Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Oct 8 2018 16:44:25

How Good Is eBay at Picking Categories for Your Items?

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay now believes in simplifying (some would say dumbing down) the listing process and uses technology to make decisions for sellers, but it can lead to headaches. The latest example of this is eBay's practice of suggesting categories for sellers when they are listing items for sale.

In a post on the eBay boards today, a longtime seller said he has been selling the same types of items for years, however: "I now have problems selecting correct categories, as eBay picks the categories for me, which are usually wrong, and I can no longer search and find the correct category myself." 

Assuming a seller chooses a different category than the one eBay selected, they should be aware it may not "stick." Yesterday a reader reported the following problem on Ecommerce EKG:

"When listing new item. Adjusting from eBay's suggested category after entering title and then choosing "No product found" in the catalog the category defaults back to eBay's suggested category in the listing template. Double work and clicking every listing and if you forget you are in the wrong category."

The seller who wrote on the eBay boards also said it appeared to him that eBay wanted him to accept offers for low-ball amounts. "I feel that I am being punished for getting GOOD prices for my items now, and eBay has made it harder for older sellers to create their own listings, on which we know more about than this computer-generated, modern **bleep** that  eBay is "shoving down out throat.""

Note there are different ways to sell on eBay, and the "quick listing tool" offers more guidance for sellers. Sellers who don't like eBay suggestions have the option of switching to the Advanced Tool. 

We noticed some sellers were having problems last year figuring out how to access the advanced tool; a seller described how to do this in detail in this post from July 2017. We also tried with no luck to find a detailed list of the differences between the two listing interfaces.

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Readers Comments

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 17:17:08 2018

We don't have that problem with catagories. IE We haven't listed anything since July and have currently closed 2 of our 5 anchor stores and sold the items at the local flea market. HA HA HA No returns, NO shipping.

The other three stores are currently being downgraded and will be closed as soon as we get rid of the items in it.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Mon Oct 8 17:50:41 2018

I HATE it when Ebay does this.  I much prefer picking my own category.  As long as I'm selecting an appropriate category I do not see why Ebay forces a change.  But they do and it is annoying.  And these changes are NOT always correct.  They have done this for a long time, but it seems to have gotten worse with the push for the Ebay catalog.

Not all items have a single correct category on Ebay.  There are some items that have multiple categories in which it can legitimately be listed in.  That should be seller choice, NOT Ebay's.

The Quick List tool is a very BAD idea IMHO.  It is geared to newer sellers and micro or casual seller.  All of which may not realize what they are getting into with this tool.  Ebay has way too much authority over how these listings present when it comes to best offers and the such.  I personally think most sellers should steer away from this tool and use the Advanced Listing tool where they have far more control over the format and presentation of the listings they are creating.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Oct 8 19:45:59 2018

It's very sad that eBay's AI thinks it knows more about what a seller is listing than the seller himself/herself.  

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by: Vernfern This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 19:51:39 2018

eBay is terrible at selecting categories. Their selection is often wrong, and when you see what the system selected, you realize they either do not understand what you have or are in error. The frustrating part is how they will not let you post an item in the truly correct category.

Maybe this is fine for the newbie who hasn't a clue - or - the person who is trying to spam the listings. But for us long time sellers who know "the ropes", leave it alone please!

The sad and frustrating part is, these errors make it clear how eBay truly does not know what is correct far too many times - yet they do it anyway.  

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by: ThisGuy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 20:50:46 2018

I apologize everyone, but I'm pretty lost on this subject.

I, too, have been selling on eBay since 1998.  I state this only for experience.

I never really had an issue selecting categories unless I start a totally new listing, and eBay gives me the Quick Listing tool.  That is a waste of time for me, but it may be easier for the new user.

I only use the Advanced Listing tool, and 99.9% of the time, I simply use the Sell Similar option from existing listings so it can bring up my commonly used Item Description and shipping data.  

Even if I change the title to my listing, similar meta data I type in that title does bring up a correct category to list in.  If it's completely off, I can manually change it.

I read the original eBay Community post.  It only had 1 reply.  I understand the user is experienced since 2001, but I'm at a loss for what error they're experiencing.

When it comes to the Best Offer subject, I have to believe that user accepted one of eBay's Promotional Listing Offers.  I never have accepted these since I've been below my Store Level listing amounts.  

I have read on the boards that some of these promos include "fine print" where eBay is allowed to control your Best Offer prices.  Maybe that is what the OP is experiencing.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Oct 8 20:59:22 2018

And don't get me started on how much they've screwed up the item specifics.  Talk about breaking something that wasn't broken.

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 21:02:26 2018

Ebay sucks at everything it does

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Mon Oct 8 22:33:16 2018

If Ebay "sucked at everything" there would be no sellers there.  Absolutely Ebay has more problems than they should.  Of that there is no doubt.

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by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 22:58:14 2018

well I actually never check to see if things got "reshuffled" because I only list for 30 days now.  If it doesn't sell in 30-60 days on ebay it lands somewhere else.  This is an interesting subject because I've noticed things lately in categories they don't even belong in. I was blaming it on the listing seller but this is shedding a new light on things. However as a buyer it sure screws things up when your searching for something.

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Oct 8 23:03:15 2018

Actually eBay is very good at picking my categories!

95% of the time they're right on. . .

Off Topic: Does anyone else here like Ben Shapiro?

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by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 23:05:07 2018

@Whatever The items being in the wrong categories screws up sales too. Like you said, buyers can't find the items. Can't find it, sure can't buy it.

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 9 06:17:22 2018


ebay should just start selling and shipping their own items, they can have all the profit like they want, and it would skip all this non-sense they are putting sellers thru.

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This user has validated their user name. by: CanBrit

Tue Oct 9 13:31:32 2018

I relisted an item a few days ago. If I hadn't also had myself as a watcher, I never would have received the email that told me I was now accepting best offers. When I went into the listing, the best offer button was selected with the lowest price allowed half my asking price. Seriously!

That got taken off pretty quickly. Now I check everything I relist.

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by: planecrashR This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 9 19:55:06 2018

Ebay categories are useless, buyers dont search my categories, they use the search button and thats it, Categories only make ebay look more categorized

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by: Shackles4Devin This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 9 21:37:28 2018

@planecrashR I agree with you but, search: Women's New Balance Thongs. It's a mess.

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 9 22:28:46 2018

Even if eBay were flawless at choosing a 'best' category for an item, one overriding factor would remain.  It is not.  Their.  Item.

They have no business even contemplating such.  And every day they persist, they will have less business from sellers who are fed up with eBay's unwanted and unwarranted meddling.

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by: kazaly This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 11 03:29:44 2018

ebay are absolutely terrible at choosing categories and even manage to ignore manufacturer data they already hold.
Books are a great example where ebay has paid good money for a publisher database but don't use the category the publisher advises for a particular isbn.
I've even seen different editions of the same book in separate categories!
In non-fiction, anything remotely instructional runs the risk of being classed as a textbook; recipe collections are often traeted this way.
These guys are just hopeless!

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 11 05:56:25 2018

I belong to another site and they allow us to create a catagory.  "Etsy"  For example I had a religious artifact to list and there was a "suggest a category" option after I couldn't find the category.  So I create a "religious" category.  Listen up Ebay.  

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by: eastwestphoto This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Oct 11 09:55:12 2018

eBay's programming work best for an item with a UPC code, otherwise the antique items are a huge disaster when listing for a correct category. Easiest thing eBay can do is have a antiques button, that opts OUT of:  categories, feedback, returns,SNAD, all the Clarissa programming matrix on seller evaluation, that lost the Antiques marketplace in USA for them! that would make eBay millions extra per day! Now is the Board really listening to the workers in the fields?  

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by: spooky This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 11 10:31:50 2018

TERIBLE - I have to change the category more than half the time. I assume there tech help is either poor or non existent.  

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