eBay has perplexed users by adding a Make an Offer haggling feature to auctions. The unannounced change is so disconcerting that some people who have noticed the feature are sure it is a glitch. But the feature appears to be eBay's way of signaling when it has determined that a starting bid on an auction is set too high.
Until this week, Best Offer was only available
for fixed price listings and Classified Ad formats. A reader tipped us off to the change, and we found users buzzing about it on the eBay forums.
The reader said he and another seller tested the feature. One of them made an offer for less than opening bid, then the other placed a bid for the auction starting price. "His offer was automatically declined once I bid. After my bid was canceled the offer button was there again."
The appearance of the Make an Offer button to sellers' listings came as a surprise - eBay did not inform sellers. At least three different sellers we observed discussing the feature on the eBay boards said the feature appeared in their listings with no warning. Nor did eBay customer service reps or moderators monitoring the boards appear to know anything about the feature being available in auction listings.
However, one eBay user was told by a customer service rep:
"eBay applies Best Offer to over-priced listings to help increase their chances of selling. Best Offer is applied to auctions when the start price exceeds the recommended Buy it Now price. This only applies to Auctions, it does not apply to Auctions with a Buy it Now price.
"The trending price and recommended Buy it Now price is based on prices of similar listings sold on eBay over the past 90 days. Listings where the seller-selected auction start price is greater than the trending price are considered overpriced and will have Best Offer applied.
"Moving on, we currently do not have a way for sellers to remove Best Offer from auction listings. However, based on the Best Offer logic, if you reduce your auction start price to the recommended Buy it Now price or below, Best Offer will no longer appear on your listing.
"On the other hand, if you receive an offer that you don't want to accept there are a few options. You may reject the offer outright, counter the offer with a price that you would accept, or ignore the offer. If ignored, the offer will expire after 48 hours. I trust the information I have provided is helpful on your concern."
One seller reading the response from eBay was flabbergasted. "That's absolutely bleeped. I would expect offers to be ABOVE the starting price, kind of a formal "request a BIN price". They're really going to tell buyers that an auction is "overpriced"??? That's insane."
Another seller wrote, "I thought the purpose would be for the impatient buyer, who just wants to buy it now, to offer a HIGHER price than the opening bid. This would tie in with the current campaign to block off site transactions, as that could happen in that instance, and this would make it easier to keep it on site and for eBay to get its fees from a new revenue stream."
Interestingly we saw one auction with a starting bid of under $2.00 sporting a Make an Offer option. (We tested the feature and were unable to make an offer of less than 99 cents.)
Not only are sellers unable to remove the feature from their listings if eBay places it there, sellers say they can't find a way to add it to listings when it doesn't display.
In addition to the frustration of having the haggling feature foisted on their auction listings, sellers are upset at eBay's lack of communication. And one seller said they were disturbed about the fact that when they preview their listings, it doesn't show the Make an Offer feature, but it appears once they post the listing.
The EcommerceBytes reader pointed out that the feature could prove annoying to buyers and could hurt auctions. "The real bids don't come in until an auction is closer to ending. If I come to bid an hour before I know an item was scheduled to end, only to find the seller accepted an offer a day or two earlier, I'm going to be upset. The more that happens, the more people will avoid auctions. There is still a place for auctions."