Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Oct 3 2013 12:46:00

Are eBay and Etsy Merchants Angrier than Amazon Merchants?

By: Ina Steiner

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I was speaking today with a journalist from a major publication who was interested in the relationship that online sellers (primarily eBay, Etsy and Amazon) have with the marketplaces on which they sell. One of the questions he asked was why - in his opinion - eBay and Etsy merchants tend to be so vocal, and Amazon merchants don't publicly complain as much about that marketplace (actually, "bash" was the word he used).

I replied that that wasn't necessarily true - we have heard many times from Amazon merchants who were upset with changes to that platform, (search the blogs if you're curious) but there does seem to be a fundamental difference in how merchants view eBay/Etsy vs Amazon.

In my own opinion, a major difference may lie in the fact that eBay/Etsy don't, in and of themselves, sell product. They are simply marketplaces. Amazon was a successful retailer long before they opened their platform up to 3rd party sellers. eBay and Etsy merchants feel that they built those marketplaces in the early day by taking ownership of them, and making them the vital destinations that they are. They also handled the bulk of the viral marketing by attracting other merchants as well as buyers to the sites.

Amazon merchants, I believe, understand that they share the marketplace with Amazon. I think that makes a fundamental difference in how merchants react to the changes that take place on all three venues.

eBay began with the promise of a level playing field and "perfect marketplace" where seller/buyer came together, transacted business autonomously, then paid a percentage of the sale to eBay. Etsy started as a "handmade" marketplace and was dedicated to artisans who produced original product. Both marketplaces have undergone huge paradigm shifts and some might say those early mission statements are distant memories. Amazon, in contrast, has stayed relatively true to the original proposition.

The questions on the table: Are Etsy and eBay sellers angrier than Amazon sellers? If so, why?

I feel sellers should speak for themselves, so I've pointed the reporter to this blog post. Feel free to enlighten him (and us)!




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Perminate Link for Are eBay and Etsy Merchants Angrier than Amazon Merchants?   Are eBay and Etsy Merchants Angrier than Amazon Merchants?

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 13:54:31 2013

It might be as you said, Amazon sells stuff themselves, so the marketplace sellers always knew they were going to have that potential conflict with Amazon.  

Ebay does not sell themselves, but they have instead recruited many large companies to sell on ebay and now there is a potential conflict between ebay's sellers and the megasellers who clearly do not get the same deal from ebay that we do.  Witness when buy.com went live on ebay they had millions of items listed immediately, and it's impossible that they were paying insertion fees like we were.  It'd never happen.  

So ebay inc. has given some sellers a business advantage over others, now that is expanded with the search visibility issue, with returns, with our being able to set business policies that work for our individual businesses.

So yeah, ebay sellers who are in business to make money are indeed angry with ebay.

With things like free shipping, which is impractical for big heavy items.  We have to use free (bundled, really) shipping or they lower us in search so we sell nothing.  

We have to have free returns even for items we are selling that are new, in manufacturers warranty and that if returned to us we just have to throw them out. That we are selling for a fraction of the new cost.

It's not fair or reasonable for another company to dictate business practices to others.

We have had a few complaints about our business practices, but we have designed sound rules that are designed such that we do not lose money.  Paypal even complimented me on the phone about our sound business practices.

Ebay Inc. is essentially forcing us to do things that are not sound business practices. Like free shipping on small orders, free returns on items that are 90% off list.

It's as simple as this:  If you want to pay list price for an item you can probably find someone to sell it to you with free shipping.  You can get easy free returns.  Zappos.com comes to mind as using this model. Expensive shoes, free shipping, free returns. Someone has to pay for that shipping and returns

On ebay everything is very cheap.  When you get a great deal you don't always get what you could get if you pay full price. It's a tradeoff and as sellers we must use business practices that further our business goals.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Thu Oct 3 14:20:45 2013

One has to know ebay's "secret" definition of the term "level playing field"

The 2012 selling limits imposed upon all seller accounts are the boundary to understanding ebay's definition of the term "level playing field"

If a business was a large business in 2012 they will remain a large business and grow larger because ebay's search engine will make them glow red hot with sales because they have new products and commercial shipping departments.

As for small sellers. The individuals, the sole proprietor types and the Incorporated small business types.

We are all cemented in place at the lower tiers of the "level playing fields"

At our level, the competition is very severe because little traffic is given to the small seller tier.

We have fallen from the Gold power seller level to Silver and the projections are we will be Bronze by April or May

I have heard many sellers comment here about their omniture reports. All are very similar and share the same timeline of when traffic plummeted.

I have always trusted Omniture and found it to be extremely reliable. Traffic reports I am seeing now are trending last fall 2012 like a mirror image. My ebay account is going to the bottom again. My page view forecast for Oct is half of what we did last month in Sept, JUST LIKE THE FALL OF 2012.

Last fall ebay reported on the system announcement board that the omniture reports were dysfunctional and not reliable.

Ebay quickly removed that posting. It is because it was not true. Omniture is owned by Adobe and their Lawyers would not allow ebay to post it because it was not true.

Those of us who have a small business presence on ebay are seeing sales and traffic plummet because we have been equated to being equal to an individual seller. One CSR told me that so many people are unemployed now that they are seeing then sell on ebay.

Selling limits on small sellers are equal to per capita income limits of what they think is fair for an individual's yearly income, hence the "level playing field"

A new seller opening a new account on ebay has selling limit of $1,000 per month and can only list 10 items per month.

So with that said it is obvious that sellers who want to start a legitimate business by incorporating or being a sole proprietor will not have an opportunity to function a business on that level of sales. One would have to have sales from other sources.

The days of starting a business from your home are over. One must also have a brick & mortar store front.

Ebay will run your small business into bankruptcy.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 14:28:38 2013

Its simply the attitude that the 2 companies (I'm not an Etsy seller though my wife is and shes OK with their policies ATM) have towards their sellers.

Steevo mentioned ALOT of things that cause people to be upset at eBay more then Amazon - but here's my input.

1) Amazon sells goods themselves and has set standards you must adhere to if you want to be a 3P seller. You know the rules UPFRONT before going in when selling on Amazon. You know how customer centric they are, how they expect you to behave etc BUT in return they will give you the BUY BOX and let you do FBA and you can really hit homeruns with the correct product(s). Yes there are changes - what company doesn't have changes?

eBay sells nothing - except false promises. No one at eBay's management understands what being a smaller independant seller is about. They don't understand that when a seller buys a deal for example - there are no returns unless defective. eBay doesn't understand the high costs of shipping, packing, going to the PO or any other aspect - but when they foist changes at people its because "OUR customer told us this is what THEY want". Well excuse me Mr. We are just a platform !

I want free cookies at my bakery. Does that mean they are obligated to give them to me? If they have a plate of samples fine - but is it mandated?

2) Amazon as Steevo said makes across the board changes for EVERYONE, eBay plays favorites. People know quite well when they are being given the run around, they feel it when they are being cheated.

3) eBay does sleazy moves on sellers, Amazon does not. Amazon doesn't manipulate the searches to anyone - not even themselves. Everyone is on the same level playing field. eBay openly admits that they take your money for listings, but then can and will decide on their own if they will show your listing ... and when!

4) eBay takes a cut of the shipping by putting FVFs on shipping costs ... Amazon doesn't. Its another SLEAZY move.

5) VERO - ever heard of a case of it on Amazon? (how about on buy.com or sears?) Yes Amazon blocks items, even categories but NEVER pulls the VERO crap on people - and I've experienced it in full force - using it to try to get people to stop selling certain brands. (Had the companies had a REAL issue they could have, would have sued. They didnt and backed down. They only had the power because eBay gave it to them).

There are alot of reasons - Ina doesn't have enough server space to hold all the txt on the differences - but its not hard to understand ... eBay does sleazy hurtful quasi illegal moves that help itself and its silent business partners all the while SWEARING "its not true". No one likes to be lied to - and eBay is the KING of all liars!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Oct 3 15:11:13 2013

I think sellers of both eBay and etsy feel that both companies have thrown them under the bus.  These small and medium sized sellers built both companies from the ground up, and they now feel like they've been passed over as both companies seem to favor the large big box retailers and large corporate companies.  It is not a level playing field and small sellers know it.

For eBay to admit that one's items may not even be visible from time-to-time is hard to swallow, particularly when sellers pay for stores.  Sellers also feel that eBay is over reaching--attempting to micro-manage every aspect of their businesses from returns to shipping.  It seems like every other week that there is a new user agreement which turns the screws tighter and tighter on small sellers.

Of course the sheer arrogance of eBay management alone is enough to get one's blood boiling.

Selling on Amazon is no walk in the park either, but it is a more stable selling environment.  We rarely have any problems with buyers on Amazon, but we feel that eBay have created an environment that causes on-going friction between buyers and sellers.  

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 15:35:00 2013

@Rexford re: ebay. I agree about the climate of fear and distrust between buyer and seller, a general adversarial climate that ebay creates.

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

Thu Oct 3 16:01:59 2013

Oh, lordy... don't get me started. :-)

I just popped-in for a minute. I really don't have time to write one of my usual long, verbose, rambling rants.

Instead... I'm busy listing AND SELLING on my own website! Where I don't have to worry about anyone's rules (or anyone's paradigm-shift) other than my own.

Life is good. Sales are great. And my husband's employer didn't furlough him from the defense contract he's working on (for now).

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by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 16:14:06 2013

Amen to all of the above comments.  

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by: Santini This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 16:21:31 2013

Hey Annie, can WE sell on your website? Just a thought, lol...

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

Thu Oct 3 16:36:31 2013

Call Amazon on the phone.
You get right through. You get results.

eBay lies and steals.

Ed ain't used Etsy.

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

Thu Oct 3 21:51:26 2013

I do my best to avoid getting angry with anyone. Who needs an ulcer?

I have sold via various venues Ebay and Amazon included. Both of them can be challenging. Amazon displayed an astounding degree of incompetence while Ebay impressed me with both incompetence and untrustworthiness.  

Money can be made either place but it takes a thick skin.

I don't sell on Etsy so I have no opinion.

Our Yahoo small business site has been the most successful venue we have used.

Perminate Link for Are eBay and Etsy Merchants Angrier than Amazon Merchants?   Are eBay and Etsy Merchants Angrier than Amazon Merchants?

by: Gina This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 21:57:57 2013

Etsy=eBay, just on the opposite coast!

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

Thu Oct 3 21:58:49 2013

Oops had a typo in the URL.

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 22:46:06 2013

I do not think Amazon is a whole lot better than ebay. The core of Amazon is just as cut throat, greedy and unethical. In fact Amazon actually back stabs their own sellers. That is pretty SLEAZY and LOW.

For example.  If a product sells real good they will try and force the seller to tell them their source or find it on their own, then start carrying it and kick the seller off.  

You will be hard pressed to find more than a handful of corporations anywhere today that have ANY ethics or moral code.  Some are just a little better at hiding it, and the more money they are worth the more "reporters" (mouth pieces) they can get to sing them praises and help them MASK their dirty dealings.

As for the ebay sellers seeming to be more angry.  I do not know if that is true, I think more ebay sellers are willing to express it than Amazon sellers because Amazon sellers tend to sell MORE than most ebay sellers, and are AFRAID for Amazon to find out how they really feel and then kick them off the site.

The main reason Amazons sellers sell more than ebay sellers is because Amazon actually understands how important it is for their sellers to actually SELL and the only way for them to do that is to be SEEN.

ebay on the other hand is so concerned with giving brands and high volume sellers SPECIAL TREATMENT at the cost of the little sellers, they literally bite the hands that actually feed them.

ebay is DIABOLICAL in their EVILNESS.  They have no problem charging their sellers for ANYTHING they can think of but then blatantly tells their sellers THEY will decide who gets SEEN and who does NOT.

Who wouldn't be FUMING when you are paying good money to be seen only to NOT bee seen.  This is business 101.  It is no different than a landlord charging you rent but never letting you live in the apartment.

ebay cuts off their nose to spite their own face.  ebays only concern is ebay.

ebay is so busy trying to compete with Amazon that they refuse to see all of the DAMAGE they do to ebay with all of their PHONY and CRAZY schemes.  As a result they HURT their sellers, buyers and platform and their own reputation, which by the way is pretty much MUD.

I agree with others regarding ebay.  The SELLERS are what make ebay, without them they are NOTHING.  ebay and paypal have now gone so far as to micro manage your business and dictate to the sellers how they want them to run their business and the only ones who ever suffer the loss is the sellers.

ebay does not follow their own rules, and worst of all, they punish their sellers for their BAD policies.

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by: Truk This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 23:00:11 2013

I really feel we kinda got left out to dry with ebay
Early on we grew quickly still are but here's the but we built a business model around ebay ,so now with nearly a million dollars of investment comes DSR's where anyone of any irk education or whim can rate us and endanger our entire investment and livelihood

Seemed like a good idea at the time now not so much

We are trying to diversify off ebay but why because ebay continually fails to understand as they make choices that affect seller's so must seller's
These arbitrary DSR rating systems will be cause for small to medium sellers to diversify or move entirely else-where what other choice do we have
I don't really want to move from ebay it's still pretty good but I can't see investing another dime it's just to risky not of a market to sell in but of a platform provider to deal with
Ebay now become more difficult to deal with than customers and way more unreasonable

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by: sundance This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 23:07:58 2013

Yes!

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 23:13:07 2013

The growing rebellion against ebay CANNOT be accomplished INSIDE ebay. This can only be pulled off by investigative reporters taking a look into ebay, or OUTSIDE governmental regulatory agencies taking a look into ebay, or COURTS taking a look into ebay from class action lawsuits.

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by: Tim This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 3 23:14:01 2013

I have not sold on Etsy so I can give no opinion there... but, I sell a lot on Amazon and eBay.

I agree with the reporter's premise that eBay sellers are far and away more angry and vocal than Amazon sellers.  I think the reason is very simple: You get what you give, and what you deserve.  It is a truism in any relationship and selling on these platforms is a relationship.

eBay will lie cheat and steal.  They will do you grievous harm with very little notice.  They change the rules sometimes with no notice at all.  They are arbitrary and capricious.  Some rule changes or new rules, make no sense at all... except to eBay's bottom line. They are difficult to get a hold of and there is no reasoning with anyone you can get on the phone.  Wouldn't all of that make you angry?

Frankly I expect any day to lose all my eBay business because of some rule change or search change or ''Diamond'' seller they give special preference to in my category.  How can any business operate that way and not be anxious and angry?

Amazon is NOT perfect, but they do an excellent job of letting you know upfront what the deal is and what they expect from you.  And then they don't change the deal.  Yes, they have - especially lately - changed some rules that impact some sellers, but generally speaking, and historically, Amazon has been stable and reasonable.  They don't stagger from one agenda to another.  You can get a real person on the phone.  And, if they can be, they are reasonable.

Amazon sells, and while that can be a problem at times (competitively) it also means they have a clue as to what we go through and what the consumer wants.  eBay hires Ivy League 20-somethings who have never worked a day in their life, much less sold somebody anything... and those people make retail decision for eBay sellers. It is maddening and infuriating.

Lastly, for those of us who have been around awhile, eBay invited us in and asked us to make their platform viable. They encouraged community and encouraged us to advertise eBay. They used us to make their company what it is today.  And when they had what they wanted - they tossed sellers aside.  Amazon, may use us, but they built the platform and invited us to participate.  It is an entirely different relationship.

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by: Jbyron This user has validated their user name.

Fri Oct 4 01:34:07 2013

I could not agree more with Tim. EBay had destroyed my business. Due to the changes in search I sell only about 40% of last years sales. I sell on Amazon and eBay. It is a rotten deal on eBay that we pay listing fees but not all of our items are visible in search. Word of mouth is killing the platform just as surely as word of mouth bilt eBay when I first got started in 1999. They have become one greedy and nasty piece of work.

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

Fri Oct 4 03:07:12 2013

This "journalist from a major publication" has already framed the discussion exactly the way in which ebay wants the spectrum of extremely serious issues ebay and many of its sellers have with each other.

Ebay wants its smaller sellers to be viewed by both government agencies or journalists who might investigate them to be viewed as unwashed, angry noise incapable of understanding the complexities oif running a profitable corporation.

To portray ebay or etsy sellers as "angry" or create some artificial ebay-etsy-amazon anger scale is both superficial and facile.

I refuse to participate in any discussion about ebay with an alleged neutral party that begins with an emotionally charged adjective.

The issues run so much deeper and broader than "anger" that it literally would require a book to explain just how egregiously ebay has treated so many American sellers and how many small businesses ebay has exterminated.

This journalist should take a step backward and ask questions in a neutral, fact finding manner instead of using the very kind of language that ebay wants the media to use when discussing sellers.

Veterans know exactly what kind of language I refer to.

Any journalist willing to look at the cold, hard facts, history, and investigate ebay independently of ebay's overt and covert propaganda machines might find a Pulitzer in their future.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Fri Oct 4 05:31:29 2013

Tim is correct. I think the constant changeability of eBay and Etsy vs. Amazon is a huge part of the problem. Etsy and eBay can't seem to resist tinkering with everything and dumping changes on sellers with little warning. Amazon doesn't seem to have that issue, so it doesn't surprise me that sellers on the latter are less angry than sellers on Etsy and eBay who are fed up with being gerbils on a wheel, trying to catch that elusive cheese that these venues keep moving out of their reach while making the wheel turn faster or reverse direction.

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