Many online sellers have heard by now that eBay, Amazon, and Etsy are now banning merchandise featuring images of the Confederate flag. But as we report in today's EcommerceBytes Newsflash
, bans by marketplaces and retailers including Walmart are actually boosting sales of such items, at least in the short term.
"Anything with confederate in the title has flown out of my store," one eBay seller told EcommerceBytes yesterday evening.
In eBay's case, some would argue that unlike Walmart, it's a venue only - transactions are between buyers and sellers. Others would argue that having items show up in search results that are offensive and hateful to many customers is not good business.
Above: This watch for sale on Amazon yesterday features a Confederate flag design.
eBay is different from other retailers in that some items are collectibles rather than new merchandise. A look at its Offensive Material policy
shows how delicate the issues are for eBay compared to Walmart or Sears.
For example, "Out of respect for the families and friends of victims, we don't allow listing items closely associated with violent felons within the past 100 years," the policy states, but it does allow "violent felon items more than 100 years old, such as items related to Jack the Ripper."
We dug into the archives and found an article from 2004 when eBay modified the policy
to prohibit sellers from listing racially or ethnically offensive items on the site. eBay allows historic collectibles like Black Americana to be listed, but not reproductions of those items.
In addition, sellers were prohibited from using insensitive language to describe the items. eBay explained at the time, "For example, sellers may not use offensive words and phrases such as "Jap" or "Nigger" in the title or description of their listing, even if that word is part of the proper name or trademark of the item. Sellers may, however, display an image of such historical items within their listing even if the offensive word is plainly visible within the historical item."
What had one seller most upset about this week's change in policy was the lack of information from eBay, Amazon and other marketplaces about what exactly was being banned when it comes to Confederate flag merchandise. (See today's story for examples.)
Etsy was the only one of the three marketplaces that addressed our question about this. "It's hard to respond to hypotheticals or examples without seeing them, but anyone can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with their questions and we'll be sure to respond," a spokesperson said, and provided a link to Etsy's policy on Hate Items
. Last year, eBay did answer our questions about terrorist-related items in this Newsflash story
Are you impacted by this week's policy changes, and what do you think of such bans?