A Tale of Two eBays

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?” 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?

4 Responses to A Tale of Two eBays

  1. Steve H says:

    Personally, I’d be more than happy if sellers were no longer allowed to leave ANY feedback, it’s unnecessary and wastes time that could be used for more productive purposes. The only reason we leave feedback at all is to stem the endless tide of “leave me feedback, I’ve left yours” messages from buyers.

  2. Bill says:

    Interesting analysis. I fit into the casual seller category. I don’t sell anywhere near 10s of thousands of items a year. The interesting thing here is that as eBay has grown and people have made careers selling on eBay it is the casual seller… the ones that built the original business at eBay that are the ones that seem to be pushed to the side. I can’t help but wonder if all of the “casual sellers” just up and disappeared from eBay if their Powersellers would be able to sustain them.

    eBay needs to come to the realization that they have created many faces and I would think more than just two… and all of those faces represent a family. In order for families to be prosporous they need to work together, and they need to communicate. When members of the family are abused hopefully we have a “foster” system that can jump in and rescue us.

    As the casual seller I’m looking for my foster family.

  3. Uncle Sam says:

    Steve H – there are free tools out there which leave feedback automatically for your buyers upon receipt of a positive, Auctionpixie being one of them.

  4. Angela B says:

    Well, I’m one of the casual sellers as well but have been selling a fair bit since I read Dan’s book “Make serious money on eBay UK”.
    I was shocked and stunned about not being able to leave neutral or negative feedback for buyers anymore.
    Just before the new feedback regulations started, I left neutral feedback for a buyer who claimed not to have received his item. I moved heaven and hell to try and find out what happened to his package, asked him to check with his local post office (another European country), and was generally very concerned about the whole thing.I also asked the post office to start a trace. During all that time, the buyer did not correspond with me and didn’t reply to my emails. Then, after about 4 weeks, he left positive feedback for me. He had never even informed me that he had received the item. – What would I be able to do now in a situation like that: nothing, and he could go on taking the p*** out of concerned sellers.
    And what about people wasting your time by not paying? How do you warn other sellers about these individuals? You can’t anymore. I recently went through a dispute with a non-paying buyer who had already received a strike (and negative feedback) in the same month. I was unable to give him negative feedback and he’s still happily bidding on eBay. Wouldn’t 2 strikes in one month disqualify him????
    I think the new feedback regulations are wrong. They won’t hit power sellers, but the little sellers like myself have become very vulnerable now.

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