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Wed July 9 2014 08:18:58

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native American Jewelry

By: Reader

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Dear Ina,

Re: Mad Men and Indians Set Off eBay Alarms

Our company sells Native American jewelry which is protected under the Indians Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. Among other things, selling foreign made or non Native American made jewelry or artifacts as Native American is a federal crime with substantial fines if caught.

For many years, eBay has allowed sellers to illegally list foreign made items made in China, The Philippines, other Pacific Rim countries, and Mexico as Native American. Their price points were and remain significantly lower, and the damage done to the industry and Native American artists has been enormous. EBay was and probably still is the largest single venue for the sale of Native American jewelry and artifacts, and they bear much of the responsibility for the industry's decline.

Many concerned sellers and buyers have complained to eBay and to independent organizations interested in the preservation of these Native arts. EBay's predictable lackluster response was to begin including caveats every time anything was listed in any of the Native American categories as well as items being listed whose titles or descriptions contain certain words or phrases whether the warning was relevant to the listing or not.

Unfortunately, eBay has done nothing else to protect this indigenous art form and comply with federal law, and yet another agency of the federal government seems distinctly disinterested in enforcing the law with eBay.

EBay's jewelry managers refuse to learn much if anything about this jewelry sub genre and won't listen to sellers like us who sell only authentic items. The counterfeit problem continues, consequently, but unfortunately the majority buyers lack the expertise to distinguish between authentic and counterfeit or foreign made.

Further, most Native American silversmiths lack the resources or the will to file VeRo complaints when applicable, and many of the foreign made counterfeits, when signed at all, are signed or hallmarked by nonexistent people or fabricated names. In some cases hallmarks are being copied or even removed not only by foreign silversmiths but a few unscrupulous businesses in the southwest.

The second major problem in the Native American jewelry categories is new items made to look old using a variety of creative techniques that are being sold as pawn, estate, and vintage jewelry which buyers view as desirable when, in fact, not only are most of what's being sold using these descriptors are new items, and most of them have little or no value collector value regardless of their age. In some instances this so-called "vintage" jewelry isn't even sterling silver and some stones are sometimes low grade stones, plastic, or glass. Most buyers will never discover what they've actually bought.

In our opinion, eBay is the principal reason why the once thriving southwest Native American jewelry industry has declined at least 40% in the last ten years. EBay's attitude across their venue is that committing fraud is acceptable unless the victims can file a VeRo or the buyer files a case. Profit before ethics. Profits before the law. Profit before integrity.

To compound these problems, eBay has intentionally made it far too easy for buyers to make false accusations of misrepresentation in order to extort free merchandise and refunds, and sellers have no recourse whatsoever.

There are so few products made in the USA, but Native American jewelry and artifacts are two of them. The scope of eBay sanctioned fraud over the years drove many really good buyers away for good and their encouragement and facilitation of buyer fraud has driven away many honest sellers with many more who'll be leaving by choice in August.

Ironically, one of the worst misrepresentation offenders on eBay now primarily sells on their web site and on Amazon while Amazon rejected us three years ago with our perfect feedback and perfect stars. With Amazon's alleged high standards, we laughed at the irony of Amazon selecting a likely less than forthcoming with the facts seller and not even knowing it.

Sadly most Amazon buyers (or eBay for that matter) will never know they bought a counterfeit or foreign made item because the country of origin tags and labels have been illegally removed and because far too many buyers don't understand that you get what you pay for in most cases.

Is any of this surprising? Hardly. EBay and the mad men who run it are digging eBay's grave one shovel at a time. They're a major force in another economic maltreatment of Native Americans and those honest eBay businesses that comply with the law.

Mssrs. Donahoe and Wenig no doubt high five one another each time a niche or small seller leaves eBay. What they clearly fail to understand is when they ruin a non big box seller with a following, that following also leaves eBay.

War Eagle

Comments (12) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Jul 9 10:58:17 2014

The origins of this problem pre-dated eBay. On a trip to Santa Fe (pre-eBay years ago) I wanted to buy a moderate piece of jewelry - a pendant. The plaza was filled with rows of Native Americans with jewelry displays.

It soon became apparent the jewelry was mass produced and (I thought) looked cheap. You could find the SAME thing several times over as you went from seller to seller. Plastic and enamel ''stones''. The prices were VERY inexpensive.

The BM stores at the plaza had nicer items from famous artists or vintage, likely authentic, but at prices I could not afford.

I was willing to pay more for an authentic item, maybe from a newer or average artist - it did not have to be signed or from a famous artist - but I would still be limited to a moderate price range.

I remember being disappointed that I could not find anything like that (and I confess I probably did not know where to look)  In frustration and time limitations, I bought a Kokopelli from a street vendor. It probably had origins in a far away land. I still have it and see its  butt is stamped with something unreadable and the word 'sterling'.

I can see where this same problem got magnified when venues like eBay and online selling came about.

This may be a simplistic solution, but is there anyway each tribal nation's website could have a link to  ''qualified'' artists and ''authenticated'' offerings available from its  people?  It would have to be monitored of course, but it seems like it might be a way to get back some control.  

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: MRV This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Jul 10 08:54:02 2014

As a vintage jewelry dealer, I feel your pain War Eagle.  It is unfortunate that all online venues, not exclusive to eBay, are flooded with fakes, and have been for a very long time.

Also, having lived in the Southwest, I have to agree with Basset that the problem of cheap imports and misrepresentation started long before there was Internet commerce.

Along with NA jewelry, eBay has long been flooded with Fakelite (Fake Bakelite), phony 14K stamped jewelry, fake gemstones, and lately with fake ''vintage''  Lucite of all things, which is the newest area of a very lucrative and prolific fraud.

Etsy is little better, and places such as Luulla and others have long given way to resellers.

There are several Etsy shops for example that are entirely devoted to selling  contemporary Peruvian jewelry as ''vintage''.  People buy it, because they either don't know the difference, don't care to know the difference, and above all else, the lower price point.

Going back to your concerns, I agree that  fake tribal jewelry and textiles (American, Australian, etc.) abound on the online  marketplace.  

There is no vetting on any of these sites, and thereby this quiet assault on legitimate products and businesses remains as a longstanding problem.

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 10 13:39:03 2014


These "shops" on ETSY are scot-free to do exactly what they want---there is little or NO buyer recourse IF the item they sell is questioned or found to be "Not as Described".  The abuse that ETSY lets their sellers give to a legit buyer is staggering--almost like there is a  180* difference between ebay's policies and ETSY's.  

So IF these buyers receive something that they question--say those "vintage" Peruvian items---and they DARE to comment or complain--they will be certain to be abused BY the seller;  they will be HARASSED by the seller;  there is almost NO "Buyer protection" offered AND there is only ONE way to communicate in a personal sort of way---You have to file a CASE to get ETSY to CALL YOU.  And only IF they feel you are WORTHY do they call you!

(Oh and if you DO dare to question or complain they will ACCUSE you of being an EBAY BUYER OR SELLER!)


So---I am very familiar with NA and SA items and have bought and sold these both on and off eBay. And if you DON'T know exactly WHAT you are looking at---it can be easy to get fooled.  I can't tell you how MANY items I have seen listed that just plain old LOOK fake! And have a two word description.

Then when a legit seller  actually DOES come along--they reap what these deadbeats have sown.

IS there any OTHER venue to buy and sell these things on???

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 10 14:10:27 2014

I thought Ebay was doing a good job with making sure that if you had a piece of jewelry  could not be verified, you had to list it in the Southwest category and not in Native Americana. I know that has been the case for me.  
Imports have hurt almost every category in sales and prices. I have sold jewelry, collectibles, porcelain and glass, etc., for the last 40 years. What I have found over those years is that as soon as the import marketers start mass producing items and they are in every store,  flea market and now online venues, prices drop drastically. Most folks do not look at items from the standpoint of whether it is old or new or even genuine, if they can find it at Dollar Tree, Macy's, Ebay, Amazon, etc., that is good enough for them.  

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: Unicorns & Rainbows This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 10 16:40:03 2014

I don't know that eBay has contributed to the decline of NA Jewelry in general (as was pointed out already, there are problems beyond eBay or eCommerce even, and the economic conditions in recent years doesn't help either), but they have certainly contributed to the decline of their own marketplace in NA Jewelry.

Their requirements are actually more restrictive than the NA Arts & Crafts Act, but their enforcement is poor.  This results in some high-volume sellers with new items that are not likely NA made dominating the categories (and reporting other sellers), while other items that clearly are NA will get removed.  Add to that eBay's lack of enforcement of keyword spam policy and inability to keep the flood of new trinkets from China out of the category, and the result is that shopping those categories is largely a waste of time.  Anyone who sells the category can tell you the traffic situation there supports that conclusion.

BTW, Etsy does have a dispute policy, and they don't just leave it to the CC co.s and PayPal.  But unlike eBay, your dispute has to actually be valid.  

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

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

Thu Jul 10 17:22:04 2014

Easily explained. The Ho never met a Chinese counterfeiter he didn't like nor an honest American small seller he did like.

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 10 18:53:13 2014

Good one Ming.

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 11 10:51:58 2014

The rule has subverted its own purpose. Kinda like eBay generally. Sound like a restraint on trade to me.

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

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

Sat Jul 12 15:10:59 2014

This letter raises a larger issue which is that while ebay obviously didn't invent counterfeits of any variety, they've done little or nothing to stop them unless there's a corporate entity in the background that has a legal department.

Individual artists (painters, sculptors, etc.) and quite likely most Indians lack the financial resources to sue or fear the risks involved in complaining.

Many years ago long before Chinese counterfeits were a significant problem or ebay even existed, I bought a 'Rolex' gold watch for US$10 on the Mexican border.

So while I don't think ebay directly created any of the counterfeit problems, they're certainly responsible for only giving lip service when VeRos can't be done and trademarks aren't applicable especially in the world of art and other hand made products.

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: Cassie This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jul 12 16:41:37 2014

China has become a large issue wanting authentic vintage jewelry for mass production.

I refuse selling P.O. Box exchanges and some business addresses that are really UPS or Mail exchange businesses Store. I even refuse shipping toward some colleges. Usually these are foreign owned that automatically ship to either China or other nations that mass produce fake antiques or vintage items. No, secret foreign college students make residual income shipping U.S. produced goods for knock offs industry.

The real issue the greed market flooding knock-offs or low grade goods that downgrade  entire sales category. The point seen product swapping on returns or worse flooding the market place with products that cause physical injury. Even mislabeled or fake descriptions yet still remain on Amazon, Etsy or eBay due their mass sales volume. If you sell self manufactured items recommend licensing and product authentication registration marking as the ability to sue $$$$$$ plus criminal charges or business industry damages claims. A individual can't afford but as a trades/co-operative 501c member can. I've been trying to form such member base services that help streamline this as a guild/trades group but most don't see the need or viable resource this such as group access buying power (insurances, shipping programs, licences, & group retained legal services or etc.) - meh      

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

by: tony bonn This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Sat Jul 12 23:20:00 2014

I sympathize with the letter writer to a degree, in the sense that the Nazi ebay is so hypocritical - like the biblical scribes and Pharisees who could strain at a gnat's ass to find fault, but couldn't care less that a skulk of foxes was marauding the chicken coop.

on the other hand, stop whining and do something about it. even people who are dependent upon ebay for now can open shops elsewhere or on their own. stop playing the helpless victim.

Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer   Seller: eBay Contributes to Decline of Native Amer

This user has validated their user name. by: Lander Blue

Tue Jul 15 19:16:27 2014

Full time seller of Native American jewelry here. At one point I had three brick and mortars going, along with a pretty decent ebay business. The last brick and mortar closed in 2008, and I have been selling exclusively online ever since.

As has been pointed out, the problem with fakes, frauds, and imported knockoffs pre-dates the rise of ebay by many years. In my opinion, however, the online arena, and ebay in particular, has greatly exasperated the problem. The number of fakes available at the wholesale level has absolutely exploded over the past ten years, this due to ease of access to the online market - for both sellers and buyers alike.

Part of the problem lies with the wholesalers themselves. Some of these wholesalers, or ''traders'', sell both authentic handmade Native American jewelry, purchased directly from Native silversmiths, *and* fraudulent garbage imported by the ton from China, The Philippines, and other exotic ports of call. Fake items often sit side by side with genuine items - both poorly labled - making it easy for inexperienced dealers to inadvertantly pass junk off to inexperienced buyers. It's a serious problem that most buyers are completely unaware of.

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