If we believe the press (articles in the Metro and The Times to name two), dark clouds are looming over eBay: the wronged masses of eBay sellers are grumbling and steeling themselves for a strike. Like David polishing his sling before the fight, they’re getting ready to slay Goliath.
At ChannelAdvisor’s Catalyst event in London, hundreds of eBay sellers gathered with one thing on their mind: making eBay work hard for them, growing their profits, developing their businesses and better exploiting the ecommerce opportunity. For the most part attitudes were upbeat. Despite a ropey economic outlook most sellers were bullish. It was wasn’t a case of whether they could make more more online: the question was how much more.
A journalist called me on Monday (just before I got to Catalyst) and asked me to denounce eBay, support the strikers and explain why the strike would be the death of eBay. I patiently explained that, in my opinion, we’re looking at a miniscule number of traders boycotting the site on May 1. I also explained that it wasn’t the first time a strike had been called and held and, on those occasions, such strikes had not even been blips on eBay’s radar. I didn’t really have a comment.
‘And anyway, what EXACTLY is the strike about?â€ I asked. It took a bit of time for the hack to rummage through her notes and tell me it was because sellers want the right to leave negative feedback for bad buyers. She then asked me to explain what that meant.
Meanwhile, at Catalyst (an event for eBay sellers), no-one mentioned the strike. Robust discussions were held about the new Feedback DSRs (Detailed Seller Ratings), eBay UK’s MD Mark Lewis was quizzed about all manner of topics. Not once did I hear mention of the fact that sellers will soon not be able to leave negative feedback for buyers.
This is the tale of two eBays. Professional eBay sellers (typically selling tens of thousands of goods a year) seem to be taking a ‘helicopter view’ and don’t much care if they can leave negative feedback for buyers. They are busy enough as it is and probably never do it anyway. Hobby or occasional sellers want the right to do it. It’s reassuring. But, again, I’d say it rarely ever happens.
So who’s right? eBay is right, I think. Feedback has long been used by a small, small number of bad sellers who threaten buyers with a negative feedback if they aren’t willing to put up with sloppy service (an experience I had, only this week). A buyer might receive a sub-standard item and request a refund or replacement or complain that delivery was expensive or too slow. Some bad sellers (and this is by no means representative of the legions of good sellers that populate eBay) would tell them to like it or lump a negative feedback.
Anyone who sells on eBay wants confident, happy buyers who are willing to bid up and come back again and again. Most professional sellers see that immediately, whilst many occasional sellers might not. The strike is a nonsense and niche activity being heralded by a tiny (microscopic) number of total sellers. It will have minimal impact on listings and not materially affect eBay. Or do you know better?