Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Oct 4 2017 15:46:58

eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

By: Ina Steiner

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Would you rather shop at a store where you receive assistance or where the clerks are unhelpful and non-communicative? Through its policies, eBay may be turning its marketplace into a version of the latter.

Take the case of a reader who tried to help a would-be buyer who wanted to learn more about the product he was selling. The seller felt the manufacturer was better suited to answer, so he provided the shopper with the manufacturer's phone number.

As a result of that helpful gesture, eBay suspended his account for 7 days.

"Here is the message I sent my buyer in an attempt to help my customer out and provide good customer service like any good business should: "Hmm, I can't verify for vanes, but I don't see why not. I'd recommend giving bohning a call and seeing what they think though before purchase, here is their phone number: 231.229.4247.""

The seller told us, "Bohning is a manufacturer who sells only to businesses, not the public. Nor is this company connected to mine. In no way shape or form did I violate any eBay policy by giving away any of our contact information."

Imagine what that buyer thinks when they see that seller has been suspended. Not only is eBay planting the seeds of distrust between buyers and sellers, it's losing fees from sales that seller would have made during his 7-day suspension period - from a seller who is clearly attentive to shopper inquiries. And if shoppers aren't able to get answers to their questions, it will hurt conversion rates.

"It's honestly better to be a jerk to customers when selling on eBay I suppose," the seller mused.

Ironically, the letter from the EcommerceBytes reader came a day after eBay executive Dan Tarman published a post in which he quoted founder Pierre Omidyar: 

"If you give people the benefit of the doubt, you will rarely be disappointed." 

"Twenty-two years later, eBay remains true to this founding premise," wrote eBay's Chief Communications Officer.




Comments (43) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: BuildingMyOwnSite

Wed Oct 4 16:12:41 2017

How sad that this should happen.  Ebay's paranoia has recently reached disastrous proportions.  Also, this exhibits how Ebay's lack of funding, and training to the CSR's affects (as they would put it) ''The Seller Experience''.   Qualified CSR's (and enough of them) simply have to be part of the cost, when selling on Ebay.

This problem never should have happened, as Ebay will either have to let people run their business, or close up shop.  Sounds like this was Archery equipment, but what if this was a technical question on a 25,000.00 piece of machinery.  I've sold expensive tools, but can't answer technical questions about them.

And why should price matter?
And it should have been fixed with a simple call to a CSR.
And an apology from Ebay.

Wake up Ebay.  Your algorithms are OUT OF CONTROL !!!

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: dander This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 4 17:07:46 2017

Exactly what Buildingmyownsite said. Some things get complicated and I can't answer the question, other times I might want to refer the buyer to someone that is an expert. Its good business. Ebay please get out of our way of us providing customer service. Is the incremental money you might make keeping the sales on your site worth it?

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 4 17:19:26 2017

"If you blame your sellers all the time, because you know nothing about ecommerce, you will alweays be disappointed."  

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 4 17:21:16 2017

The quarters numbers must be SO BAD (and from the number of watchers and traffic .... I can tell you they are) .... this is the last straw of failing system - to be so paranoid that even telling a customer to talk to the maker is a bad thing.

eBay should apologize, promise to leave him alone, and give him a $25 since they were grade A @$$'$

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Wed Oct 4 18:24:27 2017

Reading the stories of how much more adversarial the relationship between eBay and their sellers has become under CEO Devin Wenig leaves me happy that I ended all my listings and closed my eBay store.

eBay continues to hire C level and mid level executives who have zero experience buying or selling on the platform.  The so called "improvements" imposed by these unqualified leaders may continue to bamboozle wall street analysts but the tale of the tape lies with the number of sellers who find that selling on eBay has become more trouble than it is worth.

I have said it before, attempting to build a successful business on eBay is like trying to build a sky scraper on a bed of quicksand.

eBay continues to poison the well and destroys all good will between the company and it's sellers with it's many head scratching - self defeating moves.

With small sellers and even a large seller like Toys R Us abandoning the sinking eBay ship, it will not be long before the single digit GMV growth drops to zero growth before diving into negative numbers.

There is only so much creative book cooking eBay can do before the truth becomes impossible for management to conceal.


Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: hopeforthebest This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 4 20:22:23 2017

I can't wait for the day when Ebay's brilliant new Cassini Big Data AI algorithm suspends you just for THINKING about a phone number.  

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Oct 4 21:09:45 2017

I just had a customer send me his phone number thru eBay messages today.

I think he was paranoid because he spelled out the 1st and last number

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: BuildingMyOwnSite

Wed Oct 4 21:12:53 2017

@hopeforthebest:

Elsewhere I sell lots of vintage aluminum pots & pans.  Seems the millennials think they're good pots, just 'cause they're old.

Saved one big aluminum turkey roaster for my own cerebral protection.  They'll never catch me thinkin' 'bout phone numbers.  (I crumple foil inside for cushioning & extra protection)

Makes me feel funny when I wear it though.  Sorta weird, makes me wanna flap my arms & dance around....................  Last week I scratched a hole in the carpet, and ate a whole can of sage............ now I crave cranberries & squash with marshmallows melted in to it............  I hate pumpkin, but with a little nutmeg....... startin' to sound good.   Ebay will NEVER get me.  How much flour to butter for a good gravy roux?

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Oct 4 21:17:38 2017

This article reminds me of how easy it is to sell on other sites with few hassles.  It has gotten to the point where no one wants to fool with eBay and their insane policies.  The other sites treat me so well that I would never want to take my sales off site.

"If you give eBay the boot, you will rarely be disappointed."

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 4 22:47:38 2017

I do find it a little hard to believe ebay suspended this seller for 7 days for the first offense. Regardless though the rules are the rules and I don't always agree with them, but I do always follow them.

I get many requests for buyers to pay by checks or trade. I also get requests to call buyers even for innocent reasons. I just politely explain that it is a violation of ebay policy and decline. Very few have persisted beyond that.  

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 4 23:35:20 2017

It seems a violation was triggered by the (any) attempt to provide third party contact information, regardless of it's nature or 'helpfulness'.  Those bots are not programmed to act 'helpfully'.  Or rather, to none other than eBay.

That's bad enough.  When tied to an itchy 'ready, FIRE, aim' robomallcop, deaf to pleas for due cnsideration, needless decimation and collateral damage erupts.  

Perhaps, in the future, the OP might consider contacting third parties on the customer's behalf and then relaying the required answers.  

Another unnecessary landmine to goose-step around on the eBay path to surviving as a seller.  

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

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

Wed Oct 4 23:48:05 2017

Just when I think Wenig and his team of presidential morons can't get any more tone deaf or moronic, something like this comes along.

They've ALL got to go. NOW.

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Thu Oct 5 00:46:05 2017

''If you give people the benefit of the doubt, you will rarely be disappointed.''

''We believe people are basically good. We believe everyone has something to contribute. We encourage you to treat others the way you want to be treated''.

These are quotes and core principles on which Pierre founded eBay.

What has happened to these ideals and his company? Is he truly aware of what it has become?? He, of course, is still on the eBay board, and most likely has a controlling interest.

If his net worth took a downturn due to eBay's value becoming lessened, it would be a shame, since he is a great philanthropist. What Pierre does with his Omidyar Group foundation helps many organizations.



Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Thu Oct 5 01:51:29 2017

Thanks, @tool, for the workaround.  

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: Gemz This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 5 02:31:14 2017

For those of you thinking that you can't get suspended for a 1st time offense or that think for a minute that bots are catching people and they are getting caught up in it all I have news for you.....YOU CAN AND WILL!  In addition, they actually are hiring people, real people, to scan through the emails AFTER the bots flag them. So when you are being nailed to a cross for something that Ebay thinks you are trying to circumvent in the way of sales with them, you actually have an Ebay moron sitting there pressing the suspend button on you! I know this for 100% certain as it has happened TWICE to me! The first time Ecommercebytes ran the story and let you all know that this new policy was implemented and my 7-day suspension was the first that was reported here! The funny thing is... I was doing nothing wrong! All I did was tell the customer that they HAVE to buy it on Ebay no matter what (we only sell to ebay people on ebay as a strict rule that is never broken even before their stupid rule change) and told the customer to stop by to see an item in person (considering it's large and weighs a couple hundred pounds and of course expensive!) So they said they will buy it right after they look at it in person to make sure it will do as they need. We are a retail store as well. So they get the address and in an hour later, we are suspended! We call them and talk to the person doing it to us and they said they have a zero tolerance for ANY info on the sellers name, location, or phone number! I said...Well what do we do when someone wants to see something before they drop 2000-3000 dollars? Their reply....(this is a good one)...THEY CAN BUY IT AND GET IT TO LOOK AT. IF THEY DON'T LIKE IT THEY CAN RETURN IT! I'm like...uh....that's not the way to do business. They said...well that's the way it is now on ebay! I said but we don't accept returns once something is bought. They said that ebay will make you take it back regardless since once they click return, your money is removed from paypal and then if you don't agree to the return, they help the customer by telling them what to click (like item not as described) and force you to take it back at our expense! I said...well you guys have all the makings for a huge downfall in business now don't you?!? The lady said...I'm just telling you the policies and the way things work here. Surely this isn't the first time you heard about how returns are (forced) handled here? I said, no! I have been scammed and lost many 1000's of dollars in the past and no one likes that! She said...well that's the cost of doing business on Ebay! (She was dead serious!) What rocks do they look under to get people with business ethics equal to a terrorist organization is what I want to know!?!!! The whole situation with Ebay is so far out of control that I think they now HAVE to do what they are doing because they are losing money faster than Clinton lost the election! Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) they will have to post their losses and stop the creative bookkeeping they have been doing to their investors and then the beginning of the end of Ebay won't be far off. They will be sold to Amazon and liquidated which has been a long long long time coming!

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Oct 5 02:45:48 2017

There really is not excuse for this happening EVER!  According to the CSRs on the Ebay weekly chat, it is the bots that identify a potential problem, but a real human reviews the emails before any sanction is put into place.  My bet is those people assigned to review the emails [if they exist] are about as well trained as the CSRs we get when we call into Ebay.

This is really something Ebay needs to get a handle on NOW!  It is bad for business for them and us!!!

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: LBeBaySeller This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 5 04:18:16 2017

We print our invoices on the reverse of a black and yellow safety leaflet because our un-environmentally friendly product, needs all the environmental help it can get (one less sheet of paper is one less and less weight in the post etc).

I get requests for copy invoices once or twice a month.  Some of these are beyond the 3 months + current month that eBay store but we have an independent admin panel and can re-print pdfs of invoices from there.

Here's the clincher - how am I supposed to get the PDF to the customer?  I'm not allowed to use the email address they provide to eBay or PayPal for this purpose.  I'm not allowed to ask for contact information.  The trade is over 120 days old so I can't ask for their contact information.  I cannot send the PDF as an attachment to the customer via eBay's messages.

So we're now at the point where the customer who has disposed of the safety leaflet wants a copy invoice but without breaking an eBay policy, we cannot provide it.  I tried to address this with eBay yesterday.  The script of the CS agent didn't fit the scenario so she passed me to a different team.  Their script also did not fit the scenario.  After an hour on the phone, I gave up.

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 5 04:35:54 2017

Paranoid is right!  But remember it's Ebay's platform and they can set the rules.  However, for the seller, here's a way around that.  I had 2 incidences on AMZ where I sold some electronic stuff and it was returned because buyers said it wasn't what they thought it was.  One said she made a mistake, the other said it wasn't what he wanted.  At one time AMZ had product videos  showing what the product was that were removed; I begged AMZ to please return the videos for electronics.  Of course, they said no.
So in my description section I encourage the customer to go online and read the product reviews and watch Youtube videos.
One item was an older MP3player and after the customer returned the product, I write in the description - Customer should read and watch product reviews before buying.
Electronics are always higher returns than anything I sell.  Never had a dress/shoe/purse/book returned.

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 5 04:41:16 2017

One last thing -- I've been banned for LIFE PERMANENTLY from the Ebay forums.  Why?  simply from mentioning a competitive website's name!  A OP asked the question about shipping a rather large item, and I (among others) told the OP it would be quicker and better for him to place an ad in Craigslist or sell it locally.  OOPS!  Bad me....got banned.  Now ironically, EB still lets me SELL online.  But I can't visit the forums.
If the seller was suspended for 7 days the next step will be total ban.

Perminate Link for eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper   eBay Penalizes Seller for Helping a Shopper

by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 5 08:17:56 2017

Ebay is a disaster, all they care about is bonus checks. They could care less if a seller loses a sale. They feed the the bad buyers and sit in their money room counting the dollars they have stolen from sellers

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