Ebay Backs Down on Threat to Ban Auction Extender Tool
By Ina Steiner
In an abrupt "about-face," eBay has given the green light to Ethical Technologies' Sell-Through tool, which eBay had originally determined violated the spirit of its search manipulation rules and changed the buyer experience.
Ethical pitches its tool, also known as the Extender tool, as a marketing device to increase sales by up to 50 percent on a sustainable basis. The Sell-Through tool automatically extends eBay auctions from a 1-day listing to a 3-day listing, 5-day listing and 7-day listing if the item receives no bids more than 12 hours before the listing ends. The seller only pays one listing fee, but the listing appears on eBay's highly-trafficked "Ending First" pages up to four times in a 7-day period instead of once.
On August 4th, when asked about the tool, eBay spokesperson Hani Durzy said, "we don't want this tool to be out there." In a follow-up interview on August 9, Durzy reiterated his comment, stating, "after discussions, we have determined there has been a violation of the policy."
But on September 22, Durzy said conversations with Ethical and its customers, who are high-volume eBay sellers, caused eBay to reverse its decision. So what changed eBay's mind last week?
"We jumped the gun," said Durzy. "We allow people to do it already," referring to the fact that sellers are permitted to revise their listings. However, in the August 9th interview with Durzy, he said revising a listing duration was "meant to be done on a rare occasion, like if there is a blackout in part of the country and the seller feels they didn't reach their full audience."
When asked if that was still true or whether sellers would now be able to manually revise auction duration as much as they wanted, Durzy said, "There is not a line that we can draw." But, he said, Ethical's sellers could use the Sell-Through Tool "to the extent they choose to use it."
Over the past month, moderators have deleted posts from eBay discussion boards that discussed the strategy of revising auction duration as a way to increase sales. Durzy said he was unaware of such actions, so he could not comment on whether those threads would be left in place in the future.
Durzy would not say whether eBay would allow other third-party vendors to develop a tool identical to Ethical's Sell-Through Tool, saying he was loath to speak in the hypothetical.
What about the effect of the tool from the buyer's perspective? Durzy told AuctionBytes Thursday the tool had the "potential" to change the buyer experience.
One source close to eBay told AuctionBytes on condition of anonymity that they had set an automatic snipe bid on an auction, went to pay for the item, and discovered the auction still had 2 days to run. "I thought I was losing my mind," the buyer said. "It was very confusing" and frustrating, since they needed the item right away, but the seller had revised the auction so it had an ending day 2 days after it was initially scheduled to end.
Chuck Eglinton runs a sniping service called BidRobot (http://www.bidrobot.com), which places last-minute bids for buyers. He has seen confusion on the part of buyers lately due to auctions whose ending dates have changed. Sometimes buyers think their snipe bid was placed early, not realizing the auction had been extended by the seller. "It's becoming a bigger problem," he said. "More and more people are employing the strategy in their listings."
Eglinton has plans to change his tool so it checks the ending time before placing a bid. He believes the trend of revising auction duration will increase as word gets out about Ethical's Sell-Through Tool, and repeat-sellers manually revise their auction duration.
"eBay Bans Developer from Marketing Auction Extender," 8/9/05
"eBay Looking for "Least Impactful" Way to Stop Ethical's Extender Tool," 8/17/05
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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