Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Sept 6 2021 10:01:47

eBay Anniversary Quiz: How Are Today's Sellers Different?

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay was launched on Labor Day 26 years ago, so we thought it timely to ask readers a relevant and very straightforward question:

Are there differences between today's online sellers and those early sellers that made eBay a viable platform?

We know the marketplace itself has changed immensely, but what about the types of sellers? When you look around, do you see differences? And how about yourself - do you source differently? Handle customer service differently? Do you still sell on eBay?

Keep your responses on-topic (please) as we are very curious about your perceptions of today's eBay seller vs those from two decades ago.

And if you're feeling nostalgic, here's a link to a YouTube video where eBay founder Pierre Omidyar talks about the early days.



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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Sep 6 11:31:44 2021

Selling is way more competitive then it was back then.

Those days of low lying fruit are long gone.

But it's still the best game in town as a buyer!

As seller you are at the mercy of your customer, I'm lucky I sell to a unique kind of crowd.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Sep 6 12:06:36 2021

There are definitely differences in the sellers in 1998 and now. Back then, I think they were mostly people who were selling collectibles and parts (toys, machinery, whatever), and other things around their houses they no longer needed. Nowadays, the sellers are mostly Chinese and businesses.

At the present, I don't source differently (mostly stuff that I've bought over the years and am trying to clear out my house), and my customer service was then and still is the same: mail items fast as possible, and treat the customer with respect. I no longer sell on eBay because of the fees and how much has changed since JD and beyond have ruined the site.  

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by: RL15 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 6 12:48:44 2021

I stopped selling on fleecebay 12-17-2017

No reason to deal with all the fraud, there are other sites that do not steal from sellers.

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by: Smallseller This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 6 15:20:23 2021

From what I see on news stories reported on the Facebook groups and based on such discussions, here is what some sellers have become.

- Out to make a quick buck and will capitalize on any controversy or skirt policies as much as possible - examples - selling items that are banned and they know they are banned - like Covid supplies, Dr. Seuss, presales etc. While there may be some accidental listings, when a seller goes out of there way to make the listing title so vague so the algorithm doesn't catch it or does not show pictures, they know they can be suspended but hope for some sales anyways

- Dropshippers - this was probably not a thing 10 or 15 years ago

- Being so scared of being scammed that they put 5 paragraphs of their return policy

- Race to the bottom - choosing markets that are so over saturated that they are forced to continuously lower prices

- Sell things based on watching YouTube videos without doing any research and then wondering why they do not have sales

I do not have sales experience that dates back that long, but I have read enough to think that ebay has changed from a friendly flea market to shark infested waters

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 6 15:55:41 2021

Around 2002 I started using ebay. At that time period shopping online meant shopping on ebay. Anytime I wanted something I went right to ebay because auction bidding ensured the best price, and that persisted onwards to 2008 when the CEO was replaced. My favorite sellers were all getting banned and everything became fixed price. My buying severely declined. Then I got into collectables and it ramped back up. Then amazon reselling and unreasonable standards removed collectable sellers happened and I started to buy almost nothing.

Buyer seller relationships back in the day were very good. I made lots of ebay "friends" I would buy things from them and they from me. No one was really there in the early days with a business model. Everyone just got what was cheap in their neck of the woods and we exchanged value across the platform. My early experience with ebay was that it was FUN, the sellers and bidding process was fun. To go into a store and find the rare collectable toy that would yield a happy me and a happy buyer was a priceless feeling that actually brought me joy and glee.

John Donahoe took the magic and the fun and sucked the life out of the platform, or at least he had put DW in the head of marketplaces to do that. In hind sight I think that Mr. Donahoe was singularly focused on paypal while Devin Wenig ruined the place.

Today ebay is a better marketplace then it ever was. The magic, fun, and joy are long gone but trust is up and the amazon reselling crackdown and a major step in the right direction.

What differs now is that sellers used to be friendly and fun. Today it is all business and cheapskates. Buyer seller members seem rare. These days it is buyers vs, sellers instead of the thriving community of members that contributed though buying and selling.

At the end of the day I always did then as I do today. I find the best price and that is where I shop. If that best price is on ebay I buy on ebay. If that is amazon I buy on amazon. There was a time though I was like a cult follower of ebay. JD took that from us.

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by: Michael in BC This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 6 16:47:43 2021

Back when eBay gave you a member number when you joined, mine was just over No. 2000 - December 29th this year will be my 25th anniversary.

For the 1st few years, everything (and I do mean everything) sold - 100% sell-through. It cost 5ยข to list an item, then 5% on the first $25, 3% on the remainder of the selling price - no other fees.  I accepted checks - even ones drawn on UK or Australian banks, money orders, and Western Union transfers.  I could communicate with my past buyers to advise I'd be listing more stuff of interest.  I put buyers in touch with other buyers who shared their interests, and they became friends.  Buyers weren't paranoid if their "thing" didn't arrive in 3 or 4 days.  

It's a different world.  I still list things, but there are so many rules/regulations/policies/restrictions and control, along with ever increasing fees that the old-style fun is long gone.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Mon Sep 6 17:37:14 2021

Today's Ebay Sellers are different in that they never knew the Great Ebay where it was a Highly Profitable expenditure of a person's time.
Back when Ebay was a highly effective American economic engine for the People.

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by: 1st Armored Div. 1971-1973 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 6 22:29:19 2021

In the beginning is was amature hour and was it fun.

Today to survive you have to be professional or ebay will shut you down fast for some rule infraction. Not so fun.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Tue Sep 7 02:16:58 2021

Ya, now Ebay is a Professional at raping your profits.
It is Totally Not worth your precious time.

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by: lancecorp This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 7 09:35:26 2021

As a seller since '97 - what stared out as a fun venture, meeting people from around the world, bringing joy to those looking for those elusive items and making a few $$ with minimal fees and rules has developed into a job which causes stress due to worrying about the insane rules, decreased profits and ignorant buyers who think nothing of scamming sellers. Even buyers who are not literal scammers - end up taking advantage of sellers with false reasons for returns, chargebacks ect... I'm looking to use FB, flea markets ect after Dec. where I'll hopefully have a lot more fun.

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by: ThebigR This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 7 11:52:24 2021

In 1997 a new PC with all the gizmos cost around 3 grand. In 2003 when wal mart starting selling PCs for $400.00 and ebay began hosting pictures the bottom feeders flocked in sent ebay into the basement and its never recovered the lure of easy money will always send something to the basement its just how businesses are ran..

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Tue Sep 7 12:33:48 2021

I'm OLD now, it doesn't need to be fun!

Just buy the item and pay for it so I can get it out to you.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Tue Sep 7 15:31:24 2021

Oh yes.
It Needs to be Fun.

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by: AddyUp This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 7 16:18:58 2021

"It Needs to be Fun"

As opposed to hard work to sell and hard work to search for the item you want.

Bring back the fun.

Or at least make it easier instead of increasingly more complicated and long winded.

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by: gourdjess This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 7 17:28:48 2021

the're a lot more ebay sellers speaking chinese then 20 years ago.

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This user has validated their user name. by: DZT

Tue Sep 7 18:43:41 2021

I remember back in 1999 when sellers & buyers pretty much respected each other & there were a minimum amount of problems.
This was back in the days when eBay was '' just a venue '' & they did not have absolute control over every transaction {nor did they want it }.

Not so much these days....eBay now micro manages every transaction & they have convoluted the original founding principles of the company into a cluster F*#? of anti-business & anti- seller policies which are detrimental to it's sellers.

Most sellers today are very leery of the buyers in general because eBay now attracts the worst customer base on the face of the planet when it comes to rude, pushy, demanding & arrogant buyers ......& eBay supports these ''bottom feeder '' buyers every step of the way.

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by: Silver Ice King This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 7 23:09:54 2021

Started selling on Ebay in 1998 after having run a successful email auction business for around 5 years.  I was making total bank on almost everything listed as I was getting 75-85% of BV on almost every single item I sold.  But I started losing more and more of my buyers to Ebay so I finally broke down and joined the newest trend.

I did well in the beginning with a sell through rate in the high 90% range but my margins did drop, not only because of the overall minimal fees but also the competition from all these other sellers who did not have a buyers list as I had developed over time were selling the same items I had so items were then selling for around 65-70% but all in all it was still fun as I ran auctions non stop with all of them scheduled to end on Sunday evenings which allowed the largest audience of buyers to be able to bid the item up at the end of things.

I would then get the items packaged up while waiting on the checks and money orders, as well as the occasional cash payment, to arrive.  Postal money orders and personal checks from repeat customers went out immediately and checks from first time buyers waited a week or so for the checks to clear.  Buyers and sellers openly communicated and created friendships as well as very loyal customers.  When Paypal was created and both buyers and sellers became comfortable with it, turnaround times for the items to arrive to the buyer as well as money in the account instantly for Sellers was a real game changer. More Sellers also became buyers because you had the money in your account and knew you were not tapping into the household budget to support your hobby which is the category my business was in.

Due to health and other personal issues I had to take a break in 2005 until 2012 when I once again joined in the game and was amazed at just how much things had changed.  Not only was there a  drastically different attitude from Ebay management towards its sellers, they also seemed determined to create a permanent wedge between buyers and sellers. The end result was many Sellers either left voluntarily or were thrown off of Ebay for no really valid reason other than Donohoe flexing his newfound power.  

What used to be fun and profitable became another full time job in that Ebay expected you to work 7 days a week / 365 days a year.  Even when the vacation tool was finally put in by Ebay, you couldn't just put your account on vacation mode, you also had to go in and put in dates and additional information or buyers could still buy when you were on vacation. Many Sellers came home to a slew of orders and complaints about non shipping, which is exactly what Ebay wanted to have happen, driving another wedge between good sellers and good buyers.  

The fun days of selling on Ebay were gone forever and it became just another job instead of enjoyment.  This led to more and more good sellers leaving Ebay and as the quality and variation of sellers and product left the site, so did more and more of the good buyers.  These good buyers seem to be replaced by Scammers who Ebay continued to protect as they not only bought the items on Ebay but then resold the stolen goods on Ebay with  what seemed like complete protection.  It was rare that Ebay forced a scammer to take down an item that they claimed had never arrived or was damaged as they just turned a blind eye to anything that buyers did wrong.

Present day Ebay is nothing more than a company supplying a broken down selling platform for sellers to use with many built in glitches. Ebay is aware of these glitches but seem to never fix any of them because they need the additional monies from these so called "glitches" to help with Wall Street.  This is now a business for anybody who sells on Ebay which requires more and more of a Sellers time with each Ebay change to the program or their policies which they choose to enforce on Sellers, but completely ignore when applied to themselves.  Where Ebay was designed to allow people to sell items they no longer needed or for collectors to buy and sell collectibles it has now done a complete 180 degree turn and is designed to force sellers to spend more and more time fixing their listings to not only follow the policy updates but also the required changes to descriptions and Required Item Specifics.

It used to be at least tolerable but when Ebay once again chose the cheapest route to maintain their platform and eliminated Turbo Lister without replacing it with a similar option through Sellers Hub (which we all knew was never going to happen)  suddenly making changes to listings became much more work than selling on their platform is worth.  Unless i want to spend more money on a 3rd party application which is supposed to be just like Turbo Lister, which so far I have decided against, mass changes are impossible and Sellers spend more money fixing things that Ebay has broken, which takes away time that could be spent sourcing products, giving better customer service and enjoying their time on Ebay as they used to.  I wound up losing over 6000 listings that were stored in Turbo Lister because it suddenly came around to the time I needed to renew Turbo Listers 3rd party app approval for accessing my account on Ebay and Ebay had once again not thought ahead at all by deactivating this requirement.  I was unable to open Turbo Lister ever again and all the work was lost before I could transfer it to an excel file to upload to another site in the future.

I am just a seller, and anything that makes my job on Ebay easier seems to always be tossed to the side in an effort to maximize profits at the expense of of their real customers, Sellers!!!

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by: Vigilant Eye On eBay This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 8 02:52:14 2021

+1

A former seller who joined the venue in 1999, had several stores, was ''Top Rated'' with 100% positive feedback on several selling accounts, and ended sales on eBay in March 2021, Silver Ice King's splendid response conveys all of my sentiments about the site and its sellers.

From a buyer's perspective, many of today's sellers overprice their products, have extremely high shipping costs and/or refuse to provide combined shipping discounts for multiple item purchases, are non-responsive when it comes to pre-sale questions, and fail to properly package items, which results in damage in transit.

With long-time, ''pioneer'' sellers, these issues were rarely encountered.

As the bulk of the sellers who I repeatedly purchased items from are no longer on eBay, the venue's product selection has dwindled in all of the categories that I regularly shop in, the site is now flooded with recently produced consumer goods that can be purchased elsewhere for much less, and the probability that high-value brand name goods such as consumer electronics and power tools are likely to be black or gray market items, or stolen from big box vendors, my annual purchases from eBay has precipitously dropped.

Although she selected an absolutely awful successor, In my humble opinion, Meg Whitman was the last decent CEO that eBay has ever had.

For the most part, Whitman actually cared about the welfare of the site's buyers and sellers, which translated into a much happier group of venue users.

The days of buyer and seller naivety, mutual respect, and trust are long gone and I sure do miss the early pre-Donohoe era,

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This user has validated their user name. by: David Steiner

Wed Sep 8 08:19:15 2021

Some great responses. Especially the comments that reflect how you started selling. In my recollection(~1999), sourcing for resale from places like GW, storage auctions, palette purchases, arbitrage, liquidators, etc. was not really as prevalent as it is now. Was it?

There are lot of 20+ year sellers here - do you source differently than you did two decades ago? If so, when did you transition and why?

D-

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Sep 8 11:51:06 2021

I knew my gold mine was going to run dry (Boeing Long Beach) so I bought as much as I could 2000-2015

I still have 5 years worth of stuff to sell.

I joined eBay on Jan 15, 1998

It's been a lot of fun and I wouldn't change a thing!

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