eBay added a new icon in the listing flow on mobile apps, but a seller who clicked on the icon to see what it did discovered it replaced her entire product description with different text - and she had no way to recover her original description.
It turns out eBay unleashed generative AI (artificial intelligence) on its mobile apps, but did so without informing sellers and without labeling the icon.
"A weird thing that happened today," the reader told us. "I was writing an eBay description, had it just the way I wanted it, when I noticed a little icon and clicked it just to see what it does. It rewrote my entire description based only on the title and item specifics in some weird, seemingly AI-generated text."
What was most concerning - "There is no undo button and so I lost everything: the condition description, the details about the decoration, the likely maker, which I did not put in the title or item details because it's just a guess, & more. It didn't even get the measurements right!"
In this case, the seller had entered a description *then* clicked the icon, but the premise of the tool is that it can provide a description based on the least amount of effort on the seller's part.
eBay CEO Jamie Iannone gave Wall Street analysts
a heads up it was working on the new capability in early May. As we reported at the time
, the CEO said eBay was in the process of integrating the ChatGPT API into the core listing flow.
Iannone explained sellers would soon be able to pre-populate categories and item specifics from a single photo, "enabling them to spend less of their time inputting inventory and more on growing and managing their businesses."
eBay promised long ago it would not introduce features or policies without giving sellers advance warning but has not been sticking to that commitment; it has yet to announce a Spring Seller Update where news of the AI feature might have expected to have be announced. (See second update below.)
The seller who found out about the feature the hard way today told us, "I'm not sure if this is eBay or my phone, but people need to know they click that button at their own risk!! I could find no info online about this phenomenon."
Update 5/25/2023: Sharing an image below of the eBay AI icon on the eBay mobile app (image generously provided by the seller).
: We noticed today that while eBay didn't inform sellers about the (unlabeled) AI icon that suddenly appeared last week, eBay did
mention it would be testing AI features. It was buried in a post on the Seller Announcement Board
by the head of eBay US Adam Ireland about eBay's first-quarter earnings published 3 weeks prior to the icon appearing:
"Many of us have heard of Generative AI, like Chat GPT, which is certainly a hot topic in the news. We're currently in the process of creating a plug-in that will allow you to auto-generate item descriptions based on content already available across the web. And soon we'll roll out tests for sellers to pre-populate categories and item specifics from a single photo - so you spend less time creating listings and more on growing and managing your business."
The post was titled, "eBay's Quarterly Business Results," with no indication it included news about new future testing of an experimental technology. Make of that what you will, but it seems pretty clear AI testing will continue.