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: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 18:31:20 2015

Perhaps after so many years and so many changes and so much volume involved with eBay, their technical problems are like a Gordian knot. Impossible to fix.

I think of Microsoft with so many, many changes over the years, and they still pretty much get every update to work quite well, and if it doesn't, then soon after, there is a fix for it.

So such things can be done, and done well. Not so with eBay. They make changes and implement them prior to testing, and then there are many failures.

You are right, Ming. You get what you pay for.

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

by: serioussellers This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 1 20:42:21 2015

Sadly, those who think ''If throttling is happening it's only happening to items that there's too many listed on eBay'' (@toolguy) are very much mistaken.  The evidence is in the months and years of posts on EcommerceBytes. The flood of testimonials on this site fully and accurately documents the history of many eBay ''issues''.

We have been selling on eBay for 14 years. We have many decades of experience in the brick & mortar retail world.  Like many other sellers we often have vintage & antique items that are actually one of a kind .... or are so HTF that it is unusual to find several of them for sale (whether a shopper was to search the internet or spend many hours in countless B & M shops).

So when we or any other seller lists an item that is actually rare --- or even is just somewhat hard to find (for example, there might be no more than a few similar items listed by other sellers) .... we all really expect to see the entire selection of items come up in search results.

But for quite some time now, eBay customers (seller/buyers) realize that such a reasonable expectation is just a crazy pipe dream.

Not only do many small sellers' items not come up in search results (whether listed yesterday, last week or last month), but often the items do not even show up when a search is done using the EXACT listing title.

While some posters believe that the use of the full listing title is the only way to guarantee an item's appearance in search results, that is not true.  On quite a few occasions in the last year or two, frontline CSRs and higher level seller support CSRs have replicated our disturbing findings/results.  They copied and pasted some of our listing titles into search boxes, and confirmed that even that often brings up ZERO search results.  It did not matter if it was an antique vase, a MCM painting, a NWT designer dress, etc. ...... the use of the exact (and carefully crafted) listing title brought up ZERO results.  The items were invisible even to the eBay reps -- who generally repeated each search a couple of times -- since they could not initially believe what they were seeing (or not seeing).  Of course, they also often got to see ZERO results when they did an advanced search to find us by user ID or store name.

But then as we mentioned in another post, CSRs have so graciously let some of us know that any shopper can quickly and easily find an item using the item number.  This technique / solution is supposedly the miracle answer to all sellers' and buyers' prayers.  But then there is that irksome problem of how sellers are supposed to magically find the potential shoppers/buyers who are searching for specific items so that the sellers can provide the item numbers.  

Perhaps some lucky sellers have finally developed the required psychic and telepathic abilities.  Perhaps they can then reach out to the shoppers around the globe who are just patiently waiting for those much needed item numbers. Their stymied and impaired treasure hunts will suddenly be successful!  The tragic tales of ''seriously messed up'' searches will have gloriously happy endings once everyone receives their dispensation of item numbers.

Maybe the fortunate sellers (who have developed the much needed eBay ESP abilities) should be selling online tutorials to the rest of us.  This would certainly save a lot of time for those sellers who are constantly rewriting their listings from scratch (in order to improve their chances in the search results lottery).

Our sales are few and far between. Each ''miracle'' sale still prompts us to politely ask the buyer how they found the item.  Their stories are amazing. The common thread seems to be that they are VERY aggravated by the eBay quagmire.  Many tell us that they do frequent (and usually pointless and unsuccessful) searches for the vintage & antique items they collect.  They know that the supply has not completely dried up .... as the eBay search results often announce by showing zero results.  They tell us that with other sellers' items, as was the case with ours, they look at the listing dates and see that the items were actually listed (allegedly for sale on eBay) the whole time they were searching (whether it was over days, weeks or a month or more).  They were really ''pissed off'' when they realized on their own that the venue was not even showing them the available items.  The most common story is that the actual item sought was finally shown in the ''related items'' selection below the empty or deficient search results.
 

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

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

Sat Aug 1 23:04:13 2015

"The most common story is that the actual item sought was finally shown in the ''related items'' selection below the empty or deficient search results."

Yep, had that experience ...

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the unscrupulous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid … http://bit.ly/11F2eas

And, don't forget the ugly reality of eBay’s demonstrable, calculated, facilitation of endemic shill bidding wire fraud on consumers on its auctions marketplace … http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 08:04:11 2015

I just sent Ina a detailed email about how badly eBay has implemented this "filtering" thing in another category. They aren't even trying to get this right.  The sad part is that they have thousands of "subject matter experts" in the persons of SELLERS but they won't even use basic SAMPLING to learn what the most popular "identifiers" within a category are.  

Note to "Grief" - we sellers can't "help" you if you refuse to accept our help!

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 08:15:54 2015

@serioussellers

"..CSR reps...could not initially believe what they were seeing..or not seeing..."

That's because you have the BLIND leading the INCOMPETENT at eBay; the reverse sequence may be equally apt. The CSR reps have repeated the BIG LIE that "All is Well - If You [seller] Have a Problem It's Your Fault!" so often that maybe they've begun to believe it. In any event, if they don't PARROT that Co. Line, their daily Bowl of Rice will be taken away. Cowered by this simple fact - that eBay [mis-]management will have the CSR outsourcer ash-can the low-paid Filipino rather than admit malfeasance on the part of The Hoe, his successor, Devil Wingnut, or any of the other overpaid, underqualified Mucky-Mucks in the San Jose Ivory Tower, the Customer [non-]Service Rep reads from the script, and nothing more. The long-suffering Paying Customer [ie. the seller] faced with this frustration after waiting an hour on hold, hangs up with the realization that he's just wasted his cell phone minutes. He vows to not bother calling Customer [non-]Service again, or gives up selling on this pathetic "ecommerce platform" entirely.

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 08:23:57 2015

A final note on those "related items" results: Can't-See-Me really STRETCHES to find you items that are somehow "related" to what you searched for!  I've found those "results" to be generally humorous, and sometimes offensive!

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 10:09:47 2015

@leesantiques

eBay has gradually withdrawn all the "contact" links from their pages. They actually think a BOT can answer your Q's!  After waiting an hour for a Customer [non-]Service Rep to take your call you'll swear you're talking to a Bot anyway as they just keep repeating the scripts. "I understand your frustration." is their GoTo, Numero Uno script - a one-size-doesn't-fit-all response. The bottom line is that even if the Filipino DOES "understand" your problem, s/he cannot do anything about it. These people work for an outsourcing co. and they aren't authorized to make any corrections to your account. They have to email someone with update authority to access the system. Most of the time you can't even get them to do a simple inquiry to even verify that a problem exists.

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 10:15:52 2015

@Owen

If by "get what you pay for" you mean the cheap, untalented IT workers over in the world's #2 Third World He// Hole, you are 100% correct. You pay people working in their mud huts under a single dangling light bulb a whopping $300 a MONTH. Not an hour. Not per day. Not per WEEK, even. $300 a month is what many Indian programmers earn. That's why they all want to come HERE as H1-B's and cut the throats of American workers.

If, however, you mean that we PAYING CUSTOMERS get what WE pay exorbitant FVF's for, namely promotiion and exposure of our merchandise to a global market of potential buyers, then I think you'll agree that we're short changed; Big Time.

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 10:23:42 2015

Ina, your example of the popular cookware brand name not being included as an item specifics /slash/ identifier is born out in the email I sent this AM about another category. eBay could easily [well, that is, IF they had the IT talent which I seriously doubt] tally all the data entered by sellers and compose lists of the arguments that would satisfy the most requests. Clearly they aren't even attempting to do this. Ecommerce should be a KNOWLEDGE BASED enterprise. They are failing miserably at using the knowledge provided to them.

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

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 13:08:02 2015

No, I certainly didn't mean that sellers are getting what they are paying for. If you have read some of my other posts, you will see that I think eBay is committing criminal fraud by not giving their seller customers what they have paid for.

I was quoting something from Ming's post.

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.

Sun Aug 2 13:36:36 2015

Again, I  am the affected seller who assisted Ina.  I want everyone to know I am here and there is much more to the story than what is written in this article.  Ina can only write so much of the story.

Two things you should know.  One of which is that I spoke with someone who represented himself as the head of ebays engineering department.  He was able to duplicate the flaw I pointed out to him, and even though his initial, "oooh" in response to witnessing my findings indicated to me that this was the first time he became aware of the issue, his next response was extremely snide, wanting to know how I discovered this.  His next comment was, "this is the way best match is intended to work and advised me that this only shows the benefit of being a multichanner seller over a small business.

The other thing you should know is ebay is my livelihood.  To go an entire month and only sell $1000 may seem like a significant income, it is not a significant income when one considers the cost of the product, listing fee's, final value fee's, shipping fee's, paypal fee's, rent, utilities, food, car insurance and every relevant cost there is to living.  

I am literally bankrupt.  I am losing everything as a result of this.  

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

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 13:57:14 2015

Even though his remarks were very condescending, hopefully, when the flaw was pointed out to him, he did something about it. His remarks to you, might be because those conversations are recorded, and he didn't want his bosses to know that he was in any way siding with you. The ''oooh'' says something to me about his response, as does his asking you how you found this out.

If the above were the case, this is even more disturbing. It says that eBay does not want anyone employed by them, siding with sellers under any circumstances, and will take no responsibility for errors.

eBay waters are very muddy and tainted. There is a corporate disgust for sellers that none of us can understand. Maybe we inadvertently expose many of their secrets.

A very secretive company. In years to come, it will be interesting to see if any old employees spill the beans about what was really going on. If in a book, guaranteed to be a best seller. If in a movie, ditto.

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Sun Aug 2 14:02:39 2015

Ebay knows what they are doing.

They are fleecing us all the way to the end. They are pocketing millions while working out a deal to sell the company.

Ebay does not totally own the patents to best match & Cantseeme search programs. The program writers do. I found the patent thru a google search and the two men who wrote it own it.

Ebay has committed countless felonies against all sellers and they are not going to leave these search programs and other policy enforcement and manipulative interference programs with ebay when they sell the company.

They must pull these programs and take it with them or their crimes will be found out.

The new owners must bring their own search programs and they must be tested and trial run before the sale of ebay is announced to the share holders so that on day one the new owners system can operate.

I believe this problem we are hearing about is part of a test run on the new owners programming for search.

Just some advice for some sellers....I closed my company in January 2015 and got a minimum wage job. Now that i am not loosing thousands a month things are getting better for us a little.

Warning to the new owners of ebay!

Some one will have to pay us sellers for damages so we will be looking at your assets at ebay in that settlement.


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This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Sun Aug 2 14:08:05 2015

Maybe I'm not reading this right? I duplicated Ina and Clothing Sellers' search techniques. And I see the results you describe. But frankly, I don't search for items on eBay in that manner - and maybe that's why: dodgy results.

For a time a general search would pull up data from Item Specifics that didn't show in the item Title without adding a search of the item Description. Now I've noticed that a search by UPC Bar Code on a mobile device does not always pull up any results on eBay while an item Brand Name search will.

To me it's the equivalent of finding an item on the Internet that's shown in a retail store location but none of the clerks know where it is on the shelf. Yet, I can wander around in the store looking for it in the usual places and find it myself, like finding kimchi in the refrigeration unit in organic foods instead of in the deli with the cole slaw.

It doesn't matter to me where it's kept, but the store's image is tarnished by my reluctance to return to that retailer because of the time consumed with customer service and nul results except for the success of my own persistent efforts.

If it takes me longer to find an item on eBay than it would to drive to the store and buy it, then guess what? I won't be wasting my time dinking around with eBay. Or Amazon either for that matter.

If you were making a living via eBay sales then more power to you but the future seems dim for anyone not included in the top 300 favorite eBay Sellers fawned over by the eBay Board of Misdirection. Toady is as toady does. Kiss a frog, find a prince? Not likely! More like lowered expectations and who cares?  

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

Sun Aug 2 14:23:08 2015

@map Do you think ebay will make my life difficult when they narrow it down to which seller is making the "flaw" known?

I'm pretty sure they are already aware of me, at which point they should be featuring me at the top of every search result to help assist me from losing the roof over my head which is my actual reality.  I literally don't even have enough to put myself up in a hotel room.  I am not going to hold my breath because I'm sure ebay is well aware of how difficult it will be for someone like me to retain an attorney.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Sun Aug 2 14:44:17 2015

@Clothing Seller

I too have been thru what you are experiencing now.

Thousands of phone calls to ebay with no help from them.

I lost everything that i worked for as a ebay seller plus what i had before ebay.

Go see a Bankruptcy lawyer. There is no shame in filing Chapter 7. Plus while you are waiting for the court to process your case, all the calls from collects are ordered to stop calling.

It is about the only way to recover your life and stop collections and garnishments.

You will feel so relived after it is done and you can start over again.

Bankruptcy laws are ancient & go back thousands of years and it is wonderful that our great country has it written into our legal system for our citizens to use if you get wiped out being a small business owner.

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

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

Sun Aug 2 14:55:24 2015

If you now have a lot more spare time on your hands, use it effectively. Generally speaking eBay takes no notice of anything the "noise" says; so, if you want to get eBay's attention, express your disdain for their deceitful activities on the finance sites such as Yahoo Finance and SeekingAlpha, and also LinkedIn—whenever you see puff pieces on eBay thereon ...

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent, the unscrupulous, and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid … http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Sun Aug 2 15:06:57 2015

"Even though his remarks were very condescending, hopefully, when the flaw was pointed out to him, he did something about it."

Yeah, no, that's not the way IT works in many companies.  If you discover a problem, that suggests somebody else made a mistake.  Applying a fix, then, would confirm that hypothesis.

What you have to understand is that for some people, control is their top, if not only, priority.  Simply acknowledging the flaw strikes their ego and allowing a correction threatens their control.  Right behind sheer incompetence, that's the number two reason that known problems are left to fester.

A fish rots from the head down.  We know Donahoe and Wenig don't listen to anybody.  Why would eBay's IT department be any different?

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 2 16:13:06 2015

got a couple of good points Toys

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun Aug 2 16:16:04 2015

Since eBay insidiously insulated themselves from class action suits by users through the user agreement, perhaps there could be salvation via a different path.

Given that eBay spent untold millions developing the Cassini search engine, given that eBay tells sellers their listings may be intentionally suppressed, given that the search engine fails to surface all possible items available due to a defect in the engineering as well as the intentional supreswsion, given that eBay is now on notice that this is negatively impacting sales, and, given that depressed sales negatively impact eBay's profits and stock value.... What is the possibility that shareholders could file a class action lawsuit against eBay and it's management team?o complete purchases.

Malfeasance could be easily proven given eBay's own policies state that listings may be hidden which reduces choices available to buyers and likely results in buyers seeking other venues which causes eBay's GMV to be intentionally lowered.

Seems to me investors would not be excluded from filing for a class action given they are not covered by eBay's user agreement.

A Class Action suit by investors to force the company to make all inventory available to all buyers would go a long way to increase Gross Merchandise Volume, and at the same time eBay's bottom line which would certainly result in a better return for investors.

Will shareholders come to the rescue of eBay sellers and ultimately eBay as a company?

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