to blow up search and start from scratch.

That was the folly that ruined us all. Before Bain, the only real complaint sellers had about eBay was a lack of advertising.  So, where you or I, as CEO, would have run more advertising and upgraded the servers from the motley old mess of clustered garbage they're using now, Bain started the whole thing from scratch, wasting money on an incompetent team of engineers to build Cassini out of the cruddy drag-and-drop interface it started out as.

But then again, the Bain club's password is always some arcane term like "creative destruction" or "destructive innovation." They're code words that mean "We're going to load up this company with debt, ruin it, and leave one of our dimmest bulbs [Wenig, in this case] as a high-paid principal officer." That's what "disruptive innovation" was.  

eBay is no longer a marketplace, it's a rapidly dying big-box-overstock site funneling money into Bain.

Sellers need to stop complaining and gather real evidence. We need to file a class action suit by first documenting their criminal activity, ie "throttling," "rolling blackouts" and larding our listings with corporate-account ads.  But it's going to take a joint effort from a large and wide array of sellers.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: brokentoys19 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 21:44:35 2015

Five days straight is 5 years old.

At some point, perhaps when the listing counts exploded and the big boxes came on board they could no longer provide the service they advertise, purport to provide and collect monies for, thus rolling blackouts/throttling/server load balancing/geoclustering or whatever you wish to call it. All Items were no longer available to all searchers at all times in all locations.

Traffic reports etc would prove that but ebay's were broken (or claimed to be) so often that data was unusable.

At some point, and for some unknown reason, they secretly and arbitrarily change the user agreement to include the invisibility clause. Like a thief in the night. Sofa king Busted, sleazebay!

Concurrent to all that, users were being lied to at every nip and turn. Being conned into spending more money and time on site by optimizing, images, format, keywords, prices, titles and on and on and on... Endless tips and tricks, none of which worked. Even blatantly floating a big fat lie about Cassini ending, in more less a face to face manner even. LOL!

Anything to keep folks from abandoning ebay and shift blame to the users. And sellers got false blame for zero visibility every inch of the way, for every reason conceivable, most often in an insulting or demeaning tone eg: tinfoil hat comments.

One of the dirtiest of the tricks was to artificially induce more conflict/adversary between buyers and sellers, so that the environment could be exploited/leveraged in any number of ways. Think about it.

They've been selling people the pig in a poke for 5 years now. The bill of goods. They've used dishonesty and coercion every step of the way.

So now with Cassini they've cooked up a new scheme for enhanced vi$ibilty, while changing the scripted responses/reasons for lack of visibility (movable goalposts).

They can cheat you easier than they can fix the site, and since the fox guards the henhouse, it's the perfect crime. And crime it most certainly is.

Again they use the same pattern of behavior over and over.


1: Create problem.
2: Offer solution to solve problem while profiting from it.
3: Use of dishonesty and dirty tricks to incent/change behavior/encourage continued usage.

Classic Racketeering.

Arrrrrggggh! There's so much more.... yet it can all be summed with 2 words: Ebay LIES!  

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Fri Jul 31 22:22:22 2015

@ Ina what i think you are seeing is the beginnings of the new owners search engine.

The new owners programs are being introduced & test ran.

Those criminals at ebay are not going to sell the company and leave Cantseeme search engine and all their policy enforcement algorithms intact.

It would be like ebay selling the car & leaving the dead sellers in the trunk. Someone would goto prison.

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by: Clothing Seller This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 00:22:25 2015

@map " Ina what i think you are seeing is the beginnings of the new owners search engine."

That's a frightening new program.  Can you elaborate please?

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 01:22:14 2015

The original op is "Re-writing old listings as fresh".
REMEMBER that we know from 100's of experiments that THIS WILL WORK- ALL ads re-written week to week from SCRATCH.

I re-write ALL ads from scratch- $1000 in sales for the week.

Relist those same ads- $38 in sales same items.

Very good that the op gets this and I hope this reminds others as I want EVERYBODY to be able to make a living.

Scratch

Mass Howler

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 01:25:51 2015

EBAY is NOT CREDITING insertion fees for sold listings!
No credits on my bill for solds!

(LOOK at your invoices folks).
MH

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 08:48:08 2015

eBay's little 'glitches" are "disturbing," Ina?  You're catching on fast. This outfit can't come close to delivering what it advertises!  When you use CHEAP, Third World IT labor in the He// Hole that is India, these are the results you get. Ina, I've worked in IT, and I can tell you these people aren't geniuses; they're hacks. BUT, they work CHEAP - $300 a MONTH! - which lines the pockets of crooks like The Hoe! Most do NOT speak English as their first language so the spec's are literally in a FOREIGN language to them. They sometimes have only 90 days of training in the specific programming protocol.

Layer that on top of a [mis-]management team that's more interested in lining its own pockets than running the enterprise, and disasters of this type aren't exceptional; they're the norm.  

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 08:52:45 2015

@MA Howler

eBay is counting on you to NOT audit your invoice.  Besides, what's one more broken promise?  This chicken-carp outfit has zero cred. I think the majority of the "seller community" [ie. the paying customers!] by now figure: "It is what it is" and have given up fighting or even complaining. If they thought anything would change once The Hoe is "gone" [which he really isn't!] well, you got his hand-picked successor, Devil Wingnut. The Hoe vouches for this guy which is all you need to know.

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 08:59:34 2015

@serioussellers

Poster suggests that sellers [ie paying customers] can seek "financial remedies" which would entail a lawsuit. While that seems to be the only thing eBay [mis-]management learns anything from, the usual penalties imposed by a court amount to a wrist slap.

$50MM judgement?  No biggie; they hand that kind of "chump change" over to thieves like The Hoe all the time. It might hit them a bit harder now that they don't have PayPig to underwrite the loss, but I don't think they'll be persuaded to change.

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 09:04:57 2015

@MA Howler

So, the "trick" is to do a bunch of unnecessary work, by writing a "brand-new" ad, rather than doing a re-list? IOW, their labor-saving "features" COST sellers money?

Who would'a thunk it?  

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Sat Aug 1 10:49:18 2015

For all those who's listings don't show there's as many sellers who's listing do show.

If throttling is happening it's only happening to items that there's too many listed on eBay.

I have NO problem finding aircraft tools and neither do my buyers.

Look at this lot I bought on eBay the other day: 400963513390

With tax and shipping they came out to $14.85 a unit.

I'll sell them for $75 each on eBay.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sat Aug 1 10:58:47 2015

" ...the seller is being penalized for using Item Specifics when listing her products. And in these cases, she wasn't alone."

eBay spent untold millions to build this search engine, and essentially demands sellers use Item Specifics, only to have their listings hidden from buyers when they comply. This is a perfect illustration of how eBay corp is clueless with regard to how the search engine THEY built works, and the damaging effects of too much management site interference has had on the bottom line of both eBay and the sellers they have failed.

eBay's clueless outsider management wonders why so many sellers refer to Cassini as the Can't See Me Search engine, and here it is - proof that the search results eBay serves to buyers is deeply and fatally flawed.

I am sure someone will come along and defend eBay claiming this is the buyers fault for not knowing how to use search properly. But, the bottom line is that buyers and sellers should not need an MBA in computer sciences to drill down and get the results they are looking for. The fact that eBay management does not understand this is but one of the many reasons eBay is failing.

The fact that eBay is oblivious to, or worse, simply does not care that their search engine is completely dysfunctional shows just how mismanaged this company has been and continues to be.

In this case, sellers are poorly served and paying for listings which are never seen.  Buyers are poorly served because their choices are limited by the defective search engine.  Lastly, eBay comes out a loser as buyers go elsewhere for the choice and selection they expect leaving eBay's outsider management scratching their heads and wondering why the site has such dismal sales growth.

In the meantime, the genius that John Donahoe retained to engineer this train wreck took his money and has long since left eBay - most likely because HE understood how dysfunctional the search engine eBay paid him to create really was.

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 14:37:41 2015

I am furious that I have to re-write the same ads again and again- it is a waste of my time and I would rater be sourcing and listing new product but we need to EAT over here.
I hate to pay fees again and again but for some especially those with limited product, it can help stuff sell faster.
No excuses for ebay, it sucks beans and is SUPER-TEDIOUS.
mh

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Sat Aug 1 15:47:31 2015

Now that we can't see any real bidder information, nobody should accept an item number as proof of anything.  It's incredible what a black box eBay in general has become.

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

Sat Aug 1 18:23:26 2015

Given the endemic incompetence that defines ebay, I don't think they know how Cassini works or how to fix it.

When it comes to IT personnel, you get what you pay for.

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