Eight years after the movie "40 Year Old Virgin" introduced the concept of independently-run eBay drop-off stores to the general public, former eBay CEO John Donahoe decided the company should start its own consignment program and launched eBay Valet in 2013. eBay hired two companies - ModusLink and Ingram Micro Logistics - to power the program, blindsiding its army of independent consignment businesses by discontinuing the Trading Assistants program that same year.
A self-described former employee of one of the contractors operating eBay Valet reached out to EcommerceBytes this week to describe his experience and what he thinks of the now defunct program.
John (a pseudonym) said one of the biggest problems with the program was that people would send in worthless junk, hoping to get a few bucks in exchange. It was free to send items to eBay Valet and was risk-free. If it sold, it was easy money, and if it didn't sell, eBay would return the item.
But for eBay, it cost money whether the item sold or not. eBay had to foot the incoming shipping bill - and the return shipping if the items were unsellable. One person sent in a 4-drawer filing cabinet, John noted with bemusement. "People freight shipped stuff in without asking," he said.
And manually processing all of the incoming items was time and labor intensive.
Employees at the contractor John worked rejected 50% of the items received from consumers "on a good day," he said. It could be as high as 80%, but the boxes still had to be opened and cataloged to make that determination.
People sent in fakes, "flea market crap," and even some items he presumed came from hoarder houses - he saw boxes come in containing garbage - literally.
Another big problem, according to John: the eBay contractor hired temps with little screening. The company tried to "stupid-proof" the process of dealing with the influx of eBay Valet items. One person would open a box and document it (always in view of a video camera). One person would write a title. Another person would write a description and item specifics. Another person would take pictures of the item. Someone would then QA the listing before storing the item in the warehouse. If the item sold, one person would pick it from the warehouse shelves, another would pack it. And if it didn't sell, back it would go to the consumer who had sent it.
John believes that even if they had been able to sell 100% of the goods at 100% of the asking price, it still wouldn't cover the cost of labor and overhead costs. He said (in less polite terms) that he couldn't understand why eBay kept the program going so long given its unprofitability.
Before settling on eBay Valet with an official launch in 2014, eBay had run several pilot programs to test the consignment model. In May of 2013, we spoke to a user who was selling on consignment as an independent seller under the eBay Trading Assistant. She participated in eBay's "Selling Assistant" pilot program that year and detailed the many challenges of the program she had encountered before ending her participation, which you can read about in this article
John stopped working for the contractor in 2016, the same year eBay launched a drop-off component to eBay Valet, leveraging the over 1,600 FedEx Office retail locations in the US.
The program lasted another year until eBay shut it down earlier this year, 2018. But it didn't quite die,...eBay is now using one of the eBay Valet contractors to run its eBay Authenticate program under the direction of some of the same eBay managers who had worked on the eBay Valet program.
eBay Authenticate is the marketplace's latest attempt to offer a consignment service, this time, focusing on high-end goods, starting with luxury handbags, though it has come under criticism
by some handbag aficionados who are skeptical about its ability to spot fakes, including a report from a reader that came in as we were working on this story.
When eBay started the program, it said it would use a "network of professional authenticators." Today, eBay describes them as "independent experts, including authenticators and sellers."
You can find eBay Authenticate items listed for sale on the EastvaleLuxe eBay Store
, run by Ingram Micro Commerce's Eastvale Store LLC unit - one of contractors that had operated eBay Valet.