On April 5th, 2010, just 6 days after eBay implemented another round of changes — click here to see the official announcement — eBay seller zenartinc posted the following topic in eBay’s Seller Central Discussion Forum: “5 DAYS STRAIGHT, NOT 1 SALES. SELLING FOR 10 YRS.WHAT THE IS GOING ON HERE!”. It has now been over 3 months and it is by far still the hottest topic on the forum.
As of today, there are over 5,600 replies in response to to the original post (click here to read entire thread), the majority of which are complaints from sellers about the lack of sales on eBay. To be fair, the replies are not from 5600 unique sellers, but there is something to be said for any forum topic that stays in the forefront for that amount of time.
Apparently, eBay sellers who have posted in the thread have a laundry list of complaints:
- Lack of visibility. Sellers’ two biggest complaints are that their listings are either buried by listings from eBay China (whose sellers pay no fees and consequently flood the site with unlimited listings of the same items), or what sellers suspect are “rolling blackouts” on eBay’s servers.
- No clear definition of how the “Best Match” algorithm works. “Best Match” doesn’t seem to work for either sellers or buyers. Buyers often get a hodge-podge of listings when searching — try searching for “iPod 30gb”. Everything from an iPod to iPod parts shows up on the first page. Sellers have no idea what is necessary to achieve high placement in best match.
- Heavy-handed buyer favoritism which has allowed buyer scams to dramatically increase. I won’t elaborate on some of the scams sellers have complained about since I don’t want to inadvertently provide tips and tricks.
- Seriously flawed feedback system. While other sites have one-sided feedback systems, this is something that does not work for eBay. Sites such as Amazon are true “store” sites: you place your item in a shopping cart and you pay. Until you pay for that item, it remains available in the sellers store. Simple. eBay allows buyers to “Buy It Now” without requiring immediate payment (unless the seller actively selects that option when listing the product). Using “Buy It Now” effectively ends the listing, but until the buyer actually pays for it, the product is in limbo: the seller can’t re-list it and sell it to another buyer until the first buyer either pays up, or the seller files and successfully closes and UID (Unpaid Item Dispute — a process that takes a minimum of 8 days to complete). Without the dual-sided feedback system, sellers have no way to warn other sellers of “deadbeats”. To add insult to injury, once a buyer has “bought” an item, they are free to leave feedback whether or not they have paid for the product. Granted, eBay allows you to have negative feedback removed if it is determined that the buyer never actually paid for the item, but it is not automatic (as it should be) and you will have to get customer service on the phone to get it done. You’ll recoup your final values on the sale, but guess what? You’ll have to pay to list it again.
- Other complaints: Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) (anonymity doesn’t help identify problems, causing difficulty in taking corrective measures), disproportionately preferential treatment for high-volume sellers, canned responses from customer service, and inability to request check, wire transfer or money order payments except in select categories (eBay lists PayPal as the “preferred” method of payment, not surprising since they own PayPal).
Whatever is going on, someone in management forgot that most of eBay’s small-medium sellers are also buyers: alienate one and you have alienated the other, which explains the continued growth of Amazon and the rapid growth of eBay-alternative sites such as eCrater, Etsy, and Bonanzle.
Back in 2007, eBay CEO John Donohoe said: “We had to create a vision of the future so people could let go of a very successful past.“* If the current customer dissatisfaction is any indication, management has performed admirably.
* Quoted taken from www.leggmason.com, full speech is available here.